Last night the locals of Bendigo gathered to brave the cold at the MusicMan Megastore for The Ascended’s third in a string of shows for their The Endless Winter tour cycle. They had previously held shows at The Loft in their hometown Warnambool on the 16th of June, and at The Reverence Hotel in Footscray on the 17th of June. The tour is in support of their recent single titled “Strike of the Monarch” for which the band released their first ever official lyric video on the 21st of June. The single will be available for download from the 5th of July via the band’s Bandcamp page. It should be noted that Vulture Culture were initially on the line up for the night, however for unclear reasons they unfortunately didn’t end up performing.
Doors opened at 8pm, allowing the early bird punters to get settled and warm up with a few pre-show beverages. Before long it was time for local thrash metal act Callous to hit the stage. They were met by a dozen or so keen punters who got into the swing of things nice and close to the stage front. I had not previously seen or heard of these guys before, but they seemed to have gained themselves a small yet enthusiastic following, with a number of the bands t-shirts being seen in the crowd. After a fast-paced opening track, vocalist Leigh Armstrong opened the set with the introduction “for those of you who don’t know, we are Callous and you are not”. He then quickly moved into the next track, sarcastically announcing “this song is called ‘Face Rape’, because we are a bunch of caring fellas” (make of that what you will). The track was full of harsh, gruff vocals met by deep, speedy beats and ripping shreds true to classic thrash sound, and this remained consistent throughout their set. Keeping up with the crowd interactions, Armstrong went on to joke that they were going to play a game, which saw a member of the crowd shout out “hide the sausage” to which he replied “hide the sausage, you said it…” The band had intended to give away free shirts but upon the realization that the shirts had been forgotten, they substituted with the offer of “the wildest cunt gets a handful of stickers”. They then played their track “Lust 4 Blood”, which was a crowd favourite seeing fans headbanging and thrashing about, and also one of the logos that was being sported on shirts throughout the venue. There was a bit of banter between Armstrong and guitarist Matt Tresize, with the crowd being told that “the next song is about this cunt getting into trouble”, which sparked a bit of laughter. Staying true to their ‘callous’ image, a final track titled “Butt Hurt” was announced as being “about the faggots of the metal scene”. Needless to say; Callous are not for the easily offended!
Next in line we had The Motion Below hitting the stage, causing more punters to head toward the front. The Melbourne based 5-piece delivered a bold blend of post-hardcore and metalcore; consisting of hearty melody and fierce breakdowns in equal measure, which was complimented by the band’s lively and charismatic stage presence. I had unfortunately also not previously seen these guys play before, but it quickly became evident that these lads are a promising up-and-coming addition to Australian core, already having garnered themselves a tight sound and fresh youthful energy; one which could easily fill the shoes of a supporting slot to the likes of The Amity Affliction. In other words, they possess great potential! They played the title track from their debut EP “Reform/Converge” which vocalist Thomas Katgert announced to the crowd as being available for free listening via Spotify. The crowd livened up the room with energetic and boisterous hardcore and slam dance moves between headbanging and even a solid windmill here and there. Katgert’s had a humble and light-hearted demeanour throughout their set, which the crowd was very receptive to. He jokingly stated “welcome to Bendigo, people are actually paying attention to us!” They pounded into another track called “Wasted Years” which the crowd were informed was “sad shit”. It began with slow sombre guitar strumming, before thrusting right into heartfelt screams. Guitarist and clean vocalist Ryan Matheson alongside Tyler Goodwin (guitar) and Lachlan Avery-Sproul (bass) would periodically break into bursts of fly-kicking and stomping, at times in synchronized circular motions, with epic momentum that only further brought hype among the crowd. Matheson’s vocal performance was consistently beautiful and melodic, and impressively technically accurate. Watching both Matheson and Katgert harmonize their contrasting vocals was quite gripping; they delivered every note with extreme passion and incredible conviction. They were soon joined onstage by Matt Wale from The Ascended, for “Bendigo’s version of Singstar” a surprise cover of Killswitch Engage’s “My Curse”, which they delivered with impressive accuracy, and intensity to match. The triple harmonization between the raptor-like screams of Wale with Katgert’s growls and Matheson’s high notes was outstanding. There was a strong sense of comradery prevalent during the collaboration. The band then went on to perform a couple more tracks from their EP, including “Empty Head, Empty Heart”. Katgert invited the audience to join them for a final breakdown which invoked stomping throughout the crowd, to which the band showed their gratitude with a joking farewell “thanks for being the biggest mosh pit we’ve had, with a total of like 4 people”.
Next it was time for the band of the hour to step up to the plate. The Ascended left no room for the crowd to simmer down, kicking of their set with the track “The Priestess” from their Part II EP. Wale repeatedly invited the crowd to bang their heads, though they needed little encouragement. I noticed that the members of The Motion Below had made a point of positioning themselves front and centre to the stage in support; furthering the sense of comradery between the two bands. At one point guitarist Corey Verhaegh leaned down toward a couple of crowd members and motioned the slashing of his own throat, maintaining intense contact with said crowd members the whole time. Matheson from The Motion Below also momentarily jumped on stage and grabbed the mic that was situated in front of bassist Braden Dawson. I’d like to mention that Dawson’s bass was rigged up with some epic fluorescent orange strings which seemed to light up; something I’ve personally not seen before. They served really well to catch the eye and draw your attention further to the stage, and furthermore Dawson’s bass playing. Wale also showed a deep appreciation for the crowd, at one point drawing attention to a group of ladies that were “going off” and encouragingly telling them they were doing a good job. This was followed by further praise of the crowd in general, with Wale expressing that their efforts were “fucking beautiful” and that they had beaten the crowds from Warnambool and Melbourne. They went on to play the anthemic track “The Gods Of Flame” seeing the band further manifest a fierce assault of thrash and groove, with all the might they could muster. Fog machines over the drum kit added to the atmosphere, more-so due to the venues doors being open and allowing for the nights harsh chill to create a natural mist onstage. Wale took a humble moment for a “shameless plug” noting that they would be driving back until 5am and would appreciate any merch sales from the night, which they just so happened to reduce to half price; meaning the Part II EP’s were a mere $2, double EP’s were $5 and shirts were $10. It was pleasing to see people flocking to the sales table post-set to snatch up the bargains. They concluded their set with their latest single “Strike of the Monarch”, followed by “To War” and an invitation to have a chat afterward.
Last, but by no means least, the crowd were treated to a dynamic set by local group Die in a Dream. Unfortunately by this time the crowd seemed to have dissipated (possibly due to how cold it had become), which is a real shame since those who braved the weather to stick around were rewarded with their beautiful ambient take on melodic progressive heavy rock. Their vibrant and distinct sound was composed of rich juxtapositions between soft and heavy, light and dark, pain and bliss. Heavy vocal styles of screaming and the like can largely be harsh, aggressive and intimidating in nature and tone, but outstandingly Tim Grey triumphantly delivered melodic undertones throughout his entire vocal range. His ability to sustain notes was exceptional, and ridiculously impressive. Grey’s stage presence was gripping, almost infatuating in the sense that the amount of emotion he exerted into his performance was impossible to look away from. He delivered every word with intense passion, and he seemed to lose himself in a ‘zone’ where he kept his eyes closed for the most part, meaning his attention was 100% on the emotions he was conveying. He was quite disciplined in his concentration, only briefly addressing the crowd at times; namely to joke that they were ‘balls deep in Bendigo’. It could be said that Bendigo was ‘balls deep’ in their infectious sound. At times his hands would vigorously tremble whilst he tenderly cupped the mic or held his palm out in the air, transitioning into soulful crouching and bending over screaming intensely toward the ground, followed by slumping to the ground, essentially wiping the stage with his worn out self. The ambience of the guitars completed the richness in the layers of their sound.
This was the kind of small show I’d refer to as a hidden gem. Once again I am left in awe at the immense talent we have lurking amidst our local metal scene. If you weren’t there, you missed something profound.
Get yourself down to one of the remaining shows listed below:
July 7th The Barwon Club, Geelong
July 8th BANG!, Melbourne
July 22nd Enigma Bar, Adelaide