Tote’l Metal Fest; if you haven’t yet heard of it then you best get acquainted as the debut event has shaped up to prove potential as a contender and kin to the likes of Melbourne’s Amped Festival which also debuted earlier this year. Rocky Waters Promotions is relentlessly pulling no punches in its endeavours to contribute to the ever present local live heavy music scene, and this event is a clear example of that. Held at Collingwood’s The Tote across two stages for close to an 11 hour straight smorgasbord of metal, it was not for the faint of heart (at least not if you were keen enough to do the rounds). With stage changeover times being cut to 15 minutes due to an early venue closing: the bands, sound engineers and everyone else behind the scenes running the show worked collaboratively and efficiently to uphold a tight ship. As can be viewed below, the line-up schedule meant slight crossovers between both the upstairs and downstairs stages (however still possible to catch coinciding sets for those so inclined).

MAIN STAGE (DOWNSTAIRS)                                                             SECOND STAGE (UPSTAIRS)

2:10 – 2:40 Be Faced (NSW)                                                              2:30 – 3:00 Silence The Unknown (SA)

2:55 – 3:25 Sludko (TAS)                                                                    3:15 – 3:45 Thrash Bandicoot (NSW)

3:40 – 4:10 Hollow Haven                                                                  4:00 – 4:30 Nerve Endings

4:25 – 4:55 Kold Creature (QLD)                                                       4:45 – 5:15 SVCRED

5:10 – 5:45 Error37 (album launch)                                                  5:30 – 6:05 Not The Enemy (SA)

6:00 – 6:35 Behold The Defiant                                                        6:20 – 6:55 Wicked Figures

6:50 – 7:25 Annihilist                                                                         7:10 – 7:45 Hara Kiri (NSW)

7:40 – 8:20 Direblaze                                                                         8:00 – 8:35 Vendetta

8:35 – 9:15 Scaphis                                                                             8:50 – 9:30 Massacre of Innocence

9:30 – 10:15 Daemon Pyre (NSW)

 

Be Faced kicked off the afternoon with their blend of metal for a bunch of clapping and nodding crowd members who got down early to catch the start. Their set included tracks such as “Survival”, newest single “Taxed to Death” which was noted as being “because that’s what we are in Australia” and saw vocalist Justin Stephenson spitting resentful lyrics through grit teeth. Stephenson kept an entertaining commentary between songs, including jokes that they would of course play another song as he “wasn’t about to break into stand-up comedy, although had thought about it” and that he was “detoxing all over the mic”. A highlight of the set was a cover of Gojira’s “Oroborus”. The band seems to enjoy their performances with a touch of chaos; with members getting into the crowd at points and also momentarily hanging from the ceiling in a monkey-like fashion. The crowd were also generously offered to see them after the set and to also grab some free shirts and CD’s.

Adelaide metalcore band Silence The Unknown brought things to a captivating start upstairs with a pre-set group huddle sing along of The Lion King’s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”, before belting into a performance of high octane ferocity garnished with the deranged facial expressions and erratic stage antics; particularly from vocalists James Stace and Bruce Garner. The two complimented and contrasted each other with ease, and the additional antics from the rest of the band (who were by no means shy of utilizing more of the room than just the stage) made for a “blink and you’ll miss it” atmosphere. Smeared in black paint with a gothic aesthetic, they possess an overall vibe and sound to the likeness of Black Veil Brides and Motionless In White. The room was rife with heavy breakdowns and enthusiastic slam/core dancing from crowd members, including a guy in a Cheshire cat onesie. At one point they formed a conga line and bounced in unison across the floor space, heightening the spirit of things. Toward the end of the set Stace jumped on an audience member’s back whilst he continued to belt out impactful vocals.

Next downstairs, punters were met with the Tassie bound traditional metal five-piece Sludko. Vocalist and front-woman Barbara Slad was theatrical through and through; dressed in black attire and yielding weapon props such as a sword, and some minor costume changes saw her maintain a “Zena Warrior Princess of metal” style persona. Coupled with her raspy vocal tones she also brought about an essence of classic 80’s rock chick, with an added treat of growls at points. Slad would dramatically dance and shift between lax and erratic thrashing bodily movements, with climactic swings of her sword all in accordance with instrumental rhythms. Audience members were fixated on the stage throughout their performance, with some grooving along to the glam and glory.

Four-piece thrashers aptly and comically named Thrash Bandicoot were to follow in the upstairs band room. Guitarist Matt Perkins got stuck into shredding as he bounced around the floor area. The band commanded the crowd who were sitting down to get up and go to the stage front, sparking an outbreak of rowdy headbanging. They powered through their set leaving punters keen for more, and a highlight of their set included a mighty cover of “Angel of Death” by Slayer. A small yet chaotic circle pit unleashed, followed by frantic thrashing around in front of the stage. At a point one member of the crowd joined the band onstage to contribute some vocals. The band and crowd alike got so into it that they unfortunately had to cut their set short by one song due to the time constraints.

Debuting for their first ever show, hailing from Melbourne’s Western suburbs Hollow Haven took to the main stage in deliverance of an impactful first impression. Thrashy beats, piercing melodic whirring guitar, and harsh screams were ample. Impressively, drummer Martin Curkovic smashed out pounds that brought sonic booms to mind. No really, the amalgamation of deep tonality between the drums and Thomas Kapitelli’s bass during slowed heavy breakdowns (not to mention loud!) meant you could both see and feel the sounds impact. The band span and stomped around the stage as they performed, adding extra might. What a way to burst onto the scene! They played tracks from their “One Track Mind” EP release. Vocalist Angus Glassenbury concluded the set by addressing the crowd saying “hope we’ve made you feel welcome; enjoy the rest of the festival!” The impressed crowd broke out in claps and cheers as they departed the stage.

Back upstairs it was time for Nerve Endings to make an appearance, after having stopped by Footscray at Wrangler Studios the day before for an All Ages show. Bursting with energy, they pumped out tracks such as “Wretched” “Vapidity” and “Time With the Cosmos”. Their sound encapsulated elements of soothing ambiance, melodies, and gritty riffs with classic metalcore vocal aggression, including sections of fast paced ‘bree’ style guttural pig squealing. Vocalist Jesse Alan lashed around the floor area throughout his performance, whilst guitarists Jesse and Mitchell Rice jumped on stage alongside bassist Mitchell Sutherland during breakdowns. The ‘Cheshire Cat’ slam dancer was at it again, throttling himself around the room and bringing smiles to the faces of other crowd members. Alan addressed the crowd asking that they check out the bands Facebook page and other social media, noting it as “the best support”, as well as openly inviting the crowd to attend their next show, with a promise of new music to come at a time not yet certain.

Also having played Wrangler Studios the previous day, Brisbane melodic groovers Kold Creature held place on the line-up and main stage alike. They swiftly burst into united bouts of windmilling and headbanging which was met by headbanging from members of the audience. Their Korn and System Of A Down style riffs broke into slowed deepened breakdown sections, causing heads to need no encouragement to bounce. Highlights of their set include tracks such as “Soul Regression” and “Kids That Kill”(which saw vocalist Chris Ross order the crowd to jump). Ross also jokingly noted that they “had to pay $300 to get their merch on the plane so it would be great if they could sell $300 worth of merch”.

Things had seemingly become an intimate party of slam and core dancing upstairs as the crowd were showing no signs of losing momentum, in fact on the contrary. Melbourne’s alternative metal five-piece outfit SVCRED were met with punters linking arms in headbang comradery as well as stomping and slightly more aggressive renditions of the classic Waltz. Clap chanting also broke out, with a return of the ‘jumping conga line’. Whilst a lot of punters seemed to focus on the main stage of the event, what the upstairs crowd lacked in size, they surely made up for in energy; tenfold. “Fun” was figuratively painted on the faces of all in the room. During the clap chant, drummer Joshua Scott stood momentarily clapping his sticks together in time with the crowd, building rapport. The pit became a flailing chaos towards the end of the set, and a heart-warmingly comical “we are not worthy!’ chant alongside bowing sparked in appreciation for the band. James Vein’s high-pitched sustained screaming made for a climactic finale to the set.

Taking us into the evening, back on the main stage we had Error37 on the scene to inject their own brand of fun into the atmosphere downstairs. The event doubled up as a launch for the four piece synth/core experimental fusion’s album release “Succ My Life”. The crowd seemingly fell in love with their humorous antics and song titles, such as “My Fingers Are Faster Than My Brain” and “Captain Cone Puncher”, for which a mascot appeared dressed in a red and blue superhero suit complete with underpants over the top. Captain Cone Puncher himself danced around the stage before diving into the crowd and interacting with those closest to the front; needless to say sparking giggles and smiles throughout the room. Their high energy electro tunes and comedic value brought to mind the likes of Mindless Self Indulgence. Their heavy yet fun and upbeat sound leaves room to mosh or boogie in equal measure; the choice is yours! (or as the Old El Paso girl says; por que no los dos?) The crowd kept a steady pace of bobbing along to the rhythms. Toward the end of the set a short sound clip played of “Dancing In the Moonlight” by Toploader, with goofy dancing to match, and leaving the stage in high spirits.

Returning to the upstairs stage curious as to what I would see next from audience participation, I was not disappointed. Adelaide’s genre blending Not The Enemy were full-throttle underway into their set, including a cover of Drowning Pool hit “Bodies”. Pit activity highlights included some vocal contributions from the guy in the Cheshire cat suit, as well as during the track “Nightmare”, crowd members crouched into crab-core stance and proceeded to bounce in unison whilst also using their hands like pincers. Another track titled “Foundations” saw fired up vocalist Scott Veal screaming at the crowd in encouragement to bang their heads. Silence The Unknown vocalist Bruce Garner was also the drummer for Not The Enemy, and his wild expressiveness seen in his vocal performance was so-too seen whilst he was drumming; with his eyes crossing and rolling back in his head.

The explosively ferocious Behold The Defiant treated punters downstairs to some groove-laden death metal. Jack Baker and Harry Hughes delivered the goods in a combined effort of craftsmanship with deep resonant guitar whirrs and soaring echoes and tasty soloing. Bassist Zan Sasori got into the swing of things; slumping forward into slow-paced headbang thrusts whilst he worked his instrument. Damien McIntyre nailed his efforts to send pig squeals through the room, as well as spitting lyrics into the mic with forceful aggression, and furthermore toward the crowd. Tim Butler crashed and pounded his way through the set. There was a small but enthusiastic pit going, with other punters standing further back bobbing their heads. A crowd member shouted “love your shirts!” to which McIntyre responded with “they’re up the back, man!” There was also some clap chanting from the crowd. Highlight track included “Throne of Maggots” (which was introduced as being about someone egotistical that wasn’t present), and “The End Is Nigh” from their 2016 “The End Is Live” release. McIntyre wrapped things up noting “you guys have been awesome, have a good night!” and that they would be back in March.

Back upstairs there was just enough time for me to catch Wicked Figures toward the end of their set. The Melbourne melodic hardcore band played their most recent single titled “Spineless” as well as another track introduced by Matt Morris as their heaviest song, followed by a request to “fuck some shit up”. Morris also noted that it was “hotter than Satan’s balls” as the upstairs room had become somewhat of a sauna as the night progressed. The pit was rife with hardcore dancing, with a climactic wall of death taking place; and Morris (who had been lovingly screaming lyrics into the faces of the audience) naturally thrust himself into the heart of the pit, which resulted on the impact ricocheting him backward onto the stage.

Next it was time for the main stage to cop a thrashing from the ever-intense Annihilist. Prior to the set commencing, the room filled up with fog which created a dramatic atmospheric build. Before long, their chipper drummer James Sayers thrust into what appeared to be effectively bitch-slapping the shit out of the kit; and you bet he was grinning for the duration. Guitarists Miki Simankevicius and Josh Voce wasted no time in simultaneously whipping their hair in momentous windmilling. Harry Pendock entered the stage with zero-to-ten velocity, breaking into chest pounding at points throughout his vocal performance, as well as erratic shaking of his head and tongue flickers with his eyes rolled back. In a show of creative thinking, Pendock requested that the audience move closer to the stage via a comical anecdote that he was breathing in fart gas up on the stage and in turn “am gonna need you to step forward and share the love…I know, what an offer!” People laughed and got amongst it. Their set include track such as “Sink” “Against the Wall” and “Embers” (which was a highlight with its contrasting sections of dirty breakdowns and slow melodic instrumentals)

Back upstairs I was also able to catch the end of Albury four-piece Hara Kiri’s set. Vocalist Ralph Brown situated himself on the floor area, screaming fiercely toward the ground, moving in slow-paced bounces whilst also holding his head. People were scattered across the room also partaking in a solid round of headbanging, and showing no signs of quitting. Guitarist Jason Groenveld also got amongst the crowd to join them, headbanging as he played to them. The crowd began chanting for “one more song!” but the sound guy suggested they end on a high note, and so their set wrapped up slightly ahead of schedule.

Direblaze embarked the main stage on a mission with their own personal shred-fest of sweltering solos galore coupled with thunderous thrash pounding beats. Their set included “Smelted Reformed and Doomed” from their new EP of the same title, “Confinement and Privation”, “Died Twice” form their self-titled debut album, “The Sense in Violence”, “Burning of Time”, and ended their set with a climactic performance of the instrumental track “Bane in Reverence”. People had gathered in the pit and also spread throughout the room headbanging enthusiastically. If you like your death and thrash metal loud and heavy (emphasis on loud) then Direblaze are your guys. No really, I could barely hear myself cheering. The band were thankful towards the crowd, noting that it was “lovely to meet yas!”

Unfortunately due to Hara Kiri finishing slightly ahead of schedule, it meant that hard rock three-piece Vendetta’s set was more in alignment with that of Direblaze, and so regrettably I saw very little of their set. Other punters seemed to have been in the same boat since the room had deadened out for the first time; which is not to assume that this was any reflection on Vendetta themselves. They played their final track for the evening “Forgotten Road” before vocalist Mick Kee endearingly farewelled the audience with “thanks cunts!”

As the night drew nearer to a closing, death metal engineers Scaphis made a bold and, one might even say, intimidating entrance; just in the strength that their powerful stage presence pertains. It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that when vocalist Spyke Jägerkrieg directs a crowd of people, the people make haste to listen. The band were clad in varied styles of black make-up and dark tattered attire, with Jägerkrieg sporting a bold bullet strap over one shoulder. And then my friends, she opened her mouth and unleashed something sinister from the depths of her vocal chords; giving the likes of Angela Gossow a run for her money as she did so. She fiercely thrashed her head around periodically throughout her performance, as did the entire band. Their set included tracks from their recently released album “Rituals of Torture and Death” such as “Buried Alive”, “Peeling of Flesh” which was introduced as being about the peeling of human flesh more specifically, and fan favoured “Belly of the Beast” during which an “OI!” fist pump chant and pit erupted. At one point Jägerkrieg stopped to request that “someone pass Ryan (their bassist) a coke; he has diabetes”. A Kind member of the crowd offered up some sugar, allowing the show to continue smoothly. It was noted that the band had “just finished a national tour for the new album; it was legendary, fucking amazing, but fuck it feels good to be home!” Upon conclusion of the set a woman yelled out “sign my tits!” to which Jägerkrieg seemed to happily oblige.

Returning upstairs one last time we had Massacre Of Innocence tearing shit up as if there would be no tomorrow. Vocalist Niall Garrett (who had also been working at the upstairs sound desk throughout the day, and periodically adding to the chipper festivities within the various pits seen at the upstairs stage front) accidentally flipped a drum stool in the process of screaming and scrambling around the floor area. He writhed around; effectively wiping the floor with himself yet showing no signs of fatiguing. Callum Archer and Dylan Sevenich served up a fine course of resonant rippling shreds whilst Joey Greig delivered the blast beats, Garrett dished a nourishing serve of demonic growls and screams. The bands overall sound; deep, heavy, and grimey. The pit went off its chops. A final song was introduced as being “about a cunt currently downstairs”, with jokes made that “it’d be more awkward if he was up here”, and further jokes that he was entering the room. A further comment was made “Come see us at Bang! Buy our shit!” before a final joke to “stick around for the other bands..including no one!..oh there’s one band, Darkcell I believe?” Shots fired; shade thrown.

Finally it was time for Sydney headliners Daemon Pyre to sound off the night, and they did so in a loud and gnarly earth-shattering fashion; particularly from Simon O’Malley’s rumbling double kick. You could feel it pounding through your chest. Andrew Lilley and Simon Tattem provided soulful shredding, garnished also by soloing. Highlights included “Darkened Perceptions” and the grimey new release “Unto A Dying World” which came out just last week. Vocalist Sam Rilatt got down in the pit at the end for some climactic walking back and forth in front of the headbanging members in the front row, belting out lyrics directly into their delighted faces. Was I one of those crowd members? Yes. Was it epic? You better believe!

In short? Tote’lly mental; tote’lly awesome! Keep an eye out folks, in the event it should hopefully return for a secondary installment next year!