Photos by Andrew Maclean. Check out more of Andrew’s work here!
As far as metal festivals go, Australia has had its ups and downs, with the rise and fall of many as the years have gone by. Now risen again our festival game has with the arrival of the much anticipated inaugural Questfest. What is Questfest you ask? It is a cornucopia of majestic music madness held at The Basement, Canberra created by the much loved “Krazy Karl” French (Saralisse) & Tim Brown (Beast Impalor) of Girthsword Promotions hosting the best bands Australia has to offer, a metal medley of folk, symphonic, power & melodic talent.
There is so much to be said about this event but I’ll begin with the first thing you notice upon arrival, the venue, as you stagger in from the 31 degree heat outside to grab a $5 Guinness (fitting perfectly with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations) you’re immediately blown away by the ornamental wonder, from the signed guitars on the roof in both the back band room and the main room, to the punters who’ve come donned in their elaborate costumes, the vibe of the night hits you from minute one. Between bands you’ve got the option of free pool all night, party games (drinking games, board games, etc) & more!!
The first artist on the bill for the night doing a pre-show acoustic set was Daniel Kelly in the main room, a NSW/ACT folk solo act serving the already rapidly building crowd a series of Irish/English ballads, a spellbinding performance consisting of both covers and a few original songs. The crowd (myself included) has Kelly to thank for an introduction to filk, or sci-fi/fantasy/horror fan folk music. To any and all as obsessed with live folk music, particularly of the Irish persuasion, I highly suggest Kelly!
After a 15 minute changeover things get heavy as we migrate to the back room to witness newer Dubbo folk/Viking themed metal band Drakkarus. Save for a couple of technical hiccups which were brushed off with a healthy dose of humour the band successfully entertained the still growing audience.
Hitting the main stage we then come to Sydney band BattleBard, who brought an incredible show to the venue even bringing the Saralisse boys up for around half the set at least, showcasing insane talents throughout both as individuals but more importantly how well they played together, the fact they only formed last year is a testament to their dedication to bring the audience the best possible experience they can. Evident influences were bands such as Nightwish & Kamelot, with Cal McGlinchey belting powerful symphonic tunes that left jaws to the floor, instrumental finesse that boasts skill beyond their years considering the recent origination of the band.
It’s 8:10pm and folk power metallers Mirrorshield are just stepping up to the plate, sharing members with Drakkarus, Mirrorshield are also based in Dubbo, NSW. All were relieved to see the technical issues experienced earlier in the night were forfeit and they were able to bring a phenomenal set to the night!! Alas their main vocalist Heidi couldn’t make the festival due to prior commitment so they had a friend of the band take her place for the night.
Here on in the night goes from a gig to a party as the crowd starts getting rowdy and the venue fills out completely. Melodic metal connoisseurs Evocatus take the main stage and hit us from the get go with Immortal Chains from their latest release ‘Mortem in Deos’ as well as many others from the album, something I was looking forward to experiencing first hand after reviewing the release (click here to read), and I must say I was impressed, they’re just as proficient live as they are recorded which is always fantastic to behold. The crowd responded to the act like maniacs as the merging of Guinness & metal took hold, beach balloons were flying over our heads, the sun had disappeared entirely and ritualistic headbanging had seemingly possessed the majority of those in attendance.
Following Evocatus were Stone Sovereign (formerly known as Tomes of Ruin) settled in Orange, New South Wales. I was unsure how I’d react to the band as I wasn’t too familiar with their works but it’s certainly safe to say I was pleasantly surprised by how brilliant they pulled off their entire set, even with the slight pitfalls the back room was having in regards to the sound (which improved drastically with each band, by the last there were no noticeable issues whatsoever). Their set included a mind-blowing cover of Amon Amarth’s Guardians of Asgaard, something I’ve seen attempted and end in brutal failure they pulled off with such artistry and ease I’ve really got to give the band high praise for such a feat. My favourite part however had to be during a slow song of theirs where everyone was singing along surrounding the briefly seated vocalist Jordan Giblett, holding their pints/drinking horns high.
Next on the bill Questfest delivers Saralisse (in which the drummer is the man himself, Krazy Karl), and as always the boys serve up a lively show well suited to the rowdy rockers present, with a set full of heavy folk and fantasy themes they had the crowd absolutely fired up from the first song, you had people banging their heads, you had people dancing, you had people holding their foam swords to the sky, it was a sight I never want to forget. The dynamic energy expelled by everyone on stage was so infectious it spread throughout the venue instantaneously.
Returning to the back room the crowd gears up to witness the ever enigmatic Tamerlan Empire, who are shrouded in mystery to many in the scene, which is even presented on stage what with having their entire bodies and the majority of their faces covered (save for the fill in vocalist, Jesse Handsaker, for obvious reasons), doing so even with the intense heat already present on top of the general high stage temperature that comes part and parcel with live performances. Their middle-eastern metal was otherworldly, just as good live as recorded and without a doubt one of the highlights of my night.
We had now come to that time of the night, competition time!! All gathered around the front room as Karl announced the winners for the costume, raffle, and the official Quest prize at the main stage, to claim their prize and prepare for Beast Impalor’s set, it was in this time Karl took a moment to thank everyone who made the event a possibility, thank everybody who attended, and even ask his girlfriend (who at the time was dressed as Gandalf) to come up on stage to thank her for her support.. then the unexpected, at the very end of his speech the man got down on one knee and proposed to his now fiancé Rhiannon. The reaction from punters was more intense than any band had gotten at the show so far & I think I speak for everybody at Overdrive in saying we all wish them well!!
To finish off what had been this night of nights Beast Impalor drove it home with a classic killer set of odd antics and insane crowd participation, with an excellent quality to quirky ratio only Beast Impalor could provide they got the entire audience jumping (quite literally)!! It was the perfect way to end the night and I can say with confidence the entire lineup from start to finish was perfectly engineered to ensure the night was as brilliant as it turned out. Well done Karl & Girthsword Promotions, this event was bigger and better than any of us could have imagined, I cannot wait to attend Questfest 2019!