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[Review] Kings of Thrash @ Max Watts, Melbourne 14/07/2023

Review By Cassandra Hale

Melbourne metalheads rejoiced at the news that Dave Ellefson and Jeff Young, both elder statesmen of Megadeth, were coming to Australia.  Not only that, but they were playing So Far So Good So What and Killing Is My Business..And Business Is Good! in their entirety.  Kings of Thrash the Mega Years was something to get excited about and the line of fans waiting outside Melbourne’s Max Watts was a testament to how keen we were. The cold winter night was no deterrent as the stream of unending people flooded into the venue, necks ready to be snapped with unending headbanging and thrash hits that we all knew and loved for way too many years.  The demographic was of the older generation but there were a few youngsters leading the charge and keeping thrash metal alive.

Up first to open the nights proceedings was Melbourne trio Resistance. Only forming earlier this year it was a big spot to fill and the boys were keen as mustard to get us warmed up and ready. It was easy to see from the get-go that these guys all had previous band experience. They were tight and energetic and made some big noise for a three piece. I really enjoyed their 30-minute set which was crammed to the brim with enough thrash tunes to have the expanding crowd banging their heads. They are playing at the Bendigo soon and I definitely recommend checking them out.

Next up and with the punters piling in at a rate of knots was Alarum. These guys have been making music for many years now and were happy to bust out all their heavy goodness. They unleased a 35-minute set that was fully loaded with thrash metal madness and had the fans well and truly ready for the big guns. They played hard and they played fast with so much going on it was enough to make the roof of you head lift off. They were super tight and gave the crowd exactly what they wanted as glasses were charged and the black t-shirt brigade were pumped and ready to mosh.

Max Watts was fit to bursting and the air was electric as we counted down to showtime. As the lights dimmed fists pumped the air in allegiance to the two Megadeth heroes in Ellefson and Young.  Busting straight out with So Far So Good So What and that killer interlude Into The Lungs Of Hell the boys were off and running. Although there were a few small changes to the order of songs they all got one hell of a run. Set The World Afire, Mary Jane and 502 kicked things off and by now the floor was a mass of twisted bodies revellers making the most of every minute. Singer Chaz Leon was the perfect fit for the band. He had his flying V strapped on and sang with vigour. He was extremely engaging with the crowd, and I was left well impressed with his vocal and shredding skills. Insert massive drum solo here ……Peruvian slayer of the kit Fred Aching gave us a mind-bending solo, showcasing his amazing talent as the band worked through all the Mega hits. In My Darkest Hour was a standout for me and the punters, they sang with gusto and lapped up every second of the Megadeth classic. Liar and Hook In Mouth were both impressive, then the boys finished out the album with Anarchy In The UK. It was an hour of power like no other and had the floor pulsing as one for the duration.

Dave Ellefson is a name synonymous with Megadeth and let me tell you he plays the bass like a 4-string assassin. Believe the hype my friends, Dave is just as fresh as he was in his prime and his enjoyment was written all over his face. He spoke of how he really enjoyed playing the songs from Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good!  as they were ones he seldom got to play. He also mentioned that a lot of the room weren’t even alive when it was recorded, and to that end I leant in and gave my son standing next to me an elbow in the ribs. Yes, folks that is parenting done right and I for one am passing the baton to the next generation of metalheads! Jeff Young was still strutting the stage with enthusiastic high kicks and exemplary shredding skills.  He worked the stage like a man in his prime and was happy to jump on the mic and chat throughout the night. Clearly knowing of Melbourne’s rivalry with Sydney he was keen to stir the pot and raise a challenge to those north of the border to step up and take the coveted live music crown that Melbournites proudly hold.

It was back to the old-school snap your neck thrash metal as Last Rites and Rattlehead rang out. Again, the order was mixed but that left a little mystery as to what was coming next, and I for one loved it! Chaz had the saccharine growl down pat as he ripped out the Skull Beneath The Skin and Looking Down The Cross. Then it was a new level of crazy in the pit as Killing Is My Business opened the mosh up with bodies flying from one side the other. Shirts waved aloft as half naked sweaty men tried to stay upright and keep their drinks from dousing their pit buddies. Loved To Deth, Chosen Ones and the banger Mechanix were an assault on the senses and the album was finished out with These Boots. We were now one and a half hours deep into the show and thinking it was about to wrap up. But the Kings Of Thrash had other ideas, no encore, no leaving the stage just straight back into it with Dawn Patrol and a medley of Megadeth intros including Holy Wars and Hangar 18 which certainly whet the appetite for a few more classic Megadeth songs. The boys gratefully obliged with Wake up Dead, a cheeky cover of Riot’s Swords and Tequila and the one and only Peace Sells. If one song alone could raise the roof this would be it and the pit slammed for its duration. With a deafening applause and metal fists raised we saluted our metal saviours as they left the stage, leaving us with many tales to tell about this night of metal madness with the Kings of Thrash!

Hardline Media have been knocking it out of the park with their recent tours and Kings Of Thrash was no exception. Having the opportunity to hear some of these killer songs live was any Megadeth fans dream come true, thank you to all involved. Now I am off to book an appointment with my chiropractor, I may have overindulged in the head banging department but it was worth every bloody minute!

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[Review] Deafheaven @ Max Watts, Melbourne 01/06/2023

Review By Nikki Eenick

For any fans of post-metal, shoegaze (or more accurately, “blackgaze”) or screamo, Deafheaven’s “Infinite Granite” tour is a massive occasion. Performing as part of Dark Mofo and Rising festival, this is a unique experience for any fans. On this tour, they will be performing their 2014 album Sunbather, in full. When I tell you I nearly threw up from excitement – I’m not exaggerating.

Opening the first of two phenomenal shows at underground venue Max Watts, are Melbourne natives: Closure in Moscow. Closure in Moscow tow a weird line between prog-rock, pop-punk and general hardcore-esque tomfoolery. Tonight, they’re in great form. It’s strange walking into an underground venue with a grungy feel, on a typically freezing Melbourne night, and seeing a guy in glistening, Pauly Bleeker levels of skimpy, gold shorts dancing onstage. The dance is a cocktail of Mick Jagger, Jamie Foxx doing an impression of Mick Jagger and high energy bouncing. I love it. Front man Christopher de Clinique clearly knows how to have fun (I mean, with a name like that, I’d expect nothing less). His energy is matched by his band, although they all bring their own special brand of chaotic to the table. Bassist Duncan Miller is decked out in BCF overalls, a sunhat, and no shirt. Incredible. I came to this gig prepared to be transported to an ethereal plane of ambient hardcore, but here I was, grinning ear to ear watching a group of guys flawlessly nail face-melting guitar solo after face-melting guitar solo, as the room is bathed by the light of a disco ball. Next to me is an intimating-looking man with three (three?!) eyebrow piercings, leather jacket and a rats-tail-meets-mohawk. But he’s head-banging his way to happiness as this band of merry bandits takes us through tracks like, Neoprene Byzantine and A Night At the Spleen. God, even their song’s names are fun. Clinique takes the mic, not even remotely out of breath despite the before-mentioned dancing. Dripping with Australiana charm, he greets this crowd hyped up on good vibes and beer; “It’s so good to see so many of you cunts out on… what is it today? Wednesday?” The band kind of murmurs and shuffles their feet. “See none of you fucks have any idea either.” Before we can launch into any more bangers that would make Alex Gaskart weep with joy, guitarist Mansur Zennelli takes the mic. “Are there any Kendrick fans here?” One guy from the mosh whoops. “This one’s for you then.” And we are thrown into Deluge. As the set winds to a close, Clinique steps up, yet again, quietly shushing the crowd with a wave of his hands. “Cheers! This is a new song we released a couple months back. It’s not Pot of Green though.” The audience grumbles. “Anyway, this is Pot of Green” And the crowd goes feral. And I mean that, with the greatest of compliments. Transitioning suddenly into a momentary cover of Hotline Bling, the crowd is confused, and then immediately realises the genius of combining Closure in Moscow’s punk-emo sensibilities with hip-hop jams. Realising the crowd is eating, gobbling, out of his hands – Clinique brings out a voice modulator for their closing track. “Oh, shit yeah. This last one’s a new one. It’s called Primal Sinister” on ‘Sinister’ he modulates his voice to a distorted deep bass. They give this last one their all, heavy on the instrumentation, with voice modulations that border on a 100 gecs tribute – we are bathing in hyper-pop-goes-punk bliss. Finishing with a simple ‘thumbs-up’ from Zennelli and a fart sound into the mic from Clinique, the band saunters off. They move through the crowd, grab drinks, and push towards the front to see what all the fuss is about.

My notes from this point get a bit hazy. The next hour and a half are beautiful, bordering on spiritual. Deafheaven have this incredible stage presence. It’s sort of macabre, sort of beachy… You can tell they’re sad and from San Francisco. Singer/Screamer George Clarke doesn’t say much at all to us, outside of a few shy “Thank you’s”. He’s somewhere else, and somewhere we all end up. Clarke has an incredible voice. He goes from violent screaming to soft shoe-gaze vocals like it’s nothing. And it is not, nothing. I turn my head and see people with their mouths wide-open, eyes almost popping out of their head; he’s amazing. We are all holding our breath, barely moving, in the hopes that we don’t break this spell Deafheaven have cast over us. This voice coupled with the unbelievable dual-guitar work from Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra, they are heavenly, spellbinding. Mehra also sings backing vocals and is able to perfectly match Clarke’s intense energy and leather pants, while he wears a button-up over a white singlet. McCoy’s guitar work has been compared to My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and Johnny Marr of The Smiths – he cites both as influences. For any fans of screamo, the first half of their set is going to be for you. It’s insanely loud and Clarke screams in a way that is so cathartically wonderful it feels like he is pulling all of the things that make you feel hideous or heavy out of your throat with his bare hands. But the second half is where they really shine, if you ask me (You didn’t, but yet, here you are, reading my review). I think I ascended as tracks bled into tracks bled into tracks, the room bathed first in blue light, then white, then red and purple and then back again. Desperately, I wait to hear The Pecan Tree. And then, it arrives, handed to me on a beautiful, gothic, silver platter. Please, even if you think you don’t like screamo, or hardcore, listen to this track. Skip to 4:19 and just let the rest of it wash over you. Every time I listen to it I feel like I was drowning in a tank, and Deafheaven have just pulled me out, and I can breathe again. A musical baptism, of sorts. Live, it’s even better. I wasn’t even sure I was still here on earth if it wasn’t for the glass in my hand. The band is so in tune with each other – a single organism, and their musicianship, skill and bond are what allows the audience to be carried on such a flawless wave of sound. I might have stopped breathing for those 15 minutes, but I am resuscitated in that room. Even the folks working the merch stand turn to the stage. No one buys anything, everyone is deathly still. And then, Clarke softly places the microphone in its stand and addresses us, unfazed that he might have caused 850 simultaneous cardiac arrests. “Thank you so much. We’re going to watch a DJ tonight at uh… cherry?” The band nods. “Cherry. Everyone should come to cherry.” Then we are into the final few songs, including ambient-emo perfection; Great Mass of Colour. Someone in the crowd pre-emptively screams for an encore. “I can’t actually hear you” Clarke says with a smirk, a twinkle in his eye that wasn’t there before – almost as if he’s surprised people want them to continue after such a long set. “We’ve been Deafheaven. Take care of each other.” And then we get the punching duo of Brought to Water into Dream House. All without missing a beat. As the band shreds their last shreds, and casts their last spells, people pile down into the lower part of the Max Watts dancefloor, and we watch them mosh so hard I’m sure their bones still ache. But despite the fact they look like gladiators in the coliseum, they all take care of each other. And that’s what tonight was all about. Music and Us, it’s community. And I am so happy to be a part of this one.

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[Review] Vader @ Max Watts, Melbourne 26/05/2023

Review By Mitch Charlton

Its been 5 years since Vader were last here with Kreator, Australia missed out on a tour through the plague times, and this tour was also postponed once, maybe twice, but we finally get to have them back on their 40th anniversary tour and they bring with them their Polish brethren, Hate and Thy Disease, what a line up! I have been waiting for an Australian Hate show since I was about 17, this is monumental. Tonight Vader show us why they are still around 40 years later, one of the old school greatss still showing everyone else how it should be played.

Starting off tonight with a low crowd count at the stage, people went straight to the merch desk, eager to get their hands on the goods, which didn’t last long, I ended up hearing about a few people missing out on sizes of tour shirts within the first 30 mins, but I guess this is what happens when you have a killer line up and a bands first time coming to Australia. The last few gigs I have been to, I have noticed that merch running out really quick is a common occurrence, which is great but I’m curious as to whether this is due to bands not anticipating the demand or whether it’s a cost to get it made in the first place, any readers, let me know your thoughts on this please.

Melbourne’s own Vexation put on one hell of an opening set, a young 3-piece Death Metal band who everyone should keep an eye on, these guys have skills years above them, they know how to write a wicked Death Metal track and perform it with incredible energy. With a full sounding 3-piece band, they ran through a solid set of groove headbanging riffs that were then coloured with astonishing shred solos and bass runs that had heads turning from all over the venue. Their energetic drummer is definitely one to watch, this guy was keeping machine like tightness while headbanging and throwing in amazing drum fills and beats. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, make sure you go and catch a show, you won’t be disappointed.

First off from the Poles is Thy Disease, this is their first time on our shores, and they show off a hard working ethic with a front man who, by the end of their set, had the crowd moving and headbanging. The crowd had grown to cover most of the venue by this stage and they had more heads moving with their brand of groove riffs and melodic solos. The only thing I was confused about was their mix, I could hear faint traces of backing synths but then there was minimal bass coming through, Vexation had a crystal-clear mix just before but, for them to have certain things missing was a bit odd. Thy Disease played a strong show and set the mood for the following bands tonight.

Hate, a band I have been listening to since I was about 17, someone who I never thought I would actually see play live in Australia are finally here. It is clear that I’m not the only one here tonight who has been waiting this long for them to come here. The crowd is thick with anticipation as the lights dim and their drummer comes out to start the intro with some rhythmic tom work that then kicked into Sovereign Sanctity. They run through a killer setlist that spans their career and get the crowd moving with the likes of Resurrection Machine, Rugia and Wolf Queen. The standout track for me was Threnody, the very first song that I ever heard of theirs, hearing this live was unreal! I hope they come back on the next album cycle, now that they know they have an Australian following.

It takes a lot of skill, determination, and grit to get a band touring and recording and Vader are here celebrating their 40th anniversary. They have toured the world multiple times and shown fans all over the world why they are one of the greatest and deserving of being here 40 years later. Vader sounds just as good live as they do on a record, their guitar tone and mix is phenomenal, everything is crisp and as it should be. Tonight’s setlist spans their 40-year career and starting off early on with tracks like Dark Age and Vicious Circle, then coming in with some newer ones Shock And Awe and Silent Empire. There is no slowing this band down, they are as hard hitting as ever and will probably still be around in the years to come! It’s impressive as hell to watch them play the way they do.

Death Metal is one hell of a genre, it has so many different takes but with bands like Vader leading the charge, modern and up and coming bands should be looking to these guys for the inspiration and the requirements to keep a band alive and strong after 40 years!

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