[LIVE REVIEW] Direct Underground Festival @ Max Watts, Melbourne 6/05/2018

Tonight’s bill contains a quick glance at what is currently being played in the underground around the globe and if there is anything to take away from the show, it is that people need to go exploring in their own scenes because the underground will have some incredible talent hidden away. 6 unique sounds from 6 different countries all under one roof for our listening pleasure.

Opening this evenings event are Melbourne locals, Encircling Sea. Their colossal soundscapes gave the mind an impression of desolation and emptiness. The outstanding song writing of this band had three guitarists bringing these emotions to life whilst the drums and bass kept the underlying rhythms grounded and heavy. A nice contender for the Aussie sound of tonight’s line up to show that we do have incredibly heavy and well composed bands here in our own underground scene.

Next, we have Wiegedood from Belgium who pick up the pace with a blasting 30min set. Straight from the first 4 count the drummer is blasting away and barely slows down for the entire set apart from a couple of mid paced sections towards the end of their show. With only 2 guitarists and a drummer for their sound they lacked the low end to cut through the mix and so the second guitar was quite often lost underneath the tremolo lead work.

I don’t know whether the mixer took a break or Diocletian just had too much aggression with their Black Thrash sound for them to handle but unfortunately where I was standing, which was in front of the mixing desk, it just didn’t come through right. They looked like a formidable band, all members in black hoods and spiked wristbands and the frontman playing a BC Rich Warlock bass through a distortion pedal for good measure. Being the most aggressive band on the lineup tonight, the sound just didn’t do them justice. The crowd against the stage were moving and headbanging so I’m hoping they had the stage sound to go off and enjoyed the set.

Americans Revocation change the feel of the show in the first 30 seconds of their set. Frontman, Dave Davidson comes out and greets the

crowd, which is the first sign of crowd interaction from a band this evening. Revocation stand out tonight from not only a genre point but also their technical prowess. They come out on stage with riffs that have the crowd moving in the first song and the mixing is back to having everything come through. The floor fills up with able bodies and everyone is into what they are playing. That’s when the shredding solos kick in and everyone stops and marvels at the playing style. Nowhere else tonight do we see this playing style and there are the loyal fans up the front reveling in it.

First time for Austrians to hit Australia and the crew come in setting the stage for tonights ceremony, adding bone sculptures and two massive inverted crosses. Once the stage is set the band march out and instantly the crowd knows they are not here to muck around. Helmuths commanding presence has all eyes on him and when he calls for the crowd to move, they move. Their mix of chunky black n’ roll with tremolo guitar riffs has everyone headbanging from start to finish. The stage performance is well rehearsed with specific poses from both bassist and second guitarist in between songs whilst audio queues are played, or Helmuth is introducing the next song. After seeing them play for 40mins I’m hoping that they will come back to Australia on the next album cycle, now that they have been here at least once.

Last on tonight’s lineup is Ihsahn, another first timer for the Australian shores. On tour for his brand-new release ‘Ámr’ and we finally get to see the incredible musicianship in person. Yet again the stage goes under construction with the entire kit being taken down and replaced with a smaller jazz rock looking drum kit and the addition of another riser for a set of keyboards. The band walks out to the roar of the crowd and greets everyone with a polite “Good Evening, Melbourne”. He opens with the opening track of the new album ‘Lend Me The Eyes of Millennia’ and continues on his set with songs from the new album ‘Ámr’ and previous album ‘Arktis’. Having Ihsahn headline is probably one of the most fitting things about this show. Coming from the background of Emperor, one of the creators and still a standard in the black metal scene to then creating his own music in the more recent years. He is still seen as an ‘Underground’ sound with his eclectic range of music and an incredible musician and composer. He closes the set with ‘I Am The Black Wizard’ and ‘Inno A Satana’ two of Emperors most well known songs and all fans are satisfied by the end of the set.

At the end of the show I was left wondering what other hidden gems are left in our own backyards. I highly encourage anyone and everyone who reads this or goes to local gigs to go out and support your local underground scene. You never know who or what you may find.

Review Contributed by Mitch Charlton