Metal For The Brain 2005
After getting in some good hours of sleep, I arrived in time to catch the tail end of SKINTILLA before dutifully moving to the merchandise stand to pick up my festival t-shirt, but I wasn?t early enough and had to make do with a large. Why do the small and medium t-shirts always sell out so fast at every festival?
I decided to approach the festival differently this year. Not having the funds to take 250 photos again (yes, I try to remain faithful to the silver art form) I supplemented with an amateur digital. I wanted to watch my favourite bands and maybe discover some new ones and write what I really thought about them rather than play nice politics as I did in December 2003. Yes metal-brothers and sisters, this bitch is back.
My budget constraints were eased by the Utopia stage “I?m-running-this-stage” security Nazi who allowed only one photographer in the pit at a time “and not in the middle”. How the hell was I suppose to do my job? At first I took photos from the sides, just like last year. After some filthy looks (not me!) and sighs of frustration (me) security Nazi relented but by this time, the first new band I was interested in was over.
Melbourne band THE DEADLY www.thedeadly.net ?one of the bands hitting MFTB for the first time?really got my attention. I believe the driving force behind this band is ex-EARTH guitarist, Rick Witthoos. Think LACUNA COIL vocally with Skin of SKUNK ANANSIE singing instead of Christina and the music having the balls of an elephant thanks to Withoos?s death metal roots. Hell yeah! It?s about time we had some strong female vocalists in the Australian metal scene. I?m so over angelic voices.
After a late and slow start, the band that blitzed the awards the previous night, ALARUM alarum.com.au got on stage to prove their worth playing their hybrid, death-fusion style of metal. ALARUM are signed to US label Willowtip Records and released Eventuality late 2004.
Playing their swan-song gig, Canberra band LOG logrocks.tripod.com, donned death masks played in front of a good-sized crowd. LOG are another band who have developed a hybrid that can?t be labelled as one style of metal with a few twists. Harmonica anyone? Very interesing.
A band from MFTB 2003 I was looking forward to seeing again was GOSPEL OF THE HORN www.elementalist.net/gospel. I missed their show in Sydney in 2004 and this time they played on a stage befitting their legend. The brutal metal overlords preached their gospel to the sea of devil?s horns/metal fists rising before them.
Stoner dudes FORT (Forte from MFTB2003) had an increased level of interest this year. A reputation from an outstanding performance in 2003 coupled with solid shows up and down the east coast over the last year (some of which I attended) have all contributed to the return to MFTB of this band hailing from the weedy seaside resort or alternative lifestyle town (depending on your budget) Byron Bay. This is one band I don?t think I?ll get bored of seeing more often in Sydney.
Probably my favourite Australian metal band at the moment, VANISHING POINT www.vanishing-point.com.au, playing the main JJJ stage teased the crowd with the announcement Embrace the Silence will be released in April through Dockyard 1. It?s about time! I was treated to a sneak preview of the upcoming CD in the 10 minutes it took to drive to University of Canberra and what I can tell you is it?s a faster, heavier VANISHING POINT release but it doesn?t lose any of those strong song-styles that are VANISHING POINT.
Suffering from acute tonsillitis which resulted in hospitalisation less than a week before the festival, Silvio Massaro refused to cancel show and sang with his usual rich overtones. It must have been the drugs that confused him about which songs came from which albums “This song is from our second album…”.
I could hear guitarist Chris Porcianko laughing “No it?s not, it?s from our first.”
A look of confusion crossed Silvio, face. “Ok, this is from our second album…” Everyone got a good giggle.
It was a different, very relaxed VANISHING POINT that played this festival. It was great to see them finally looking like they were enjoying being on stage constantly smiling and Silvio seemed to be suffering from a case of verbal diarrhoea?the good kind?by stirring the crowd with “Don?t all clap at once! I know, we?re bad.” Of course this received a raw of laughter and a loud cheer. In fact, he was the only band member I heard mention the message of our metal festival “X-thousand people over the age of 25 suffer with brain damage. Let?s not forget the reason we?re all here?to bring awareness to a thing the only way we can?by playing metal!”
While I was collecting my thoughts and equipments after the VANISHING POINT set a few people came to the back room commenting on the band playing the Kerrang Stage, PORTAL. Fronted by a vocalist who can only be described as a walking sorting hat (refer to Harry Potter and the Philosopher?s Stone) this costumed ?band? performed a noise apparently in an attempt to open a portal. I?m sure somebody could have found a more worthy band for the bill.
And next on my list of controversial bands was BRACE www.bracemusic.com playing the downstairs, Utopia stage. Featuring a line-up of notable metal musicians including NAZXUL keyboardist Lachlan Mitchell, BRACE couldn?t be any further away from what NAZXUL play or what we at Metal-Rules call metal if they had JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE fronting the band. Ok, well maybe not pop, but you get the idea and I wonder if this band would have even been considered for MFTB2005 if it had a different line-up.
You can really gauge the calibre of a band when their name is chanted before the curtains are drawn. The faces of adoration and sheer hero worship (some looking like scarey stalker-type people) beamed up at DUNGEON www.dungeon.cd as fans intensely sang each word and some females willed a smile in their direction.
I haven?t heard DUNGEON sound this good for a long time and was happy to see the band relaxed in its new line up. New members Grahame Goode on drums, who filled in during the EDGUY 2004 Australian tour, and bassist Peter Peric both came from Sydney?s death metal outfit INFERNAL METHOD.
“Who went to the metal awards last night?” asked Lord Tim. The crowd gave a cheer. “We wooooon soome!” he added. He?s the daggiest cool metalhead I?ve ever met. He?s nerdy and cool in the way the computer geek who wears his hair long, listens to metal and plays air guitar standing on his bed living next door to you is.
While taking photos from behind the stage, I spied a funny sign held above the crowd?Lord Tim chuckled and denied the allegation.
Just a note, don?t be getting comfortable with this line up warriors and wenches, three days after MFTB DUNGEON announced the departure of Grahame and Peter.
Playing against DUNGEON on the Utopia stage was well-respected Melbourne death metal band, EARTH www.earthmetal.20m.com, who were also rumoured to be playing their swan song. As you would expect any band doing their last show, EARTH played with such intensity, a certain member had problems staying on his legs.
The loyal crowd headbanged with equal intensity. Equally interesting was the return of singer, Brendan Birge who always gave the EARTH sound that little bit extra to make them an outstanding band.
A funny thing about metal. Have you ever noticed how guys are always complaining about how hard it is to meet a cool metal chick? Well, I?ve finally worked out why. It?s not that there?s a shortage of us, it?s just that you blokes are too busy drinking beer and headbanging to “fuck-I-love-this-song” to notice the chicks standing back preening with the brightest smiles and outfits screaming ?for metal?s sake, somebody fuck me!?.
Anyway, after the EARTH set, I spoke with drummer Rob Mollica and asked about the band calling it quits. Rob confirmed the initial news was true, however I?m happy to report that (maybe as a result of Brendan returning to the folds) EARTH has decided to continue and release another album.
Feeling good after this news, I went off to watch MFTB?s smallest band with the biggest sound, CONTRIVE www.contrive.com.au on the Utopia stage. This is CONTRIVE?s third MFTB and it?s good to see their audience growning each year.
DAYSEND www.daysend.com.au, who signed with Metal Blade sometime in 2004, was one of the most anticipated bands of the day drawing chants from the waiting crowd. Featuring best Australian heavy metal guitarist, Aaron Bilbija, DAYSEND lost their second guitarist, Michael Kordek, 48 hours before they were to take to the Kerrang stage. A phone call was placed and early next morning a knight is shining armour came to save the day. That knight was ex-PSI.KORE, ex-INFERNAL METHOD guitarist, Andrew Lilley, and his shining armour was the plane that flew him from Melbourne to Sydney at a very unmetal time of sunrise. One and a half days of intensive rehearsals later they were ready for MFTB.
Singer, Simon Calabrese proposed to Andrew about joining DAYSEND “?till death do us part”. The crowd responded loudly as Andrew contemplated his answer.
I think many would agree DAYSEND now have two of Australia?s best guitarists. The dynamics of DAYSEND and the chemistry between Meredith Webster and Andrew back on stage together looked like a marriage made in metal. They have a PSI.KORE history and it was obvious they were happy to be playing side by side again.
Look out for DAYSEND. They?ll be doing a North American tour sometime this year and you?ll kick yourself if you miss them.
Closing the main stages, once again, was ALCHEMIST www.alchemist.com.au ?the driving force behind MFTB. I don?t know how they do it. After spending all day at the gates, merchandise stands, stage managing, etc., these guys got on stage pumped to play a great set, including a KILLING JOKE cover which I didn?t recognise, but was pointed out to me.
Meanwhile, closing the Utopia stage was a band who received a few nominations at the awards, FUCK I?M DEAD www.geocities.com/fukimdead wearing their uniforms of white shirts, black ties and white aprons covered in blood.
This year?s MFTB was a broad representation of Australia?s diverse metal scene?we had death, glam, stoner, trash and scarey metal?something for everyone. My attempts to take it easy this festival failed. Even though I took fewer photos this year and didn?t have as much to write about the bands I saw, I still ended up seeing 16 bands.
Exhausted, I retired to a certain band?s barrack (who will not be named to protect the innocent) for my subconscious to be treated to a symphony of giggles, flatulence and protests while I slept. I miss touring…