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Live Reviews : Gloryhammer, Lagerstein, Hybrid Nightmares and Aquilus @ The Espy, Melbourne 19/04/2014

By on April 21, 2014

Images: Anwar Rizk
Words: Jonathan Besanko

This is my second outing catching a gig at the Espy (I recently saw Orphaned Land there), and I’ve got to say, I really love this venue. The Gershwin Room the event took place in and the Espy itself both have such a warm and inviting atmosphere. It’s an awesome place, and I’d recommend checking it out if you ever get a chance.

This was a fun gig though. I always knew Gloryhammer would put on an awesome show, and that the epic, heroic power metallers would draw an interesting crowd. I wasn’t wrong. While I’d hoped to see a few people dressed up for the night, there was actually a ton that ended up doing so. From people wearing kilts and purple, starry wizard hats, to others clad in chainmail Viking attire and women with full princess regalia; there was a whole myriad of things to see on the night. It was great to see the huge effort many people went to. For example, there were a couple women in the crowd that went all out with their costumes. One was dressed in full barbarian gear – complete with furs, leather shoulder plates, and an axe pole arm – while another was dressed as a pirate captain, with scarlet velvet clothing, pirate’s hat and coat, and the rest. It was awesome!

Kudos for the effort, guys! It would seem Chris and the boys got their wish fulfilled of people coming dressed up to their shows. I mean, there was even someone who came to the gig in a unicorn onesie. That’s dedication right there.

Like with the Alestorm gigs, pretty much as soon as the crowds flooded into The Espy, Gershwin Room, you’d see Chris Bowes mingling among the crowd. It was kind of funny as well actually when you’d see the reactions on people’s faces when they realized he was there. It was a huge ‘holy shit!’ for people. What bettered that however was seeing how shortly before the start of opener Aquilus’ set, a small congregation had flocked to Chris, surrounding him, chatting and exchanging the clap of beers, while many others still seemed to remain oblivious to his presence there. It was pretty entertaining. Hell, even I missed him walking past me at one stage as I was taking notes. Props to Chris though, seeing him chatting and mucking around, as well as dancing, posing, and taking photo’s with people, you could see straight away the adoration this guy clearly has for his fans. And it’s fantastic.

1M4A1074Self styled ‘atmospheric metal’ band Aquilus took to the stage at 8.45, smoke machines blasting at full force and enshrouding the band members in a veil of intrigue and mystery. With classical undertones, there is an undeniable folk/Viking metal feel to the band, with their music at times channeling the likes of Moonsorrow. Done up to look almost like druids, as the guitars kicked in Aquilus began strong with vocalist Waldorf’s hoarse cries echoing throughout the venue.

The band sounded great, and being his solo project, Waldorf was just as good live too. Wearing no shirt and dirtied over with war paint on his face, Waldorf’s raggedy hair and the leaves that were strewn throughout made for an impressive display and aided the band in augmenting their stage presence. But then, only about a minute into their show, the adjacent guitarist’s equipment blew. Thankfully however Aquilus didn’t let this quell their spirit. Virtually immediately, the drummer erupted into a solo that was followed by Waldorf messing around on the fret board and ripping out catchy riffs and short, innovative solos. While I remember me and my mate who I was there with feeling sorry for the guys for the issues (it’s already hard enough being the opener of a night without having technical problems), this little slice of improvisation served as good compensation until the band was ready to reconvene and finish their set.

Aquilus only grew stronger in sound and rhythm as their set went on, with the galloping rhythms that kicked in around the midway mark both powerful and engrossing. Alongside this the lighting effects used were excellent. That being said, while Aquilus dominated for the rest of the fifteen minutes they were on, unfortunately they were beset by one final issue as the sixth string of Waldorf’s guitar snapped and prematurely cut their set short by five minutes.1M4A1199

Hybrid Nightmares were next on the roster. In what I can only best describe as ‘melodic black metal’ these chieftains of extreme swayed the crowd into ecstasy the whole time they were on. Donned in white robes and corpse paint, they used a fluorescent solution in their paint that made them glow in the dark (even my mate suggested another cool idea, for them to wear full white or red contacts). While that may sound odd on paper it actually looked awesome on stage! And people responded to it really well. Especially with how band frontman Loki seemed to effortlessly engage the crowd and get them pumped. As the band would continually headbang as one, the crowd happily joined in inviting chants, fist pumping, and throwing up of the horns. Not to mention Loki’s proclamation of ‘Let me see those Viking windmills, mother fuckers!’ unsurprisingly drawing a great response.

Loki went on to say, ‘We are the unfathomable, unconquerable, unmolestable’ – everyone cracked up at that one – ‘servants of the Obelisk!’ before debuting live a new song off their upcoming full-length. Hybrid Nightmares sounded fantastic with a melancholic and devastating rhythm section, coupled by erratic white lights and enshrouding smoke that coaxed back and forth fist pumps and chanting. They just owned the stage and the crowd loved it. And on what is one of my favourite songs of theirs off their eponymous debut EP, “Upon the Cursed Wings” sounded perfect live.

They later played another new track labeled “What It Means to Die” that garnered a strong reaction from the audience. For a last minute replacement – they replaced Bane of Winterstorm who had to pull out of the gig for personal reasons – Hybrid Nightmares drew one of the stronger responses of the evening and performed extremely well on the night.

One of the best bits of the evening followed shortly after. Challenged to a ‘Pav-Off’, Chris Bowes, Hybrid Nightmares guitarist Michael Gumley, and the mountain of a man that is Lagerstein’s bassist ‘The Immobilizer’, all came up on stage to the happy chanting of ‘pavlova!’ from fans in the crowd. A few people at the front of the audience also got a chance to participate as pavlova was handed to them on a plate and the countdown to the eating frenzy began. While The Immobilizer won it hands-down, shoving the pav down his gullet in about two-seconds flat, everyone burst out into laughter and cheering as Chris came second and high-fived Gumley. It was a light-hearted and fun little competition, and one I had a ball watching.

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As the final opener of the evening, Brisbane’s Lagerstein put on one of the more entertaining live shows I’ve seen, if for nothing else than just the hysterical antics that ensued. But that isn’t in any way meaning to undersell the band because these guys are good! Following in the stead of bands like Alestorm and Korpiklaani, Lagerstein live up to their buccaneering and beer-soaked name. With a ships steering wheel placed at the head of the stage, three beer bongs lined the area off to the side of the drum kit with a dead pirate prop strapped to a post hanging in the background that immediately brought the phrase ‘dead men tell no tales’ to mind. At the start of the set and throughout at different points, vocalist ‘Captain Gregaaarrr’ (not a misspelling) would often take photos of the crowd to a sea of horns before high-fiving people. It was pretty cool. The band was unexpectedly larger than I thought they’d be, with seven members, and people like Joel ‘Mother Junkst’ Orford who interestingly plays both the violin and keytar (helping make for really neat sound).

Lagerstein’s lyrics, music, and altogether attitude/stage presence perfectly embodies the pirate spirit and life. And with a strong and bombastic sound to boot. ‘Who’s ready to get drunk?’ Gregaaarrr cried out as the pit exploded. ‘C’mon, you fucking mongrels. Get into it!’

With catchy, well-constructed songs, Gregaaarrr would often steer the wheel while charging around the stage. These guys were relentless though. They’d down beer after beer and Immobilizer would scoff them down like a filter. ‘Now crew,’ Immobilizer went on to say, ‘Who has been on a ship?’ before declaring, ‘You guys are starboard’ and then looking over to the left ‘you guys are portside. You can fuck off.’ Everyone laughed as both sides of the band on stage had everyone chanting ‘starboard’ and ‘port’. The crowd just fed off Lagerstein’s enthusiasm, and the insane antics and pirate metal anthems continued all the way throughout. Their next one involved both guitarists representing starboard and port side pouring beer into their boots and then sculling them. It was pretty rotten but hilarious. Starboard won the round.

Followed up with a song based around their hometown of Bundaberg and the Bundy rum it’s famous for, they then led into a great cover of “Drunken Sailor”. Not taking themselves too seriously, Lagerstein even ended up playing a song based on beer bongs. And as said beer bongs were being passed out to people in the front row, Chris Bowes later came out on stage for what has to be the most awesome way of introducing bands member I’ve yet seen. As Gregaaarrr would go around introducing each member, Chris would walk over to them and hold the beer bong over their heads as each member sculled a whole can, with Immobilizer instead choosing to down two cans at once. Lagerstein killed it on the night and were hilariously brilliant to watch.

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Gloryhammer. The epic quintet themselves had finally arrived from the lands of Dundee to claim the stage at 11.25. Even though they were some slight mishaps with the sound (the mic would occasionally screech, and the mixing was at times off; with the keys set higher than the vocals), Gloryhammer sounded fantastic on the night. With all of the band members dressed in their full attire, as the excitement boiled over with “Anstruther’s Dark Prophecy”, Gloryhammer led into a synced band-crowd clap, and frontman Thomas Winkler crying out, ‘How are you, Melbourne!?’ as rapturous applause filled the Gershwin Room with “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee” thundering in.

Winkler’s vocals sounded incredible and he managed to get the whole venue going, with their rendition of “Angus McFife” drawing a strong response. Everyone was singing along and having a great time. ‘Now it’s time to embark on a quest,’ Winkler began. ‘A quest that requires a heart of steel’. Splitting the crowd into three areas, Gloryhammer had the right, left, and front of the crowd singing the opening segments of “Quest for the Hammer of Glory”. The timed effort sounded amazing as it played out, with a guy dressed as a troll even walking out on stage and passing a hammer over to Thomas to wield for the song (fun fact, the hammer used was a prop replica of the weapon Fili the Dwarf uses in The Hobbit film trilogy).

During “Magic Dragon”, The Immobilizer came out on stage wearing a squid mask and a beer bong for Chris to down, while a guy dressed up as a goblin crowd surfed and sang all the lyrics to the band while gesturing his arms about. Gloryhammer looked like they were having a ball, and they were continually trying to get everyone involved in the show – with the band even bringing up on stage the woman dressed as a princess and her Viking-clad boyfriend I mentioned earlier.

While there was some idiot who threw a glass up at the ceiling at one stage shattering it everywhere, thankfully that didn’t detach the spirit of the night from the crowd too much. Winkler’s charisma on stage resonated well with the crowd and Gloryhammer looked great bathed under the golden and emerald lights.

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The interaction was good and transitioned well into the last track, “The Epic Rage of Furious Thunder”, with Winkler asking, ‘Where’s the princess now? We need a princess’. Many eager women raised their arms as one of them was given the chance to sing the female verse.

As the encore was ushered in, Chris came out on stage, and playing the Dark Sorcerer Zargothrax stated, ‘Alright, you pathetic mortals. Has this show given meaning to your pathetic lives… even now, my undead unicorns ride from Dundee to invade the Citadel of Melbourne. No one can stop me now!’ as his crazy, overblown laughter filled the venue. Thomas then emerged on stage, crowned as Angus McFife.

‘Angus McFife?!’ Zargothrax cried, before Angus proceeded to take him down. It was an amusing display. ‘Here’s a song about wrinkly old men!’ as the great but simple track that is “Wizards!” kicked in.

As the night drew to a close, the venue was filled with the chanting of ‘Hoots!’ and each of the members of the band was crowned as a hero of Dundee with goblins, trolls, and bands members from all the other bands of the night coming out on stage as the epic instrumental “Beneath Cowdenbeath” played out in the background. It was a fitting and deliciously over-the-top way to end the night. Chris was even carried out through the crowd too which was awesome to watch.

Pretty much, this show had everything you could want and expect from a Gloryhammer gig. Awesome night!

About

Jonathon is an aspiring fantasy/sci-fi novelist and music journalist. Thanks to the influence of the music he grew up with, he has always possessed a keen interest in metal and rock. He is also a huge fan of mythology, legend, and folklore from all across the world. You should follow him on Twitter.