Recognised for its largely international prosperity, heavy metal is a genre that appears non-existent in country so distant from its birthplace. Because most of the genre’s internationally acclaimed artists spawned from countries in Europe and Scandinavia (amongst others) Australia’s heavy metal culture has gone largely unnoticed and hence maintained it’s underground status. However, despite minimal international recognition, there is no doubt many Australian bands possess a talent that matches and often surpasses many of their famous counterparts.
One of Australia’s best metal bands embarked on a national tour earlier this year that fortunately included Newcastle on the tour list. Psycroptic, a technical death metal band from Tasmania travelled to the small Cambridge Hotel on the 6th June with Black Asylum, Ruins and The Amenta to put on a hard-hitting, maliciously-sounding, metal onslaught lasting well over 4 hours.
First up were Central Coast band Black Asylum who had the difficult task of going first, well before the numbers started arriving. While the crowd was relatively small, the band engaged with them almost immediately demonstrating an evidently strong musicianship considering the band had recently disbanded for 5 months. Poking fun at the small crowd before them, vocalist Troy Harris made the audience laugh with his between-song-banter before capturing the audiences attention with his, most impressive, vocal performance. While the band was musically sound most of the time, there was one sound in particular that didn’t sit right. Despite drummer Danny Hewling’s technicality and speed the sound of the snare drum was strangely annoying and the drum fills were relatively dull and often fell flat when compared to the musicianship of the other band members. Yet, despite these minor flaws, Black Asylum proved to be an Aussie metal band with lots of potential. Describing their music as “what metal music is all about – brutal musical honesty that grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go until the final note rings out”, Black Asylum were a great start to the night that many late arrivals would have been sad to miss.
Up next were Tasmanian doom/black metal band Ruins. While both the musicality and individual performances of all the members really stood out, the most outstanding performance belonged to drummer Dave Haley. As the set progressed through depressing and doom-styled tracks Haley’s double bass drums pierced through the skin of its listener with its brutal intensity. Moving flawlessly from a monstrous beat to the quiet sounds of cymbals, Haley was, undoubtedly, a master of his craft. While the drumming was more than admirable, that is not to deny the talent of Ruins frontman Alex Pope whose singing style was a unique addition to the already meritable tracklist. Hiding behind a mane of black hair, Pope’s growls were emphasised through an echoing effect on the microphone adding an almost haunting element to the heavy composition. While the crowd was still relatively small the more extreme sounding songs encouraged the crowd to move forward and demonstrate their appreciation for the band through a synchronisation of headbanging. Despite the fact that Ruins relied hugely on their drummer for transition, the enthusiasm of the band combined with their more extreme sounding compositions hightened the mood of the show and received a very positive response from the crowd.
Before Aussie death metal giants, Psycroptic were to take the stage, the notorious 5-man Sydney band The Amenta took to the stage. Using strobe lighting effects and a fierce mix of sounds, The Amenta received an enthusiastic roar from what had become a much larger crowd. Despite their legion of Novocastrian fans and their evidently strong musicianship The Amenta‘s set list was hugely based on theatrics courtesy of their keyboardist and vocalist. Hanging off amps and climbing on furniture lead singer Jarrod Krafczyk and keyboardist Timothy Pope were outrageously energetic in their physical performance, which some fans loved and others laughed at. While Krafczyk did provide some decent and not to mention consistent vocals The Amenta severly lacked in diversity, most songs, whilst different in tempo presented nothing different to previous songs performed on the night. With their black painted faces and visual antics The Amenta managed to keep their small legion of fans positively amused, but failed to impress anyone else.
After a long and anxious wait, Psycroptic finally stepped onto the stage to provide a powerful and intense performance in front of a hugely enthusiastic Newcastle crowd. Beginning with an all-out sonic assault of super-fast and ultra-technical metal, vocalist Jason Peppiatt let out one long roar that made your insides tremble. The musical technicality combined with the intensity of the music meant the Tasmanian quintet surpassed every band before them – a quality that was both consistent and diverse. Playing mostly tracks from their latest album Ob(servant), it was difficult to take your eyes off the band whose physical performance matched their musical prowess.
While it is impossible to single out any one member, Peppiatt’s enthusiasm was electric and even amusing at some points, particularly when he challenged the antics of Amenta singer and began doing push-ups on the stage. His vocal performance was wonderfully brutal, with the intensity of some notes making you feel like he was drilling deeply into your skull. While all members were outstanding in their performance, it’s difficult to deny Peppiatt is one of Australia’s best death metal vocalists.
Overall, the show was an excellent demonstration of what the Australian metal scene is all about. With the number of new artists growing exponetially, Australia has something to be very proud of and with Psycroptic leading the pack, Aussie heavy metal will continue to prosper both downunder and across the globe.
Ob(servant) is out now and can be purchased from the bands MySpace page.