With so many live music venues booming across Melbourne, there isn’t often a shortage of events for punters to get amongst on a weekly basis, and this weekend came as no exception. Saturday night saw Melbourne’s quaint Evelyn Hotel host the last in a string of shows across Victoria for Miazma’s ‘The Abysmal Thought’s’ Tour; a hearty showcase of a mere handful of what this community has on offer. As the decades pass and the inevitable approaches of a time where the pioneers of metal as a genre can no longer be the driving forces in keeping the metal spirit alive, it is a comfort seeing such a plethora of young talented musicians launching themselves onto stages in ode of their influences. The wonderful thing about shows which include a variety of metal styles is the way it allows you to effortlessly stumble upon a new act (or several) in the process of showing support for your favourite bands. I’ve noticed that crowds have made an endearing habit of arriving nice and early to catch the opening acts, regardless of whether or not they are familiar with their music. This was very much prevalent on Saturday night as a decent number of people were already outside the venue, patiently waiting and socializing over drinks before 8:00 pm; a reassuring reminder that Australian live music is showing no signs of dissipating in a thriving local metal scene. The event was originally scheduled for doors to open at 8:00 pm, but ended up being pushed back to 8:30 pm. Attendees were lining up eagerly to get inside as soon as the doors finally opened.

Wasting no time, the first band on the line-up, Melbourne’s Annihilist, instantly set the stage alive, and the fast filling room made haste to follow suit. Opening acts are tasked with warming up the stage and building an undercurrent of an atmosphere which the headliner(s) can build upon, however, Annihilst were one of those bands who manage to skip the ‘warm-up’ process, and throttle straight to full voltage right from the first note. Playing songs from their debut EP Vol. 1, their massive progressive melodeath/new-wave  sound grabbed the audience by the eardrums, effortlessly drawing them to the stage where vocalist Harry Pendock had no trouble holding their attention with a solid grip. Pendock’s energy and stage mannerisms were so captivating that it was difficult at times to shift focus onto individually observing the other band members. He stared directly into the eyes of the audience with expressions ranging from crazed, to enraged and empowered; erratically shifting between an array of movements in accordance with the tempo and tonal shifts throughout their set. For a stage of limited space, it proved as no setback whilst he propelled himself between the floor space and onto the foldbacks repeatedly (at times clutching the ceiling and hanging towards the crowd). During the instrumentally heaviest sections of their songs, he would assume ‘crabcore stance’ and stomp in a stationary sumo-like march, whilst also vigorously shaking his head from side to side; adding his own twist to the standard headbang. Guitarist Miki Simankevicius would also bang his head and whip his hair in unison with Pendock. The band as a whole were visibly injecting all of the energy they could manifest into their performance; if it wasn’t evident from the speed and intensity of their ripping riffs, blasting rhythmic beats and powerfully aggressive vocals, it was surely written on their tired bodies after such an explosive short set. The energy mellowed briefly into a slower, melodic instrumental section, where the crowd were invited to “feel this” and also broke out in chant-like clapping. The crowd were also invited to “check out our beautiful merch, chuck us a like on Facebook, steal our music, share it, spread the love”, and bid farewell with an enthusiastically screamed “thank-you so fucking much!

The stage was left little time to cool off, with Cryptic Abyss soon to follow. I have seen these guys play a few times now, and they always seem to be a crowd favourite, with fans needing no encouragement to flock toward the stage’s edge and headbang in solidarity. The Melbourne-based five-piece metal outfit provide a dynamic assault of groove, thrash and death metal blended to perfection. Not to be outdone by Annihilist’s impressive opening, vocalist Calvin Cobby dived right into shrieking growls in the faces of the crowd, promptly melting them clean off their skulls with the help of pulsating shreds of guitar and frantic pounds of the drums. Cobby thrashed about the stage in his vocal delivery, appearing almost as if he were expelling a sinister entity through his vocal chords. Bassist Kurt Morley alongside guitarists Damon Morley and Nathan Allen kept a consistent pace of headbanging which was met by that of the crowds chaotic whipping and flipping of hair in all directions. Nice and early in the set they thrust out the track ‘Blood on the Nature Strip’ from their debut EP Into The Abyss, before belting out a selection of tracks from their debut album Feed ‘Em To The Sea. Before performing ‘Murder of Crows’, Kurt was finishing a beer, which sparked a bit of friendly banter amongst the band and crowd. Cobby announced “this is Murder of Crows…..in 20 minutes” which was met by an audience member jokingly shouting “today would be nice!”, followed by giggles from the crowd who then went on to encouragingly chant for Kurt to skull (he obliged). As their set peaked, they played the track “Let’s Get Smashed”, which saw Connor O’Keane (Triple Kill/Cyanide Teeth) take hold of the microphone and scream along to the lyrics from within the crowd. This was then repeated, with a handful of audience members chiming in to belt out the line “LET’S GET FUCKED UP!” Things got a little chaotic with Cobby jumping off the stage to conduct a wall of death for ‘Reduced to Bones’, concluding the set on a high note.

Hailing from Brisbane, Eternal Rest took to the stage with their take on technical death metal, all the while maintaining the aggression-filled energy tones which had thus far been projected off of the stage and swarmed across the room. Vocalist Shanon Davern took centre-stage, thrusting and pumping his arms in the direction of his band mates according to the sections of their songs, which gave a fascinating resemblance of orchestral conduction; only more violent and without a baton. Guttural growls and shrill screams filled the air as the room became swept away by hammering thuds of Michael Hunter’s drumming drenched in the layered tones of howling shredding and deep grinding riffs from Jake Kaiser. Anthony Postlethwaite smashed out the bass lines with passion and enthusiastic full body jerks in sync with the rhythm. At one point, Annihilist’s drummer James Sayers thrust himself into the action with a backflip from the stage. It was the first time I had seen or heard Eternal Rest’s music, and given that I was experiencing what they have to offer with fresh eyes, I found myself watching from afar just to take in their firm stage presence.

Next up we had Deadspace from Perth to serve up a satisfying taster of their own brand of black metal, swirled into a gothic concoction of emotive screams and ambient melodies. What really strikes me about this band is the emotional quality of their sound. It’s the most profound essence of the atmosphere they create; it really sucks you in and engulfs you with a sense of dread and suffering that can also be heard in the collective vocal deliveries of Chris Gebauer, Oliver Royer and Shelby Jansen. Jansen’s vocals in particular encapsulate a haunting sense of drowning, but not in an unsettling way; in fact, she seems to present a soothing foundation of comfort, in contrast and amalgamation with Gebauer’s gut-wrenching screams. These elements were further highlighted by the aggressive nature of the vocals from the bands we had seen before them. Instead of focusing on the stage (like I had been during each of the previous acts) I took the opportunity to sit in a dark spot toward the back of the venue in order to really soak in the moody atmosphere they so richly created. I had only recently discovered this band, and the aspects of their sound that I found moving just from listening to their records became simply captivating (even consuming) to experience live. They successfully take the ugliness of pain, and make it beautiful.

Finally, it was time for the headliners to show face. Announcing themselves as Alice Springs, N.T’s own, Miazma vocalist Jackson Smith addressed the crowd in true Aussie spirit, boasting “from the big fuckin’ red rock”, before blasting into relentless vocals that could only be described as nothing short of beastly. Whirring shrieks of Tim Glyde’s and Shaun Howell’s guitars injected a melodic ambience amidst the mayhem and carnage that manifested between Smith’s growling and Malcolm McDonald’s ear-shredding booms and crashes. The light show really served to punctuate the climactic sections of songs, with shifts between erratic white flickering and abrupt momentary cuts to black amidst bursts of red and blue. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t help noticing that the crowd seemed to have dissipated slightly by the end of the night; whilst a shame, this did not detract from the energy exchange between the crowd and stage, nor the colossal effort the entire band put forth from beginning to end. If you were there; you won’t regret it. If you missed it; I extend my condolences.