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Review: Soundwave Festival 2015 – Melbourne

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Soundwave Festival 2015
Melbourne Showgrounds
21 and 22 February 2015
Review by Bill Geary
Photo by Matt Allan

Day 1

Soundwave 2015 started off a bit differently for Melbourne, with acoustic duo This Wild Life crooning their way through their forty minutes. Sporting beards and tattoos more suited to pumping out riffs and growls, as opposed to soulful acoustic pop, This Wild Life might not look the part, but they certainly sound like it. An acoustic reimagining of Bring Me the Horizon’s ‘Sleepwalking’ won the crowd over completely, while closer ‘Concrete’ confirmed that Soundwave wouldn’t be the last Australia sees of the duo.

One could be forgiven for thinking Killer Be Killed have been playing together for years, such was their chemistry. However, the Melbourne leg was the supergroup’s first ever show together. In his new band, Greg Puciato (The Dillinger Escape Plan) is supposed to be both a vocalist and a guitarist, however that lasted all of two songs on Saturday before Puciatio ditched the guitar in favour of the crowd. Killer Be Killed’s tracks are made for festivals, with ‘Wings of Feather and Wax’ and ‘Set Fire to the Flag’ initiating many a mosh.

Over in the hot house that is Stage 5, Japan’s Crossfaith managed to turn an absolutely packed room into a mid-afternoon rave. There are few that mesh metalcore and electronic music together better than Crossfaith, and combining that with the band playing every set as if they were in an arena it’s impossible to not be compelled to move.

The three years since Marilyn Manson last graced Soundwave’s stages have clearly done him the world of good. His last Australian tour was well below par, however a new album has seemingly given him a new lease on life. Between hits like ‘Disposable Teens’ and ‘Beautiful People,’ Manson worked the crowd in the only way he knew how – hurling abuse and bodily fluids in between the occasional ‘I love you Melbourne’.

There’s something surreal about hearing Slash burst out the unmistakable guitar lick of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ in 2015. However, on Saturday, not a soul was complaining as Myles Kennedy’s vocals led the crowd through Slash’s extensive back catalogue, featuring everything from Guns n’ Roses classics to Velvet Revolver. As Slash and the Conspirators closed with ‘Paradise City,’ it was impossible not to get caught in the wave of nostalgia washing across the crowd.

Despite that it seemed like the entirety of the festivals attendees were crammed together waiting for Slipknot, both The Smashing Pumpkins and Fall Out Boy both drew huge crowds.

In the current iteration of The Smashing Pumpkins, it seems like Billy Corgan has finally given in to those that view his band as somewhat of a nostalgia act. Known for pumping audiences full of new material at the expense of classics, this time around Corgan appeared to favour older tracks, much to the delight of the huge crowd. The onstage energy was aided by fill-ins drummer Brad Wilk (Rage Against the Machine) and bassist Mark Stoermer (The Killers) proving to be more than just Corgan support acts, instead approaching the set as they would any of their other bands. Tracks like ‘Tonight, Tonight’ and ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ appeared rejuvenated under the current lineup, making for a somewhat surprising, yet very satisfying set to wind up Day One.

Day 2

On the walk into the Showgrounds on Day 2, there were clearly more than a few sore bodies shuffling towards the various stages to start the day. Even more of an indication was the long lines for coffee, despite the gates having only just been open. From the outset, it seemed as though Day 2 was going to be a hard slog for some people, suggesting it’s probably for the best that the festival goes back to a single day next year.

If Melbourne’s own grind punks King Parrot weren’t going to kick the masses into action, nothing was. Amidst excellent renditions of ‘Silly Ol’ Mate’ and ‘Shit on the Liver,’ walls of death and circle pits were the order of the day. Judging by the size of the crowd that had arrived early to catch the locals, 2015 might just be a massive year for King Parrot.

Next up were Texan hard rockers Nothing More who, despite some technical difficulties, put on a stellar set. Falling somewhere between Karnivool and System of a Down, Nothing More’s performance had the works – bass solos, percussion onslaughts and above all, fantastically written modern rock songs. Vocalist Johnny Hawkins is an absolute powerhouse on stage, to the point where he looks somewhat possessed when throwing himself around the stage. If anything, Nothing More’s set seemed to win over a lot of observers, and rightly so. If tracks like ‘Christ Copyright’ and ‘Ballast’ aren’t getting slews of airplay on Triple M in the next few months, someone should probably look for a new job.

Bringing the local flavor back were Melbourne black/prog metallers Ne Obliviscaris. With tracks that regularly exceed ten minutes, Ne Obliviscaris could only fit in three songs for their set, much to the disappointment of the audience. However, closer ‘And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope’ garnered a huge response, particularly through Tim Charles’ violin sequences.

Three words come to mind when trying to describe Godflesh’s set. Minimalist and fucking heavy. With only two members, no banner and only a couple of amps, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was just a couple of roadies messing about with some instruments. Though how wrong you would be. For forty minutes, stage 4 was absolutely punished by the kings of industrial metal. Godflesh’s set was a testament to being able to strip things right back to the pure necessities and still be able to manufacture something obscenely heavy.

If you’ve caught yourself wondering, ‘What the hell is Underoath’s vocalist up to these days?’ Nope? Me neither. Regardless, Sleepwave is the answer to that question and they fucking rule. Part industrial, part hardcore and many parts distortion, Sleepwave have twisted straightforward rock songs into something much more and set about wowing a very modest crowd on Sunday afternoon. Spencer Chamberlain hasn’t missed a beat since finishing with Underoath, his trademark roar at its guttural best. It was an impressive set and tracks like ‘The Wolf’ and ‘Hold Up My Head’ perhaps signal a new and better direction for Chamberlain’s obvious musical talent.

Crossing the grass towards mainstage, a number of punters could be heard wondering how Antemasque might be able to follow glam metallers Steel Panther. Cue vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala quipping ‘Hello, we are Aluminum Panther.’ ‘Nuff said. Antemasque’s set was an odd one; tearing quickly through half a dozen album tracks in the first part of the set before spending the last 25 minutes jamming like they’d suddenly swapped into The Mars Volta.

By the time UK groove merchants Monuments venture out into the Stage 5 furnace the place is packed. From the first down-tuned note struck by John Browne, bodies are flying around the shed. Vocalist Chris Baretto ends up in the crowd on multiple occasions, with tracks like ‘Atlas’ and ‘Degenerate’ apparently necessitating maximum crowd interaction. This certainly wasn’t a bad thing, as the djent-fest that is ‘I, The Creator’ sending the entire room into a frenzy. As a result, Monuments can easily claim set of the weekend. They were that good.

There’s something to be said for venturing away from the main stages when the headlining bands are on, because you can’t predict what you might come across. Whilst Soundgarden had the majority of the festival’s attention, He Is Legend played one of the tightest sets of the festival to a little over 70 people. Despite the small turnout, He Is Legend worked the crowd as if they were playing to 1,000. Cuts from their fantastic new album ‘Heavy Fruits’ were highlights, with ‘This Will Never Work’ showing off the band’s excellent songwriting.

Really, nothing needs to be said about Faith No More. Mike Patton and Co. were on point from the outset, mixing in both the old and the new. Opener ‘Motherfucker,’ the single from their upcoming album, played out like a mantra as 20,000 people chanted the chorus across the showgrounds. However, undoubtedly the greatest moments were when the crowd was able to almost drown out Patton, as was seen in ‘Epic’ and ‘Midlife Crisis.’ Soundwave has a knack for facilitating special moments when its headliners grace the stage and this year it was no different. Faith No More are in a league of their own.

Despite the obvious issues with transport, the 2015 edition of Soundwave was an absolute corker simply due to the quality of bands on offer. The headliners alone read as some of the most influential rock bands of the past 20 years, making it an absolute privilege to have them in Melbourne for the weekend.

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