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[Review] Metal Church @ The Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 14/12/2023

It has been a few years since Metal Church have graced our shores last travelling here in 2019 and quite a few things have changed since then. With the tragic loss of their frontman Mike Howe, which was a massive loss to the music industry and devastating to fans worldwide. After the initial shock Metal Church regrouped and came together with new singer Marc Lopes and a killer new album Congregation of Annihilation in 2023. Fans have welcomed Marc with open arms and embraced the new album excited for the band to be on the road celebrating the new songs and singer. 

It was no surprise to see black t-shirts lined up awaiting entry to The Croxton Bandroom. It has become a stalwart for old school heavy metal gigs and always has a terrific vibe as you are waiting to nab prime position. With lots of excited band banter being had as we counted down to doors, it is always a fun time to reminisce with like minded fans. With a steady stream of people finding their way to the front and beers flowing across the bar opening act Firing Squad started to warm up the crowd. They gave us a quick fire 25 mins of thrash metal, engaging the crowd and getting heads nodding in approval. Some fans wearing their merch and head banging on the barrier with gusto, it was great to see an early turn out and support for them. They had a substantial crowd by the end of their set and one of the guitarists even joined the punters on the floor to shred out the last minute or so.

Next up were thrash five piece Nothing Sacred, a name well known in the scene, these guys have been plugging away for 30 years and their experience showed. They powered through a thirty-minute set delivering some tasty tunes and wicked riffs. Singer Chris Stark has a most powerful set of pipes and I was left in awe just watching. With punters up and about they had a massive audience and the vibes were nothing but positive. Ending the set with Deathwish we were more than warmed up and ready for Metal Church.

The merch desk was kept busy with lots of cool stuff on offer, and things started heating up as the sea of black T-shirts congregated up close to the front. The odd peppering of red or white tops stood out like a sore thumb as the old school rock brigade brought out their finest thrash metal regalia, battle jackets worn with pride and every man and his dog wearing a Metal Church t-shirt.  The demographic was a much older crowd, diehard fans still showing their loyalty to their old thrash favourites.  As the lights dropped a roar rang out as the band took to the stage opening with the blinder Ton of Bricks from The Dark album. It was one of four from the album and was definitely a great way to get the night off and running. Marc Lopes was in fine form belting out the songs with his trademark long screeching on point all night.

Start The Fire did just that as the crowd were up and about, fists punching the air, singing word for word back to Lopes. Kurdt Vanderhoof has shredding up a storm along with Rick Van Zandt, both keeping the big riffs coming all night. Gods of Wrath really got the bandroom pulsing, with a few of the younger attendees on the barrier head banging with fury. The punters chanting back ‘Gods of Wrath’ for the duration. Pick a God and Pray and Congregation of Annihilation followed both off the latest release of the same name. Stet Howland was a machine on the drums, being a part of the band since 2017 he was right at home, providing backing vocals and vicious hitting of skins, on many occasions playing while standing up showcasing his skills. His spanking DW kit was a shining light in the middle of the stage and he used every piece to his advantage, he really was joy to watch.

Burial at Sea, Watch The Children Play and Fake Healer were welcome additions to the setlist and got the crowd up and about. Steve Unger on bass also added backing vocals and looked all parts the rock star in his leather and studs. He had the bass line covered and worked the stage with the ease of a true professional. Badlands is a loved Metal Church song from the album Blessing In Disguise and the punters enjoyed every minute. As the night was coming towards its end you would usually see the odd grogged up wannabe rockstar try and crowd surf over the top, but the seniority of the crowd put that to rest. All in attendance happy to just head bang on the spot and even that was done with reserved spurts to save the chiropractic bill the next day.

Beyond The Black and Metal Church saw out this killer night of thrash metal finery, Lopes digging deep and giving it everything he had.  As he returned with his phone to capture the crowd, arms quickly were held skyward to showcase the love in the room. A quick photo with the crowd and that was it, the show was over with Steve and Rick handing out guitar picks and Lopes pulling up a setlist for one lucky fan. I think many were expecting and encore but at 11pm on a weeknight I was more than happy with the killer performance we had.

Metal Church were so appreciative of their fans with Kurdt taking the time to thank us all for our undying support and I for one would be more that happy to bow down at the altar of Metal Church should they decide to come our way again.

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[Review] Cattle Decapitation @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 16/09/2023

Review By Mitch Charlton

Cattle Decapitation were the last international band I saw play live back in Feb 2020 before the world was struck with the plague and everything went haywire! It was an incredible show, it made a lasting impression and made me a fan of their music. Hearing that they were coming back I was so keen to hear and see this incredible band live once again and my god! They did not disappoint but, on to that later.

3 years later, Cattle Decapitation are back in Australia with their latest destroyer of an album Terrasite and Melbourne is sold out! This is my second sold out show at The Croxton Bandroom and the one thing I notice about this place is, it fills really quick. For anyone that hasn’t been there yet, just make sure you move to where you want to be for the night, otherwise you might struggle to get to the bar and back later.

Melbourne Deathcore quartet, Body Prison come on promptly at 8pm and kick things off with some solid chunk style bass riffage or at least that’s all I’m able to really make out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear much of the guitars for most of their set, even standing in front of the mix desk, as is tradition, wasn’t helping me tonight, from the looks it had a fair bit of tremolo strumming but I’m not gonna hold that against them because their frontman had some incredibly fast paced phrasing skills and definitely got that crowd warmed up for the rest of the night, throwing some merch in to the crowd to fight for it, getting more movement than I’ve seen for an opener for a while. I want to go check them out again to hopefully hear them properly.

Fallujah, another band I hadn’t heard before tonight and I was interested to see how it all came across especially after Body Prisons mix and somehow things sounded incredibly different, I could hear everything but bass this time. These guys have come across with Cattle Decap from the States and brought their version of Tech Death to show off. These guys had more backing synth and clean style vocals, incredibly melodic and some incredible musicianship, it was such a shame I couldn’t hear the bass player, some of the tapping and riffs looked unreal. These guys had the room nodding along and from what I could see a bit of a mosh pit, the room was pretty much sardine packed by this stage. It’s awesome to think that you’re coming to a Death metal show and that all bands have an incredibly different style of play and how they go about their stage, Fallujah stood out from being the most melodic sound tonight, definitely a band to check out.

Just when I thought the room was packed by the end of Fallujahs set, apparently you can fit more people in, as the crowd got nice and cosy, the anticipation grew whilst waiting for Cattle Decapitation to come out and blast us all away. Coming out to album opener, Terrasitic Adaptation, its instantaneous to everyone tonight as to why these guys are one of the best in the business and this show is sold out. First time seeing CD I couldn’t look away from either the frontman or the drummer, don’t get me wrong, the entire band is incredible but how Travis can get his voice in both of those styles live is seriously mind blowing. It must be fun for bands to come to Australia where swearing is just part of our language and culture “MELBOURNE!! How the F$#k are you C&%nts!?” Travis yells and grins, he just looked and sounded like he is having fun saying that, he does drop the C word a few more times throughout the set with a massive grin, pretty funny to watch.

The mix became crystal clear, I could hear and feel the bass and kicks running through the floor, the pit explodes as they run through the first tracks off Terrasite as well as a killer set with the likes of Bring Back the Plague, Finish Them, Forced Gender Reassignment and coming out to an encore of Kingdom of Tyrants. They know how to work their crowd and you can see that all members are incredibly grateful to be back here once again.

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[Review] Larkin Poe @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 10/04/2023

Review By Lynda Buchanan

When you attend a Larkin Poe concert, you know you’re in for a wild ride. The sisters, Rebecca and Megan Lovell, are known for their electrifying performances and their ability to get the crowd on their feet. Their concert at the Croxton Bandroom in Thornbury as part of the Bluesfest Festival was no exception.

First up to entertain the packed bandroom was the indigenous singer/songwriter, Benny Walker, hailing from regional Victoria, he effortlessly warmed up the crowd alongside his band mates on drums and keys, with his own brand of blues rock that did not disappoint.

Next up, the sisters the crowd had been waiting for started off with a bang as Larkin Poe took the stage and launched into Strike Gold, a fiery and infectious track that showcases the sisters’ incredible musical talent and songwriting skills. The song opens with a pulsing drumbeat and Rebecca’s soaring vocals, immediately drawing the listener in.

Lyrically, Strike Gold is a celebration of the sisters’ journey as musicians, and their determination to continue creating music despite any obstacles they may face. The line “ain’t nobody gonna stop us now” is a testament to their resilience and their refusal to give up on their dreams.

Summertime Sunset, She’s a Self-Made Man & Southern Comfort from their latest album release Blood Harmony features their signature blues-rock sound with gritty guitar riffs and dynamic vocals which seemed to leave the crowd begging for more.

Watching Larkin Poe perform Link Wray’s Rumble was an exhilarating experience, as the Lovell sisters brought their unique blend of blues and rock to this classic track. As they launched into the iconic riff, the audience erupted in cheers and applause, and it was clear that these sisters had the power to bring any crowd to it’s feet. But what really stood out was the sheer fun these girls were having on stage.  Overall, the sister’s rendition of Rumble was a testament to their incredible musicianship and their ability to breathe new life into classic tracks. They know how to rock, and they do it with an infectious energy and sense of joy that is impossible not to be swept up in.

After a quick shout-out to Benny Walker for getting the crowd warmed up, Rebecca spilled the beans on their track Holy Ghost Fire. Apparently, it was co-written with one of their favourite songwriters, Tyler Bryant, lead vocalist and guitarist of Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. It’s always nice to have a little help from your friends, especially when they know how to bring the heat like Tyler does.

Larkin Poe‘s performance of Back Down South was a wild and energetic affair. The band’s Southern blues-rock sound was in full force, with Rebecca’s powerful vocals and Megan’s nimble guitar work setting the stage for, what was fast becoming, an unforgettable show. As they launched into the song’s infectious chorus, the crowd couldn’t help but sing and clap along, caught up in the song’s irresistible energy. The band’s chemistry was profound, with the sisters locking in tight on the song’s intricate guitar lines and vocal harmonies.

Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues from Larkin Poe’s 2018 album Venom & Faith, was a highlight of their set, showcasing the band’s bluesy swagger and tight musicianship. The song’s driving rhythm and catchy hooks had the crowd on their feet from the first note, with Rebecca’s gritty vocals and Megan’s scorching guitar solos stealing the show. As the song ended, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. It was a reminder of the enduring appeal of classic rock and roll, and a testament to the band’s talent and musicianship.

Larkin Poe’s impromptu performance of Mad as a Hatter was a testament to the band’s musical prowess and spontaneity. An audience member’s request was met with enthusiastic applause, and the sisters wasted no time in launching into the song’s infectious groove. This song, originally written about their grandfather when the sisters were 15, carries quite the powerful statement from a band that refuses to shy away from difficult topics, and is a testament to their incredible musicianship and passion for their craft. Mad as a Hatter was like a shot of musical adrenaline straight to the veins – exhilarating, intense, and just a little bit mad.

As the concert drew to a close, Larkin Poe kept the energy high with a rowdy performance of another song from their new album, Boltcutters & The Family Name. The crowd sang along at the top of their lungs while Rebecca shredded on her guitar with reckless abandon. As the song came to a close, the audience erupted into cheers and applause, clearly moved by the electrifying performance.

And just when everyone thought the concert was over, Larkin Poe returned to the stage for an encore. The performance of Deep Stays Down was a poignant and emotional way to close out their show. As the sisters took to the stage for their final song of the night, sans guitars, the audience was spellbound by the raw emotion and vulnerability that the Lovell sisters poured into their vocal performance before adorning their instruments for the final time that night.

As the final notes of Deep Stays Down rang out through the venue, the audience was left with a sense of release, as if the song had touched something deep within them. It was a fitting end to a night of powerful and passionate music, and a reminder of the incredible talent and artistry that Larkin Poe brings to every performance. It’s a testament to the power of music to connect with our deepest emotions and experiences, and a reminder of the incredible talent and passion of these two remarkable artists.

All in all, Larkin Poe’s concert at the Croxton was a night to remember. The sisters’ talent, humour, and stage presence were a winning combination that left the crowd eager to take in every song that came their way with most of the room leaving their phones in their pockets and just experiencing the night, you can’t help but leave wanting more. If you have the chance to see Larkin Poe live, don’t miss it – just be sure to wear your dancing shoes and stretch out those guitar-playing muscles.

For now, I will leave you with Rebecca’s parting words to the adoring punters. “Never let them take the fight out of you. Whatever that fight is in your heart, keep it strong

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[Review] Udo Dirkschneider @ Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne 08/04/2023

Review By Cassandra Hale

Seventy-One years in the making and finally the man, the myth, the legend Udo Dirkschneider touched down in Australia to unleash the best of Accept. The black t-shirt brigade turned out early to line the footpath outside the Croxton Bandroom ready to rock with their metal hero after years of waiting. The demographic was of the older generation, and I fitted into that slot somewhat perfectly. The excitement was bubbling down the line as we waited for doors, and being a very brisk Melbourne night, it was welcome relief to get inside and nab pole position front and centre on the barrier.

Opening the nights proceeding were thrash five piece Nothing Sacred, a name well known in the scene, these guys have been plugging away for 30 years and their experience showed. They powered through a rapid fire thirty-minute set delivering some tasty tunes and wicked riffs. Singer Chris Stark has a most powerful set of pipes and I was left in awe just watching. With punters up and about early they have a massive audience and the vibes were nothing but positive. Ending the set with Deathwish we were more than warmed up.

Melbourne’s Elm Street were up next, and they certainly blew my hair back, the gravely vocals of Ben Batres set the tone for the neck snapping set. A well-oiled machine, their stage time was seamless and had heads nodding in approval from the opening song. Can I say if there was a drumming Olympics Tomislav Perkovic was taking home gold, fast, furious and freaking insane, his use of the kit was next level. Elm Street were engaging, exciting and kept the thrash lover’s levels peaking. Metal Is The Way and Elm St’s Children were standouts for me, and if you are yet to listen to these guys I suggest you do so without delay!

The bandroom was turning in to a sauna as the latecomers filled any available space, the hoards were pushing up close behind me and anticipation was at bursting point. I was starting the rethink my barrier position, but I decided it was go hard or go home, so I planted my feet and got ready for the onslaught. Sven Dirkschneider entered the stage and took his place behind his impressive kit, arms raised in the air saluting us as the rest of the band launched onto the stage to massive applause, but nothing compared to the ROAR as Udo graced us with his presence. Opening with Starlight and Living For Tonight the show was off and running like clockwork. Udo impressive from his first note, his voice still amazingly fresh, he has lost none of his sharpness and was still hitting the high notes with ease. He did say when we chatted recently that he was thankful that he still was able to sing so well for his age, and I can confirm with a resounding yes, he certainly can!

There were so many highlights to this show, every song on the setlist was a winner, and with such a massive array of songs to choose from I think they knocked it out of the park with their selection. Midnight Mover, Breaker, London Leathberboys and Neon Nights had everyone up and about chanting for Udo singing the well-known lyrics back with gusto. A standout for me was Princess of The Dawn, the crowd taking over with whoa whoa’s happy to share the spotlight. Udo’s enjoyment was paramount, he was loving every minute and it radiated from him tenfold. Guitarists Dee Dammers and Audrey Smirnoff were sensational, their solo interludes were pure perfection, their shredding skills exemplary. Let’s talk bass guitar, Peter Baltes has recently been reunited with Udo and boy what a duo they make. Also hailing from Accept the songs were second nature and he played them with precision, his stage presence was awe inspiring and I was so glad to see him in the flesh. There are drummers and then there is Sven Dirkschneider. His raised drum kit a throne and he played it like a king, he was a slayer of the skins and his timing was that of the finest Swiss timepiece. I can not reiterate the calibre of Udo’s band. They are one tight united front and it shows with the delivery of every song.

A mash up of Restless and Wild and Son of a Bitch followed by Midnight Highway had The Croxton at boiling point, I was still standing strong but I could feel the punters behind me winding up the cogs and I knew that my days were numbered. Screaming For A Lovebite and I’m A Rebel upped the ante, fists punching the air charged by alcohol, driven by the songs of their youth, we wanted more and as the band departed the stage it was time for the chants to start. After thunderous applause and calls for more the band return to deliver an onslaught of three of the finest Accept songs, Metal Heart, Fast as a Shark and of course, Balls To The Wall. I could feel the surge behind me, punters driven on adrenaline and enough alcohol to forget their age. The charge was imminent, and I ducked as boots came over the top, none quite making it over the barrier, but damn they tried. The frenzy these three songs brought was beyond insanity, the singing voices of the punters enough to raise the roof, the Croxton a veritable melting pot and I absolutely loved every bloody minute.

With waves goodbye and throwing of his black leather gloves to the crowd Udo was gone and it was time to survey the damage. As I de-pretzelled myself and made way to the long line to grab some merch the smiles went for miles on the faces of every person I could see. With this tour being such a success, we can only hope that Udo won’t leave it too long to return. The hoards will be waiting our ‘metal hearts’ pumping German music at its heaviest, ready to do it all again.

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