Photos: Nicole-Smith Walker Photography

Words: Brady Irwin

Descending the steps to the clean, polished depths of 170 Russell Street, this was not your usual opening trickle-in of semi-curious punters. Minutes from the venues’ opening, rabid fans scrambled like rats atop one another to the bars and merch lines, filling the pit up like a sweaty black-shirt bath for openers Primitive. The tangible excitement for what was to come translated into a whooping reception for the young locals, who performed exactly the breed of classic-era-influenced death-thrash metal to whip punters into the right mood. The clean aesthetic of the venue did nothing to detract from the downright nasty fervour and fanaticism projected unto and received by the band. Paying their respects to the vanguard to follow them, it was clear people had returned a sincere, headbanging appreciation for the support act far beyond merely being in the way of the headliners.

With that, following a brief repose for thrash metal fanatics to load up on the moshpit fuel, the ethereal, tribal-acoustic opening of indisputable thrash metal classic Beneath The Remains brought screams and cheers to every corner of the venue. The Man himself Max Cavalera strode to the stage to roar the opening lines to a sea of horns and fist pumps. As the intro peeled away into the iconic super-fast palm-muted riffage, bodies flailed in a swirling mass up-front in a heaving vortex, nearby heads desperately trying to bob frantically with Igor Cavalera’s iconic d-beat thrash pummelling attack.

Roaring the iconic “Who, has won?! Who has died?! Beneath the remains!” as one entity, the murderously feverish collective grin of both crowd and band was palpable as Soulfly guitarist Marc Rizzo ripped and shredded into iconic soloing with effortless ease and pomp, a perfect tribute to Andreas Kisser’s frenetic lead fretwork, never missing a note throughout. Somehow keeping up with all this in a hyperdrive-speed fingerstyle attack was Soulfly bandmate and bassist Mike Leon, who kept in perfect lockstep with the unit, flashing a few solo sections to raucous applause, such as the end of Inner Self. Again, a track received with screams and shouts of every syllable by the ravenous crowd. Our frontman was eager to remind us that “the real Sepultura is here tonight!”, and judging by the energy in the room, that wasn’t an unfair assessment.

Never losing a beat for a second, the kinetic energy only intensified as the band stampeded through Stronger Than Hate, and a very heavily Brazilian-accented Mass Hypnosis (“Mass heap-nosis!”). Screaming at the crowd to “Jump! Jump!”, “Raise your horns!”, Max’s assessment of Melbourne was a place that hadn’t lost any metallic integrity since the early days, imploring us “to go fucking apeshit” throughout the setlist. Gen X-ers, Baby Boomers and doe-eyed millennials among the crowd constantly had fists raised, necks swivelling as though on fishing line and screaming, shouting and chanting every word. From Slaves of Pain and Primitive Future, through to the roaring reception of ‘Arise’ favourites such as the title track, Dead Embryonic Cells (Max’s “favourite on the album”), Altered State and Infected Voice, the band put some interesting flourishes on their hits, such as an extended breakdown in the latter song, and a call by Max to “Turn the lights off! Turn that shit off!” and get lighters and smartphones ready. A complicit audience pretty much floodlit the place to his request, not long before launching into a furious, rocking rendition of Motorhead’s Orgasmotron. An innocent bystander would sworn they’d have stepped into a Viking mead hall with the amount of fist pumps, gang chants and vocalisations of riffs across the room tonight.

Thinking the set was almost done, some punters began to turn and about face, but not before a rabid chant of “SE-PUL-TURA” brought the lads onstage for an absolutely petrifying rendition of hypersonic thrash belter Troops of Doom (yours truly was sucked into the mosh vortex for this one and is surprised to have returned alive) and a heartfelt speech and ode to Bon Scott and AC/DC with an intensified, scream-laden, sped-up ‘Dirty Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap’. As if things hadn’t already touched the best parts of their discography, and as if two encores weren’t enough (“You get more if you scream for me!”) the band seared through a planet-sized Refuse-Resist, wrapping things up in a medley of Beneath The Remains/Arise/Dead Embryonic Cells before closing out in truly sincere gratitude to our city, our country and the metal community.

Few had doubts that tonight would be an iconic event and tonight Max, Igor and friends delivered upon that and so much more. Minstrels of the thrash metal faith will be singing the praises and memory of this night for eons to come.

Be sure to check this iconic thrash metal event – tickets available here!