Last evening in the basement of The Crowbar in Brisbane, something heavy was brewing. Saturday the 26th of May marked the afternoon where The Crowbar played host to the yearly Meltdown Festival, travelling through Melbourne and Sydney before finishing here in Brisbane. Unfortunately the cold temperatures and rain that hit the city that afternoon put a dampener on the turnout, but the gracious citizens who decided to check out the festival were in high spirits and here to stay for the night. Meltdown Festival sees the wonderful organisers at Dirthouse Agency presenting a true melting-pot of metal bands across all genres. From heavy blues courtesy of bands like  Melbourne’s NEVER and CHILD, to modern punk from A Somerset Drive and Born Lion and even hard-core metal brought by Sydney’s ARTERIES, the fans these bands brought were just as diverse as their music. With a killer venue and an even better line-up of bands, Meltdown Festival in Brisbane was gearing up to be one hell of a night.

Starting at 2:15pm, Regular Gonzalez opened to a disappointingly small and sleepy audience. Nevertheless, the local Brisbane three-piece did their best to inject some energy into the people who were watching with their modern metal sound complete with groovy riffs and a dynamic range of screams from vocalist JD. Their rendition of ZZ Top’s ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ saw the band really rocking out onstage, and even got a few people head-banging.

Following a speedy 15 minute set-up, Brisbane’s For The Wolves took to the stage with their moody blend of heavy rock with a tinge of grunge and poignant ethereality to their music. Brad Andrew’s husky vocals stole the show, bringing a powerful force to their already impressive songs.

Fresh from playing a show in Europe was New South Wales’ A Somerset Drive. Glad to be back on home turf at last, the six-piece put on a high-energy modern punk performance full of uplifting choruses and overwhelmingly happy vibes emanating from each band member. The audience had filled out a little in time to see A Somerset Drive as people started to really get into their music.

Keeping the energy levels up with plenty of good humour and great music was The Silencio, hailing from the Gold Coast. Sporting a unique dual acoustic guitar set up in place of electric guitars, these guys still pummelled the enthusiastic punters with a surprisingly heavy acoustic rock sound. With songs like ‘Milk’ and ‘Anathema’, these guys are capable of swinging between chugging rock’n’roll and a softer sound with finesse and cohesion.

Melbourne’s veteran musicians in NEVER were a highlight of the night, overflowing the stage with dirty, heavy, bluesy rock and a cool confidence that can only come from years of experience. Vocalist Aaron Butler wowed the crowd with his powerfully deep voice while backed by his furiously energetic guitarists as they ripped banger riffs left, right and centre. I was genuinely sad when their set finished, half an hour was not enough for a band like NEVER.

Sydney’s five-piece called Sumeru brought the cathartic aggression that can only be harnessed by a true metal band. After the bluesy rock of NEVER, Sumeru were a bit of an auditory shock but the audience soon started to rock out with horns raised. With crushingly heavy riffs and a fantastically zealous stage presence, Sumeru were well-received.

Bringing back the bluesy vibe were The Ugly Kings from Melbourne.  Boasting a darker brand of blues than previous bands, The Ugly Kings effortlessly captivated the gathering of people in front of the stage. Russell ‘Rusty’ Clark’s decadently resonant vocals offered a unique quality to the hard-rocking but melancholy music behind him.

Wielding 8-stringed guitars and a hell of a lot of talent was Sydney’s ARTERIES. Barely containing a vicious energy onstage and with a surprisingly smiley bassist, ARTERIES were more than happy to inundate the Crowbar with their intense riffing, off-the-wall drumming and screaming vocals that are reminiscent of UK’s Architects. Songs like ‘Against the Grain’ really showcased just how technical and hostile their sound is.

Providing a complete 180 in sound was Melbourne’s acclaimed blues three-piece called CHILD. Despite having only just gotten off a plane before their set, CHILD provided a chilled out but thoroughly satisfying 30 minutes of laid-back blues rock with impressive guitar solos at the hands of Mathias Northway. Drummer Michael Lowe had enough energy to power a city, even despite the slower pace of the songs being performed.

Next onstage were Born Lion from Sydney. Bouncing around with an irrepressible energy, the five-piece outfit slammed the audience with catchy melodies made heavy by torso-vibrating drums and bass. Somehow Born Lion manage to expertly toe the line between hard rock and metal, seamlessly incorporating elements of both genres into their sound.

Down-tuned guitars and a behemoth bass-tone introduced the sludgy Black Swamp from here in Brisbane. As they stomped about the stage with confidence and aggression, their music elicited the same response from the crowd. Their heavy riffs and vocals that were hard to discern from those of Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe proved to be just the right dose of metal that the crowd needed.

Finally, to end the night on a high note, Gay Paris swept onstage to cheers from the crowd. Galvanising the crowd into performing drunken dance moves and unbalanced head-banging, the boys from Sydney certainly knew how to put on a good show. Boasting heavy rock with intelligent lyrics, unique pop-hooks and throaty vocals, Gay Paris are a band unlike any other, and it is clear why they were picked to close the festival.
“This is the first time I’ve played this song with fractured ribs, so I’m well on the way to ruining my life,” vocalist Wailin H Monks says with a smile that begets the pain he was surely in.
Despite his injury, he performed flawlessly and with as much enthusiasm as he could, such is his dedication to his band. Gay Paris danced, partied and laughed their way through their 45-minute set to finish the night with infectious euphoria and fun.

Despite a low turn-out and cold weather, I considered Meltdown Festival to be a success. Dirthouse Agency really shined through in providing an amazing variety of bands for new and existing fans alike, and I’m sure this festival will continue to grow and bring in more people who are keen to douse themselves in some quality local heavy music. Bring on next year!