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Live Reviews : Helloween, Damnations Day & Horizons Edge @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 14/10/2015

By on October 15, 2015

Words: Jonathon Besanko

Images: Matt Allan

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It’s been three decades now since Germany’s Helloween first came to be in the city of Hamburg. With 2015 marking the band’s 30th anniversary, the German metallers who helped to pioneer the genre of power metal as we know it today have once again returned to Australia after eight years, proving that they’re still the rightful keepers of the genre’s prestigious crown.

But more on that later.

Horizons Edge performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne in support of Helloween.

Horizons Edge performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne in support of Helloween.

Melbourne band, Horizons Edge, were the first opener of the evening, and drew quite a commendable crowd from the offset. As pink and green overhead lights beamed out across the stage, illuminating the band’s impressive six-piece roster, they started off strong, with vocalist Kat Sproule (a commanding presence in her own right, given her height and vocals) had many the attention of those in the audience, especially at the front. I have seen this band before, so I am familiar with their style and what they are capable of given the right setting, and because of this it saddens to say that the sound mix behind Horizons Edge tonight was perhaps the weakest link of the evening. I’m not sure who handled their sound tonight, but it was quite shoddily done if I’m to be honest. For the majority of the band’s set, their sound continued to fluctuate up and down; to the point where their sound was raised to an uncomfortable muffled and distorted pitch. Where at times you could hardly hear keyboardist Campbell Hill’s mic, then to others where Anthony Wilko’s bass was far too high in the mix, it made it difficult to make out the rest of Horizons Edge’s sound, and it was a shame to see a good band as this not given the treatment they deserved. I also felt Kat’s vocals were a tad lacking at times. Though she displayed moments where she lent herself to her higher and more impressive range, much of the time spent was in the same register, which at times made it a little monotonous.

It’s not all bad, however. The twin lead guitar performance of Josh Ristrom and Eddy Grosso was fantastic and the new Heavenly Realms tracks sounded solid live. I also quite enjoyed Campbell Hill’s keytar performance where he swept his fingers across the keyboard with an august speed. I just wish all round the sound had been better tailored to their performance, but they still left to strong applause, which was good to see.

Damnations Day performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne in support of Helloween.

Damnations Day performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne in support of Helloween.

The final support for the night was Damnations Day, who, I’m most pleased to say, were given far better treatment sound-wise. Emerging on stage at 9.15, the quartet gave no holds barred when it came to their performance. At times, I can honestly say Damnations Day outdid Helloween in terms of their stage show and sheer musical prowess. That is a commendation I don’t give lightly, so good work to them! Though there were a few moments very early on in their set where they faced some mild sound issues such as mic problems left-of-stage, and bassist AJ Finch’s instrument dying at around their second song, the band brushed it off well, with AJ cracking a joke or two, and Damnations Day never letting up from their rip-roaring performance.

Vocalist/guitarist Mark Kennedy is a prodigy. This man has to be one of the most versatile and talented vocalists in Australia right now, and equally one of the more charismatic frontmen. People were stolen away by that infectious smile of his and that depth of range that had him soar from mid-tempo vocals to high, Rob Halford-esque screams that never once felt forced or unrefined. It was a real pleasure to both see and listen to. And to the credit of drummer Dean Kennedy and guitarist Jon King, together Damnations Day form one hell of a lineup. Each band member complemented the next and there was a good balance here in terms of audibility in instrumentations and vocals, wherein AJ’s bass for example could be heard clearly but didn’t overpower or was drowned out by the rest. This strength in mix and band understanding gave Damnations Day’s performance real power. And whilst a small moment of sharp ringing happened at one stage, they received strong applause come the end of their set.

performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne

performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne

As a splendid mix of ’70s and ’80s tracks kept the company of those in the audience in waiting, it had now come time for the main act, Helloween. With a massive crowd assembled by this point that dwarfed the audience HammerFall had received last night, vocalist Andi Deris and the others emerged on stage to a brief intro from Walls of Jericho before the band blazed into “Eagle Fly Free”. Crying out to the crowd, “Greetings, Melbourne. Let me hear ya!” Andi – seen wearing a Gene Simmons shirt – did a great job coaxing out chanting and raising of horns. One of the best aspects to their set was how much Helloween seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves up on stage, and how much of a kick they all got from feeding off the energy of the crowd. It made their performance all the more engaging.

Going on to say, “It’s a pleasure to be back in Melbourne for the second time. It should be much more!” they then ripped into the eponymous track of their latest album, My God-Given Right. This track simply sounded awesome live and Helloween played off the chorus of this song to encourage the audience to sing, chant and clap along to the verses with them. Though Andi struggles a little to reach the higher notes he once could, after easing himself into the set, he still did a wonderful job with it all. And with the rest of the band playing it up (such as Markus Grosskopf licking the neck of his bass, and twin leads Michael Weikath and Sascha Gertsner continually having fun throughout the night dancing sillily alongside one another, before tearing into another of their awesome guitar solos), it created this great professional, yet flamboyant atmosphere up on stage. It perfectly suited the current mantra Helloween live by: which is basically to say, you’re in a metal band, you should have fun with it while you’re doing it!

performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne

performing at 170 Russell St, Melbourne

With an air raid siren that ushered in a fine drum solo from Daniel “Dani” Löble, this led into a perfect version of “Where the Rain Grows”. With “Lost in America”, it showed Andi’s more flamboyant side, where he would imitate soaring like a plane (an offshoot of his earlier rendition in the set of riding a surfboard), Helloween also performed new songs such as “Russian Roulé” live for the first time, which sounded great.

Later performing slimmed downed versions of some of their more well-known tracks, it led to a compilation of “Halloween”, “Sole Survivor”, “I Can”, “Are You Metal?”, and “Keeper of the Seven Keys”; the latter of which inspired rapturous chanting and crowd involvement.

Following this, the band gave their bows as we were led into the encore with “Future World” before fan-favourite “I Want Out” (and a song that’s virtually a given by now) began. Though it’s always a little strange to hear Andi Deris performing what were originally Michael Kiske songs, he still does a good job with it. As crowd chanting sung out the rest of the evening, the night ended on a sharp and enjoyable note, with this reviewer’s power metal fix well sated.

 

Make sure to catch Helloween on their remaining Australian tour dates. Tickets from Metropolis Touring

Friday 16th October – Sydney, Metro Theatre
Saturday 17th October – Brisbane, Max Watt’s
Monday 19th October – Adelaide, The Gov
Tuesday 20th October – Perth, Capitol

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.