The Mark Of Cain @ The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, 21.03.13
By Darragh Murray
Kim Scott walks out on stage, chalks up his hands like he’s going to deadlift 100 kilos, straps a bass to his hip, and stares impassively over The Hi-Fi Bar.
This is how The Mark Of Cain begin the Brisbane leg of their Songs of the Third and Fifth album tour.
I’m surrounded by dudes.
There’s a spattering of females, but the demographic is dominated by applauding middle-aged men, late 30-something and 40-something rockers who probably once listened to Helmet records while sitting down to write out school work in their exercise pads, and experimented playing one-finger power chords on their shitty nylon string acoustics, and dreamt of being Page Hamilton – just like I used to. And as I gaze out over the crowd of guys with faded tattoos and beer guts, I do wonder if private health insurance covers mosh pit related injuries.
I’m not exactly surprised. The Mark Of Cain write the kind of heavy music that appeals to men. John Scott’s lyrics play on male anxieties, particularly with regards to women and, in combination with his crunching guitar sound, gives The Mark Of Cain’s songs a jolt of aggressiveness. And while I do not think that The Mark of Cain position their songs as ‘men only’, their catalogue does seem to be full of songs that appeal to male domination instincts. This is how I rationalise the one-sided gender demographic that’s evident at tonight’s show.
John Scott thanks the audience for showing up, acknowledging that it’s been some time since the band were in Brisbane and also noting his own advancing years but that “we’re still fucking tough as nails!” before kicking into a brutally loud version of ‘First Time’. ‘Second Hander’, ‘The Separatist’ and ‘Tell Me’ follow in short order. The new songs sit well alongside the old and I’m blown away by the power of Kim Scott’s bass playing.
I love the sound he gets out of it. It’s hard to describe – it’s a got this relentless throbbing quality that permeates every object of the room. Like some kind of pleasant migraine, if one could be imagined. And the way he plays it! Standing with his legs shoulder width apart, glaring down at the crowd, he hardly moves all evening. He looks like someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. His demeanour plays well with the whole Mark of Cain aesthetic.
Fill-in drummer Eli Green, of Adelaide band Life Pilot, has some tough shoes to fill with John Stanier away with Tomahawk, but does so admirably. Apart from a brief screw up in ‘The Contender’, Green drums with a kind of heightened mechanical intensity, occasionally glancing up to grin and exchange knowing nods with the Scott brothers as the different parts of the songs meld together.
There is a section during the middle of the set that is absolute hard rock heaven. The band rip out ‘Avenger’, ‘Retaliate’, ‘The Contender’, ‘Interloper’ and – arguably the best track on the new record – ’1000 Days’, back to back. The racket is deafening, and heads nod in sync to the relentless rhythm being dealt out from the stage. One guy in a Helmet shirt plays a variety of air instruments in front of me during ‘Retaliate’, seamlessly moving between guitar, bass and drums. A girl stomps up and down in a marching motion not too far away. John Scott is an irate preacher.
It’s a long set, but I don’t really notice. I think the band play about 15 songs and a three-song encore, culminating in fan favourite ‘Point Man’. You can tell it’s a favourite as at every song break, random voices from the crowd scream for it. John Scott has, up until now, responded with “that song comes way later” but finally relents at the very end. And man, it’s fucking awesome – “I got a gun, I got the bullets!”
We file out. It’s been great. A perfect combination of nostalgia for days gone by and revelation that this type of heavier rock can still sound fucking awesome in the context of 2013.