After 3 weeks in the US going to gigs in New York and to Maryland Deathfest the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was go to a 3 day metal festival. However organiser Hushy didn’t take my wimpiness into consideration when he planned such an awesome line up of Aussie metal bands and Inquisition (twice!). So after a quite unproductive half day at work I hooned up the Hume Highway to Sydney in the ute and prepared myself for more booze and metal (it’s a hard life!).

Day 1

The first night of the festival was at the Bald Faced Stag pub in Leichhardt which I’ve been to plenty of times over the last few years and it’s a decent venue with a sometimes patchy sound. While waiting for the bus I got chatting with a couple of obvious metalheads who turned out were from Queensland and had been at MDF that year as well as prior versions that I’d attended. Small world! Once I got to the Stag I seemed to spend bloody ages catching up with friends as I swear I know more people at Sydney and Melbourne gigs than Canberra gigs these days. Some of my Melbourne mates had only just arrived back in Australia from the US and so they were very weary. I also had a friendly bloke recognise me from this website which was a strange but pretty cool feeling (cheers cobber!). After rubbing in how much fun I had in the US, my beer consumption commenced and I finally remembered to check out the bands!

Due to all my socialising I only caught the last 2 songs of Demonreich who I was unfamiliar with but they sounded like pretty decent thrashy black metal with a slight punk feel. I made sure I was present for Innsmouth though as I quite enjoy their slow death metal and they put on a killer set. They always have a kick arse sound that’s both fuzzy and heavy which goes perfectly with Beau’s raspy vocals and tonight was probably the best I’ve seen them play. As it was my first gig since MDF I half expected to see a guy in a chicken suit starting a circle mosh but instead there was just good old fashioned headbanging. I wish I could see these chaps live more often as they are great. Below is some footage of Innsmouth playing Aloof With Cloven Hooves shot by top bloke John which I pinched from YouTube.

After a quick trip down Parramatta Road for a yummy lamb pide I returned to watch Queenslanders Carbon who I probably hadn’t seen since Bloodlust in 2004! At first their speedy black metal was somewhat lost in the mix but as I stood there for a while it improved although I wasn’t sure if they changed a setting or whether my ears just got used to the shrieking din. Once I could make some of it out they sounded pretty awesome and impressed both radio cohost Mark and myself. Hurry up and produce an album blokes!!

StarGazer followed but suffered from probably the worst sound of the fest which really sucked as they need a decent sound to be fully appreciated. I was told their vocals had been turned down by the pub management due to a curfew. Sadly the guitar was about all that could be heard which is a real shame as I love Damon’s bass playing. I get the feeling that StarGazer is his and Denny’s outlet for really crazy music so to only be able to make out some was a bummer. They still played well and my imagination did some work recreating the songs in my head. I was also sad that they didn’t play Magikkian which is a favourite song of mine. I think the highlight for Mark was the fact the drummer had roto toms! A real shame as they are an awesome band.

Somehow this was my first time seeing Vomitor and their beautifully primitive and brutal metal definitely didn’t disappoint. The raw live sound suited them perfectly and they also had Illogium from Portal on 2nd guitar which added to the sound. The vocals on their albums have always had a ton of reverb but live it was even more over the top which worked great in the songs but when he was talking he could barely be understood. I couldn’t help but chuckle as he reminded me of the Ayatollah Of Rock And Rolla himself, The Lord Humungus which was not a bad thing at all. The crowd were a bit more active than earlier and there were some attempts at stage diving including the always bizarre dives between songs (ie. when the band aren’t actually playing). Great set and ever since I’ve discovered their 2 albums creeping into my playlists more regularly. Looking forward to their new album which should be out sometime this year. Here’s a pic I stole from Rani.

Headlining was the mighty Inquisition who came over from the US for a whirlwind 4 date Australian tour and damn they kicked a ton of arse!! I had officially seen them before at MDF 2011 as I detailed here however I was shitfaced at the time and barely remember a thing so this was my real first time seeing them. In keeping with tradition I had consumed quite a few drinks by now but I wasn’t too sloshed to remember it. They played plenty of newer songs which was fine by me as I love their Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrososm album and they are one of the few long running bands that are actually getting better with time. Desolate Funeral Chant was a highlight with it’s menacing slow riff and those occasional strange desperate sounding wails that sound like Jello Biafra. Another highlight was the classic song Crush The Jewish Prophet with it’s great singalong chorus which the crowd really seemed to enjoy. I’m still amazed by the sound they can produce as just a two piece although whingy Mark later complained about all the missing bits. They were tight as a nun’s proverbial too. Really impressive live and I was stoked to finally see them properly.

The boozing and socialising continued after Inquisition and I remember having a discussion with a mate about whether ghosts of disabled people would retain the disability after death (ie. a ghost in a wheelchair?). Deep stuff folks! (or in reality pissed idiots talking shit). I also remember Mark trying to tell a joke which he acknowledged was bad and we kept interrupting to ask stupid questions about specifics and it took him 10 minutes to tell it but I’ll be buggered if I can remember the actual joke. We also had fun with a random guy from Perth who took mock offence at our dislike of the Vio-Lence singers voice and we managed to offend him again by listing other singers we hate. All good fun and I talked to him a few times over the weekend. After a couple of final rounds of Tooheys Old we stumbled outside and I got a cab quicksmart which was handy. I somehow resisted the urge to get dropped off at my usual dodgy pizza joint in the city and just got out at my hotel.

Day 2

Day 2 began with my somewhat standard state after a gig the night before – a hangover! I drank some water before going to bed but obviously not enough as I felt pretty bloody dusty. I arranged to meet mates Mark and Sean at Newtown for breakfast and caught the bus there. While wandering around I saw the strange sight of legendary Sadistik Exekution fan and Sydney metal identity Slasher racing around on his motorised scooter. After 2 coffees and a big breakfast I felt mostly human again and we strolled down King Street to Sydney Uni and made our way in to the Manning Bar which I much prefer as a venue to Bald Faced Stag as it’s bigger, has better sound and the sunken stage area allows better views for all. I quickly discovered that 2 of my friends had EXACTLY the same shirt as me on which was amusing (great minds…) but I only managed to get a pic with Bianca as Dave couldn’t be found at the time.

Mongrel’s Cross opening proceedings to a somewhat sparse crowd of rather weary looking people most likely with similar hangovers to mine. Not many beers were being consumed at 1.45pm except by the diehards. Immediately the sound was better than the previous night and in fact every band that day sounded great. Their deathy blacky thrashy style was really enjoyable and I am keen to check out their new album The Sins Of Aquarius. The floor area was empty for half their set but a few dedicated or newly won fans wandered down the front.

Traditional doommongers Rituals Of The Oak were on next and they sounded great even though I was slack and was only listening to them from the balcony outside. I really enjoy their albums but my new Vio-Lence loving mate from Perth was whinging up a storm about the vocals which I thought sounded great. They were a nice interlude before the intensity begun.

New Zealand death/black metal chaps Heresiarch were on next and they were a force to be reckoned with! Their sound was heavy and dense and quite unrelenting but the highlight for me were the vocals which were really deep and intense. The vocals reminded me of old early 90s death metal bands from the days before singers went “breee”. Their demo and follow up EP impressed me but live they sounded much more full on and forceful. A New Zealander that I talked to the previous night wasn’t much of a fan and called them Diocletian wannabes but I really enjoyed their set and thought that had their own style. Nice work blokes!

Denouncement Pyre are a bit of a blur but I did enjoy them and they nicely melded black and death metal together along with a very lively performance. Destruktor were as blasting as usual but I can’t help thinking back to the first time I saw them at a Bloodlust when they seemed a bit thrashier and so intense that it almost hurt. Part way through their set I took the opportunity to scoot off with my friend Katie for a bit of dinner as I had no desire to see any of Lord. Apparently a lot of people had similar thoughts and I think poor Lord played to a much diminished crowd.

We got back in time for Impetuous Ritual who continued the intensity (I know I’ve overused this word but it really was an extreme couple of hours!). Once they were on stage the vocalist started growling at the crowd for a minute before they launched into their chaotic assault on the senses. I know tons of people who love them but for me the songs are a bit lacking in variety and dynamics and they get a bit samey. Most of the crowd seemed to be in a daze while they played but the band made up for it by putting on a dark, crazed performance that finished with one guitarist ripping out his strings.

I got caught up chatting with mates and only listened to Astriaal who sounded pretty impressive from outside. Only later did I see pics like the one below of singer Arzarkhel wearing some evil robe outfit.

Assaulter had a nicely crisp, metallic sound and their speedy thrash was a welcome change from the 4 death/black bands I had seen previously. It was great to be able to watch them as I remember one gig at Newtown RSL where I stood in a stupidly long queue for drinks for the entire Assaulter set and could only listen. Drum slut extraordinaire Yonn provided the battery and did a great job. Exalt The Master was probably the highlight for me but the whole set was really enjoyable. Assaulter had shirts for sale with Choose Death written in huge letters however I thought they looked a bit too much like the Choose Life shirts that Wham wore so I didn’t buy one (plus I hate text in large font on shirts). I do love their image of a great white shark chasing the Christian fish symbol though.

Up next were one of the main bands I came to see – funeral doom gods Mournful Congregation – and they were incredible!! They only had a 40 minute set so only 3 songs were played which were Mother – Water, The Great Sea Wept from their The Monad Of Creation album, The Epitome Of Gods And Men Alike from their split with Worship and Suicide Choir from their The June Frost album. I was a bit surprised they didn’t play anything off the amazing new album The Book Of Kings but I guess it’s difficult to cover all releases in 40 minutes when your average song length is more than 10 minutes. In the live setting Mournful use 3 guitarists which gives them a massive sound and also helps maintain the heaviness while they solo which is pretty regularly. The soaring lead work is one of the main highlights for me as it adds to the overall gloominess to the music while also providing an uplifting feeling (that sounds a bit emo when I read it back but oh well). The crowd were understandably subdued for their set and a mate mentioned that their gigs would be made better if everyone was given a beanbag to sit on. I was loving it though and their performance was one of the few on the fest that really captured your entire attention and transported you to another plane. Make sure you check out Mournful Congregation on the upcoming tour with Chilean doom band Procession which you can obtain tickets to here. Here is some live footage I found which is part of the song The Epitome Of Gods And Men Alike.

Aussie thrash legends Hobbs Angel Of Death followed and certainly woke the crowd from their doom slumbers. Haha the first thing I wrote in my notes at the time was “looks like Cheech” (from Cheech And Chong) as Hobbs does have a passing resemblence to the stoner legend. So of course we stood around like idiots cracking “Dave’s not here, man” jokes for half the set. They were in fine form though and finally my favourite song Crucifixion got an airing which also stirred the pit into action for a while.

For the second night in a row Inquisition headlined and Saturday night they had an incredible live sound which added even more to their already amazing performance. I watched from one of the higher areas and had a perfect view of the drummer which led to much jaw dropping on my part as he was tight as buggery! They played a similar set although they mixed the order of songs up a bit. I was very pleased that he didn’t use the black metal voice while talking between songs as generally it comes across as hokey (unless it’s Proscriptor from Absu and then he’s illegible but infectious in his sincerity). Cosmic Invocation Rites was my highlight this night although it was another amazing set.

Unfortunately the Manning Bar is similar to the ANU bar here in Canberra and they basically shut up shop as soon as the bands end. This always pisses me off as it’s a metal gig for fucks sake and people ARE going to drink more! We were moved on by the bouncers rather rapidly so Chris and I decided to head over to the legendary Lansdowne Hotel for some more drinking. Seems half the crowd had the same idea as the pub rapidly changed from some normal people to dozens of hairy and deaf metalheads and the whole upstairs area was rapidly taken over. I had been trying to avoid the mixed drinks hangover from the night before by being girly and only drinking cider but the Lansdowne had run out of the nice James Squire stuff so I was stuck with crappy Bulmers which didn’t go down too smoothly. After a few hours of fun and booze Chris and I hit the wall about the same time and departed. He caught a taxi and I walked into the city meeting some random hipsters on the way who were friendly enough. That night I succumbed to the drunken need for hot food at 2.30am and to my delight discovered a Pie Face shop about 50m from the hotel so I purchased 2 sausage rolls and stumbled up to my room. I again remembered to drink some water but it was obviously not enough to avoid hangover number 2.

Day 3

Day 3 started with another big breakfast and caffeine injection in Newtown that breathed some life back into my tired, ageing body. As usual the Newtown oddities were out already including a guy with a top hat and modern looking penny farthing bike (which he wasn’t even riding). There were some rough and dodgy looking characters wandering around at 10.30 too although I suspect that if I had looked in the mirror I wouldn’t have looked too different.

I returned to the Bald Faced Stag at about 1pm and got stuck into the caffeinated soft drinks. I had to drive back to Canberra that night so no boozing for me which after 2 days of ample drinking was a mercy actually. The place was pretty sparse that early and the people that were there looked about as fragile as I felt.

I wandered in to check out Vilifier who are a death/black metal band featuring Queensland and Northern Territory members. They sounded pretty impressive but to be honest they were a bit too intense for my weary hungover state (yes I am a wimp). I did like the skull being worn on the chest of the vocalist though.

Convent Guilt followed playing only their 2nd gig however three quarters of the band were previously in Shackles so they aren’t unfamiliar with playing live. They are a different beast to Shackles though and their early 80s speed metal sound was perfect for my hangover. I always managed to see Shackles with a real crap live sound so I was pleased that Convent Guilt had a clear and full sound. Their demo should be out quite soon so keep an eye out here for it. 

I’m not a fan of Chaotic Impurity so I skipped them instead opting to catch up with friends who had similar ideas. Johnny Touch were high on my must watch list of bands and they were certainly worth it with a kick arse set of speed metal/NWOBHM which included underpants being thrown at the band and outfits as amazing as the picture below!

I didn’t even notice his boots from the crowd or I would have been even more impressed at the time. They were pure heavy metal and had a great sense of humour with the vocalist having a great time with the good natured heckling. I only later realised that the singer was Pahl who was in Oni and Darklord where his vocals were VERY different. Here is some live footage I found.

As soon as Johnny Touch finished I scurried off down the road to my favourite pizza place which of course didn’t have any pizzas ready so I settled for a tasty lamb kebab instead and then made my way back to the Stag in the steadily increasing rain.

I was beginning to think I’d been transported back in time 30 years with 2 speed metal bands and then Hellbringer playing their Teutonic thrash style. But then I remembered I wasn’t fat and balding back in the early 80s! Hellbringer are from Canberra however I seem to see them in Sydney more than back home which is a shame as they do kick arse live. Sure the music is highly derivative but I’m not always looking for bands that constantly push the envelope and their brutal thrash went down a treat. The cover of Slayer’s Black Magic was bonza too and Luke pulled off the high scream beautifully. The big inverted crosses on stage were a bit hokey but overall they were excellent. Definitely looking forward to their Dominion Of Darkness album which should be out soonish on High Roller Records.

Up next were punk maniacs Kromoson who put on the most energetic set by far with singer Yeap jumping around on stage and on the crowd too. The last time I saw them was on the Toxic Lolocaust tour where they had an incredibly loud screeching guitar sound that was punishing (in a bad way). Chris reminded me of a band called Lebenden Toten who toured a few years ago who had a completely undecipherable wall of noise guitar sound but thankfully Kromoson didn’t resemble them this time and sounded great. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I continue to compare them to Pisschrist (who also featured singer Yeap) but this time I gained a greater appreciation for their own material (probably because I could decipher it for once). Kromosom generated the only proper mosh of the whole festival (other than some standard meathead moshing for Inquisition) and I think this was mostly due to their very active stage presence (although the fact they were playing hardcore didn’t hurt).

Johnny Touch may have had underpants thrown at the band but Backyard Mortuary had a contingent of fans waving signs at guitarist Stuart urging him to remove his pants. He is well known activist in the anti-pants movement and even graced the crowd with a brief view of his bare bottom. This was Backyard Mortuary’s final gig but it was more a fun event than a sad one with much heckling from the crowd and of course sign thrusting. At first I was directly in front of the PA and could only hear vocalist Chris which was a bit odd but I moved a bit more centrally and it sounded much better. I’d been listening to their killer new album Lure Of The Occult in the car that morning and it sounded killer live playing all their classics. They will be missed. RIP.

I didn’t catch too much of the last 2 bands. The Corps were pretty decent playing a metallic hardcore that was not metalcore with the vocals sounding like a 90s NYHC band. They seemed to go down great with the crowd although it was only 7pm so people were probably just warming up. Grenade were a shadow of their former great self and sounded completely different despite playing the same songs. Not much of a surprise considering 3 out for 4 members had been replaced. Gone was the raspy blacky/thrashy/deathy sound and in it’s place was a bog standard death/thrash sound with grunted vocals. The crappy live sound didn’t help but I could only last about 2 minutes before heading back into the main bar. I’ll stick with my old memories thanks. Backyard Mortuary should have headlined the Sunday in my opinion but it did help me as I could piss off back to Canberra earlier.

After a quick round of farewells I walked through the heavy rain to my car managing to avoid puddles until of course 2 feet from the car where I soaked one foot. D’oh. On the highly unexciting 3 hour trip back to Canberra I stopped at Pheasant’s Nest for a dodgy sausage roll and just happened to run into some of the blokes from Canberra band 4 Dead on their way back home from the Sydney Imax. Small bloody world! I also got a nice comment from the checkout chick about my Eyehategod shirt so either she didn’t read it properly or she’s a blasphemer! (or a stoner or a Charles Manson fan). Thankfully due to my caffiene/energy drink consumption and cds by Enemy Soil, Terrorizer, Magnacite and Repulsion I didn’t fall asleep on the drive and made it home before midnight.

Highlights for me were Inquisition, Vomitor, Heresiarch, Backyard Mortuary and of course Mournful Congregation. Cheers to Hushy and co. for putting on such an awesome show. I’ll be back next year!

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