The annual Legions of Steel festival is an institution of the Melbourne Metal scene, driven by none other than Denis “Den Den” Sudzuka of Espionage and Espionage Bookings. The 2018 edition was particularly special, with a massive venue upgrade to Max Watt’s, a DVD recording of the night, and of course a stellar line-up of some of the very best Melbourne Metal has to offer.
Relative newcomers Lethal Vendetta opened the show, but the fact that this band may have been new to many of the punters didn’t reduce their impact – on the contrary, it enhanced it as they brought a seriously heavy set for their mid-afternoon start time. Particular kudos are due to bassist Jay Burnham who set the whole venue rumbling to its foundations, and vocalist Brent Logan who cut through the wall of sound like a guttural chainsaw.
“We’re Requiem, and we’re from Ballarat!” will be a familiar catch-cry to many Melbourne punters who have witnessed the rapid rise from obscurity to esteem for the Requiem lads. Requiem consistently show that regional Victoria has a hell of a lot to offer in terms of Metal, with a breakneck approach to Thrash and the self-deprecating good humour of frontman Zacharie Dunks. With a ripper of a performance, Requiem showed Legions of Steel they’re still very much one to watch.
Sudzuka brought only one interstate act for this edition of Legions of Steel, and he made a very fine choice in adding Asylum to the bill. These Brisbane lunatics smash out Thrash on steroids, with one of the heaviest sets to grace the stage throughout the festival. With live shows of this quality under their belt, one can only heavily anticipate Asylum’s forthcoming full-length album.
Hot on the heels of their show supporting The Iron Maidens the night before, Envenomed showed no sign of slowing down as they treated the Legions to another blistering set of Thrash Metal. Frontman Anthony Mavrikis puts on a particularly charismatic and energetic show, with plenty of interaction with the audience to make sure he’s bringing every single person along for this heavy ride.
Espionage brought a considerable change of pace to the stage after the heavy depths of Thrash provided by the first four bands. This gear change brought classic 80s Speed and Power Metal to the surface, with the virtually iconic Andrew “Frosty” Morris’ impressively high vocals raising the roof. Espionage had a tremendous set to play in celebration of the release of their first full-length album ‘Digital Dystopia,’ and the crowd absolutely lapped up the new tunes including the lead single, Light Begins to Fade. There will be plenty more Espionage shows to follow in support of the new album, and they are no doubt eagerly anticipated.
The spirit of the 80s continued to be revitalised with Pegazus, who ensured that fans of New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands the like of Saxon and Judas Priest were in good hands. Guitarist Johnny Stoj is an always-impressive shredder, while bassist Matt Ambrose transcends the stereotypical reticence of the bottom end to get right up the front of the stage and get involved with the audience. Sadly it was Ambrose’s last gig on bass duties for Pegazus, but it will be interesting to see who takes over in the future.
Diving head(banging) first back into Thrash territory, Harlott deliver Australia’s answer to Slayer and more. On the one hand Harlott bring consummate professionalism to their live performance, but on the other you can see that they’re also there to have a great time and a laugh, particularly in the delivery and banter of frontman Andy Hudson. Harlott’s compositions however are complex and unrelenting, with Jake Weber joining Hudson’s guitars for a dual assault that never fails to get the pit moving in absolute chaos.
Elm Street lighten the mood with classic Heavy Metal that somehow seems to adopt the aesthetic of classic slasher and zombie movies, but with an infectious grin permanently on the lips of frontman Ben Batres, making it clear this is band here for a good time – and given their pedigree in the Melbourne Metal scene, a long time as well! Unexpectedly closing their set with a Helloween cover, Elm Street brought the heavy hits from start to finish.
It was another major change of pace to enter the world of Symphonic Power Metal with Eyefear, but certainly a welcome one. Having recently joined forces with new vocalist Ricardo Mecchi, Eyefear have found revitalised strength that is particularly showcased in the new songs set for release on their upcoming album. Though still to some extent finding his feet, Mecchi demonstrates that he is more than worthy of the mantle of fronting one of Melbourne’s finest Power Metal bands, and the band’s success will no doubt advance with the new line-up and new material.
Another Melbourne mainstay, melodic Death Metal act Orpheus Omega celebrated the tenth anniversary of the band and their first release, the ‘So it Begins…’ EP, by playing the release in full and with two very special guests. Espionage’s Frosty Morris joined the band on stage in a re-enactment of old times for ‘Common Enemy;’ but even more impressively, the band were re-joined by original keyboardist Sasha Braganca, who played alongside current keyboardist Owen Keswick Gallagher for the entirety of the set. In addition to the full EP, Orpheus Omega also smashed out crowd favourite ‘Beacons;’ the favourite song of beloved late bassist Adam ‘Milky’ Adams, ‘Resillusion;’ and standard set-closer and Wall of Death instigator, ‘Sealed in Fate.’
Closing the night were heavy-hitting Metal veterans Dreadnaught, with a well-earned place at the top of the bill. Greg Trull brings an impressive mix of harshness and clarity to his vocals that few can match, while guitarists Neil Flavelle and Richie Poate deliver a sound that consistently straddles the divide between classic Thrash and classic Death Metal. Another band not to rest on their laurels, with 25 years of activity under their belt, Dreadnaught have yet another album on the way – so as always, watch this space!
It truly is a tribute to the Melbourne Metal scene that a festival of local music like Legions of Steel is not only sustainable, but growing. Seeing Legions move from the tiny but beloved confines of the Bendigo Hotel to the expansive Max Watt’s is a glorious thing, and no doubt everyone who attended the event eagerly awaits the DVD release to re-live the night, and of course the announcement of next year’s edition!
Photos by Dylan Martin.
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