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Live Reviews : Anaal Nathrakh, Hybrid Nightmares, Hadal Maw & Suldusk @ Max Watts, Melbourne 08/03/2019

By on March 9, 2019

Images: Clinton Hatfield
Words: Mitch Alexander

Suldusk are great! Now on my third draft of this part of the review, I’ve realised I need to lead up front with something obvious, because depending on what you think of them conceptually you could potentially read everything I write as sarcastic, and I don’t want you to. A four-piece “black metal” band with two acoustic guitars, a cello, and a djembe might not shriek “trve cvlt Satanism!” but when the music is this dark and compelling, so encompassing and massive without being “heavy,” you realise that good black metal is a mood more than it is a shit guitar tone and a vocalist who isn’t trying.

To call Suldusk “blackened acoustic 4 Non Blondes” is both lazy and accurate; lazy because it misses a lot of the nuance but accurate because it’s how they sound, due in no small part to the shockingly good live vocal performance – pitch perfect with even more impressive control, Emily swerved between haunting melodic wails and black metal witch shrieks with jarring ease. And while I would’ve liked to hear more cello (or double bass? Sorry I’m a dumbarse) the percussion was oddly booming and resonate for a single fucking djembe. It was a great sound and set, and I’m definitely gonna see if I can catch them at a jazz bar next time.

Second on the night were djent-creepers Hadal Maw, who clicked into second gear with a drum kit and electric guitar. And more’s the pity, because as is becoming increasingly frequent at Max Watts, the sound was gobshite. Moments of groove with sparse kick drum were the only times I could hear anything other than the triggered clicks of a beater and the roaring vocals, with the rest of their set being a wash (which sucks because I know the songs, and the intricate guitar interplay is what makes Hadal “Hadal.”) But when the groove kicked in and the space was opened up, you felt the bottom of the venue drop out, and your neck started involuntarily snapping back and forward, like the drop in Coil. These cunts are heavy as hell, so it’s just a shame when you can only really enjoy vocalist Sam’s contortions and drummer Rob’s foot speed until another section works against the mix and offers some clarity.

Hybrid Nightmares were a weird choice for main support of Anaal Nathrakh, but then again Hybrid Nightmares are a weird band. Sounding like Glam Death next to the headliner, they’re – at best – a very Australian version of metal. For instance, they bother with corpse paint and a large staff prop, but then just wear custom singlets and stand there for most of the set (NB, I’m biased here; I have never and likely will never give quarter to a band that doesn’t go as hard out live as possible). While the between song banter was funny, and they had a large contingent of fans in the now sizable crowd, I couldn’t help but feel like Hybrid Nightmares were just sort of… there, though admittedly, I can’t imagine any band having an easy time fitting in as main support to Anaal fucking Nathrakh.

Speaking of; how ridiculous are Anaal Nathrakh? With this show being the second on their first ever headline tour of the country, I realise not many of you would know – while their albums are cacophonic messes of noise and bile expulsion, it’s taken to a whole new level when you see the members angrily prowling the stage, and aggressively bonding with the crowd between songs by asking, politely but forcefully, for stagedivers. They are genuinely threatening, and made all the scarier by the fact that they seem to be enjoying themselves, like a serial killer licking the blade and smiling like they do in every bad horror movie.

And yet, something felt off at the start of their set. The sound wasn’t great, though better than it was for the other bands, and there seemed to be some mic issues. The spectacle of a band “trying” certainly wasn’t helped by the frankly limp and pathetic stage “divers” who took up the bands request, and more “inelegantly lay down” on the crowd instead of “diving” into them.

That all changed, however, when during the intro to Forward! – and this is not a word of a lie – a fucking blind man with a white cane literally took a running jump into the crowd, and delivered the single best stagedive of the night. And everything shifted, at least for a bit. The crowd lost their minds at the sight of it (myself included), the pit exploded, and the band found their groove. It was a visceral and obvious shift, and I loved it. And the best part was, this wasn’t even the first time the blind dude had done this, having previously stage-dived at their Dark Mofo set a few years back. He the real MVP.

Anaal almost seems like they don’t suit bigger venues. While they certainly deserve them, I get the sense you’d get the authentic experience by seeing them in an underground bunker venue in the middle of an English winter, where the stage is merely a foot-high slab of concrete you can run onto, and the bands spit and sweat is an inevitable overall sluice, instead of being the ammunition in targeted attacks. They’re still very good musicians and performers, but I want to feel bodily threatened by them. See them in Brisbane and rush the stage for me.

About

Mitch is a 26 year old vegan, socialist, atheist, utilitarian, reductionist metalhead, stand up comedian and philosophy major that hates labels. When he isn't being politely ignored at dinner parties he's being politely ignored on comedy nights around the country.