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Review: Soundwave Festival, Sydney

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Soundwave Festival

Olympic Park, Sydney

28 February + 1 March, 2015

Review by Gary Grim

Day 1

Despite being one of the first bands to play at 2015’s Soundwave in Sydney, Melbourne’s King Parrot drew a large and enthusiastic crowd. Last year saw Amon Amarth open up the metal stage of the festival with a large Viking ship and the band’s crushing odes to Norse mythology and the heroic deeds of Vikings from days of yore. KING PARROT didn’t have any of this, nor did they need it. Instead, they had Matthew Young, A.K.A. Youngy, on vocal duties. Watching Young perform makes it seem as though there is a circle in Hell specifically for bogans where he is the head demon. Whilst this insane looking frontman swore, screeched, convulsed and mooned his way through the set, clambering around the stage like a madman and making numerous trips into the pit, the rest of the band provided one seriously heavy soundtrack for the chaos. All of this combined with the band’s sense of humour as well as an aggressively sexy guest vocal appearance by Michelle Madden (Tourettes et al) during ‘Shit On The Liver’ and King Parrot certainly set the bar high for the rest of the festival.

Next up on the metal stage was another band from Melbourne, Ne Obliviscaris, who have been getting a lot of attention as of late. Ne Obliviscaris brought some more serious, gothic sensibilities to the stage that counterbalanced the humour and mayhem of King Parrot’s set. For the uninitiated, this band plays songs that are epic amalgamations of various metal genres with elements of black and death alongside more melodic and progressive aspects. One minute they will be blasting and growling, the next they will slow it down with some clean vocals and violins. This all translated from the studio into the live setting seamlessly. These guys played with impressive proficiency, the two vocalists worked together well and the sound was great for a band with so much going on at once. Over 40 minutes they played 3 and a half songs (the half was a segment of ‘Painters of the Tempest (Part II): Triptych Lux’) and left me thoroughly impressed.

Godflesh from the UK were up next. I had seen their impressive performance the night before at their sidewave with Ministry. Having done so, the setlist didn’t have hold much in the way of surprises for me but they were just as enthralling to see again as they were the night previous. The only downside here was that this is a band whose music is much more suited to a smaller and more intimate darkened room rather than an open stage with the sun blaring down on the crowd but the band’s strong performance made this only a minor quibble.

It was certainly strange heading away from the cold, mechanical, industrial sounds of Godflesh towards Steel Panther’s stage and the glam rock strains of ‘Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World’. This marks the third time I’ve seen these Sunset Strip legends live and they were just as hilarious as ever. Jokes, innuendo and jism were flying around the stage thick and fast between songs. Michael Starr and company hit on ladies, called upon them to expose their breasts and, even had the stage full of beautiful women from both the crowd and backstage at one point. What makes these guys stand out from other comedy bands is that their musicianship is just as strong as their comedic timing. Steel Panther owned that stage with their blistering glam metal, Lexxi’s hair solo, Satchel’s “pussy juicer” (A.K.A. acoustic guitar) and more mammary meat than you can poke a dick at.

By the time I made it back to the metal stage from Steel Panther’s set, Fear Factory had the place packed so I had to watch them from a distance. The heaviness of their set was immediately apparent as I heard the unmistakable Fear Factory double kick drum sound on approach. The crowd were pummelled by a handful of the band’s heaviest classics such as ‘Demanufacture’, ‘Martyr’ and ‘Replica’. While Burton sometimes had a bit of trouble nailing some of the notes in the clean vocal sections of these songs, this was made up for by an otherwise stellar performance.

Continuing on the industrial metal theme were Ministry. Again, having seen him just the night before, I was treated to a shortened version of the previous night’s set. Seeing as it has been twenty years since Uncle Al and the gang has graced Australian shores, I certainly had no complaints. Neither did the majority of onlookers if the pit was anything to go by although I did hear murmuring from the fringes about how they were playing too much new stuff and not enough classic material. While I agree to an extent, I was just glad to see these guys playing at all. Some of the intimacy of their show at the Metro might have been lost on an open air stage but they still put on one fierce show nonetheless.

As I mentioned earlier, day one of Soundwave had been a weird mix a musical styles but personally that was one of the most enjoyable things about the festival; the variety. So I decided to mix it up even more by seeing some of Soundgarden’s set followed by some Dragonforce and then back to Soundgarden. It was like a Seattle sandwich with an extreme power metal filling. I made it to the mainstage in time to hear Soundgarden break into an upbeat rendition of ‘Kickstand’ followed closely by a crowd favourite, ‘Spoonman’, with the band in fine form. After this taste of 90s grunge, I made my way back to the metal stage to hear songs about fire, steel, fury, battles, storms, eagles and so forth.

Dragonforce were killing it. Even though there were a couple of screw ups within ‘Symphony of the Night’, their set was otherwise meticulously executed. The sound quality was excellent and the band exhibited insane energy that they appeared to be drawing from the enthusiasm of the crowd. Guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman were the highlight of the show for me. They were playing their solos so damn fast that I could have sworn that the smoke enshrouding the stage was emanating from their fingers on their fretboards. Once the band hit their ‘Ring of Fire’ cover, it was time to head back to Soundgarden and try to get a good spot for Faith No More.

I returned to the main stages to hear a somewhat half hearted version of ‘Black Hole Sun’ with the band, Chris Cornell in particular, appearing to be suffering from the heat on stage. Things picked up again slightly with their finishing song, ‘Rusty Cage’. As the track drew to its conclusion, the rhythm section left the stage with Chris and Kim drowning the arena in glorious guitar feedback, slamming their instruments against their amps and fiddling with various dials.

Faith No More were dressed all in white. The amps and equipment on stage were draped in white. The only colour to be seen was provided by the arrangements of flowers that skirted the front of the stage and the light show. Opening with the first song the band have released in almost twenty years, ‘Motherfucker’, they then broke into ‘Caffeine’ and the audience lost their collective minds with joy. Mike Patton was giving one seriously vicious performance for the first few songs, it was like he had a rather large bee in his bonnet (perhaps said bee was attracted to the stage by the flowers and took a misturn somewhere around the vicinity of Patton’s bonnet). The song ‘Evidence’ seemed to cool Patton’s jets somewhat but his stage presence remained lively.

All in all, Faith No More’s show was nothing short of incredible. They played all of their greatest hits and more, Patton broke into ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ halfway through ‘Midlife Crisis’, he mused upon the word “cunt’, he threw his megaphone into the crowd and encouraged audience members to use it to sing along. All of this and flawlessly executed iconic songs (including their newly released single, ‘Superhero’) that flowed perfectly together even when one song was about being easy like a Sunday morning and the next about having a sexual attraction to faeces. FAITH NO MORE were a definite highlight of day one of Soundwave.

Day 2
Just like day one, day two of the Sydney Soundwave started strong. Apocalyptica took to the stage with cellos, drums and vocalist Franky Perez. After a few songs with Perez, I was impressed by the skill of the musicians and the power of Perez’s voice, however I felt as though there was a certain something lacking. However, Perez soon left the stage and the rest of the band treated us to a track from their first album, a cover of Metallica’s ‘Seek and Destroy’. These crazy Finns were thrashing away on those cellos with a speed that would make Dragonforce do a double take, lifting their instruments skywards and headbanging. A few more songs with Perez and the cellists once again took over with their brilliant cover of Sepultura’s ‘Inquisition Symphony’ and ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ with Australia’s national anthem thrown in to boot. Somehow, 3 Finns with cellos and a drummer played some of the heaviest music I had heard so far at Soundwave.

Animals As Leaders were next on my agenda and fortunately they were playing indoors as it was damn hot out at the main stages. These guys aren’t just a “djent” band. They play progressive, psychedelic, jazzy metal with some of the most technical but beautiful guitar noodling that I have ever heard, all at the hands of Tosin Abasi and Javier Reyes. The whole set was another highlight of the Soundwave festival but I enjoyed hearing some new material from the incredible album ‘The Joy of Motion’ in particular.

Wandering back towards the metal stage, I ended up catching the end of the Killer Be Killed. Having heard a few snatches of their debut album, this supergroup left me unsure. When I saw them play ‘Snake of Jehovah’, however, my interest was piqued. Greg Puciato’s (Dillenger Escape Plan) vocals were angry and Dave Elitch’s (The Mars Volta) drumming was fast and furious. When the legendary Max Cavelera (ex Sepultra, Soulfly et al) dropped his guitar and took over on vocals, he let loose and stomped around that stage like I haven’t seen him do in years, finishing the show by destroying Elitch’s drum kit.

Exodus brought some old school thrash to the table. These guys were no bullshit, balls out thrash at it’s finest. They whipped the pit into a frenzy with riffs that you couldn’t help but headbang to, furious solos and old school sensibilities.

Norway’s Mayhem played an indoor stage and it was the perfect setting for them. A dark warehouse-type building with a comparatively small but dedicated group of fans showing appreciation to a band spawned from the early Norwegian black metal scene. Attila Csihar was putting on his usual grim spectacle complete with decorative noose and skull. His guttural vocals sound as though he will actually summon something far worse than Satan to the stage.

Judas Priest seemed to be going even harder than they did at their sidewave and I didn’t think that could be possible. The band took to the metal stage as though they were made for open air festivals with every single member of the band absolutely killing it. The set was mostly the same as their sidewave at the Enmore Theatre, Halford’s motorcycle entrance for ‘Hellbent for Leather’ included, but with one notable difference. They played one of my all time favourite Priest songs at the end, ‘Painkiller’. Needless to say, I and the rest of the crowd lost our shit.

If I could somehow go back in time and tell my seventeen year old self that I would see both Marilyn Manson and Smashing Pumpkins (two of my favourite bands at the time) perform in the same day, he probably would have exploded into a fit of angsty joy and hormonally charged self harm (my teenage years were somewhat difficult). Corgan did not disappoint either my present self or my inner-turmoil-struggling-with past self. I was flooded with nostalgia hearing ‘Cherub Rock’, ‘Tonight, Tonight’ and ‘1979’ played beautifully. There were some newer songs that I wasn’t particularly familiar with but there were definitely glimmers of the band’s past brilliance within. During ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’’, I got word that Slipknot were pulled off of the main stage as the crowd had collapsed the barrier. I wanted to go see what was happening.

Slipknot were back in full swing by the time I made it across to their stage. No matter what you think about Slipknot and their music, they sure put on an impressive show. With an awesome backdrop with a large demonic head as the centrepiece, fire, pneumatic drum sets and crazy get ups, it was easy to see why they were one of the most anticipated performers of Soundwave’s second day. Apparently I had left the Smashing Pumpkins show before Marilyn Manson came out to perform ‘Ava Adore’ with Corgan and his crew but I was glad I got to see some of the spectacle that is Slipknot.

All in all, there were many brilliant and memorable performances I was lucky to witness over two days of Soundwave in Sydney. I thoroughly enjoyed the eclectic variety of music on offer. The future of Soundwave being a two day festival is uncertain but I would surely do it all again next year.







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