Sydney and Melbourne have duked it out for position of “capital,” in one form or another, beyond living memory. In the early days of colonial Australia, the two cities fought to become the fledgling nation’s actual capital, with Sydney-siders notoriously coining the derogatory “Marvellous Smell-bourne” on account of Melbournians being slower on the uptake of covered sewage than Sydney. Ultimately however, the score was settled by Australians exiling their Parliamentary class to Canberra, where they’ve languished ever since.
So without the title of national capital to fight over, Sydney and Melbourne remain at each other’s throats over the question of which city is the Metal capital of Australia. It’s an open question that deserves thorough dissection.
What makes a Metal capital? Surely a huge part of it is the live music scene, and both cities have points for and against. Much has been made of the massive influx of international artists to Australian shores come March 2018, with the first Aussie incarnation of Download Festival. In 2018, it will hit only one city: Melbourne. Sydney on the other hand will be lucky enough to be graced with a wealth of sideshows, and depending on your temperament, this could be the better end of the bargain. After all, what would you rather see? A festival set, or a much more intimate headline set – with the option of a VIP meet and greet?
Speaking of sideshows, back in the good old days of Soundwave Festival, Melbourne and Sydney both played host to a staggering array of sideshows – until Melbourne’s cultural vandals shut down and destroyed one of the city’s best venues, the Palace Theatre. A perfect size for upper mid-tier heavy acts, the Palace hosted the likes of Opeth, the Devin Townsend Project, Nine Inch Nails, Nightwish and more. When the venue was destroyed, Soundwave and heavy music’s resident provocateur AJ Maddah took his bat and ball and went to Sydney and Brisbane for all the big Sidewaves, leaving Melbourne bereft.
Sydney however has suffered its own devastation, with liquor licensing, lockout laws and noise complaints (also an issue in Melbourne) conspiring to leave the nightlife a withered husk of what it once was.
Sydney does however benefit from a truly iconic venue in the Sydney Opera House, meaning that the city gets to host some truly special events, including The Cure’s only Australian headlining shows in 2011 (the rest of us had to wait until 2016), and Opeth’s performance of Deliverance, Damnation and Sorceress in full. That being said, Melbourne has hosted a few one-offs of its own, including Hammerfall’s only Australian show in 2015, and Alice Cooper’s only Australian show in 2009 – a stop-off on the way to New Zealand, where he was going to play golf.
Of course, homegrown talent is another key indicator. Melbourne has its very own purveyors of the Gothenburg sound in melodic Death Metal legends Orpheus Omega; but Sydney’s Rise of Avernus go toe-to-toe with them in terms of aggression, composition and sheer quality Metal. Sydney’s brilliant Power Metal act Darker Half stole the show (in Melbourne!) at the recent Scorching Steel Festival, proving they’ve got what it takes to rub shoulders with Melbourne’s finest, the world-class Vanishing Point or Black Majesty. For those of a more progressive and symphonic bent, Melbourne can field Divine Ascension into the mix; while Sydney’s symphonic titans Gods of Eden shake the earth wherever they play. And if you’re more of a Rivethead, Melbourne’s Death of Art bring Gothic Industrial beats that ensure stomping boots and a swarm of black clothes on the dancefloor; with Sydney not to be outdone, fielding the pounding and ominous tunes of Industrial heavyweights Noveuax.
So where do you stand? Melbourne and Sydney natives are obviously partisan… perhaps we should be looking to the rest of Australia to adjudicate?
Ah, hell with it. Let loose!