The first band hasn’t even started and the venue is swarming with people. The turn out is amazing, especially for a mid-week gig. There is a lot of animated chatting and milling around the bar, then the first band hits the stage. Aetherial are a Melbourne melodic death metal band. They launch into their set with enthusiasm, and soon the crowd are paying attention and rocking along. Light banter breaks up the heavy and intense sound. While they have a melodic element, they do not shy away from traditional death metal blast beats and grinding riffs. The vocals of Shep Sheppard are your standard growling tone, but are also expressive and emotional, giving the lyrics centre-stage. The group are comfortable on stage, though two of the members of tonight’s line up hail from other well known bands in Melbourne’s local circle (Whoretopsy‘s Jake Sproule, Orpheus Omega‘s Chris Themelco). The set is short but the band make good use of the time, efficiently launching into song after song. They certainly made a good impression on the audience, and they had the crowd onside by their finale.

Next up, we had Hollow World.  Also melodic death metal, but the first few songs showcase a very different style and set them apart. There were a few fans in the audience too if the shouts and cheers were anything to go by. The set they then played ensured they definitely earned a few more. Heavy and fast-paced, their set was of a high quality. The band kept any talk to a minimum, delivering song after song in brutal succession; working the crowd up. Their stage presence was engaging and backed by some really solid musicianship. The guitar work especially stood out: fast-paced, yet intricate and quite technical at times.  The band never lost its ferocious pace or the crowd’s attention with the set finishing to the ring of loud applause.

The next act were almost as anticipated as the headliner, even drawing the crowd away from the bar!  One of Australia’s more well known metal bands, their brand of technical death metal sets them apart.  The crowd are already excited for the first song, and soon, the pit starts open up. The set is polished and professional, yet never loses the rawness the band became known for. There isn’t an element in this band that isn’t solid, that isn’t good. The vocals especially are an aural assault, the heavy growls and screams keeping pace with the instrumental changes. The guitars come hard and fast, each song showcasing an artistic complexity few can manage. Several songs garner cheers and many in the audience sing along. Psycroptic are well-known with a solid following of their own, and one that certainly has been earned. The night could have ended on a good note here, but the best was yet to come.

The curtains are closed, building anticipation. Then the lights lower. The crowd all face the stage waiting. A recording plays. An announcer’s voice tells a story of a future, a bleak post-apocalyptic future in which the environment is nearly dead and so is man. The curtains draw back revealing a manic light show and most of the band.  Distorted notes start to slowly play as the voice over finishes. The crowd cheers as lead singer Travis Ryan appears. The band immediately launches into their first set and the audience loses it. This is a crowd of fans who have been waiting for this show, and Cattle Decapitation do not disappoint. The setlist includes songs such as The Carbon Stampede, Dead Set On Suicide, The Prophets Of Loss, and A Living, Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat. Many of the songs were from the bands latest album with dealt with themes of Loss and extinction due to mans own avarice and self destructive nature.  These themes fit well with the bands unique sound. Often described as Death-grind, other influences are clear leading the band down a path that is hard to label with any one genre.

Ryan’s distinctive vocal style is layered with sounds for different sections of each song. The lyrics are emotive and tortured, and Ryan draws the crowd in easily.  The musicianship on display has been honed over early two decades of touring and recording, and you can hear the passion and expertise in every note. This bands considered one of the best in the world in this genre, and this performance made it clear why. Ryan occasionally takes a break to chat to the audience, in one particular interlude  he mentioned how much the band wanted to tour Australia and how glad the are to be back drove the crowd crazy.  But mostly they kept the music going, the whole set combining with the stage show to create a truly engaging performance. The band leaves the stage and the audience immediately chants for an encore.  Which the band delivers, somehow topping the previous set and really cementing their place as one of the best touring extreme bands today. As the band leave the stage for the final time, no one wants to leave. No one wants the show to end but it must, as all good things must.

We are only half way into February and already this gig is a highlight that is going to be hard to top. This was a high-calibre show that had everything you could want. Great openers, an enthusiastic crowd, and a headliner putting on an old school show to remember. This was one of the better gigs I have been to. If you missed it, you missed out on something big.