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Steel Assassins, Day 2 – MEGAHERA, DARKER HALF, EYEFEAR, SOULFORGE, RAMPAGE, MYSTERY, THE LOVING TONGUE, AVARIN, THUNDASTEEL, FENRIR, METREYA @ The Sando, 3/11/12

Posted in Shows with tags , , , , , on November 8, 2012 by Cameron Cooper

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Day 2 of Steel Assassins was off to an early start, beginning at 2PM to ensure as much metal as possible could be fit into a single day. I’m sure there were more than a few hangovers floating around as survivors from the previous assassinations met at the bar and at the stage for ten hours of heavy metal heaven.

METREYA rise from the ashes of BLACKENED, with new vocalist Michael Demov and lead guitarist Adam Grozdanic. The band draw heavily on – it would seem – the Teutonic thrash scene, but have also managed to inject a mid-paced, heavy-handed groove into the sound, which I think actually primarily stems from the brooding, gravel-gargling vocals of Demov. The bands music is full of sinister riffs that harken back to the glory days of KREATOR, SODOM, DESTRUCTION, and sometimes EXODUS.

FENRIR are a group of young guys who have had quite a rise in popularity this year, despite having been down one guitarist. These blood-soaked barbarians aren’t afraid to have a good time, with the band juggling some serious musical chops with a little bit of humour, blending thrash and folk metal in a way that never ceases to get crowds going.

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THUNDASTEEL, featuring a new skinsman, continue their crusade of 80s metal worship, playing a set primarily made up of songs from their debut album – Fallen Heroes – although the new song Thundasteel proves to be another instant-anthem from these guys. The band have been through a number of line-up changes here and there, but certainly have carved themselves into an impressive, well-oiled machine of pure, fist-pumping steel, with vocals that could slice through lead.

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AVARIN, a Sydney band inspired by the likes of SYMPHONY X and FATE’S WARNING, were down one guitarist for their performance, but that doesn’t put a damper on things as the band plough through an impressive set of straight-forward progressive metal. The band’s music, although delving into heavy-as-hell territory at times, is more meditative in a way, resulting in a unique performance. Singer Mike Zoias makes sure to keep the crowd entertained with a few jokes here and there, and finishes them off with an absolutely ripping rendition of Children of The Sea.

There are more than a couple of repeat-offenders performing on day 2 of Steel Assassins, THE LOVING TONGUE’S Jim and Tom Petkoff are amoung them. After helping out Jim’s band RAVEN BLACK NIGHT the day before, Tom returns to the stage in his usual, epic metal outfit. The sound of THE LOVING TONGUE is quite hard to pin-down, and even as I sit here now spinning their albums, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Undoubtedly, it is hard and heavy metal, and it certainly recalls many of the acts that have come before them, but there is something unique about it, something that is just them. What I can say, however, is that THE LOVING TONGUE have a little bit of everything in their sound, with absolutely zero compromise. If you live in Adelaide, you need to go check these guys out. I can’t quite tell you why, but I can tell you that you’re going to love it.

MYSTERY are young. No no, you misunderstand – I don’t mean young as in “Oh, they are all about seventeen, eighteen”. The oldest member is around fifteen years old. Okay, that’s only a few years, but those years are a big leap, especially when it comes to musicianship. For most bands, anyway. There is a lot of press surrounding these guys at the moment, so there is a good chance you have already heard of them, so I’ll keep it short and sweet: there are much older, and sometimes more prolific musicians, who don’t sound as good as these guys do at their age. Stu Marshall of EMPIRES OF EDEN helped out the band on guitar as front-man Rocky Ravic had an injury that prevented him from playing, and as always his presence on stage is something to behold in and of itself. The guys put on a fantastic set, and if they keep going this way, they’ll be dominating the metal world in no time.

Wollongong thrashers RAMPAGE are a band that, at this point, need no introduction. They’ve been playing live for a few years now, and seem to be one of the most prevalent thrash bands in the NSW scene, continuing to gain momentum despite not having much in the way of studio material released, which speaks volumes for the band’s presence and ferocity on stage. Last time I saw them, they were performing as a three-piece, so seeing them with Shane Saw back on stage was great, the band not skipping a beat as their sweaty, denim-clad followers congregate front and centre. I don’t have much more to say about these guys, except that they have never failed to put on a good show in the past, and this was no exception. Tight, pissed-off and vicious – what’s more to love?

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Dale Corney is well known in various parts of Australia as paying his dues for ten years in DUNGEON, but now has returned to popularity as lead vocals in Broken Hill’s Viking-loving, heavy metal five-piece SOULFORGE. Their riffs weigh a ton, and Corney leaps around the stage like a man possessed. Not to be deterred by being in a bad way, drummer Bilyara Bates takes a quick break whilst TABERAH’S Jono Barwick takes the stage for the acoustic-driven epic Live Forever (300), with Bates returning about mid-way through, showing exactly what an event like this is all about. And did I mention their album absolutely slays?Image

EYEFEAR aren’t often mentioned without the incredible length of Danny Cecati’s hair coming up, but there’s a lot more to the band than that, and judging by the crowd, everyone knows it. These Aussie metal veterans are a solid, undeniably epic, power/prog outfit. Cecati has a few encouraging words for MYSTERY, drawing on his own history as a vocalist getting his start at fifteen. Now, years later, it is clear that the time certainly hasn’t gone to waste, and the outstanding control and power within his voice is something that only a hell of a lot of hard work can produce, commanding the crowd with his majestic wail. Here’s hoping these Melbournites make another trip to Sydney soon!Image

After locking themselves away to craft the second record, Desensitised, DARKER HALF returned to playing regular gigs sometime last year, and continue to blow audiences away. What interests me is that the album and the live band are in many ways very different animals. Certain nuances of the band are captured on CD, whilst others are expanded upon live. This makes for two very enjoyable, diverse experiences, and gives you a real reason to make it out to their shows. DARKER HALF are exactly as they should be – four dudes up on stage, playing metal and having a hell of a good time about it, with bass player Simon Hamilton and guitarist Brad Dickinson leaping about the stage whilst the guitar lines and vocals of Vo, and Dom’s pounding beats command the crowd.

With MEGAHERA getting ready to take the stage, Dave Balfour, Jono Barwick and DARKER HALF drew the raffle, entrance of which came from purchasing a two-day ticket. The first winner, of a double pass to see EPICA (With METAL supporting), was a lady named Susan (?). Then, much to my extreme happiness, yours truly won the absolutely amazing Steel Assassins prize-pack. Can I just say – again – a massive thank you both to Metal Evilution and all the bands playing for putting this pack together. To give away this much merchandise to a random winner isn’t something you see bands or festivals like this doing every day, and how goddamn lucky am I to have won? I was so over the moon to get my hands on such an awesome array of stuff, ranging from t-shirts and beanies, to CDs and DVDs. Not having any material out, METRYA still pitched in and threw in an I-Owe-You. “Heavy” doesn’t cut it. How awesome is metal?

Saturday night headliners were the international act MEGAHERA. The band, currently a three-piece, are doing the rounds of Australia, and playing to crowds who aren’t necessarily familiar with their music. I’d done my homework, but nothing could have prepared me for their live show. The phenomenal bass playing of Antonio Borgesi flabbergasted me, with the band decimating what was left of the crowd – not a single punter was anywhere else, all eyes and ears on who have to be one of the finest international acts to grace The Sando.

Nothing could be better than such an array of fantastic bands. If I could see this festival again and again, I’d be a happy man – every single musician and crowd member here tonight proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that heavy metal is where you find people who love what they do, and do it so damn well.

If for whatever reason you weren’t able to make the show, I urge you to check out these bands, other Metal Evilution shows, and especially look out for next year’s instalment. Oh, and for the love of God, if you are ever in Italy, go see MEGAHERA!Image

Steel Assassins, Day 1 – VOYAGER, TABERAH, METAL, SILENT KNIGHT, RAVEN BLACK NIGHT, TEMTRIS @ The Sando, 2/11/12

Posted in Shows with tags , , , , , on November 5, 2012 by Cameron Cooper

ImageIf you are in Sydney, I’d hope you were aware of what was going down this past weekend at The Sando. If not, allow me to explain: Steel Assassins is the product of Metal Evilution master-mind Dave Balfour, and 2012 marks the first of what is looking to be an annual, two-day trad/thrash/power metal festival. Sound like a bloody good time? Sure as hell it was! With my head well and truly ready to bang, I headed down King St on Friday for round one.Image

Kicking the night off at about 6.10 was Nowra’s TEMTRIS, a destructive five-piece fronted by the incredible pipes of Genevieve Rodda. The band made good use of their half-hour set, drenching the room in their thick, heavy and fresh brand of “dark metal”, that seemed to teeter somewhere between speed and death, with a few black and doom eccentricities thrown in. “Okay guys, get your shirts off,” quipped Rodda to the crowd – a little over half-way through the set – before launching into another throat-burning number, shattering any pre-conceptions that may unfortunately still float around about the female soldiers in the metal force. With two albums already under their belt, and a re-ignited line-up currently doing the rounds, this is a band to keep a close eye on.

RAVEN BLACK NIGHT, who I’m convinced are comprised of the very essence of rock n’ roll itself, turned the heat up with their beer-soaked set. The four-piece played an absolutely crushing round of stoner doom tunes, with Tom Petkoff of THE LOVING TONGUE helping the guys out on bass. Stopping to sip his beer every now and then, Jim Petkoff didn’t let up in the vocal department, soaring over the riffs he was laying down as the band descended into an energised cover of Paranoid, sending the crowd off with a bang and leaving my ears ringing.

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From WA came SILENT KNIGHT – a band I managed to catch at their last Sydney show. Somehow, the group have gotten even tighter since then, and with axe-man Stu McGill and vocalist Zoran Cunjak leading the band, they took the crowd on a journey through the fist-pumping, HELLOWEEN-inspired anthems they’ll be unleashing on record soon with the debut, Masterplan, that looks to be full of some impressive vocal harmonies from a fair few of the members. Of course, no metal gig is complete without a bit of fun, and the band made good on Stu’s threats and launched into a few bars of Heavy Metal, a track from McGill’s brother’s band, METAL.

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As the faith runs strong in the family, METAL soon took the stage, with Rayzor Ray and his cohort of steel disassembling the venue on a sonic level. The beers trembled as guitarist Ross Chinchmeister downed drinks without missing a single note, the band playing a number of headbang-worthy numbers that made reference to both their namesake and purpose, from opener Proving Our MettleHeavy Metal, and closing the set with the false-slaying riff-monster that is Fighting For Metal.

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As the crowd began to grow, Tasmania’s number one export TABERAH remind us that at the end of the day, be it 12-bars or shred, its all rock n’ roll. The band show true range, even within the one track – showcasing melody and beauty, as well as a pounding, heavy darkness on album title-track The Light of Which I Dream, as well as playing some stuff from the soon-to-be-released new record. And seriously, you can’t go wrong with a band who covers DEEP PURPLE this good. I also have a theory that Tom Brockman’s stick-wielding arms can be seen from space when he drums, but perhaps that is for another day…

Closing the first night of the festival were the daring and wholly unique Power/Prog band VOYAGER. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the spirit of Peter Steele sat on the shoulder of lead vocalist and keytar player Danny Estrin. Melody and the devil sat side-by-side as the band ploughed through crowd-pleasers like I Am The Revolution and Stare Into The Night, relative new-comer Scott Kay making his presence known to all. The melancholic yet oddly uplifting mood was broken-up by the band’s odd-ball medley of everything from Gangnam Style to Ghostbusters, and a full cover of Killing In The Name.

As the legion of Assassins retired from the stage, the punters staggered out the door, sweat on our brows and a ringing in our ears that just hurt so damn good. Already set for round 2? I know I was!

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