I descended on Sydney’s Olympic Park ready to get chest-beatingly CRAZY at Soundwave (ceremonially marked with a mocha. Why, what do you do?). Hordes of tattooed-and-black-shirts infiltrated the grounds. Any observers hoping to prove the theorem that metal kids are uncontrollably malevolent would be disappointed. Coffee cups (yep, see) were displayed in equal measure with beers, and there was a lack of franticness. Even HACKTIVIST were chilling pre-show. I asked vocalist and guitarist Timfy James how his christening visit was faring.
“I just couldn’t believe that flight. It just went on and on …” he said, then added the shows have been awesome.
“Eight minutes ‘til you’re on,” bristled an English caricature-type standing nearby. Timfy discarded his cigarette and the guys filtered through a crack in the fencing, leading to their mount. The performance was a tight, dynamic display of their EP, concluded by their infamous ‘Niggas in Paris’ cover. The lack of shattered teeth in the slam-dancing mosh pit defied belief.
Next up was fellow English nerds TESSERACT, whose ethereal prog felt wildly out of place. It’s slow-paced, bookishly sexy and draped in purple lighting. Front man Ashe O’Hara downed water like it’s the Sahara, and suddenly there’s no mystery to the flawless execution of his brooding bellows. He serenaded a crowd of meditative head-bangers and closed with Acceptance. My friend Roy, a colossal fan-girl, exclaimed ‘They only played five songs!?’ Boyfriend they are a prog band my god be real.
The day was underscored by the mild anxiety a changing timetable provokes. With so many last-minute changes, Russian roulette was played with stage visits. You knew what you were going to get, you just didn’t fucking know when. I played the game and caught TESTAMENT. Leathery front man Chuck Billy screeched, “I’ve been waiting a long time to play for you motherfuckers!” and the thrashers opened with the Star Spangled Banner. It was PURE AMERICAN METULZ INC. Air-guitar breakouts permeated the crowd like a virus as Billy led a crushing, melodic set that peaked with ‘The Formation of Damnation’. I started to sweat from the pure, brutal groove. I could feel an OD coming on.
A mate texted asking if I was ready for GWAR. Sure, in six hours or whatever, when they’re on, I replied. Wrong. It’s a revised afternoon set and shit’s about to get literally bloody. The crowd swells and I take position on their side stage. A macabre, smiling spectacle, the veterans churned up the riffs before collectively going down on the crowd with the ‘decapitation’ of a Tony Abbott figurine. CONTROVERSE. It was cool, but I was more interested in the precision of the costumes, like the huge alien dick of vocalist Oderus Urungus. That thing must qualify as an instrument of its own accord through customs.
I sauntered on over backstage to watch Chino Moreno loving life with CROSSES. I was overcome by how seductive and intoxicating this act was. The crooning, electronic beats and indoor set were an intimate fusion. Moreno concluded most tracks with an explosive grin to his surrounding entourage, which included Korn guitarist Brian ‘Head’ Welch, whose dreadlocks were within my reaching distance (I have regrets, I do). ‘Bitches Brew’ made me want to get naked. Hey, stop picturing me. It wasn’t about being naughty, but about being at one with the music and all that shit. THAT is how much I loved it. It was atmospheric and I craved a cold shower afterwards.
Cue another spin of the revolver. PLACEBO wrapped up their main arena set with Infra-Red and I entered backstage as a perspiring Brian Molko grinned and greeted a lucky few. The stage lit up as A DAY TO REMEMBER thundered, with latest disc Common Courtesy getting a workout. It’s easy to see why these guys have amassed a slew of disciples. There’s little merit in indulging the Energy Olympics, but the American rockers deserve a nod for the antics of vocalist Jeremy McKinnon, who literally ran across the top of the mosh in a plastic bubble. Asking Alexandria guitarist Cameron Liddell turned to me and said, “He’s Jesus.” That’s a lie. But he WAS standing next to me, and he is TALL.
It was time for KORN. I fucking dug it like a trench, so sue me. I was smack-bang in the middle of the band backstage seconds before they took to the masses. Drummer Ray Luzier emerged inches from me and bounced vertically four times, bellowing “ALRIGHT, NO MISTAKES! NO MISTAKES, LET’S GO!” Yeah man tell that to Fieldy’s solo record. Jonathan Davis seemed concerned about his neck. Fans quip that it’s not the ‘90s anymore, and so does Davis’ body. He consistently suckered oxygen from a dirty-looking funnel and served up a hybrid offering of ‘Falling Away From Me’, ‘Get Up’ and ‘Shoots and Ladders’. Chino Moreno bustled in front of me with his unamused wife in tow and bopped with arms folded. Head and, ugh, Fieldy frequented our vantage point, poking out tongues and winking at photographers. I left the stage defiant and stoked. Call me if you want to talk this out.
I know they’re French, but it was a parallel universe backstage at GOJIRA. The mood was sombre and serious, complete with a pissed off security guard and EVERYTHING was black. Maybe it was because the already-mangled timetable was running 20 minutes behind, or because in their worldview, the glass isn’t half-empty, it’s a mandatory vessel to eternal damnation. Column A, Column B? It felt voyeuristic nonetheless to observe the Duplantier brothers – singer Joe and drummer Mario – thread water through their long, ebony locks while waiting for Down to finish. Appeasing the loyal crowd chanting their name, the Europeans ripped into ‘Explosia’ with brutal precision. I busted out into pitiful air-drumming on my left thigh, while dudes in black with ‘Artist’ lanyards amassed beside me. The set was awe-inspiring. I’d long salivated to see these guys play ‘Flying Whales’, a track containing a fuck-off good head-banging cue, and ‘Vacuity’, a soundtrack to purgatory. I came, I saw, Gojira conquered.
With Gojira running over time and colliding with ROB ZOMBIE, I ran over to the end of an insane John 5 solo. Shred city, I texted my brother Dave and said “John 5 going off”. Dave’s reply summed up the whole set: “sickkk.” Bobby Zombles usually cops unfriendly live reviews. His voice wanes as the night goes on, but the theatrics of the horror king are suitable compensation, and the head-bopping circus-menace is irresistible. I was enamoured by ‘Thunder Kiss ‘65’ and chorused ritualistically to ‘Dragula’, despite my feet screaming for liberation from my suffocating black Connies. Freedom came when I sat at THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN set.
I moved like a body full of imprisoned hummingbirds. Greg Puciato was periodically getting vertical, scaling the stage and leaping like a Parkour trainee (a move that has broken his ankle). I exploded when one of my ER-MA-GAWD favourite tracks, ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’ commenced. Sure, people around me had earplugs, but nothing protected them from my desperate croon, ‘Don’t you ever try to be, more than you were destined for, or anything worth fighting for! There’s no feeling in this PLAAACE!’ I screamed the whole song. Yeah. That girl. A slice of the crowd departed with seminal ballad ‘One of Us Is The Killer’, though the ladies were probably buttered up. I know I was (hello mother).
By the end I was a trainwreck of metal proportions and glided over for progressive goodies MASTODON. After laying on the ground semi-comatose for five minutes basking in the weirdness of Il Nino still existing, the unmistakeable quiver of ‘Black Tongue’ began; an anthem to go forth into galactic battle to. Just a few years ago, the Georgian rockers were a minor act on the Soundwave circuit. Now they’re headlining the metal stage.
I’m weathered but ‘Divinations’ is fucking awesome, the guitar hooks are so delicious I start to descend into that ‘let’s geeet naked’ vibe again. Careering further into a concluded state of sensory bliss, sans painful feet, Neil Fallon of Clutch helps deliver ‘Blood and Thunder’, closing a display of rock and roll wizardry. The revellers dissipated and fireworks rocket out from the Avenged Sevenfold stage. A fitting conclusion to a day of epic, ridiculous music. Now it’s time to take these fucking shoes off.
See the original publication of this article at AustralianHysteria.com.au