Sunday, 4 March 2012

Soundwave Brisbane Review

A week late and I’ve finally decided to do a Soundwave review. I’d love to say the reason for this non-punctuality was due to an existential crisis which saw me attempting unsuccessfully to rear a clutch of misplaced chicks, evidentially deciding that being a chicken is easier than university; less interestingly I’ve simply been settling into college, and avoiding my un-air-conditioned room like the plague. A word of warning, this is still a hobby blog, so for those expecting a more professional, well-written and concise account – Google is your friend.

After battling crowds of black shirted bandits through public transport, and settling into a viscous line which stretched nearly, but not entirely, the distance to Ipswich, we eventually made it into the RNA showgrounds as the first band began to play on stage 1. With a metal-intensive line-up filled with an almost unprecedented level of quality, we made our way immediately to the metal stage, where Finnish Folk metal legends Turisas were scheduled to begin. Unfortunately, after an increasingly impatient 15 minutes, their banner was torn down and reset for The Black Dahlia Murder, leaving my nascent, but deniably lifelong desire to see red-painted, pelt-clad Finns performing metal-violin dashed. The second band for the day Chimaira launched immediately into their set - a crushing performance that made up partially for the Finnish absence, and which set the bar high for the day.

We set up camp near the trees, avoiding most of the heat of the day, and the fickle set of showers that began shortly into Black Dahlia’s performance. I was introduced to Black Dahlia a few months ago by a friend, and I was impressed by their set – it motivated a strong response despite the crowds that flocked undercover, or threw on wizard-esc rain ponchos. I’d left mine behind after deciding to give the few optimistic rays of sunshine in the morning the benefit of doubt. Next on the line-up was Times of Grace – they delivered a great performance, and I made a mental note to look into them later.

There comes a point in any concert where you realise that “Yes, this was worth the exorbitant amount I paid to get here.” For me, that moment came about thirty seconds into Gojira’s stellar performance. The French metal band in their debut tour of Australia were always going to be one of the highlights of the day, but their heavy, melody driven set – laden with intricate, crushing drums and unrelentingly dark guitars was a complete strand-out. Tinged with touches of levity and humour (“This is a song. About whales. Flying in space.”) the crowd reacted to it impressively, at this point being soaked to the bone (I was among them, venturing out of cover for the French metalists).

We headed over to the main stage for Lostprophets. I don’t know much about the Welsh rockers, so I can’t say much except that the crowd loved them, and my friend was thrilled. It was a welcome break from the metal stage, and I enjoyed it. We stayed at the main stage for most of Alter Bridge, leaving shortly before the end for Meshuggah, but not before making another mental note to look them up further.

Meshuggah occupy an interesting place in the metal world. Deeply unique and influential, the band stretches from dissonant riffs to jazz influences, syncopated and complex drum patterns coalescing to a brutally atonal style of metal. Their set was comprised mainly of songs from the album Obzen, along with the crowd favourite New Millennium Cyanide Christ and a preview track from their new album Breaks Those Bones Whose Sinews Give It Motion which deserves recognition, if only for the length of the song title. Overall, they delivered a brutal, memorable set and were one of my favourite performances of the day.

My thoughts for In Flames can be summed up neatly: Caught in a Mosh. After Meshuggah, my friends decided to check out the mosh pit. Now, some people are simply born to mosh – fitting a full 120lbs into a skeletal 6ft frame, this is arguably the last thing I was designed to do. I’ve been in a few moshes before, however this was undoubtedly the most intense, and possibly dangerous, with more than a few people body-slammed into the ground. After a few songs, I moved back to a more comfortable distance, and enjoyed the rest of the set.

I made my way over to Trivium. They performed a tight set showcasing their new album ‘In Flames’, along with fan favourites from ‘Ascendency’ and ‘Shogun’. I had seen them before in their concert with Disturbed last year, and they actually seemed more at home in the festival setting. The crowd were drawn Like Light to the Flies - the response was exuberant and massive. Mastodon was next on the agenda, and my dream of finally seeing Crystal Skull performed live was fulfilled. Despite being one of the few bands that sound better on album (an intricate, effect driven style slightly drowned by the bass), it was a solid performance that left my life slightly less incomplete.

We caught the end of Limb Bizkit on main stage, who gave their performance in tribute to Jessica Michalik. We were situated under the feet of a middle aged couple on the grandstand – crouched and uncomfortable, but still a better view than the swirling maelstrom of the crowds. A gap eventually opened up, and we managed to grab a pair of seats before Marilyn Manson opened. I’ve read a few reviews criticising Mason’s performance – for me, it’s an unfair assessment. Festival concerts gain their longevity from two things: the actual performed music, and the spectacle endemic to these events. In this Manson is incomparable – clipped calls of ‘Who is on nar-co-tics? Find the person with nar-co-tics,’ the staggered demeanour, ‘Cheer for dicks – if you have a dick, or if you like dick, cheer for dicks. Ah! We have some eunuchs here,’ all succeeded in putting the audience on edge, uncomfortable and silent, but viscerally enduring. From the screams of pure delight that emanated from the crowd on the first few bars of The Beautiful People, I’d say that Manson succeed on both fronts, delivering perhaps the most memorable performance of the day.

We stayed at the main stage for the headline acts. I’m not a Slipknot fan, so bear with me. They undeniably had one of the strongest stage-shows of any band on the line-up, filled with pyrotechnics, masquerade antics and animatronic insanity. They were also masters of crowd manipulation, convincing the full stadium to fall to their knees – it looked incredible from the grandstands. If you were a fan of Slipknot, it would probably have been one of the concert’s highlights. For me, the 90 minute set dragged on slightly, and I would have been happy with a set half as long.

The final act of the day System Of A Down were nothing short of incredible. Entering from behind a dropping banner to the opening chords of Prison Song, they delivered a consistent, powerful set – delivering on their position as the concert’s premier entertainers. While the stage antics were kept to a minimum, each song was imbued with comedy and performance; political commentary and polemic. ‘I buy my crack, my smack, my bitch – right here in Hollywooood.’ It was a fitting end to a complete and satisfying Soundwave; the bar raised high for next year’s iteration.

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