‘Twas a freezing Melbourne Saturday night in winter, when who should play a revolutionary anniversary show but a band ironically named Ill Niño playing their 2001 debut album, one of the first I ever discovered as a teenage Metalhead, Revolution Revolución in its entirety. Max Watt’s was the perfect place to warm up for an evening of Metal.
Looking around the venue there was a lot of diversity in the crowd, with punters wearing merch from a variety of bands such as Black Sabbath, King Parrot, Soulfly, Body Count, and a DevilDriver Xmas sweater. (I may have been wearing one of those.) Also, a huge shout out to the legend who played Testament‘s ‘More Than Meets The Eye’ and Machine Head‘s ‘Davidian’ as filler music between sets. It made the arduous wait more bearable.
It was a slow start to the show, with doors opening five minutes late and the first band intended to start at 8:45 pm. There was also a distinct absence of impatient chanting, jeering, or otherwise. After a total of 55 minutes of mind-bending patience, we heard those two beautiful words over the mic that every awaiting fan loves to hear at a show: “Check. Check.” Okay. We’re nearly there.
A further 10 minutes after the fact, the wait was rectified. Enter: Terror Universal.
If you’ve never heard of Terror Universal before, they’re essentially a GWAR / Rob Zombie-esque horror Metal act featuring past and present members of Machine Head, Soulfly and of course Ill Niño, who look a lot like the bad guys from Power Rangers. If you like any of the bands mentioned, by definition you’re already a fan. With that in mind, in the past two years since their first appearance at Soundwave Festival, Terror-U’s fan base in Melbourne alone has blossomed like the first day of spring.
Their opening anthem, appropriately titled ‘Welcome To Hell,’ opened up the hellish pit right at new vocalist Plague‘s feet, allowing him a fresh glimpse into what a Melbourne crowd is made of. At one point in the set he asked, “Melbourne, are you still alive out there?!“ I doubt he would have been convinced of otherwise, considering the amount of movement involved in a Melbourne mosh pit. We fucking own the Australian Metal scene!
Terror Universal have been busy bees preparing their debut album, which is due for release very soon. But it was very kind of them to take the time to travel a little closer to Hell just to play a few songs for their Australian fans. I believe anyone at the show could agree on the highlight of their set: the flawless cover of Rob Zombie’s ‘Superbeast,’ of course.
Not long after Terror Universal’s departure, two returned unmasked in the form of Ahrue Luster and Dave Chavarri to fulfil the second half of their double duties, this time in the highly anticipated Ill Niño. Their entry alone proved they’ve not lost a fraction of their energy in the last 15 years, with percussionist Oscar Santiago bouncing up and down like a boxer ready for a good sparring match with his congas, bassist Laz Pina simply incapable of staying still for too long, and let’s not forget the wide berth provided necessarily to accommodate vocalist Cristian Machado‘s ever-swinging dreadlocks.
With this charismatic stage presence firmly established, they then started playing some songs.
The first song, ‘God Save Us,’ served as a perfect mirror to Terror Universal’s ‘Welcome To Hell,’ however if this wasn’t an album playthrough gig, the follow-up track ‘If You Still Hate Me’ would have been the ideal set opener. I remember seeing it performed first at one of their previous Aus tours; it was a banger then, it’s a banger now.
The show had a particularly intimate vibe, with Cristian taking a moment between nearly every song to address the crowd directly with the same love and support their music offers. The lyrics to ‘Unreal’ spoke out to me as an angsty teenager who always somehow managed to say the wrong thing. Judging from the crowd’s response, this feeling was not unreal to many others like me.
When ‘What Comes Around’ came around, it was executed with airtight precision. This highlight was rivalled only by my personal favourite ‘Predisposed,’ a song with crushing riffs and emotional leads, the interlude of which was met with a satisfying collective slow clap from the crowd. The applause sped up during the next song ‘I am Loco,’ and things only intensified further with ‘Rip Out Your Eyes,’ a song as heavy as its title implies, and the Machine Head-like riffs in the title track ‘Revolution/Revolución.’ As the ballad ‘With You’ slowly mellowed out the crowd, an encore featuring selected well-known tracks from Ill Niño’s succeeding releases drew the evening to a close, leaving Melbourne with resounding memories.
Ill Niño offered us more than just an unforgettable show, but also a lingering reminder to watch out for each other as mentioned by Cristian more and more frequently towards the end of the night. It’s evident that he, along with the rest of the band truly care about their fans. Especially in Australia.
I distinctly remember a brief conversation with a masked Ahrue Luster in 2015 when I asked about his opinion of Melbourne, to which he enthusiastically replied, “It’s my favourite city in Australia!” Naturally, this warmed my heart a great deal more than the Soundwave sun ever could have my skin.
We know Ill Niño loved us, but did we love them? You bet your arse we did. 400 is not a very big crowd, but it made a very big noise.