Overdrive Music Magazine

Live Gig Review: Amped Festival, Cherry Bar, Melbourne, July 15th 2017

With many thanks to Dave ‘Higgo’ Higgins, it is with great pleasure that I bring to you the details of the newfound Australian metal extravaganza that is Amped Festival. 17 bands, 12 hours of insanity; Melbourne’s own Cherry Bar had the honours of hosting the mayhem which took place this past Saturday. Given Cherry Bar’s capacity of a few hundred, it goes without saying that for such an event to debut as a sold out show is a glorious and promising feat! As many of you will know, Higgo has been a backbone to the local heavy music scene with his years of relentless support and promotion for a vast array of the musicians who have poured their heart and soul into the craft. The ever-present kinship, gratitude and mutual respect expressed throughout the night really spoke for itself; and so it was awesome to see so many punters getting behind Higgo’s latest endeavour. Unfortunately due to a loss of artwork, there was no event merchandise on sale; however there was by no means a shortage on goods, with a solid rotation of the bands’ merchandise flowing through the sales table in accordance with the line-up. Raffle tickets were also being sold for $5 each over the course of the evening, with one lucky punter receiving the prize of $250 worth of vinyls; including albums from Slayer, Pantera, Slipknot, Twisted Sister and Mercyful Fate.

Those who got down for a nice and early 12:15pm start were met with an opening performance by Brisbane’s Dead Yet?; a four-piece heavy music fusion of punk/thrash riffs and drum beats met with hardcore/hard rock vocals. They delivered an energetic set of tracks from their debut album “The Cities Child”.

They were soon followed by Adelaide’s Headbore at 12:55pm, bringing the stage to a steady warmth with their melodic shifts in groove-infused death and thrash riffs and beats, laden with hard-hitting scream and growl variations. At times the tones present in riffs reminded me somewhat of Trivium, and vocalist Adam Fischer’s stage presence bared a similar essence to that of Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe. Upon conclusion of their set and final track “Enemy”, Higgo joked that the event was running a little ahead of time, which is “unusual for metal bands”.

Taking us through to mid-afternoon were Melbourne locals The Nuremberg Code at 1:35pm, serving up a further dose of groove infused metal; wrapped in their own tailored concoction of abstract synth melodies, and a hint of nu-metal in Colton’s vocal styles. He is very energetic in his performing, erratically jumping about the stage whilst screaming, and on top of large amp at one point. They performed tracks such as “Where Are We Now” and “A Town”, with a highlight of their set being a short heavy rendition of “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd.

2:15pm brought the local melodic heavy metal powerhouse Kill:Death:Ratio to the stage. They introduced themselves as “all having vaginas compared to the other bands”, but jokes aside, such a remark only served to downplay the quality of their sound. Their set included the tracks “Open Up the Screen”, “The Distraction Plague”, “As the Vulture Stares” as well as a new track “Reclamation” which had only been released this week. Despite some technical difficulties with the kit (which was not his own), Luke Burnham soldiered on through the set like a champion. During these difficulties vocalist Riccardo Mecchi sparked an impromptu cover of Dio’s Holy Diver, which was a fitting choice since Mecchi’s voice instantly struck me as impressively similar to that of Dio.

Next was Se Bon Ki Ra at 2:55pm for a fierce taste of the metal we have coming out of Adelaide at present. Once again some stellar comparative artists came to mind as I took in the performance, such as In Flames, Lamb of God, and even hints of Cog; not only instrumentally, but combine the voices of Anders Friden, Randy Blythe and Flynn Gower, and you’ve got Chad Cosgrove. This is a testament to the talent lurking amidst Australia’s up-and-coming metal acts. Their set included tracks such as “All You Can Be”, “This Life I create” and “Shades of Hate” which ended with a toast of raised glasses between Cosgrove and the crowd (which by this point had begun to fill nicely).

Stepping back into some local metal we had Decimatus at 3:35pm, bursting onstage with the request “Cherry, let’s fuck some shit up!” It didn’t take long for their shred-heavy grooves to work their infectious charm on the crowd, which really started to come alive with pit activity. They had an effortless way of sparking the kind of headbanging you just have to thrust your whole body into, not to mention the chanting. With tracks such as “One Foot in the Grave”, “The Betrayer” and “Decimate” it’s easy to see why. Prior to their set, Higgo had taken a moment to note that it would be the bands last performance with vocalist Tommy Jennings. Jennings expressed pride and gratitude for being included in Amped. Whilst unfortunate news since he adds such a fire to the bands stage presence, their performance was one of the most energetic and charismatic of the night and it’s sure to be a departure on a high note.

4:15pm saw Adelaide’s in-your-face metallers Alkira checked off of the roll call with their blend of punk attitude and metal onslaught of hard, fast and loud riffs to bang your heads to, which the crowd were repeatedly encouraged to do (not that they needed it!) Their sound is as diverse as it is well-rounded, allowing for something to be enjoyed by everyone. They played tracks off of their latest release ‘Klotho’ such as “A Thalidomide Child”, as well as fan favourite “Hell’s March” from their first EP release ‘Red Devil’. Their set concluded with the bold statement “let’s get drunk and shit on a wall…we are Alkira, thank you motherfuckers!”

Moving into the evening at 4:55pm, locals Envenomed infected the stage (and entire venue) with their charismatic and fun-loving energetic melodic thrash anthems. They got the party going, proving to be a crowd favourite of the event. Chants repeatedly broke out in the pit with fists and horns thrust into the air with enthusiasm. They played songs from their debut album ‘Evil Unseen’, including the title track, followed by “Will of Man”, as well as “Disobey the Beast” and “Within Me”, and at a point humorously singing about burning lasagne (much to the crowd’s amusement). The title track from their second album ‘Reckoning’ also made an appearance, but the “moment we’d all been waiting for” was their cover of “Horror Movie” by Skyhooks’ and absolute banger that had punters grinning and busting out the lyrics.

Adelaide reclaimed the stage at 5:35pm with three-piece thrashersHidden Intent. Chris McEwen promptly announced that it was “time to party” before wasting no time as they pumped through tracks such as “Walk Through Hell”, “Eternal Rest”, “Apocalypse Now” as well as a new track “Pray For Your Death” from their upcoming album. McEwen requested for the crowd to throw up their horns all the way to the back of the venue, to which many punters happily and repeatedly obliged. At one point they broke into a smashing deep bass groove instrumental section. It was noted that they had just come back from touring Europe, for which they also had a limited run of the tour shirts available for purchase on the night.

Next we had Teramaze at 6:15pm, which brought on a change of tone and pace. The Geelong five-piece progressive metal outfit captivated the venue with their somewhat symphonic twist on metal. The soaring (and at times almost operatic) vocals of Nathan Peachey, Jeremy Poole-Johnson’s enchanting keys, and the funky grooves provided by Dean Kennedy, Dean Wells and Luis Eguren really amalgamated to form their unique essence. Songs include “For the Innocent”, “Transhumanist” and “Delusions of Grandeur”(which saw Peachey break into maniacal laughter).

6:55pm brought Melbourne’s known and loved Frankenbok upon the masses. They did well to compact the crowd upon the request that “everybody step forward to really feel their ugliness”. Fittingly, they introduced the track “Fuck Off or Destroy” as about being in a mosh, to spark the mayhem amongst the crowd. They also played the track “Never to Return” for their album ‘Vicious, Lawless.’ which had only just been released the day before. The crowd weren’t getting away without a little crude humour, with the track “Drive It into the Ground” being announced as “a song we like to call Drive it into Your Asshole” The crowd thrived on their pull-no-punches attitude.

Melbourne melo-death favourites Eye Of The Enemy hit the stage at 7:35pm, promptly telling the audience to “kill someone”, before powering through an aggressive set including the tracks “The March”, “The Justification” and “The Shift” from their concept album ‘The Vengeance Paradox’, alongside “A reason for Treason’ and “Peace” from debut album “The Weight of Redemption”. Their sound and performance style is so high-octane that it borderlines on chaotic in the sense that there is so much stage-crowd interaction going on that you are literally spoilt for choice of a focal point. This is particularly so with vocalist Mitch Alexander, whom actually thrust himself offstage and got amongst the pit. Before you could say “face melt” I was met with Alexander’s face screaming right in front of my own, before he propelled himself to the opposite side of the room just as fast (I could actually feel the impact of his vocals). At another point he jumped back on stage to hold his microphone over Chris Themelco’s guitar as he shred the fret like cheese to a grater. Oh yes, folks; it was a time!

Things got real loud at 8:15pm when Truth Corroded made themselves known, in fact they were possibly the loudest band of the night. Despite bassist Greg Shaw being absent due to a family emergency, they set the room alight much the same. Playing tracks such as “They Are Horror”, “Pride of Demise” and even some fresh material that hadn’t been played before, by the title of “With Open Eyes and Willing Hands” serving up an aggressive death-thrash assault to the eagerly rowdy crowd. Higgo even got himself in amongst the action at the stage front during their final track “The Disfiguring”. Vocalist Jason North stirred up a rivalry of the states, suggesting that “the Adelaide bands from the line-up were by far the loudest” and that Melbourne needed to show them up. Given my previous statement about the bands loudness, I am in no position to disagree.

In Malice’s Wake had a number of fans flocking to the stage front at 8:55pm to whip and thrash about along with the band. The long-term Melbourne thrashers blasted through their set, tearing the roof off with their speed, skill and precision. Fans sang along in epic proportions, moving in and out of ‘metal stances’ emphatically in accordance with the lyrics. Highlights included “Bear the Cross”, “In Darkness”, “Annihilation Frost” and “Fuel for the Fire”. Vocalist Shaun Farrugia took a moment to note “you know when you grow up in a local band and you thank god you live in Melbourne? This is why. Fuck Sydney! This guy means it…” to which a punter shouted out “we all mean it!”

As the night began to draw nearer to an end, Tasmania’s Taberah graced the stage at 9:35pm, bringing with them their positive vibes and vibrant spirits in the form of unified thumb salutes instead of your typical fist and horn hand gestures; truly an antic that is their own.  The crowd couldn’t get enough of it. This was also accompanied by the odd chant; much to the delight of frontman Jonathon Barwick, who couldn’t seem to stop grinning (though not unusual for him). He paused at one point to tell a dramatic and comical story of how he received his first guitar at the age of 8, and that at midnight he would be turning 28. Taberah are truly showmen of metal; they are the product of an array of influences ranging from AC/DC to Queen, and they do it justice. They smashed out the goods with hits like “Child of Storm” and “Sinner’s Lament” from their most recent LP. During “Burning in the Moonlight” Barwick stood back to back with Myles Flood for an epic shred duet of sorts.

At 10:15pm it was time for the first headliners Dreadnaught to strain a few necks in their own right, and I’ve no doubt that they succeeded with their 40minute set. The local metal veterans fiercely pumped out a crowd-pleasing set, including the tracks “Clenched Fist”, “Welcome to Oblivion” and “The Hated” from their most recent album ‘Caught the Vultures Sleeping’. Not to neglect their older works, “Dead in the Dirt” from their ‘Down to Zero’ LP (1999) and “The Gobbler” from their ‘Idiosyncrasy’ Ep (1998) also made an appearance on the list. Vocalist Greg Trull prompted the crowd to show some love for Higgo, emphasizing that he works tirelessly for the heavy music scene. Trull captivated the crowd with his unique stage movements, which I would describe as akin to a kung-fu master attempting to psych out an opponent (whilst he distracts you with his mighty vocals). He invited Riley and Scott of Desecrator to join him onstage as they wrapped up their performance on a high.

After joking that he would see us in 10 minutes, Riley Strong and the rest of the Desecrator clan took final placement onstage at 11.15pm, taking the event through to midnight after an incredible 12 hours of Aussie metal goodness. They brought their a-game (as they consistently do), causing the crowd to leave no efforts left to waste. Their anthemic victorious thrash tunes saw heads banging and fists flying all over the place during chants. Their set produced hit after hit, including “Red Steel Nation”, “Thrash is a Verb”, “Serpent’s Return” ,“To the Gallows” and “Brainscan” from this year’s debut album release ‘To the Gallows’.  Before pounding into the track “Til Death” Strong referred back to the “wise words of Dreadnaught; metal til the day you die, you’re in or out, there’s no putting one foot in”. The crowd met this with affirmative cheers; an ode to this dedication-filled community. Smoke machines had filled the entire venue with a haze, building upon the already climactic atmosphere as the night met its end. We were bid farewell with a final word to “watch this space; you’re a part of something that’s only going to get bigger”. A prediction I think many would vouch for.

A crowd vote was taken toward the end of the night as to whether or not Amped Festival should return next year; needless to say, the consensus was YES! If you missed it this year, you won’t want to be missing it for a second round. This year’s punters will no doubt flock to sell out the tickets, so it is advised that you keep a keen eye out in the New Year for the details.

Follow the event’s Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/725368947616146/