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Live Reviews : Soundwave Festival Day One @ Showgrounds, Melbourne 21/02/2015

By on February 22, 2015

Images: Cameron Stewart
Words: Thomas Szulik

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The annual Soundwave festival returned to its original home at the Melbourne Showgrounds this year, where despite extensive lines and extreme heat, punters sporting black t-shirts, costumes, and buckets of sunblock made the most out of the now first of two days of music.

After a rocky start in which a snaking line of music fanatics were left waiting for almost an hour to gain entry into the Showground, reports from fans trying to arrive on buses also needed addressing with some revellers furious reportedly waiting over 90 minutes for a bus. Similarly, exiting the venue proved to be a nightmare for punters trying to hop onto a bus or into a taxi, however was to be expected after recent reports on the debacle between Soundwave Festival promoter, AJ Maddah, and Public Transport Victoria.

However, once inside the venue, Soundwave Melbourne was in full swing. Playing the early timeslot, Flint’s self described “heavy” band King 810 managed to kick off the day with an aggressive and energetic set of violence and no frills. Chugging their way through to the crowds that were there, vocalist, David Gunn, looked genuinely happy to be Australia. However Gunn’s raspy screams felt lost on the early after crowd.


Killer Be Killed

Thanks to the Triple J Unearthed competition, opening the main stage were Melbourne locals I, Valiance. Their early afternoon set saw the biggest audience they’ve had to opportunity to play to, powering through bass booms and breakdowns to a highly responsive crowd. Immediately following on stage 2, Finnish metal band Apocalyptica took a slow start to the stage with their brand of cello metal. Casual vocalist, Franky Perez, fronted the group through new tracks and provided an adequate job of vocal duties. It was when Perez left the stage that the musicianship of the group truly shined through, particularly on “Quutamo” and closer, “Hall of The Mountain King”. There’s something oddly enchanting about watching three classically trained cellists draped in black run around a stage with a cello in hand, headbanging furiously despite the sweltering sun upon them. A brilliant sight.

A quick trek to stage 3 saw long-running Californian skate punks Lagwagon provide a wildly fun mid-afternoon set. Joey Cape and co were clearly not impressed by the harsh Australian summer, but managed to keep up the adrenaline and never once lost their energy or humour for the duration of their performance.

The metal stage began swelling in anticipation of the debut live show of supergroup Killer Be Killed. A supergroup in the truest sense, Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Sepultura), and fill in drummer, Ben Koller (Converge) gave a debut performance that exuded the confidence of having played a hundred shows. Ploughing through tracks off their self-titled debut, the set was filled with brooding thrash and stoner grooves, a high-octane set. It must be said that Puciato looks much more at home without the constraint of a guitar, screaming atop a thousand heads. It will be interesting to see what this group will produce in the future, one thing is for certain though, the hype is definitely justified.


Butcher Babies

Next on the metal stage is Massachusetts hard-rock crew Godsmack, finally making their well received return to Australia after countless singles and number-one albums in the US. Sulla Erna is in fine form as he leads his band with a brilliant rock swagger and seamless transitions. Although a fine display of their talent, the end of their set feels a bit dragging and outdated, although this doesn’t seem of any concern to the thousands of die-hard fans who after a lengthy absence, finally had a chance to hear “I Stand Alone”, bringing Godsmack back in their lives.

Following an awkward soundcheck, Japanese crew Crossfaith perform a perfectly executed routine of their synth-laden metalcore. Wielding dual vocalists who bounced around the stage and used every ounce of energy they could muster, the crowd responded with equal energy in the form of 4 walls of death at the command of Koie Kenta. Enthralling from start to end, the electronic-tinged tracks played out to the eager fans like a rambunctious dance party. The energy never subsided, with the band creating one of the craziest and genuinely fun performances of the day.

Thrash legends Exodus unfortunately faced many issues, facing diminishing crowds, ongoing sound issues and this is after being 20 minutes late to stage. When things were working in their favour, they were on fire with vocalist, Steve Souza, never giving up once to try to rev up the crowd. Constant calls for horns and pits, Souza gleefully carried out a pitch-perfect performance as frontman for the Californian titans, if only they weren’t marred through extraneous problems.


Judas Priest

A large crowd dawned upon the main stage for Marilyn Manson’s return to Soundwave, although a a massive drawcard for the festival, revellers can’t help but feel almost disappointed in his unstable delivery. Crowds dwindles as Manson seemingly walked backstage as though uninterested to continue. His vocals felt strained on classic tracks such as “This is the New Shit” and “Disposable Teens”, bellowing almost incoherently throughout his set. Falling over, missing lyrics and sabotaging his reputation to some in the crowd, it’s hard not to look away from the classic Manson cuts, as well as tracks from latest album “The Pale Emperor”. The fact that Manson himself is still running around unpredictably whilst stirring up a plethora of opinions is too interesting not to watch.

Norwegian black metal Pioneers Mayhem put on a sweaty performance for those looking for a bit more extremity in the lineup. It is somewhat sad that a group with such a controversial legacy went largely unnoticed, with songs such as “Freezing Moon” being lapped up by those that were in support.

As far as historical acts go, Judas Priest is heavy metal royalty. Disappointingly crippled by sound issues for large portions of their set, Judas Priest played through all technical issues as though they were nothing, never letting their energy die. After 40 years of pioneering heavy metal, Judas Priest explored their history and progression though metal, displaying their powerful catalogue. From classics such as “Turbo Lover”, “Living After Midnight”, and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”, to the newer “Redeemer of Souls”, charismatic frontman, Rob Halford, admirably took Soundwave on a journey through time, history, and multiple leather wardrobe changes to prove they are an incredible live asset to this day.

Through endless riffs, pummelling energy, and self-embracced sex appeal, Butcher Babies thrash their way through an evening set of high-energy metal as vocalists, Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, exchanging screams one after another in a set that doesn’t die down one. However through crowd-chants and even a ZZ Top cover, their set feels a bit lacking, perhaps in anticipation of the headliners on offer. Even worse though were punters who were there purely to leer at the joint vocalists, who could hopefully instil the idea that Butcher Babies is more than just a couple of screaming women.

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As the sun set on a sweltering first day of Soundwave and the final riff of Slash’s “Paradise City” rung out across the crowd, it’s time to journey into another group who single-handedly reinvented heavy music into the commodity it is today. As the crowd grows impatient, the maggots of Melbourne are in full force this evening as the curtain draws upwards to reveal an extensive and interesting production from the unrelenting force that is Slipknot. Opening with Sarcastrophe from latest effort .5: The Gray Chapter, Slipknot put on a spectacle of a performance, showing the audience they’ve been to hell and back and manage to rise above it all. Vocalist, Corey Taylor, claims “we’re going to make it worth every second you’ve waited for us”, a statement truly honoured.

Through pyrotechnics, flamethrowers, elevating percussion kits, an elaborate light show, and unbridled energy, Slipknot essentials such as “My Plague”, “Wait and Bleed”, “Duality” and “Before I Forget” see the group utilise every last inch of their massive stage. Jumping off of platforms, commandeering the crowd, and maintaining their position as one of the biggest groups in music around, Slipknot deserve their headlining position at a festival dedicated to all forms of punk, hardcore, metal and alternative music.

Closing the night were Toronto punks Fucked Up, who drew a small, but committed crowd of followers, turning all those who happened to turn up to see their finale into fans. Thanking everybody for choosing to see them instead of the major headliners, vocalist Damian Abraham walked shirtless into the crowd hugging and kissing every punter he possibly could. Sporting two crushed plastic cups on his head, Fucked Up turned the final moments Soundwave into a party, proving that music at a festival is most memorable when it’s fun. Despite the almost unbearable weather, the constant sound issues, and the public transport problems, Soundwave is a day that you can forget about everything else, to make the most out of it, and this year, there’s still an entire day to go. Bring on round two.