Photos: Mark Hoffman
Words: Bec Helvete
It’s so cold you can see your own breath, yet there is still a line outside the venue. Dedicated fans excitedly wait for the door to open to this sold out show. People have waited months for this and the excitement is palpable, such is the draw of Metal Church. An American four-piece known for their old school brand of heavy/thrash metal, they formed in San Francisco in 1980. They quickly became known for their “tight musicianship” and soaring vocal sound. They have remained popular over the decades and have recently released a new album, ‘Damned If You Do’. This is their first Australian tour, and fans new and old are keen to finally see the band perform live. The crowd that starts to fill the venue is a mix of young and old, all attracted by the timeless sound of true, powerful metal. People are already discussing which songs they would like to hear and the merch moves quickly. The excitement is heightened by rumours that the previous night’s show was amazing. The front of the stage is already crowded as the lights dim for the opening band.
Desecrator are a well-known Melbourne band with an international touring pedigree and solid fan base in their own right. Many in the crowd are familiar with this four-piece thrash outfit, and excited to see them again. The band members take the stage, full of energy, and launch into some blistering thrash riffs. Frontman Riley Strong instantly owns the stage like a second home, his soaring vocals nailing every lyric. The band put on a show worthy of a stadium yet keep it intimate by interacting with the crowd in a genuine and familiar way. Drummer Jared Roberts and bassist Gerard Biesboer never miss a beat or a note; the thundering tempo of each song pulsing through the room. Thrash wouldn’t be what it is without blistering guitar solos and lead guitarist Andrew Hudson delivers in spades, thrilling the crowd. The band’s set is tight and expert, really showcasing the dedication and talent that drives Desecrator. Yet the band have a fun, high energy manner on stage that completely wins over the room. As Strong encourages everyone to clap along, he holds the crowd in the palm of his hand. As they finish, they receive applause worthy of a headlining act, and deservedly so. They have truly set a high standard for the evening.
Spirits are high in the now packed out venue. As the lights dim again, a roar ripples through the throng. Many here have waited decades for this moment. And finally, the moment has arrived. The curtain parts and the members of Metal Church walk out to deafening cheers. They immediately launch into the title song off of their new album ‘Damned If You Do’. What follows is one of the most amazing shows played in Melbourne this year. A fierce assault of thundering blast beats and rolling toms hit the crowd courtesy of drummer Stet Howland (ex WASP) who also proves to be a bit of a showman, often standing as he plays to better interact with the audience. Founding member Kurdt Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt peel off riff after fiery riff on the guitars with expert precision. They pour their energy into each tune, each lick intricate and powerful. The drive and force behind each song thrums through the bass of Bobby Ferkovich (Presto Ballet), who is clearly enjoying every moment thoroughly, as he interacts with a grateful front row crowd. Of course, no performance is complete without the vocals. Soaring and intense, vocalist Mike Howe brings it. He brings something different to each song, his piercing tones give life to the lyrics in a way that has set him apart from his peers. His performance is near perfect as is his energetic stage manner.
The set is full of well-known songs the crowd enthusiastically sings along to. The band mix up old classics with new tunes keeping the set interesting and fresh. It’s obvious the band members have not lost their enthusiasm for playing live as they feed into the energy of the crowd. Each member throws themselves into each song and keeps us all on our toes. Throughout the set the crowd goes wild. The band is on fire and we can’t get enough. As the set draws to a close, we beg for more. Metal Church oblige with genuine smiles. Sadly, all good things must come to an end. The band add a personal touch by leaning into the crowd to shake hands and add a personal touch many will treasure. Honestly, this is how a gig should be. It ticked all the boxes and left an elated crowd. We waited over 30 years for tonight. It was worth the wait. Satisfying doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Tickets to the Sydney and Brisbane shows can be purchased here.