Manning Bar, Sydney University, Australia
29 October 2005
Pics and review by Brat
UNDER RAVEN SKIES was a festival organized by people from Wagga Wagga—half way between Sydney and Melbourne—in the name of the MS Society. What better way to increase the street cred of metal in this hell on Earth than by demonstrating a social conscience.
Arriving at the Manning Bar following a morning lesson and no breakfast, I saw a sign stating “NO PASSES OUT” to which I danced a temper tantrum about how the hell was I going to get through the 14-hour day having to carry my camera gear not to mention having to coherently cover the festival running on empty. I almost set the door-bitch a-flame with my glare when she suggested that there were crisps for sale at the bar. I was about to bail, but decided to check if my photo pass was available before I made a final decision and also asked if I was able to move freely in and out of the venue with the pass. Luckily, I was, but I knew I wouldn’t last long without food and coffee.
The Manning Bar is a student union building and it was their responsibility to provide adequate food and beverage choices, especially as they expected people to be “locked in” for up to 14 hours. The Sydney University Student Union dismally failed.
AETURNUS DOMINION was the first band I saw while I tried to collect myself after my tirade at the lack of organisation on behalf of the union. I took a position behind the mixing desk and watched the thin, early crowd appreciate the band by occupying the front row and headbanging with dedication to the death metal being performed.
Next up was Sydney band CELESTIAL who has had a few line up changes recently. It’s so great to see so many young people get up and have a go at living the metal dream, even if their line-up changes as much as their underwear.
Hailing from Newcastle, INANE EMINENCE managed to pull most of the over 18 people inside from the outside licenced area. This is the second time I’ve seen them play and their blend of melody, death and thash interested for the whole set.
LEICOHTICA is a band from Wagga Wagga New South Wales, about halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. This 7-piece band even managed to get on stage early for their debut Sydney performance with two male vocalists and a female keyboardist who also provides vocal talent to the fold.
After a few early sound issues, what we heard was a band of talented players exposing the crowd to a live performance of a style of metal not yet experienced in Sydney (to my knowledge)-growling vocals from both male singers, a little keyboard, a little soprano and then the surprise, classical male vocals. The music was hard and fast with just enough of the classical not to be boring and at times one of the male vocalists took to the moshpit joining the small crowd gathered at the front.
This is definitely a band that will get better with maturity. LEICOHTICA has been compared to Therion-a favourite band of one of the singers—I’d compare them to Haggard with not so much of the medieval.
As organisers of this festival it was understandable they placed themselves in the middle of the line up even though they hadn’t played Sydney before, but I’m not complaining—the quality was there.
TRANSCENDING MORTALITY got on just as my saviour arrived with wholesome food at 1600, so as I sat in the carpark eating sushi, fruit, yoghurt and drinking coffee listening to the Mike’s rich power metal vocals echoing through the university campus. Power metal is extremely under represented in Sydney but Transcending Mortality is slowly gaining a following and bringing more attention to melodic metal here. A with most of the early line up today, they’re a young band and I can’t wait to see how they can grow in a year.
Around this time, the student union decided to put on a barbeque to feed the hungry metalheads. The smell of barbequing sausages permeated the air from the Manning House balcony for all of 30 minutes.
KANIA, a promising melodic death band and DISSENSION, a black metal band played before I made my way back into the venue. On my way back, and a few times during the evening, I noticed people getting Pizza Hut deliveries and overhead conversations with complaints of food running out and there being no vegetarian options available.
The next band I watched was a long-working Sydney doom outfit LYCANTHIA. I must admit I’ve seen them play many times and well sometimes, being a doom band, they’ve almost put me to sleep; however, for Under Raven Skies, LYCANTHIA pulled out a more lively set even raising a “fucking metal yeah!” scream from one of the under age attendees during a silence between applause. Where would our metal scene be without the next generation?
The first interstate band for the night was Melbourne band THE ETERNAL. This band has a strong following of peers-I even saw members of Lycanthia in the front row headbanging along to the dark melodic metal in the styles of Sentenced and Paradise Lost.
The sun was setting on Sydney and the night children filled the auditorium as the song “Down” filled the room. This song is a favourite with the Sydney crowd and mine. It really reminds me Paradise Lost’s One Second and maybe that’s the reason for the song’s popularity.
SWITCHBLADE has paid many dues in Sydney they’ve all been worth it as they were greeted by a mad moshpit.
I’ve seen Brisbane band SAKKUTH a few times and their most memorable performances have been their Metal For The Brain appearances, but there’s something about this death metal that leaves me wanting, even live. So as I kicked back with a drink in the licensed section catching up with friends I snapped a few shots of people having a great time.
Wagga residents and the festival’s organizers
Mark from The Eternal (centre) and local promoters Metalevilution
The highlight of Under Raven Skies for me was the return of VANISHING POINT to Sydney for the first time in over 3 years. They last played supporting Edguy on their 2002 tour of Australia. Since then they’ve released a new CD “Embrace the Silence” after about a 5-year gap between albums.
With the impending departure of long-time bassist, Joe Del Mastro, the band seemed as happy and relaxed as I’d seen them in March this year when they supported Nightwish. The pressures of being stagnant for so long were over and it was time for VANISHING POINT to have some fun.
I was starting to feel tired but I couldn’t help but feel re-energised watching them. The room looked full as many late comers had chosen to arrive for the last few bands. Their set consisted of songs from their three albums, but it was the news ones, “Hollow” and “If Only I” that stood out in the set.
This was the first time VANISHING POINT has been able to play to an all ages audience and the young faces staring up at the stage from the crowd pushing against the stage showed they’d captured a whole new fan base.
The final band for the festival was DUNGEON. This is one of the last times were will see DUNGEON under this banner as after over 10 years Lord Tim has decided DUNGEON has seen it’s day. Of course, the crowd paid homage to their performance and were even treated to an old favourite, “Paradise”. With the usual banter and humour, stage mishaps and gimmicks, the band played to the appreciative crowd like it was there last show and fitfully capping off the night.
After over $5000 was raised for the MS Society, tired and hungry metalheads left the university campus with the promise of another Under Raven Skies. With all the comfort offered by the venue, I really hope the organisers consider another venue for the next one or negotiate with the Sydney University Union to provide sufficient sustenance to help them get through a 14-hour day of headbanging or introduce pass outs.