There was an inferno of fire and ice when Progfest stormed through the Corner Hotel

Melbourne’s Enlight opened the festival on the Ice Stage. Driven by the angelic vocals of Rachael Graham, the quartet’s mix of fragile harmonies and chugging riffs drew a humble crowd. Qlaye Face lit up the Fire Stage with skittering rhythms tied to ethereal croons, before Bear the Mammoth summoned sprawling instrumental post-rock akin to bands like Explosions in the Sky; their densely layered tracks spun aural journeys that waded through light and shade.
Local group Figures hit the main stage with metallic grooves and the soaring vocals of Mark Tronson, whose voice is akin to Karnivool’s Ian Kenny. “Give yourself a round of applause for coming out so early,” he said. With meaty Deftones-esque riffs, they offered up plenty to feast on. Dyssidia added to the banquet with tech-metal peppered with spiralling piano arpeggios, before Orsome Welles delivered one of the festival’s highlights. While the band’s zombie-meets-opera aesthetic set them apart visually, it was vocalist Michael Stowers’ operatic wail that truly elevated them into the prog rock cosmos.
As the sun went down, Perth quartet Chaos Divine unleashed crushing riffs by the dozen, sending the audience into a frenzy. The band tore through a set that mixed melody and brutality together like watercolours, while showcasing tracks from their new album Colliding Skies. Another straight-up prog band would’ve been exhausting at this point. Fortunately, Alithia’s astral spacecore injected some much-needed diversity into the festival’s proceedings. “Where are my street dogs at?” barked the band, as their fans lapped up the tribal grooves and hypnotic melodies. With a distinct fusion of prog rock and world-music influences, Alithia shone like a diamond.
Circles brought the djent factor up a notch on the Fire Stage while We Lost the Sea created a tsunami of sound with their three guitarists closing out the Ice Stage. Headliners Caligula’s Horse strode out, giving the now capacity crowd one last set of thunderous progressive rock stompers. Choice cuts including City Has No Empathy, Turntail and Rust showed the band at their most fluid and innovative, effortlessly blending finger-twisting riffs with anthemic choruses. As they left the stage it was clear that Melbourne has nurtured one of the most thriving and vibrant prog rock scenes around, and one that’s only going to keep on blossoming. 
Words by Jack Pilven
Image by David Harris
Highlight: Watching Caligula’s Horse side of stage
Lowlight: Feeling exhausted by the end
Crowd Favourite: Orsome Welles