Live Review: Soundwave Festival, Melbourne – 1st March 2013

Review by Billy Geary
Soundwave. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Where, for two weeks rock fans across the country come out of the woodwork to celebrate all things heavy, following one of Australia’s biggest travelling music festivals around the country. Due to it being the festival’s 10-year anniversary, the line up for this edition was as big as it gets, featuring giants of many different genres of heavy music. Add to this a monumental amount of ticket sales and the usual assortment of controversies in the festival’s lead up and the result is an absolute behemoth of a day.

Upon arriving at Flemington, the decision to head to the main stage first thing on Friday proved to be quite astute. Japan’s Crossfaith were somewhat of an unknown quantity coming into Soundwave, however a couple of songs was all that was required to fire the early birds up and engage party mode. With song names like ‘Jagerbomb’ and ‘Leviathan,’ one can quickly deduce what a Crossfaith set is like – one giant party, complete with heavy breakdowns and huge dub step drops. What a way to start the day.

One of the surprise packages of the day were Sydney’s Northlane, whose atmosphere filled metalcore was clearly a popular pick early in the day. Judging by how big the crowd is and the quality of tracks like ‘Quantum Flux’ and ‘Worldeater,’ the band are well on the way to making an impact in the Australian heavy music scene. At the other end of the spectrum Sharks are busy peddling their upbeat rock to a small gathering of fans. The small crowd doesn’t seem to faze them, with the four members working the stage very well. Drawing similarities to The Gaslight Anthem, it’s easy to see why they were added to the Soundwave bill.

Continuing the heavy trend were Baltimore progressive metal titans Periphery, who are proving to be one of the more popular bands on the Soundwave tour. With ferocious vocals mixed with technical noodling and down tuned chugging, the sextet had the crowd forming a circle pit one moment and staring on in amazement the next. Opener ‘Ragnarok’ went down supremely well, whilst the moshing to closer ‘Icarus Lives!’ literally made the ground shake.

Back at Stage 6, British punk outfit Gallows are thoroughly entertaining a strong gathering, including a wheelchair bound gentleman who had impressively found himself surfing the pulsing crowd. New vocalist Wade MacNeil’s gravel laden voice booms through the tent as the punters roar back at every chance they can get. It’ a high energy set from one of the best young punk bands in music today.

Fellow punks Billy Talent had just begun their set as Gallows were finishing up, wasting no time in attempting to energise a slightly subdued crowd. ‘Devil in a Midnight Mass’ and ‘Line & Sinker’ proved to be early gems, whilst closer ‘Red Flag’ saw both vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz and the punters at their best, feeding off each other’s energy. After playing huge shows in Australia only months ago, it was again clear the Canadians resonate with the Australian audience.

Since reforming, there’s been an air of discontent regarding A Perfect Circle, centred mainly on their set list and playing too many cover songs. ‘Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of a War Drum’ proved to be one of the most intense moments of the day, whilst cathartic renditions of ‘The Noose’ and ‘The Outsider’ had the large crowd in raptures. Whilst lacking the usual atmosphere (a consequence of playing a mid-afternoon slot), A Perfect Circle delivered the perfect return set filled with classics. One can only hope they return for a headline tour in the near future.

Another band returning to Australia for the first time in years were seminal pop punkers Blink-182. Despite lacking the energy of other bands, Blink did an outstanding job of transporting punters back to the 90’s, with added dick jokes. Their set was a smorgasbord of sing-alongs, in particular ‘What’s My Age Again’ and ‘All The Small Things.’ As their set progressed, it became clear that there was something lacking in their performance (other than a certain drummer). The tracks appeared to lack a bit of spark and, while entertaining, the band’s performance failed to stand out from other sets played on Friday. So much so that it could have been just another cover band playing at the local pub on a Saturday night.

First of all, it’s important to note that Linkin Park are a well oiled machine when it comes to touring. This means that every member knows exactly how to work the crowd and move around the stage, but also at times their performance can appear mechanical. As Chester Bennington screamed his heart out during ‘A Place For My Head’ and ‘Papercut’ with every bit of passion he had when the tracks were recorded in 2000, the realisation quickly came that this was what Blink were missing – some passion. For the entirety of their set, Linkin Park had the huge crowd eating out of their hand, drawing on tracks across all five albums. The only real lulls came during airings of their newer tracks, which, while strong in their own right, lack the tenacity of their older material. Finishing with the popular, yet predictable ‘Faint’ and ‘One Step Closer,’ Linkin Park showed exactly why they remain one of the worlds biggest rock bands.

After keeping the very large crowd waiting, Metallica finally made their way on stage. However you feel about their music, watching Metallica play live is an utter spectacle. The myriad of video screens and ramps throughout the stage only added to the extravagant production. However, the band didn’t let all the bells and whistles of the production distract from what they actually are; talented musicians who, despite their age, are out there still having fun. As they rolled through the classics (e.g. ‘Master of Puppets,’ ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Seek and Destroy’), the crowd lapped up every bit of it, enjoying the band’s emphatic return to Melbourne.

Meanwhile, over at Stage 2 Paramore were leading hordes of a vastly younger crowd in sing-along after sing-along. Led by pocket rocket Hayley Williams, the band were drowned out by the chorus of teenaged girls throughout tracks like ‘Ignorance’ and ‘Misery Business,’ even inviting one lucky fan on stage for the latter song.

Wrapping up the night for those that wanted an alternative to Metallica was Canadian pop punk band The Offspring. Not for the first time over the course of the day, the sizable gathering of fans was transported back to the nineties as the band reminded us that songs like ‘Pretty Fly For a White Guy’ and ‘Spare Me The Details’ still existed. Not to mention, they remained incredibly fun to listen to.

Thus, as exhausted bodies piled into waiting trains and trams, yet another Soundwave Festival was completed. Looking at the satisfied smiles on the punters faces as they left the Racecourse, it had indeed been another resounding success. Given this year was the festival’s 10th anniversary, it’s unlikely we’ll receive a lineup of this quality for few years yet, but you can bank on AJ Maddah and Co. continuing to deliver a fantastically run festival no matter who’s playing.

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Photos! Metallica @ Soundwave Festival – Brisbane

Photos! Soundwave Festival 2013 – Brisbane