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Live Reviews : Halloween Metalfest @ Max Watts, Melbourne 28/10/2016

By on October 29, 2016

Words: Jonathon Besanko

Photos: Mark Hoffmann

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It’s the spooky season, and to celebrate the Halloween festivities, some of Australia’s finest came together to host the ‘Halloween Metalfest’ in Melbourne last night at Swanston Street’s Max Watt’s House of Music venue. With a lineup that included headliners Psycroptic and Orpheus Omega, along with supports Naberus, Blackhelm, Hollow World, and Hadal Maw, the punters that had gathered here tonight were in for quite a show, of that it was certain. As Orpheus Omega frontman/guitarist, Chris Themelco, would later say: “You know, it’s one thing to be here with an international band and have it be packed out, and be like, ‘That’s fucking awesome!’, but this is a Melbourne gig filled with Melbourne bands, give it up!” And it’s true; the only exception to that rule tonight had been Psycroptic, who still hailed from Tasmania. That was fantastic to see! That a myriad of local bands would earn such a turn out.

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Naberus

Opening the night were melodic death metallers, Naberus. With a decent starting mix and fair audience numbers, Naberus came out with a bang. They didn’t let it hold them back that they were opening the night. For anyone expecting the first or couple of bands to begin a bit smaller – or a bit easier – were about to have their ears plucked and ripped off. Naberus gave no-holds-barred, and whether it was in the sheer power that resonated from Dan Ralph‘s guitar and Jordy Mitchell‘s bass, or in the vibrant, youthful energy of frontman James Ash, here was clearly a band that had refined their craft. I’ve seen Naberus a few times before, and as a friend said to me later, they seem to be that bit better, that bit more refined, every time I see them. Tonight proved that again. Though the mix had the drums and bass a bit too overwhelming at the start, by about the fourth song that had cleared, and the cohesiveness to their performance shone through. Their new song “Torch the Sky” came packing the grooves, and the riffs complemented well the overall vocal savagery. Bursting with energy and ferocity (and a bit of playfulness too), they were a superb opener to what was set to be an intense evening. These guys are releasing a new album in December, make sure you check it out!

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Blackhelm

As Blackhelm strode out on stage with bravado, their heavily Behemoth inspired image was quite the sight. A blackened death metal band, this was my first time hearing them, and I was quite impressed. Despite an early mixup where vocalist Rob Widowmaker started too low in the mix and you couldn’t make out any of what he saying for the first minute and a half, once it was cleared, their sound was gnarly to say the least. That being said, these sound issues are an ever persistent problem with Max Watt’s, and Blackhelm weren’t the last band to be plagued by it this evening. At times, you could hardly make out the guitars of Cam Roberts and Mika Kohlman, and the use of drum triggers also seemed a bit flat at parts. Negatives aside, there was a lot to admire with Blackhelm. Their stage presence and delivery was solid, and they earned a decent row of headbangers in the front. Not to mention Kohlman was positively frightening to watch up on stage – and I say that as a complete compliment. The man was inspiring to watch. The riffs from him and Roberts were dripping with venom, and each note seemed to have been written with the intention of rousing a frenzy in the pit. Ending on a strong note, they invited new Hadal Maw frontman Sam Dillon out on stage and give us a hint of the lively ferocity he was to bring later on.

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Hollow World

Next saw Hollow World obliterate the stage. That’s not even hyperbole. Wow, do these guys put on a fantastic show? Ben Roberts has to be one of the best frontmen in our country right now. Not only can this guy demonstrate his vocal versatility (switching seamlessly between shrill screams and electrifying growls), but the liveliness to his performance means watching Hollow World perform is never a dull affair. Match that with the dynamic output of guitarists Michael Truscott and Theo Goslett, and you have a winning combination. One of the things I loved about these two was how they alternated their solos, allowing their music to heighten its impact. Going on to dedicate the song “Scion of Fire” to “any black metal fans”, Roberts amusingly followed on with “we basically just ripped them off for this one!” The music was dynamic and innovative, and Ben’s ability to rouse a crowd into a frenzy was second-to-none. Jumping into the thick of pits, they deservedly earned fantastic applause at the end.

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Hadal Maw

Ah, Hadal Maw. This band has impressed every time I’ve seen them, and tonight was no different. With an absolutely venomous start surging with ferocity and bloodthirsty death metal, vocalist Sam Dillon stole the night. Hadal Maw gave the performance of the evening, as far as I’m concerned – and against the likes of Psycroptic and Orpheus Omega, that’s no small feat! Looking like a young Peter Tägtgren, Sam Dillon has to be one of the most animated frontmen I have ever seen, and to his credit, he owns it completely. More animal than man, it felt organic and didn’t seem forced. Coupling that with a pure sonic assault, with no time wasted, Hadal Maw roused the crowd into a frenzy of headbanging and circle pits. The sickening green of the lights painted against the savagery happening on stage was also very fitting. The breakdowns are some of the heaviest I’ve heard, and had the mosh going wild. To describe the experience of seeing Hadal Maw live in one word: it would be intense. The riffing and drumming was phenomenal and Hadal Maw crushed it in every sense.

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Orpheus Omega

Serving as the final opener for the evening, Orpheus Omega suffered a few small sound issues at the start, but thankfully, it didn’t last all too long. With bassist Nathan Mesiti donning an Uncle Sam hat he’d been given, they opened with “Conception / I, Architect”, keytarist Keswick Gallagher slipped from the stage, but to his credit, took it in his stride and just added it to his performance. With Mesiti switching between witches hats and a Mario hat, his bass was also decorated at the back with the phrase “Fuck Yeah!” Chris Themelco’s solos were mint, as was guitarist Joao Goncalves‘ technically precise fretwork. Playing a solid setlist comprising songs from their second and third albums, along with the tradition of “Sealed In Fate” as the final song (with the equal tradition of an insane wall of death), they earned strong circle pits and applause from around the venue. At one stage near the end, Mesiti was hoisted up onto the shoulders on one of the punters and was charged around the stage. It was a fitting end to a strong performance!

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Psycroptic

The time had come for Psycroptic to close out the night! Opening with track “Cold” off their most recent studio album, Psycroptic, the Tasmanian technical death metallers emerged to a full house and a buzzing crowd. Technically sound and earning a huge applause, vocalist Jason Peppiatt noted: “What of night of Australian extreme metal we’ve had!” before thanking everyone for coming out. Between the Haley brothers Joe (guitar) and Dave (drums), their charisma on stage was uncanny. Despite most people at this point being worn out from all the extreme energy that had been released with the five bands prior, there were still enough people that didn’t let up with the pit carnage and bouts of headbanging. Peppiatt was a gun, spawning great crowd engagement. “The World Discarded” was a highlight, and amongst earning numerous circle pits, their performance was bolstered by excellent vocals and instrumentation. The Tasmanians proved yet again why they are one of the rightful heads of technical death metal.

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.