The Arthouse is a great venue. Homely, inviting, warm. Splashed across its stately walls is the visual equivalent to rock n' roll - artworks that span from the surreal to the sublime. Wavy lines, peering eyes and seductive curves all swim toward the stage to draw your eyes toward musical artists - painting vibrant new pictures every second with their music. I've seen pretentious indie kids strut their derivative stuff and I've seen tryhard cigarette-smoking wannabes vainly try to conjure up a redefinition of the word "rock" when all they seem to do is recycle their own navel hair. Then on a wintry Sunday night, I was floored by the majestic and miraculous Cafe Medula. Take a liberal serving of the Swedish prog scene (think Sun Caged), add some funky Faith No More-isms, stir in a little Pain of Salvation, a dash of Rudess-era Dream Theater, jazz rhythms, funky bass-lines and a smidgen of Estradasphere and you get the sizzling, thrilling and eclectic Cafe Medula musical menu.
Bursting open with their funkalicious Bitchslap in D Minor, vocalist Perry Kakridas takes pride of place while the cool, laid-back Gus Golding lays down some mind-busting chords over the top of Xavier Appilotti's scintillatingly unconventional jazzy licks. Anchored with the grooving bassline of the leonine Amy Campbell, this song is a freaky, dazzling feast of Faith No More type craziness and harmony a mere appitizer for what creative juggernaut Cafe Medula can deftly whisk up in their progressive metal kitchen. Disco (and its counterpart, the self-explanatory Funk Ballad) summoned the spirit of the now dissolved Parliament and the 70's dirty as all fuck-funk vibe before taking-off and landing into my new personal favorite, Sexy Swamp Porno. This cut (when cut) is set to become a bewitching scene classic. Perry geared up into overdrive, screaming and crooning all across his register as guitars walloped down onto the crowd with lashes of sultry electricity. "We're in a porno/ 'cuz we're all just waiting to get fucked" is surely one of the more witter and incisive lines I've encountered from a live act - local or imported - for quite some time. Another highlight was the Mediterranean tinged Ethnic. Grand riffs and counterpoint from the keys were lovingly folded into Zorba-like melodies with some real live Grecian rap sprinkled over the top. Although this was only their second gig, the quintet seemed quietly confident, however not a little wooden throughout the set. The music exploded into a frenzy during their ambitious Pain of Salvation inspired (yet to be titled) instrumental, all punctuated by some forceful and ferocious drumming by expert skinsman Matt Pate. Push and Play rounded out the groovy set, grandiose keyboard wizardry and oblique fret-igniting technical ecstasy serving up the dessert to round out the Cafe's magical and moreish banquet of sonic delights. Cafe Medula is unequivocally the saviors of truly progressive metal in Australia - their ingredients may be imported, but their diverse, uncompromising and inviting jazzy, funky prog sound is definitely and proudly crafted Down Under. Catch them while they're hot!
P.S: Unfortunately for rivetheads like myself and my close personal associates, "Holy Wars...the Punishment Due" by Megadeth was not included on their specials board for the evening (and was promptly struck off even if we overzealously tried to add it ourselves.)