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Guest review of Azreal by Simon Benham

Pix by Kaotic Images

After fucking around at home way longer than I needed to thanks to the young fella’s mates rocking up with some guitars, including a Slash Les Paul which I just had to have a jam on, I finally make it to the Wallaby Hotel only to be held up at the doorway longer than I needed to be. That’s my fault though, being that annoying prick that makes multiple changes to the guest list just days out of the event.

Anyway, I manage to get myself in just under halfway through PistonFist’s opening set and holy shit were they already smashing it with their high-octane rock and roll. What a fucking opener for an all-day, make that 2-day festival. Now, there was some noise about why a band with such a high profile as PistonFist would be opening the show, but without getting into detail, let’s just say that sometimes you hit a bit of a hard run coming into the days before an event. And this time around that was the case, but luckily all the bands in the Wallapalooza family pulled together to make it work. Some by playing a little earlier than they normally would and others by taking a journey back to the glory days of the Walla dungeon, but more about that later. For now though, good luck to every other band today after that performance because that’s a fucking hard act to follow!

Off I trot down to the dungeon and it’s nowhere near as heavy as I expected, but that’s my fault because I took absolutely no time prior to today to research any of the bands that I wasn’t already familiar with.

There is some kind of mellow indie rock happening by the name of Strange Motel, which is a bit of a mood shifter, but they very quickly decide to rock it up a little and I pay more attention. Maybe they realised that guy from HEAVY was there, and they felt they better lift their game?

Sidenote, either one of them has some real crusty fuzz effect on their guitar, or the left front of house is already blown. Let’s see how that holds up for the rest of the day shall we?

Next up upstairs is Wicked Things and it’s a rocking good time complete with some epic cowbell and one of the most animated bass players I’ve ever seen. There’s a certain amount of glam about this band including a hot pink Charvel which I’d gladly add to my guitar collection, and it turns out the guy playing it can rip a good ol’ solo too. Pleather pants all round and a Wild Stallions tee, what else would you want to see?

An hour into Wallapalooza and my ears are already shot to shit. My set tonight should be fun when I can’t hear anything, but let’s just wait and see how that pans out. I did just hear the band yell out “what the time is it” and my beautiful wife screams back at them in record time “it’s 1:05”. So on that note it’s time to head downstairs for Adriatic.

After quickly thanking the early crowd for making their way into the dungeon the heavy broken groove of Adriatic soon assaulted the growing crowd. Holy fuck it’s loud down here but the crowd don’t seem to mind. And of course, just as I say fuck it’s loud in here, out comes the megaphone, and now it’s dirty loud. Sam Wolstenholme from Seraphic is welcomed to the stage shortly after to join into the band’s first live performance of Staring At The Sun. She joins in on the screams through the choruses and then takes over in a random reggae section mid-song to show off her melodic side. Then the song ends with them both screaming their tits off (probably the wrong choice of words, but we all have them). Sam stays up for a couple more songs for a dual vocal assault, and it’s so brutal the lights go out and shit gets real dark and spooky. This is the way the Walla dungeon should be really, it’s almost too perfect!

As I make my way upstairs in the already forming cattle crawls, I walk into Rhino already rocking the house down. Rhino is a band that just keeps giving, and with each song they play the crowd is drawn in by their rocking heavy grooves. I’ve seen this band many times, and I really must eat, so I shift into the adjoining restaurant where I can hear them rocking out at a much friendlier, ear-saving level. I can also hear the crowd and their screams of appreciation after each song!

I smash down a quick Southern-style chicken burger and as I’m digging through the last of my salty chips, I hear Dirty Brew kick off downstairs with their very own self-proclaimed brand of Keg Metal. With no time to waste, I get off my fat ass and head on down. As I get down there, I realise that they are all wearing matching dirty brew battle vests and now I feel left out because I don’t have one. We should fix that Mick, but first, you just continue rocking the fuck out of the crowd with those booze-swigging good-time tunes!

I’ve never heard of Emu before, and fuck knows why, cause these guys seriously rock. It’s like bogan hair rock or something, but a little bit sludgier. I’m not sure what you’d call it really but I fucking love it. This band is all about the guitar, sorry Mr Bass Man and Little Drummer Boy but your frontman shreds. Full props to the crazy air guitar dude at the front of the stage with the Angus Young moves too who appears to call himself The Zac Attack, or so his shirt and hat say.

Back down to the dungeon I head for Kobrakai and if I’m not mistaken, that’s Paulie from Rock City Studios on the bass, G’Day Paulie! This is another band I’ve never seen before although I believe I’ve heard the name, but I could be confused by that Karate Kid spin-off. Either way, it doesn’t matter because they are laying out some straight-up stoner rock, and holy fuck, I just pulled an unintentional stank face to the riff out of their new song. How that riff is coming from that guitar on that leopard print strap, I have no idea. Maybe tone is in the leopard print strap?

I sure am getting my steps in today as I take another trip upstairs to catch Anty! and this is nothing like what I expected. For some reason I thought with the line-up that this would be some kind of punk outfit. How wrong I was, this is some weird kind of party hip-hop that would fit in well on a cruise ship party deck. I bail out for 5 minutes and when I come back the room is packed, and everyone is having a hell of a good time. Wallapalooza is in full swing baby!

Downstairs in the basement it’s a different kind of vibe with the hard-rocking tunes of Serpentine Sky. I believe there is a father and son setup in this band between the lead guitarist and frontman. I’m not sure how I know this, but I know this. This is the first band at Walla with dedicated backup singers and as well as backup singers there’s leather jackets with tassels … need I say anymore. When the acoustic guitar comes out, I almost fuck off, but luckily the band starts rocking pretty hard, almost to the point where the acoustic becomes pointless. Let’s just call it one of those heavy ballad things. And by the way, it’s fucking packed down here now too!

After a last-minute run to the merch stall to try and set up some merch, and then realising we forgot to print any new shirts and there’s no room for 2 or 3 shirts of 12 different designs in various sizes that we have in a dirty old bag from the last 13 years, my attention is drawn to the main stage where my singer happens to be doing his thing in his other band The Black Swamp.

Now, without sounding too biased, I’m presented with a song I may or may not know and Luke is singing like I’ve never heard him sing before. The rooms full and swaying to the swampy sludge, but Where’s Rohan? He’s to the side of stage watching Dunga fill his shoes, and on the other side is OG second guitarist Grant watching his old band mates bring the fire. So many familiar friendly faces in this crowd and that’s what it’s really all about, The Wallapalooza Family.

As these Bastards of the Universe wrapped it up, I very quickly bailed downstairs to catch Tokyo Beef’s final ever performance. I only managed to catch the last two songs after fighting my way through the now packed main room and down the stairs to the dungeon, but I can tell you this, it was one hell of a rocking good time. Farewell my good friends, but hopefully this is like a Kiss last ever performance and we’ll see you again in a couple of years.

This place is getting so busy now that I can’t walk two feet without getting stopped for a chat but I make my way very slowly back to the main stage for Mountain Wizard Death Cult who have the crow enthralled with their heavy progressive doom rock … yes I just made a new genre, I think. Good times are being had all round here at the moment!

As I re-enter the dungeon the stankiest of faces wails a massive scream at me, Thanks Nev! Snake Mountain are bringing the brutals hard, and the dungeon has now turned the corner for what’s to come for the rest of the night. Gold Coast Fuckin Metal is in full force and just when you think it can’t get any more brutal, Ricci from Kaosphere and Brad from New Clear Vision join the band on stage for a triple vocal assault of Sepultura’s Roots Bloody Roots … damn!

Back to the main stage, and on a little less brutal note, These Four Walls are rocking the upstairs room hard as their soaring melodies fill the room over their thunderous rhythms. These guys played their first GC show back in 2014 after jumping the ditch, and they proudly let us know that the GC and Walla are home. Such a polished and well refined act.

Now it’s time for something a little less polished, something that hasn’t appeared for over a year, something that only managed to get a handful of rehearsals in prior to the big day. And no, it’s not Dreamkillers who are absolutely killing it while I get my fingers warmed up for a little bit of riffing which may or may not be of such a pace of these larrick punk metal legends, but I’ll let Simon Benham from Minds?End and Tetrament take over now to tell y’all wassup …

The time has come, AZREAL. This is a band that I have not yet seen live but I have been a fan of for a long time. Jimmy Glinster is known as the honest reviewer for HEAVY MAGAZINE and he has allowed me the honour of writing a brutally honest review while he takes on the duty of axe man for AZREAL. So here it goes.

As I approach the Corey De Luka Stage I now understand the excitement of those crazies who run in front of speeding traffic chasing a rare Pokémon with their phones, or those whose metal detector has gone off and they peel the ground open with their bare hands to find an old bake bean can, but in this case, I have struck pure gold and it’s heavy. The first thing to hit me was the heat in the room and I immediately felt for drummer Chris Dennis as he stomped that kit into oblivion with pure precision. I’m sure the water was not wet enough for him between tracks.

Goes without saying though. Vocals, bang on. Riffage, beautifully brutal. As they belt through the set list the crowd is engaged and really getting into it, I don’t know the number of people in there, but I can say it was hard to get to the front. These guys were putting on a master class of how to deliver a metal show and I was geeking out. I am however desperately waiting to hear one particular track though and the panic sets in when vocalist Luke announces, “this is our last song” and he was not going to give us the title. It was at that moment I was thinking, what are the chances? So, I brace myself in hope as I locked my focus on the drummer, fingers crossed, and I hold my breath just wishing to hear a certain combination of kick, snare, bell, and splash.

The room goes quiet, then fuck me it happened, Surveying the Fearful is in full swing. At this point I have goosebumps and I am filled with what is the equivalent of Christmas cheer. The guys are nailing it, and I could not be happier as I look around and see multiple people singing along. What a way to end my first AZREAL experience. AZREAL = Brilliant.

Now that Simon has finished stroking my ego, I can get back to my review of the rest of the evening, well, what I saw of it anyway. And what did I see? Not that fucking much to be honest.

I missed Butterfingers because they’d played at the same time as us, which is probably lucky because I’m pretty sure we didn’t have any room for all those rockin hip-hoppers downstairs. Not because we don’t like them, just because there literally wasn’t much room. I did manage to stand close by one of the singers though as my brother-in-law Zane fan boy’d the fuck out over them!

I watched 28 Days Rip It Up for a track or two, which didn’t include Rip It Up. I then ran back downstairs quickly to catch New Clear Vision who were bringing it harder than ever and for the second time that day Brad was joined onstage by Ricci from Kaosphere to give us another rendition of Roots Bloody Roots. No Nev this time though, but still bloody brutal!

What happened next, well I think I got caught up in the restaurant having a chat with Luke (Azreal/The Black Swamp) and a couple of our biggest fans but more importantly some of our best friends. Meanwhile some bloke threw up all over a nearby table and the floor which somehow turned into a chat about our daily toilet habits … not the first one of the day, strangely enough.

And on that note, check out this little gem from the Wallapalooza band chat the next day: “Took a piss near the gaming area upstairs and thought I heard a voice saying “Hello, is there anyone there?” But I thought it was just punters noise outside so ignored it. Finished up and as I’m walking out, I hear this voice again coming out of the cubicle, “Hello anyone there?” I’m like “Yeah man, all good?” He’s like, “Na man I’ve just taken a shit and there’s no toilet paper and I don’t have my phone with me, I’ve been here for 30 min man“All good brother, here are some paper towels from the handwashing thing” Threw them under the door for ol’ mate, fucking fantastic! 30 min” – Jaded Cynic “RHINO”.

I will just note here that my experience with the Wallaby Hotel toilets that day was nothing but pristine, which is quite the effort with the amount of people in the place. I didn’t really have a crack at the seated section in the main room though which is generally where all the tragedy happens, but the floors were relatively piss free and there was plenty of soap and hand towels.

Anyway, enough shit talk, what the fuck happened next? Umm, let me see … oh yeah, I made my way back downstairs for Kaosphere who were ripping the dungeon a new one. I also bumped into the HEAVY boss Krispy down there and thought I’d make the lazy bastard work for once by helping me get my guitar head to my car. But first, we watched Kaosphere unleash a couple more tracks of heavy filth with precision and brutal intent. It’s always a pleasure watching Ricci and all the Tane’s laying down the heavy. Rumour has it there may be some new stuff on the way too, but I’ll let them tell ya themselves when we get ‘em in for an interview!

Alright, by now I’m literally starting to die in the ass cause this old bastard can’t handle a midday festival start, 7pm performance, and pretty much just being awake past 9:30. So I won’t make up some bullshit just to fill this review and pretend like I was there, but here we go.

I watched a couple of tracks by COG and to be honest I didn’t know the songs, which doesn’t mean much because although their name was all over the place back in the 00’s I never really got dragged into the hype. The crowd appeared to be loving it though, so there is always that and it was super tough to get into a position anywhere so that I could actually watch them because the room was fucking packed!

And on that note, I bailed home to bed but not before dropping into Maccas for a nugget picnic which is part of my usual post-gig ritual. Before I end this review though, I’d just like to mention one more thing. I heard there were two massive dicks onstage during F.U.C.’s closing set, but I’m not sure if it was the two members, or their two members, or maybe something else. Either way, I’m a little shattered that I bailed early and missed it. Maybe someone can confirm the owners of the massive dicks in the comments section which may or may not be somewhere below …

Oh, and I’d like to say I made it on Sunday for the second day, but if I did, I’d be fucking lying. Apologies to all the great bands I missed, but if anyone was there to check it out and feels like throwing us a review then write it up and send it on over! I mean, if all my shit talk gets published, surely yours can too!

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