2011 has been a great year for Australian heavy metal – Taberah exploded onto the national scene, Darker Half released a new record, not to mention a number of great international acts coming to our shores. What better way to ring in the new year than with a night of metal at Sydney’s own bastion for live music: The Sandringham Hotel? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d much rather raise a glass and bang a head to four solid bands playing Priest covers and originals than watch fireworks.


The opening set is always a funny thing. Generally, your audience consists of the other bands, maybe the promoter, and only a handful of others. But let’s face it, someone has to do it. A small turn-out can’t be helped sometimes, but what you do with it certainly can, and Thundasteel are well aware of this. The band was un-relenting in their approach, with riffs fit for a much larger crowd and stage, playing mainly originals but throwing in a cover of Hellbent For Leather. It was odd in this way seeing them play to such a small amount of people, because their sound was just so mammoth. With a few more gigs under their belt, and a bit more stage presence, this band will be pulling in bigger crowds in no time.


Taberah drew a much larger audience, and ran through their usual blend of rock n’ roll theatrics and heavy metal anthems. They were the only band of the evening not to play a Judas Priest cover, and opted for a rather unique run through of Bohemian Rhapsody; breaking off from an original the song’s second half. The band really shines however in their stage banter and antics, much of which is just subtle enough to be recognised – like a few fun lyrical changes – but without crossing into the realm of wankery.

In what was, if I’m not mistaken, their first time in Sydney, Melbourne hellraisers Elm Street cracked a hole in the sky, and left the crowd in a heavy metal daze. The band let out a real exuberance in their set; they were scummy, dirty and all together metal, but tight as anything, too. Once again, Judas Priest covers appeared, with the band blazing through Jawbreaker and Breaking The Law mid-way through their set.


Headlining the show was Sydney heavyweights Darker Half. Having taken time off to record their new album, this is the first time I’ve seen the band in a fair while, and there seem to have been some changes with how they present themselves on stage, for the better. Bass player Simon Hamilton and guitarist Brad Dickinson leapt back and forth across the stage as the band nailed a set of old and new songs, throwing in a cover of Hallowed Be Thy Name for good measure. Considering the band’s recent opening slot for Children of Bodom, the band may not be playing these smaller venues for much longer, as their fan-base will be unable to contain them.

What made the whole night really special was, of course, the countdown to 2012 itself. Whilst they may have missed the exact mark, singer Vo Simpson shrugged it off and said “Fuck it, we will do a count down anyway!” before ripping into Livin’ After Midnight, with Taberah’s Jono Barwick hoping up on stage to take vocals for a verse or two.

All in all, this was an excellent show. The bands were all loud, tight and happy as hell to be there, and they made sure the crowd was too. If the curtain call on 2011 is anything to go by, 2012 is going to be a hell of a year for the Aussie metal hordes.


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