Metal For The Brain
Canberra, Australia /
Review & photos by Brat
The only annual metal festival in Australia, Metal for the Brain (MFTB),
was not borne from capitalism, nor a sense of metal community spirit, but
from human compassion. In 1990 the first Metal for the Brain took place.
It was a benefit to raise money for a metal-brother beaten so badly
outside a Canberra night club, he was left with severe brain damage and
totally reliant on his mother's full-time care as compensation was not
nearly enough to meet his ongoing costs.
After the disappointing cancellation of last year's festival due to
bureaucratic bullshit (this is the only way to describe it), MFTB 2003
promised to be the biggest and best metal festival Australia has ever had.
As I drove the 2.5 hours from Sydney to our nation's capital I was
amazed at the idiocy of many motorists who insist on using headlights on
open free/highways in broad daylight. I mean really, if you can't see a
huge hunk of metal barreling towards you already, I can't see headlights
helping. But enough about the idiosyncrasies of Australians.
Moving the festival from its usual October schedule to December,
maximising on the end of the school year, coupled with a strong metal line-up
made this year the biggest yet. When I bought my ticket three days before the
event, over 1100 tickets had already been sold. 1600 was the last estimate
I heard at the festival.
Let me set the scene for you. MFTB 2003 was held at the University of
Canberra Refectory (big hall). The two main stages stood side by side as
you would find at most festivals-Kerrang stage and Triple J stage. A third
Utopia Records stage, originally to be an outdoor stage, was moved indoors
when initial forecasts read 34°C (94F) with late thunderstorms. Previous
years this smaller stage was inaccessible to under 18s as it was on
licensed premises, but as promised the stage was open to all ages thanks
to the organisers doing some extra work to abide with licensing laws.
The gods of metal smiled upon us and produced a day of soft, constant
rain and 23°C (73F).
Metalheads taking a breather and sheltering
from the rain
First band on my list was INFERNAL METHOD. At one time this band
was considered melodic death metal, but the departure of Andrew Lilley (ex
PSI.KORE) removed the melodic component to their music giving a more
brutal sound to their tried and true set. Singer, Joss Separovic kept the
early audience interested with this energenic stage presence of either
headbanging or bending back in a way that would make any limbo dancer
D-NINE is band I knew nothing about before I ventured down to the
Utopia stage to take some photos of bands I didn't particularly have an
interest in, but thought Metal-rulers would appreciate. What I found, was
an awesome 7-piece death metal act (yes, you read correctly-awesome and
death metal being used in one sentence by me). With 2 singers, the force
was so great I was sorry to tear myself away from this captivating
performance, but with bands crossing over, it was time to move on.
One of my favourite bands of the day was
DAYSEND on the Triple J stage.
A band very hard to describe and often accused of being nu-metal (NOT!)
they draw comparisons to bands like SOILWORK and "KILLSWITCH ENGAGE (but
with a better guitarist)". The quality mix of thrash and melodic death
elements with Simon's clean and thrash singing has earned this band
supports for THE HAUNTED and STRAPPING YOUNG LAD.
The strength of DAYSEND's music is evident in their ability to fill the
Refectory so early in the day. All veterans of the Australian metal scene,
no one member dominates this line-up visually or musically. Even the
drummer, Wayne, gets his share of limelight at the back of the stage as
his powerful beats threaten to break the skins of his kit.
There's one thing to be said about DARK ORDER - they know how to get
the crowd vibed up. Never without controversy, Raul (aka Lord Alvarez)
worked up the crowd with his views on nu-metal and other topical issues
throughout their set. The crowd gave back to the thrash metallers as they
performed favourites like War Has Begun. New drummer, Michael McCartney,
proved his worth by keeping up with the trashing rhythms of Raul and Zoran
proving wrong those ignorant peers who accused him of mediocrity.
Noticeably absent was the DARK ORDER call (the one resembling a moose in
heat) throughout the set.
For the first time in MFTB history (that I can remember) Stoner
rock/metal/whatever-you-want-to-call-it was represented. I know few
metal-rulers are into this genre, but so impressive was FORTE, I had to
include them in my review. Sure, most stoner music is associated with
drab, dull, bottom-ended slow to mid-tempo droll, but this far-northern
NSW band (the land of green) had enough energy and charisma to keep the
metal audience that wasn't willing the brave the rain entertained. I even
noticed some turn right around when they heard the first few bars and give
the band a chance. Skychaser, one of the faster, more melodic numbers
really impressed me, especially when one of the guitarists fingered these
sounds almost like a fast DOORS-inspired Hammond organ arpeggio (at least
that's what it sounded like to me). Unfortunately, I was side stage during
this song and didn't see which member should have received the credit
(sorry). Special mention to Deon, whose drumming was far more powerful
than any stoner drummer I remember as he threw the weight of this body
behind every double-handed beat. Singer, Andy, with his Chris Cornell-type
looks in no way conserved his energy on stage making FORTE an interesting
band to watch and listen to.
The one bad thing about moving the Utopia stage indoors was the stage
was smaller than what, I believe, the outdoor stage would have been. As
GOSPEL OF THE HORNS ripped through their old school thrash classics, the
crowd sandwiched itself against the stage. Hair dominated the air as the
day's peak period of headbanging took place. When the LA scene was
dominating Australia in the early 1990s, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS made a name
for themselves and quickly gained recognition in Europe. Nothing I write
about their music could do this band justice so I refer you to their
official website. I can, however, tell you they finished the set with
Gospel of the Horns.
ASTRIAAL - pure awesome black metal and because pictures tell a
thousand words, enough said.
The lack of heads pointed toward CONTRIVE on the Utopia stage didn't
dampen the spirits of this Sepultura-inspired band. The Melbourne 3 piece
has toured solidly since hitting the scene in 2001 earning the band a
support slot on the last Sepultura tour. Consistently tight, CONTRIVE
proves you don't need 4+ people to give a metal band a big sound. The more
CONTRIVE played, the bigger their audience grew. Singer, Paul, thanked the
audience for supporting the cause and told them to give themselves a round
One of the things I love about our metal scene is the support bands
give each other. It is especially surprising when you see a member of
another band, front-rowing.
I spy with my little eye, the singer of
DAYSEND in the front row
DUNGEON almost made me pee my pants! So eager were last year's final
band on one of the main stages to play, they came on 5 minutes early
depriving me of my extremely-needed toilet break. This was the unofficial
first anniversary (2 years officially) for guitarist Stu, who played his
first DUNGEON show at MFTB 2001 (2002 was cancelled). To celebrate the
occasion DUNGEON performed a new song written by him, The Art of War. I've
watched this band for many years and each year, the MFTB 'Dungeon' chants
grow louder and louder.
There's just something about Canberra doom band POD PEOPLE that gives
me the impression they're taking the piss. Still, this band had a large
and loyal crowd headbanging through their set. It was at this time, metal
heads began to show signs of exhaustion.
The cherry on the MFTB 2003 sundae was definitely the return of
DESTRÖYER 666 to their home soil. The crowd got restless waiting for them
to get on stage greeting them with chants of 'Destroyer' as they ripped
into the first song of their set, Predator.
I don't remember liking DESTRÖYER 666 each of the few times I've seen
them live, but this time they captured my attention. They've either
improved 500% or my tastes are much broader now - probably the latter.
ATOMISER was the unfortunate band to draw the short straw and play on
the Utopia stage against DESTRÖYER 666, but not everyone was interested
in DESTRÖYER 666, it seemed. With new guitarist Rick Withoos (ex-EARTH), ATOMISER
didn't let the thin audience affect their performance. Described as a
hybrid death-black and thrash band, ATOMISER have carved themselves into
Australian metal history since their inception in 1998.
Introducing 3 new songs into their set VANISHING POINT, one of
Australia's most under-exposed bands in its home country, ripped through
their set of prog/power-inspired metal in front a loyal and surprisingly
large audience starving to see this band. As promised the new songs were
faster and heavier than their older material. The first new song gave me Sonata Arctica impressions but with the distinct smooth sultry vocals
strengths of Silvio. One of the other new songs was much more bombastic,
almost swaying towards symphonic metal and a few interesting keyboard
samples not previously heard in metal - the work of new keyboardist,
As VANISHING POINT began a rearranged introduction to Never Walk Away,
a group of people from other bands quickly collected side-stage to watch in amazement the almost
inhuman drumming abilities of Jack. It was unfortunate that after 1.5
years since their last performance, we were teased with only 7 songs.
As I prepared for ALCHEMIST to come on, BLOOD DUSTER were finishing
their last song on the Kerrang stage. The crowd was being pushed over the
rails as the singer launched himself 3-deep into the audience over a 5 ft
pit only to be hurled back into his domain by security and tossed back on
stage, where he had difficulty remaining on his feet for the end of the
Metalheads on their last legs
If there was a book of metal martyrs, ALCHEMIST would be the first
Australian band to be written in. As the organisers of MFTB, this band
spent all day working, making sure things went to plan, distributing
refreshments to bands who had just finished playing, liaising with
security and caterers, etc., etc., etc., only to play a tight set of songs
from all their albums in the toughest spot of the night - the closing band
of the Triple J stage.
bands of the night for me wound
me down nicely. Playing their
gothic with doom overtones music, VIRGIN BLACK were like a mellow version
of CRADLE OF FILTH without the screeching. The vocals mainly sung by
keyboardist, Rowan, moved from operatic, to clean, to mellow chant-like
chords, keeping listeners interested as did the hypnotic guitar
ministrations of one of MFTB's few female musicians.
As I move away from the Utopia stage, fathers of Australian metal and
old-school thrashers, HOBBS ANGEL OF DEATH, were preparing to close the
Hobbs Angel Of Death prepare backstage to
ice the MFTB cake.
Twelve hours and 16 bands later, I was exhausted. I passed on attending
the after show party and went back to the motel, removed my war paint,
changed into a tent-sized Nightwish tshirt and kicked back with the DARK
ORDER camp and nice Belgium beer.
Brat and Lord Alvarez displaying 2 generations of
Australia has always been accused of having a weak metal scene, but
when you take into consideration that Australia's landmass is equivalent
to 98% of USA mainland, but only has a population of 20 million, you can
maybe understand how difficult it is for us to get together for such
events. The organisational success of MFTB 2003 coupled with the effort of
Aussie bands and metalheads traveling from as far as Brisbane, make me
proud to an Aussie headbanger.
Most of the bands I have covered here are bands that wouldn't normally
be in my listening spectrum, therefore, the details of the performances are
thin and I apologise for that. For the complete line-up visit
www.metalforthebrain.com which includes links to official band sites where
you can obtain detailed information about each band.
All my photos of MFTB 2003 can eventually be seen at www.geocities.com/avantasiavixen
Please be patient-I have over 250 photos to upload.