SUNK LOTO + HELM – Mo’s Desert Clubhouse Gold Coast [Live Review]

Review and gallery: Dan Maynard

Mo’s Desert Clubhouse holds some great gigs, amazing gigs if you will. It’s become a staple in Gold Coast music culture. But tonight, may be their best line up to date. Two bands only, but what a duo of juggernauts we have on our hands tonight, the mighty recently returned kings Sunk Loto and the briefly reformed Helm. Both sets are special for their own specific reasons. Helm, after reforming to play a special one-off acoustic set at the Summerland Records special event, have decided to also play a special one-off set, but this time in full swing, amps and gain, heavy as fuck. And Sunk Loto, the band we prayed would reunite, granted us this wish early 2022. Tonight though, we get something beyond our dreams, tonight the boys play what is considered their magnum opus, Between Birth and Death in its entirety. And holy hell, I don’t think we are ready for what is to come.

With a short delay due to the unfortunate blowing of a sound desk during soundcheck (you wouldn’t know with how incredible the sound is tonight), Helm hit the stage, jumping straight into Iron Wall, the 8-minute epic opening track to 2013s Panthalassa. Sunday saw the band on stage as a mixed array of past members, celebrating each era of the bands past. Tonight is what was Helms final incarnation before their breakup and they’re nothing short of perfect. The band smash through a set of old and new, a blend that consists mostly of Keehaul and Panthalassa, only drawing one track from The Winters March, Watch It Burn.

Salt, Soldier, Albatross all make the set. We can never be sure if something, in this case Helm, is asleep for good, but Stoney does take a moment to say (and I’m probably paraphrasing poorly) “This is it, we won’t be back, but I guess I’ve said that before” as he laughs. As a mate of the band, as a longtime fan of the band, no matter which way I view it, it’s just heartwarming and uplifting to see the smiles on these five dudes faces as they play what is unfortunately their only show back as a full band. If they weren’t smiling, it was only due to some full-blown classic Helm death squats and neck thrashing. It’s a conflicting moment of feelings as the set comes to an end with the ever epic To The Wolves, as we know this is our end with Helm, but we can still hold it to ourselves that we had the pleasure of being witness to what was up until last week (even for the band) something that may never happen.

Long live Helm.

For a generation now all grown up, most of us in our late 30s to mid 40s, 2003s Between Birth and Death was a staple, a game changer. To some it was the anthem of their teenage years. To others, it was a source of inspiration. To me, it was both of those and then some. At a very hard time in my life, Sunk Loto was my saving grace and BB&D was not just something to blast at the highest of volumes and slay on repeat for years to come, it was a distraction from life and it’s inevitable and unstoppable array of problems being thrown my way. And I am forever thankful for that. Which only makes this night that much more special.

And tonight, for the first time ever, as they begin their new tour, Sunk play the album from start to finish to myself and a packed-out Mo’s Dessert Clubhouse of adoring sweaty fans. It’s a strange feeling, knowing the album back to front as I imagine most people there also did, and then hearing said album played in full in a live setting. The boys have clearly put a ton of work into the production, the sound is on par with any large venue setting, how they pulled that off is something I’ll never understand.

Tonight, is many things, but the elephant in the room of course, is the arrival and the first live appearance of new guitarist Rohan StevensonRo is no stranger to playing on stage, as he fronts his own creation, I Built the Sky. A master behind the guitar, one of the things I note the most from the night is the time that has been put into matching the tones, the effects, the unmistakable sounds from Between Birth and Death. It is perfect, it is a testament to his perfection for sound, Sunk Loto has clearly chosen wisely.

They power through the album, one track after the other, barely stopping to speak….only between a couple of tracks does Jas take a moment to thank the crowd and speak on behalf of the band for their gratitude to the audience and fans. As Soul Worn Thin comes to an end, playing out an extended version of the outro guitars over the PA, Jas speaks briefly about new music, introducing their latest track The Gallows Wait before kicking into the song for its live debut. Somehow it sound bigger and better than even the recording can do (which is fucking saying something). Followed by a few classics, Vinegar Stroke (again Ro absolutely nailing that unquestionable tone on the opening riff), Sunken Eyes and Lift.

The crowd lets out every last bit of energy in them for Lift, it’s nothing but sheer happiness and excitement as we head out into the carpark and to our cars. The best part? We still have the Brisbane show to look forward to November 4th at The Tivoli. You’d be an absolute fool to miss that show!

Sunk Loto Between Birth & Death 20th Anniversary Tour

w/ Ocean Sleeper, Red Bee & Amberdown

Tour Dates:

Friday 20 October – Freo Social, Fremantle*

Friday 10 November – The Metro Theatre, Sydney^

Friday 17 November – Max Watts, Melbourne ^

^Red Bee not appearing

*Amberdown not appearing