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: Brewtality Festival @ The Tote/Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne 06/08/2016

By on August 7, 2016

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Words: Bailey Graham

Images: Matt Allan

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It’s that time of year, the time where dozens of Australia’s premier hard rock and heavy metal acts gather around the infamous Bendigo and Tote hotels of Melbourne, that’s right, it’s Brewtality 2016; the twelve-hour, two-venue, three stage onslaught of rock, metal and beer. Organised by the men and women of Desert Highways, the venues were already packed full of punters even before the first bands had started their sets, a sure and clear sign of the passion and excitement Melbourne’s heavy music fans have for their local scene. With last year’s edition a smashing success, hopes were high for this year’s instalment, and with a line-up equally as spectacular as the expectations from punters, I was ready to take the plunge and soak in the experience that is Brewtality 2016.

I headed to the Bendigo Hotel for the first act of the night. Harbouring a less than desirable 2:40pm set, Annihilist made the most of their early set. Their unique display of thrash-inspired groove metal proved to quite a hit with not only myself, but rest of the early bird punters that went to catch their set. Their mix was beyond excellent, resembling studio album quality, and their energy on the stage was magnificent, especially within vocalist Harry Pendock. A true highlight of their set was towards the end when Pendock managed to gather the crowd towards the front of the stage and start the first mosh pit of the festival, less than an hour into it. Annihilist’s thrash metal onslaught was the perfect way to open the stage.

Next to take the stage were local riff masters Decimatus. An incredible display of on-stage energy and brutality, Decimatus pummelled the crowd with riffs of a grand scale. Their groove metal rhythms with shred elements have earned the band nothing but good reception from the crowd. Decimatus even treated fans with new unrecorded material, set to be recorded in September. Upon reaching the conclusion of their set, the punters within had turned into a sea of head bangers, a testament to the power of the riffs that Decimatus possess.

Sydney melodic death metal heavyweights Daemon Pyre followed and unleashed their unique blackened death metal sound to an almost packed venue, with vocalist Sam Rilatt opting to position himself right in the middle of the mosh pit. Their unique blend of death metal with the occasional black metal riff and melodic lead phrasing gave the band diversity within their sound, exciting both myself and punters alike. The highlight of their set was the performance of the new, unreleased track ‘Unto a Dying World’, which saw mosh pits erupt and head bangers aplenty. It’s apparent that every band that has played the Bendigo stage at this point of the festival have been utterly sensational.

Down the street at the Tote Hotel’s Main stage, Coffin Wolf brought their full force hardcore punk sound to an audience of punters with high expectations for the young three-piece. Their set consisted of a full on barrage of up-tempo, aggressive tracks which the crowd received very well. Unfortunately, the dual vocal responsibility of guitarist Braiden Mann and bassist Simon Caldwell felt like of a hit and miss for me as I felt the raw vocal power of Mann completely overshadowed the relatively weak vocal performance of Caldwell. Whilst throwing in the occasional lead phrase in between sections of their tracks, Coffin Wolf ensured that they remained as engaging with the crowd as they were at the start of their set, completely avoiding the fear that they may fall under the category of ‘Just another generic hardcore punk band”. The three-piece brought some much needed punk vibes to the early hours of the festival, which was not only well received, but performed quite well.

Hailing from Perth, The Devil Rides Out were next to take to the stage. Definitely one of the most unique bands on the the lineup, a perfect amalgamation of hard rock and stoner riffs with aggressive distorted vocals gave The Devil Rides Out a sound that is all their own; a sound that the crowd soaked up en mass with great satisfaction. What I enjoyed most about this band was their use of simplistic rhythms and basic sound alteration pedals to produce a sound that is not only powerful, but catchy.

Back at the Bendigo stage. Queensland’s Kyzer Soze tore the venue apart with their unrelentingly destructive death metal sound. Despite minor technical problems with guitarist Tyler Welykitscholowik‘s rig, Kyzer Soze did not let up with their ferocious sound. Their triple vocal attack was executed flawlessly, with each member possessing a unique sound to their vocal arsenal. As their set progressed, Kyzer Soze unleashed several black metal-inspired riffs to their performance, which only saw the crowd give high praise to the band, which showed in the whole pit erupting in a mass of head bangers. The four-piece from up north certainly did not disappoint, to the point where they are regarded as one of the premier acts of the festival at this point. Coupled with an incredible sound mix, Kyzer Soze’s technical brilliance assured them that they will be remembered as one of the crowd favourites of the entire festival.

Local Psychedelic Extreme Prog metal heroes The Levitation Hex were one of the most interesting bands on the lineup. It’s been stated before that many bands on this lineup possess a very unique sound, but this one is definitely a standout. Their use of slow-paced high-note lead phrasing, down-tuned rhythms and powerful drumming made sure punters like myself were captivated in their performance. What impressed me most about The Levitation Hex was how full their performance sounded, despite heavy use of low-end riffs and rather loud bass during the whole set. Guitarist Scott Young also treated us to the occasional shred lick, which only made their overall performance sound that much more satisfying. Their excellent execution of psychedelic melodies and progressive riffs backed by the eerie ominous backing tracks that complimented the performance made The Levitation Hex one of the standout acts of the night, and I mean that in every positive sense.

As we approached the half way point of the festival, the heavy hitters started setting up for their sets, and none were about to hit harder and heavier than heavy metal, almost psychobilly titans Frankenbok. I think it goes without saying that I honestly have no idea what to say about Frankenbok’s performance, they were that good. Despite been delayed five minutes from staring, what Frankenbok’s did have to showcase their borderline country-core sound, as I have dubbed it. The rolling, up-tempo and up-beat riffs of Aaron Butler and Reiki Barbosa were coupled with Daniel White‘s impressive upper-range distorted vocals, these together produced a performance like none other. It was this performance where Brewtality had its first major mosh pit, with the main stage of the Tote completely erupted as White opted to jump into the crowd on numerous occasions. If there’s one thing to say about Frankenbok’s Brewtality performance, it’s that it was by far, the most entertaining set of the day.

Next up were three-piece stoner group Seedy Jeezus. Thirty minutes of softer-infused shred and psychedelic phrases may seem like a bit of a drag to most punters, but Seedy Jeezus have managed to keep it interesting by incorporating much heavier elements into their set throughout. The guitar playing skills of Lex Waterreus are without a doubt world-class, and it shows in his marvellous solo playing. I guess it comes down to personal preference when I say that I felt as though there was too much soloing and not enough rhythm playing with vocals, as Waterreus possesses a spectacular nostalgic stoner rock voice.

I made my way to the Bendigo stage just in time to witness the blackened death metal assault that is Colossvs. The band had recently undergone a massive lineup change, with ex-vocalist Lochlan Watt leaving the band in favour of his duties with Thy Art is Murder. His replacement, original Colossvs vocalist Christopher Tew was set to make his return with Colossvs on the Brewtality stage. Performing mostly track off their 2014 release ‘Unholy’, Colossvs’ sound was unmatched. Their deep, ambient and atmospheric sound echoed through the venue, leaving the audience without any doubt of whether the recent lineup change would affect Colossvs’ consistently incredible live shows. Closing their set with fan favourite ‘Christ Burner’, Colossvs asserted their position on the Melbourne metal food chain with an absolute killer set.

One thing became sinfully noticeable during the many hours of being at this festival, and that there was a severe lack of traditional metal and power metal, both of which would be answered by the New South Wales juggernaut Darker Half. Their traditional metal inspired riffs and twin guitar leads, reminiscent of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, gave old school metal fans some in to froth over, and I was no exception. If there was any criticism that had to be said about Darker Half was that with vocalist Vo Simpson. Whilst he possessed an incredible voice, he tended to overuse those high wails, to the point where they felt less special with every time they were belted out. Towards the latter half of their set, the mood shifted, as fans went absolutely ballistic over their cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Aces High’. The New South Wales metallers, from that performance alone, earned the respect and admiration of not only myself, but the hundreds of punters in attendance.

The last band for me at the Bendigo stage, was none other than Melbourne’s melodic death metal heavyweights and of the stand out acts of the night; Orpheus Omega. Their well composed orchestral introduction ‘Conception’ led straight into the fast-paced sonic assault that was ‘I, Architect’. The crowd wasted little time in opening up a spectacular mosh pit across the venue, without a doubt the wildest one of the night. Front man Chris Themelco asserted his dominance over the crowd by orchestrating the ferocious crowd to begin a circle pit around the sound desk, to which they happily obliged. I’ve seen Orpheus Omega several times, and I can safely say that they are on top of their game during this performance. Closing their magnificent set with the crowd favourite ‘Sealed in Fate’, Orpheus Omega made sure their set was one to be remembered, with a vicious wall of death being the highlight of their performance during that track. The Melbourne melo-death heroes have certainly come a long way since their 2009 debut EP ‘So It Begins”, but I foresee much greater things for this band, and their live performances are testament to their impending greatness.

It was one last journey back to the Tote main stage too see one of headliners take to the stage. Since 1992, Dreadnaught have pleased listener’s ears with some of the tightest, heaviest sounds to be put on to a record, and it was an absolute honour to witnessed the heavy metal veterans for the first time. Despite having the final time slot of the night at 12:20AM, both myself and the rest of the still-functioning crowd soaked up Dreadnaught’s infectious grooves and aggressive riffs with the utmost pleasure. Even after almost 25 years as a band, you’d think that they would worry about sounding repetitive, but Dreadnaught constantly innovate their sound, especially evident in their latest release, 2016’s ‘Caught the Vultures Sleeping’, which may just be one of their best works yet. Their performance of tracks from not only recent, but older years cemented their position as one of the most under-rated metal bands in Australia. Although I found the mix a bit too off at times, with the bass occasionally being overshadowed by the guitars, these are only nit-picking critiques. I couldn’t think of a better way to conclude the near-twelve-hour madness that is Brewtality 2016 than with a band as tight, engaging and as purely incredible live as Dreadnaught.

I think it goes without saying that I found it extremely difficult to speak negatively about most, if not all the bands on the line-up, as I never encountered an act today that didn’t shine through in many aspects. In terms of quality performances, none were greater than those by Orpheus Omega, Frankenbok and Darker Half, who went above and beyond my expectations for their performances. Desert Highways has once again come through with the goods and has successfully delivered what is potentially the Australian metal festival of the year. Upon returning home from such an experience, battered, bruised and exhausted, one can only sit back and think to one’s self, “How on earth are Desert Highways going to top themselves next year for Brewtality 2017?”.

To find out more about Brewtality Festival, head over to the official Facebook page. And for our official synopsis, read HERE.

Also, for those in Sydney, don’t miss the Sydney edition of Brewtality Festival on August 13 across two stages at The Factory, Marrickville. Links and details below.