Six and a half years on from the announcement of their indefinite hiatus in 2011, Carpathian have left an indelible legacy on the current landscape of Australian hardcore. With a career spanning only a brief eight years, the Melbourne-based wrecking crew wasted little time in making a name for themselves, racking up an impressive list of accomplishments: releasing two 7-inches, two EP’s and two full-length albums; signing to two of the most prestigious and hard-working labels in hardcore today (both domestic and international); countless local, national and festival circuit runs at home in Australia, alongside numerous international tours across Europe, Japan and South-East Asia. Yet to properly place Carpathian within the greater context of Australian hardcore, we need to go back to where it all began: 2003.
The years of the early 2000’s represent a crucial turning point in the proliferation and popularity of hardcore and metalcore within the alternative, musically-inclined Australian public. Following the success of their ‘Where The Shadows Lie’ EP, Adelaide mosh merchants Day of Contempt bunkered down with producer DW Norton (Superheist) to record and release their debut LP ‘See Through The Lies’ in 2003—a release which would garner the group international recognition, as they blew crowds away with their impassioned take on the socially-charged hardcore of scene legends like Earth Crisis and Hatebreed.
Around this time, South Australia also appeared to be the gift that kept on giving, as in December that same year would see the release of ‘When Goodbye Means Forever’ by Adelaide five-piece, I Killed The Prom Queen. On their debut album, the group took the popularised Massachusetts metalcore sound of the time and combined it with a love for European melo-death in the vein of At The Gates, Soilwork or In Flames. The result? A collection of songs that were melodic, heavy and tremendously catchy; launching the band to the forefront of Australia’s then-rising hardcore and metalcore scene. However, the release of ‘When Goodbye…’ overshadowed a far more crucial part of the band’s back catalogue: a four-track split EP released in May 2003 on Final Prayer Records, which featured I Killed The Prom Queen and a young, relatively unknown but still up-and-coming metalcore band from Byron Bay called Parkway Drive.
It’s this very musical climate that saw the formation of Carpathian in and around Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in 2003. The band’s initial line-up featured members who bonded over a love of hardcore in their high school music room, and at one point, were kicked out of said music room in order to make way for Australian Idol’s ‘punk rocker’ Lee Harding. (“Who?” I hear you ask – this fucking guy!)
“It felt like forever before people finally gave a shit about us!” says vocalist and frontman Martin Kirby, reflecting on the band’s genesis in a 2006 interview with the now-defunct Death Before Dishonour magazine. “Melbourne shows were becoming fewer and people generally didn’t give a fuck.” When asked about the reasoning behind the band’s name, Kirby refers to 2001’s cult film Donnie Darko, and alludes to the band wanting to stand out from the obvious clichés of the early 2000’s; an aspect of defiance that would, over time, come to define the Carpathian’s place within the national scene. “The first chapter of the DVD is called ‘Carpathian Ridge’. It’s where Donnie and his friends hang out and talk about Smurfs and girls. I chose it because it doesn’t really mean anything,” admits Kirby. “We didn’t want a super-cliched hardcore/metalcore band name… and it stuck. It’s retarded [sic] trying to explain it to people for the first time though.”
After a string of local performances, the band’s first release would come in the form a self-recorded, three-track demo in 2003, also released as half of a split EP with Canberra hardcore band Never Alone in the following year. And while hardcore is certainly known for thriving off rough, bootleg demo recordings, Kirby is adamant that this release represented a nascent and still-developing Carpathian. “I hate that demo. The songs are terrible, and one of them is even named wrong, so when it’s requested or when kids bring it up, it’s like the biggest frustration for me,” said Kirby. “Luckily, you can’t find that shit anywhere, so we’re pretty safe on that one.” Yet that isn’t exactly true, even eleven years later in 2017. This confusion is still felt today, as file-shared copies of the Carpathian demo are indeed rare, but still very much attainable, and include misnamed titles for the middle track (e.g. ‘Let’s Crash and Burn’ versus ‘Let’s Crash This Scene’).
Musically, Carpathian’s demo showcased a young band, well-versed in the expectations of the traditional hardcore and metalcore of the period: crashing cymbals; chugging riffs; Kirby’s coarse, screamed vocals; ubiquitous spoken word sections; rolling beatdowns; melodic interludes; and brief flirtations with sung vocals. On tracks like ‘Clenched Fist Of Feelings’ and ‘Overdose,’ the band’s demo was bookended by Donnie Darko samples, which featured the titular character waxing philosophical about the “end of the world,” and laughing maniacally at the absurdity of the universe. While the demo itself certainly showed promise, it was largely forgettable overall, and Carpathian were yet to latch on to a well-defined style to call their own; an issue which the band would eagerly rectify on their next official release.
The following year would see Carpathian’s profile rise steadily within the national hardcore scene, off the back of intense live shows and tight performances. The band also developed a relationship with independent Melbourne-based label Washed Up Records, run by label owner and close friend Tommy Dollars, and home to releases from contemporaries like 50 Lions, The Broderick, Pro Team, Third Strike, xThe Warx. In 2005, Carpathian would release their self-titled EP through Washed Up, showcasing a sonic leap in sound that was refined, heavier and way more potent than their demo material.
Tongue-in-cheek intro ‘Mosh’ crashed directly into the incendiary ‘Don’t Have My Back’: a savage indictment of ‘fake’ scene politics, with Kirby’s lyrical attack paired against monstrous, earth-shaking breakdowns (“I want to know who’s for real/All this talk of having my back has been overdone/I have no compassion for this fucking trend/Fuck your ‘family’ fuck your ‘friends’ get down”). Ah, just classic mid-2000’s hardcore, really.
Elsewhere on their EP, Carpathian displayed a penchant for versatility: the melodic chords and gang-vocal shouts on ‘Holding Hands Is For Girls’; the down-tempo breakdowns and sung vocal passages on ‘If Looks Could Kill’ and ‘Kiss The Rings’; the infectious two-step sections on ‘Snareroll’ and closer meets hardcore call-to-arms ‘Tommy Dollars Likes My Band’. The EP landed in the Top 20 Australian Independent Release charts multiple times in the years following its release, and the band’s profile continued to rise, as they headlined local shows and embarked on numerous East Coast tours.
Emboldened by the success of their Washed Up Records EP, Carpathian spent much of 2005 on the road winning over crowds, before coming together to work on their debut full-length album. Despite their EP representing a more distinct sound than their previous material, Kirby was still determined to set critics and fans straight on the band’s core drive and ethos. “We’ve been wrongly labelled as a metalcore band. Hopefully, crew get the point and realise we’re not about that at all,” Kirby explains, “This is a hardcore band.” And with a signing to Australian powerhouse label Resist Records, helmed by punk/hardcore devotee Graham Nixon, and home to metalcore juggernaut Parkway Drive, the group was well positioned to cement their reputation as Australia’s newest and most high-profile hardcore outfit.
Released on April 24th, 2006, ‘Nothing To Lose’ was recorded at Soundhouse Studios in Adelaide – the same location responsible for scene signposts like I Killed The Prom Queen’s ‘When Goodbye Means Forever’ and Shotpointblank’s ‘Heart of a Disbeliever’ – with production from Angelo Malavazos and IKTPQ guitarist Jona Weinhofen (ex-Bleeding Through, ex-Bring Me The Horizon) acting as assistant engineer. “‘Nothing To Lose’ is definitely a more evolved album compared to our EP,” says Kirby, describing the intent behind the band’s musical progression. “With this album, we’ve tried to make it as heavy as possible but still keeping it fun and in places, I hate to say it, positive… We’ve incorporated everything we love about a huge range of hardcore and tried to make, basically, our own defined sound… Kids can expect less metal, more melody, more mosh and heaps of sing-a-longs.”
Across the ten, quick-fire bursts of aggression that made up ‘Nothing To Lose’, Carpathian would deliver on these aforementioned expectations in spades. The ‘defined sound’ which Kirby mentions was indeed less ‘metal’: shorter, heavy hardcore tracks, with thick, crunchy riffs and propulsive drums, closely aligned to the beatdown style pedalled by their contemporaries in On Broken Wings and Bury Your Dead. The album was also as succinct as it was destructive; the whole thing clocked in at just over 25 minutes in length, with only a single song pushing past the three-minute mark (epic closer ‘End of the World’). In terms of melody, tracks like ‘Love Song,’ ‘Suckerpunch’ and the straight-edge anthem ‘Who The Fuck Taught You Snaps?’ made use of strong melodic verses, juxtaposed against tight beatdowns and huge gang vocal chants.
But let’s be real, it just wouldn’t be Carpathian without the mosh, and ‘Nothing To Lose’ absolutely delivered the goods: the cheeky “Blegh!” and massive, slo-mo pit action in ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’; the gargantuan, steam-roller breakdown that closes the title track; ‘Love Song’s savage beatdown section, complete with reverse snare hits and panned guitars; the soaring divebomb in the Bret Easton Ellis-inspired cut ‘The Rules of Attraction’. Off the back of Carpathian’s frenetic live-shows and no-nonsense performance style, ‘Nothing To Lose’ would quickly come to level all-ages halls around the country upon release, turning them into a sea of sweaty, flailing limbs and would-be pit ninjas.
Lyrically, ‘Nothing To Lose’ also saw a shift in Kirby’s tone and personal outlook, with many tracks focusing on subjects like absence, inclusiveness, friendships, lost love, reckless youth and emotional vulnerability. And as promised, the sing-a-longs were there too: the pessimistic rallying cry of “We’re all so fucking dead!” in album opener ‘End of The 1980s’; Kirby’s scorn for hardcore elitism on ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ (“So take your folded arms and drive them through your jaded heart”); calling out pit-beef and keyboard warriors on ‘Suckerpunch’ (“You’ve got no game your time is up/You’re looking tired, try something new/You’ve got no fucking game, bitch”). Even the cheesier moments on the record revealed themselves to be subtly brilliant, and translated to fan-favourites in a live setting (see the “Swallow me whole, sugar” and “Rock ‘n Roll” pit calls on ‘The Rules Of Attraction’ and ‘End of the World’ respectively).
In all, ‘Nothing To Lose’ was exactly what Carpathian needed to take their signature brand of mosh mayhem to the next level. The album managed to land and sit at 110 on the ARIA Charts in 2006, hitting a high position of #10 on the Australian Hitseekers chart, and keeping company with releases from acts like Behind Crimson Eyes, Thursday, Bullet For My Valentine, Anti-Flag and even Panic! At The Disco. The band’s touring schedule also went in to overdrive before and after the album’s release, with the period extending through 2006 and 2007 being the most intense of the band’s career: a support slot on the Boys of Summer tour with label mates Parkway Drive, Evergreen Terrace and The Getaway Plan (a national run that the band would later headline three years later in 2009, alongside Comeback Kid and Verse); sharing the stage with Killswitch Engage and Bleeding Through on select shows; an appearance at Hardcore 2006 in Sydney with Most Precious Blood, IKTPQ & Mid Youth Crisis; a national tour alongside Atreyu, 36 Crazyfists and 3; a quick jaunt across the Tasman Sea for a New Zealand tour; playing the Resist Tour with Aussie acts like Miles Away, God So Loved The World, Cry Murder, Bad Blood and The Dead Walk!.
It’s no surprise then that such a hectic touring schedule resulted in a tumultuous few years for the band. Even the group’s profile on the Resist Records website describes Carpathian as an “indestructible force on unstable ground… Hampered by incessant line-up changes.” The first major hurdle came with the loss of original guitarist Anthony Harris, who left the band to join Melbourne hardcore act Pro Team. This change resulted in Kirby—as the band’s primary songwriter—shifting from vocalist/frontman to guitarist, with ex-IKTPQ vocalist and notorious scene-figure Michael Crafter moving in as the band’s new vocalist. Speaking with dB Magazine, in the months after the release of ‘Nothing To Lose,’ Crafter explains the reasoning behind Harris’ departure: “Their guitarist quit because he didn’t want to tour anymore, and he just wanted to get a real job and have a bit more cash.”
Crafter then goes on to detail the adjustment period required for any major line-up change and the obvious difference between musical beasts like Carpathian and IKTPQ:
“I think it’s still the same band… Marty writes all of the songs, so he’s still going to write a lot of the phrasing to how the lyrics go, because he writes most of the lyrics as well. He pretty much does everything. Because he’s writing the riff, he knows how he wants the vocals to go, so that takes a lot of the weight off my back. Really, we’re all still adapting to each other, because Marty’s never really played guitar in a band before… He’s still adapting to playing and not moving around on stage so much. It’s also a bit different to me, singing in a different band after singing in IKTPQ for so long. But generally, I think the shows have been really good; the response has been really good.”
The band would tour with this new configuration for the latter half of 2006, before the departure of yet another member—guitarist Julian Marsh—before the year’s end, right before their New Zealand shows and Resist Tour run. Speaking again with dB, Crafter is frank in explaining Marsh’s motivations for leaving the band. “Julian quit last week. He’s all done with Carpathian now and it’s mainly because of how busy we are with our touring schedule,” Crafter explains. “We start the New Zealand tour in a few days, then December is almost all booked out with the Resist tour. Then we are touring some more throughout January and February, then Europe in March. So none of us are really ever going to be home and Jules just wants to spend more time with his girlfriend and friends at home. I guess you either have it in you to stay away for a long time or you don’t. He definitely did what he had to do for Carpathian and it’s good he actually let us know now before we were flat out somewhere else.”
Replacing Marsh with new guitarist Joshua Manitta, the group rounded out a huge 2006 and kicked off 2007 with their first international tour: a support slot across the UK and Europe with label-mates Parkway Drive and On Broken Wings. However, this period of stability was also to be short-lived, with Crafter making a swift exit from the band in February 2007, announcing his departure via the band’s Myspace page (it truly was 2007) and describing it as “one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to do.” With Crafter no longer in the band’s Top 8 (quickly moving on to have a real crack at the big time, with a brief stint singing for US breakdown aficionados Bury Your Dead), Kirby moved back to his former position as vocalist, and Carpathian scored the addition of another new guitarist—their third in less than twelve months.
“I mean we had so many line-up changes over time. Crafter was singing for a while; guitar players came in and out and I literally had to teach our songs to about four different people over the space of a year,” said Kirby, reflecting on the musical-chairs period of the band in separate interviews with Death Before Dishonour in 2007 and 2008. It was these numerous setbacks, and rising frustrations with the limitations of the band’s sound, which forced Carpathian to evolve musically. “I think halfway through the European tour I started thinking about doing something different… and people suggested to keep going with the band and just do what I wanted to do with it anyway,” mentions Kirby. “In particular, Ben [Coyte, ex-Day Of Contempt, IKTPQ, In Trenches] offered to play guitar for the band so we could keep going, and I thought maybe we could come up with something cool to keep the band going.”
The band would showcase their new line-up with Coyte on guitar and Kirby back on vocals during their support slot for the Rockstar™ Energy Drink Taste Of Chaos Australian Tour in October 2007, alongside international heavyweights like The Used, Rise Against, Aiden, Drop Dead, Gorgeous, The Bled and Gallows. Playing outside their comfort zone to potentially unfamiliar, stadium-sized crowds behind barriers, Carpathian would debut new songs which would eventually find their way on the group’s next release: the two-track, ‘while-you-wait’ ‘Wrecked’ 7-inch, released through Resist Records in December 2007.
This 7-inch release would be the first indication for fans that Carpathian were moving away from their down-tuned, mosh-happy past and wading into darker, yet somewhat paradoxically more melodic hardcore territory. “We were playing the same set for so long, and I really just wanted to mix things up a bit. Push for a different direction and try to get some new energy out of the band,” explained Kirby. “It wasn’t like we sat down and said, ‘OK, let’s change our sound completely, let’s become a different band.’ It was more like, ‘Let’s give this a new breath of life.’”
With this new outlook, tracks like the biting ‘Ceremony’ (which would later appear revamped on the group’s second full-length) would sharpen Carpathian’s anger and rage down to a razor’s edge, while the compelling title track placed increased emphasis on composition and song structure. When asked if fans might respond negatively to the band’s change in style and tone, Kirby is both sympathetic and brutally honest:
“Definitely. Generally, when I read about a band doing something different or the new CD being totally awesome, it fucking sucks. I’m sure most people will think new Carpathian sucks, but hopefully some people will appreciate it—it’s definitely different. I tried to convince the band that we should sound like old AFI, but they weren’t feeling it.”
Kirby continued, saying that:
“It was really just a natural progression for our sound. The band that I wrote the EP and ‘Nothing To Lose’ with are a bunch of dudes that I hardly ever see anymore, and it’s definitely like we’ve moved on and dudes have grown up. We’ve all gone our separate ways and with any new dudes in the band, it’s obviously going to be a different sounding [band]. I mainly write a lot of the songs and obviously all of the lyrics, but I think regardless of the new dudes in the band, a new change in our sound was bound to happen anyway. I just felt like we were becoming that boring band you know?”
After facing yet another line-up shuffle as 2007 drew to a close, with original bassist Chris Farmer being replaced by Edward Redclift, and Coyte stepping away from his axe position to welcome new guitarist Lloyd Carrol, Carpathian bunkered down to plan the next steps for album #2. Fortunately, it was a real change of scenery and pace that brought about the creative spark which ignited Kirby’s true vision for what the now lauded ‘Isolation’—the band’s second and most-well known full-length album—would become.
“I was in Japan a while ago, just sorting out some stuff for myself and that, and I was talking to Graham [Nixon] at Resist about where we were going to record the album and we were booked into this place in Melbourne, but I just honestly wasn’t sold on it,” explains Kirby, once again with an interview with Death Before Dishonour prior to ‘Isolation’s August 2008 release. “While I was in Japan, I started emailing some dudes, just hitting up places to record and see if anyone had any free time available.” With Kirby putting out the call to different studios, he finally got an answer in the form of Boston, Massachusetts producer Jay Maas – then-guitarist for hardcore outfit Defeater, and engineer/producer for like-minded acts such as Shipwreck A.D. and Verse. “When I got back home, we got band the band together and in two days we recorded the drums for the album in Melbourne and then just split to Boston without really telling anyone for about 3 weeks, to just hang out and record over there for about 8 days.”
Kirby also acknowledges that the entire recording process was a lot different to your conventional studio environment, recalling that “Jay’s house is in this suburban town in the middle of Boston called Wakefield. It was your typical sort of American neighbourhood setup, with like 3-storey houses, attics, basements and shit. So, we essentially recorded our album, in this dude’s basement while there are incinerators and washing machines and stuff going off around the place,” chuckles Kirby. “It was definitely a pretty raw experience. I think that has a lot to do with the organic sound that we ended up achieving with the record.”
With Carpathian in the States for a few weeks to record ‘Isolation,’ Kirby decided they should make the best of their time and look to the future of the group, with the frontman mentioning that this whole trip “…was more really of a holiday for us; a chance to come together, meet some bands and talk to some label people while we were there.” The label Kirby refers to is none other than hardcore pioneers, Deathwish Inc.—an independent record label and distribution company founded by Converge frontman Jacob Bannon and Tre McCarthy in 2000; synonymous with many ground-breaking, gripping hardcore albums, and also responsible for putting out such influential releases from Converge, The Hope Conspiracy, Killing The Dream, Internal Affairs and more. “We were there for around two to three weeks, and the guys we were staying with were in the band Shipwreck A.D., and one of the guys works for Deathwish every now and again and they put out the Shipwreck records, so he told us to come in and we met up with the crew and everyone at Deathwish and it just rolled from there,” recalls Kirby.
The Deathwish connection was a vital bit of networking for Carpathian, ushering in a new chapter for the band and expanding their options creatively. “I think that probably the biggest problem with hardcore at the moment, is that dudes are starting bands and finding this formula for writing the perfect album, or the perfect song and the way to sell 10,000 tickets and just sticking with that. For me, that’s something that hardcore has never really been about,” comments Kirby, his tone suggesting a certain level of disdain for musical trends, and a perceived lack of sincerity within hardcore as a community. “So, with Carpathian, we were in a position to go the other way with ‘Isolation’ and show people that you can do something that’s different, maybe inspire people to look into other avenues of music and go the opposite way to where everyone else is going.”
Yet even with a clear desire to do things differently, fans would not be adequately prepared for the sonic evolution that Carpathian’s second full-length would unleash upon on Aussies and the wider world. With Maas behind the board’s at The Getaway Group in Boston, ‘Isolation’ would take the band’s sound to staggering new heights, channelling every ounce of rage, anger and discontent brewing inside the fragile minds of twenty-first-century youth. Gone were the obligatory beatdowns and tough guy vocals, all switched out for a thicker, fuller sound and the aggressive, misanthropic bark of a man at his wit’s end with humanity’s bullshit. No longer spending his time focused on pit calls and lyrics about scene politics and mosh beef, Kirby instead turned his smoking barrel back on himself to deliver one of the most introspective, personal and visceral vocal attacks ever put to record in Australian hardcore. Across ‘Isolation’s ten scathing tracks, Kirby would take a deep look at himself; venting his frustrations through poetic tales of depression, relationships, straight edge, vegetarianism, overwhelming confusion, and most tellingly, the very real isolation found within one’s self.
With an ominous guitar ringing out and drummer David ‘Skan’ Bichard’s pounding rhythms, the record’s title track effectively announced that the Carpathian found and confined on this record was an entirely different beast from what had come before. The track erupts into Kirby’s snarling vocal delivery, with each lyric becoming increasing more caustic and self-deprecating: “This downward spiral, this endless circle, this solitude/I am nothing, I am permanence.” With almost no time to recover, the record roars into ‘Cursed,’ with Carrol and Manitta’s melodic and churning guitar riffs and Kirby continuing his tale of woe and absence, screaming out “I am nothing,” right before a gang vocal chant shouts back “We are nothing!”—a sign of existential solidarity from the depths of the band’s collective abyss. The tension builds and builds, before Kirby’s lyricism and self-hatred boils over into one of the most vulnerable and honest lines on the entire record: “I hate my fucking guts, I hate desire, I hate lust/I hate humanity, I hate instinctively/I hate this fucking world for fucking hating me.” After some chugging riffs, Shipwreck A.D. vocalist J.D. Dowling lends some throat-shredding to the second verse, before Kirby drops the mission statement for ‘Isolation’ at the track’s end: “I might hate this world, I might hate myself/But I won’t be a wasted soul, another ghost like everyone else.” And that line still hits just as hard today.
While the album brooded with a new-found intensity for the band, ‘Isolation’ also represented a major step-up from ‘Nothing To Lose’. Much like its namesake, and perhaps confirming Kirby’s suspicions, it was a record that isolated Carpathian fans both old and new. Regardless of any fan-backlash or elitist stigma, never had the tribulations of adolescence and youthful angst ever had a more-fitting soundtrack: the point-blank punk rock of ‘Spirals’; the catchy sing-a-longs of ‘Insomnia’; the subtle, almost post-rock melodies that bubble underneath ‘The Cold Front’ and ‘Deadbeats’; the furious, driving riff in ‘Sun Heights’; the melancholic ‘Seventy K’: functioning as Kirby’s tribute to the graffiti artist collective of the same name, which features some of his most vivid and engaging lyricism (“I’m a fucking criminal, and painting’s my crime/I’ve fucked this whole city, one wall at a time”). Even the revamped ‘Ceremony’ struc one like a knockout punch toward the album’s end, backed by the band’s hardest breakdown put to tape thus far and an urgent guest vocal spot from Have Heart’s Pat Flynn.
Since it’s release, ‘Isolation’ has become Carpathian’s most loved release and their most successful. The album landed in the ARIA Charts weeks after its August release, hitting a peak position of #19, and also reached #1 in the triple J Short.Fast.Loud Top 40 countdown for 2008. What is immediately apparent upon listening to ‘Isolation,’ is just how raw and reflective Kirby’s lyrical content had become. Kirby’s words were dark, personal and foreboding; and one couldn’t help but notice how almost every single utterance is shrouded in negativity and pessimism. Granted that hardcore isn’t generally the chirpiest of genres, but ‘Isolation’ is certainly more embittered than your average record, conveyed with such intensity and thoughtfulness that it somewhat contradicts itself entirely. When asked to comment on his lyrical inspirations, Kirby paused momentarily to find the right words and the right amount of contemplation to offer, before answering:
“A lot of people who read my lyrics, like my mum and my ex-girlfriend, would always say that it’s so negative and ask me why I’m always so upset with everything, so I guess that ‘Isolation’ definitely has a very negative take on life and humanity,” admits Kirby. “But a lot of the songs are also encouraging people to get out of feeling negative and doing what they want to do. So, there’s really an equal balance of positive and negative songs on the record, and ‘Isolation’ really just focuses on me feeling a lot different to the rest of society, and the world, and trying to get other people to see those differences.”
Musically, ‘Isolation’ is a classic example of what modern, contemporary hardcore could do when executed with vision, sincerity and ample passion. However, it’s also refreshing to know that the band was prepared to turn back the clock in their search for creative inspiration. “Personally, I get a lot of inspiration from a lot of 80’s new wave stuff like Joy Division and The Cure and stuff like that, where the writing style is really personal and emotional, almost to the point where it’s selfish,” explained Kirby, perhaps only then slightly understating just how much Ian Curtis-fanboy worship went in to the creation of ‘Isolation’: both the album title and it’s title track, along with ‘Ceremony’, are named after Joy Division tracks. In fact, ‘Permanent’ even borrows the entire first verse from ‘Something Must Break’ from Joy Division’s 1981 compilation album, ‘Still’.
“‘Isolation’ is more of a selfish record for me, and more of a personal record than anything else… [it’s] definitely more of a punk rock record than we’ve ever done. It’s definitely something we should have done earlier, because that’s where everyone comes from.”
With an album like ‘Isolation’ acting as the definitive statement for Carpathian as a hardcore band, it seems that Kirby’s decision to continue the band in the face of continual adversity was a wise one. “There were a few times that I said to myself that I was going to give up on the band, and it wasn’t turning out how I wanted it or wasn’t going to work anymore, but there are a million reasons why I still do it”, says Kirby, reflecting on the possibility of calling it quits for good. “Playing music is something that I’ve always wanted to do, it’s one of the best opportunity’s I’ll ever have to travel and meet people that will affect my life. Before we started the band, I hadn’t even left Melbourne and now I’ve been all over the world, expressing myself through music which is something that you can’t really explain to most people. Obviously, it’s caused a lot of relationship problems for me with my ex-girlfriend and my friends, but my band means more to me than anything right now and for me, there’s really no other option… Our biggest lesson learned is that someone else’s opinion isn’t a valid reason to not do what you love.”
With their new album in tow, Carpathian would spend the next few years with a now-solidified line-up, touring with a vengeance and storming any stage that would host them. The band would complete their national ‘Isolation’ tour of Australia in 2008, before hitting the highways once more, bringing along good friends and labelmates Shipwreck A.D. on their first tour Down Under later that year. November would also see the group embark on their second European tour alongside their friends in Have Heart and Cruel Hand.
In early 2009, Carpathian headlined the Boys of Summer Tour in Australia (Christ, remember that?) with support from Comeback Kid, Verse and Against, while also venturing overseas to Japan, for a short run of shows with Death Before Dishonor, Trash Talk and Parkway Drive. April 2009 would see the release of the band’s second 7-inch: a split-release with Shipwreck A.D., featuring two live cuts of ‘Isolation’ tracks ‘Cursed’ and ‘Insomnia’. The 7-inch would be released through Kirby’s own Dead Souls Records, a domestic label created by Kirby to help release and promote music with his personal endorsement. Later that year, Carpathian would support Have Heart on their Australian tour and have a separate run of national dates with Dead Souls alumni The Hollow. July 2009 saw the band tour South-East Asia, with select shows across Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, followed by their third (and first ever headlining) European/UK tour with support from Ritual and Anchor.
After all of this touring, it was back to recording and writing. 2010 would see the band work on their final musical release: the four-track ‘Wanderlust’ EP, released on September 10th through Resist Records/Deathwish Inc.
Musically, this final EP represented a continuation of the sound cultivated on ‘Isolation’: relentless, charging melodic hardcore with an introspective, social consciousness. The EP’s title track brought back some of the band’s heavy, mosh-friendly rhythms, while ‘Ironheart’ worked off Carrol and Manitta’s guitar dynamics, trading hard riffs with soaring verses, echoing the style of contemporaries like Break Even and Verse. ‘Monochrome’ darkened the mood slightly, with off-key riffs and a general tone of doom & gloom. Final song ‘Shadowplay’ is the longest of the EP’s four tracks, and closes the release with Carpathian performing a lightning-quick take on a post-punk classic, taken from Joy Division’s seminal record, 1979’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’. Following the release of ‘Wanderlust,’ the band would jump into quick runs across Australia and South-East Asia, before heading to Europe once more, to headline alongside Baltimore hardcore outfit Ruiner. Carpathian would then close out 2010 with a headline slot at Melbourne’s Generation 2010 hardcore fest in December.
Of course, all good things must come to an end and the arrival of 2011 would eventually herald the end for Carpathian.
The group would tour Europe one final time with Defeater and they were also scheduled to embark on their debut American tour with The Carrier later that year. But then, suddenly, in March 2011, Kirby announced that the esteemed group had decided to disband indefinitely.
Kirby’s full and final statement, as listed on the band’s Facebook page, is below:
“The band has been an incredible ride for everyone involved and we are extremely thankful for the experiences and opportunities we have had to make music and travel the world. It has been the biggest part of our lives and touched on so many friends and family in its almost 10 years of existence. Thank you to anyone who has had an influence on this band in any way…this doesn’t mark the end but a new beginning.”
After a revolving door of members, the band’s final line-up would consist of Martin Kirby on vocals, Joshua Manitta and Lloyd Carroll on guitar, bassist Edward Redclift and drummer David ‘Skan’ Bichard; the same line-up which performed on ‘Isolation,’ their split release with Shipwreck A.D. and the ‘Wanderlust’ EP. Only Kirby and Bichard would remain as constants from the band’s inception in 2003. Carpathian would play their final two shows in Melbourne in April 2011: an 18+ show at The Arthouse on April 20th with support from Hopeless, Warbrain & Colossus, as well as an all-ages show at the Wyndham Community Hall on April 29th with support from AYS, Warbrain and The Hollow; ending a career that spanned eight years, two albums, and numerous tours at home and abroad.
Carpathian’s legacy is one that has gone on to define much of Australian hardcore in the 2000’s and beyond. With the band’s members being involved (either directly or peripherally) with other acts like Day of Contempt, I Killed The Prom Queen, Parkway Drive, Break Even, Pro Team, Hopeless, Warbrain, Colossus and The Broderick, the impact of Carpathian’s music extends past their own back catalogue and into the larger community of Australian hardcore. While Carpathian may be gone for now (with rumours of a long-awaited reunion remaining as nothing but that: rumours), the words that Kirby uses to close out the track ‘Permament’ – and ‘Isolation’ as an album – perfectly encapsulate his band’s story, their purpose, their achievements and also their vision:
“I tell myself that, I know, I know/I don’t want to be the man who tells stories/
Of all the things that I know, I know/Were ripped from my hands before I truly grasped them/
And I know, I know if we shut down in stages then let this be the last time/That I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know/
That I ever fucking gave a shit, with my head in my hands, I never meant anything more than this/
This is the story of permanence/
This is the story of unchained momentum/
This is the story of everything, we ever wanted.”
Come November 2018, ‘Isolation’ will turn double digits, leading us to believe that perhaps (and that’s a very big maybe) a one-off reunion show or even a full album tour may just occur. But if Carpathian never reunite, then at least their music and legacy still lives on in the many bands they influenced, and in the memories of those who caught one of our nation’s most important hardcore bands in-action.