Sheltering from the fog-laden chills of a very crisp winter evening outside, the thirsty line of punters tracing the pool table in the Bendigo Hotel‘s outer sanctum were a small but eager following, one that would build through the night for what was a marathon Death Metal spectacle.

Imbibing early, pint-holding punters were saluted in kind by raucous local Death Metal unit Contaminated. These openers were a great reflection on the headliners’ musical interplay between Doomy and frantic ends of the spectrum. Forcing slowed, crawling, distortion-drenched passages between fast and hammering old school D-beat riffs, early-birds were treated to a head-bangingly enthusiastic opening set. Having just released an absolutely nasty split with Kutabare, the openers infected the venue with just the right amount of fresh Death Metal stank to get really get the senses warmed up.

Following up much in kind were fellow locals Ignivimous. Propelling a guttural low that basically nestled along the same subsonic frequency as the kick drum and bass, the vocals immediately earned a proverbial-eating-grin cheer response from the gleeful crowd. With some rolls and blasts that felt like they’d make the kit spin into propelled orbit, the frenetic pace, Morbid Angel-inspired use of tremolo and jangling dissonant chords paired well with old-school head-nodding breakdowns. The sample of new titular track Circle of Sighs got everyone particularly rowdy, having waited patiently for delicious, venom-steeped material from these guys for some time.

By this stage, the crowd was thickening like gravy. Battle jackets and iron patches jostling past one another, the buzz of activity was picking up pace. Packing in like sardines, those prone to claustrophobia may well have run out screaming during the stifling, cavernous overtures of Death Metallers Inverloch. Sporting a much more expansive and unsettling sound that hearkens more to Barren Altar or other nausea-inducing Death-Doom acts, the shrill rasps and piercing screeches of vocals held over long measures of droning, doom-laden riffs. Just when it felt the pace was dropping off to comatose, the band would whip back into blast territory, throwing tremolo riffs out in a neck-swivelling barrage. Slower in pace but no less extreme, the band had many audience members transfixed for their hypnotising set.

Changing flavour yet again (boy, do Incantation know how to put on a good spread!), Brazilians Nervo Chaos opened with a fairly measured intro with Necroccult, a deceptive mid-paced head-banger that gave little notice of the tearing Death-Thrash assault that was to be the remainder of their set. In thick accents, imploring us to “Get fucking moving!” the band were all grins and expressive movement as the crowd acquiesced into the first set of moshpits for the evening. Peddling the solo-heavy, constant-tempo blend of Death and Yhrash you’d see from acts such as Dew-Scented, the band launched through a bunch of new and old material, heads of the audience barely able to move with enough stamina to keep with the unrelenting tempo. Horror movie samples, huge breakdowns and histrionic solos were about the only breaks in the speedy up-tempo assault, and it was in these pauses the crowd riotously roared and cheered in appreciation for these frenetic heathens, proclaiming that, “God is dead – Pazuzu is here!” in between neck-breaking numbers.

Having been suitably raised in adrenaline, cortisol and blood pressure, the collective hindbrain of the Bendigo was ready to go full mammalian on fellow Brazilian legends Krisiun, who responded in kind after a brief acoustic intro. The unmistakable, military-styled, roll and tumble clatter of incredibly tight drummer Max Kolesne was locked perfectly in place by the gravity of bassist/vocalist Alex Camargo, allowing his guttural grunts and roars to soar alongside the blazing riffage and whammy-bar-injected soloing of guitarist Moyses Kolesne. Proclaiming that, “We’re going to play hard and fast, and we hope you’re ready!” to the eager crowd, he was wrong on neither count. A boisterous circle of beer-soaked bodies flung at one another whilst the outer rings of the pit stood in disbelief at the absolute speed, fury and technicality these Brazilian veterans pulled off with wild fury. From the almost unbelievable pace of Scourge of the Enthroned to Combustion Infernal and even a dedication to Lemmy Kilmister with an Ace of Spades cover, the band were repeatedly showing their gratitude for us “Metal brothers and sisters,” with many thanks and cheers, and most importantly, a set that bordered on breaking the sound barrier the entire time. Not even the breakdown riffs or solos were safe from the breakneck pace, demonstrating a band still in their prime some 29 years into the game. Abject disbelief, hooting and hollering seemed to be the only way us Melbournites were able to receive such a blistering set. Next level.

By this stage, it was worth pondering if the legs could hold up, if the neck was really ready for what the brain knew was coming. Turns out none of that mattered as New York Death Metal veterans and headliners Incantation hopped to the stage and somehow upped the ante another notch further. Yours truly is not even sure how – watching the violently epic Christening the Afterbirth just felt too professional, too dense, too meticulously crafted to be real or human. Vocalist John McEntee demonstrated a human side to this mechanically faultless machine before us, imploring us further and further into the mosh, proclaiming his love for the bands before them and vying for our passion. We responded in kind with a flurry of fists, banging heads and writhing bodies, equally kinetic to the hyperspeed assaults of more ruthless numbers as we were to the almost frightening pace of Doomy, Sludge-laden pieces. Across the discography, from Golgotha to Lux Sepulcri and others both new and old, the inhuman rhythmic duo of Chuck Sherwood on bass and the ridiculous Frank Schilperoort on drums ducked and weaved between a world of blasts, drones, flurries, rolls and breakdowns. Yours truly wasn’t sure if anyone could outpace Krisiun, but it was managed. The spider-web fretwork of the very talented and tasteful leads and solos of Sonny Lombardozzi were the icing on a diverse Death Metal platter, providing shredding, tremolo, riffs and leads across the board. With a few reserved patrons through the rest of the evening, there was nary a still head or body in sight as the fury of these vanguard headliners was inescapably infectious.

Closing out with a set that started later than what most would aim for, and on a bill that had already decimated the venue prior, the energetic, expletive-loving and super-thankful act closed out the night with more intensity than whence we had started. A gobsmacked audience spilled out onto the street, walking through the mild fog in Collingwood in a Death Metal-induced trance after witnessing what true veterans can bring to the stage.

You can grab tickets to the various other tour dates for Incantation, Krisiun, Nervo Chaos and friends HERE!