Darkcell have brought their own little slice of madness to Brisneyland, and we love it.

Taking place on a hot Saturday afternoon at Brisbane’s alternative venue The Brightside, the crowd was sparse when I arrived just after doors at 3:30pm. There may have been a small crowd, but boy, they were a lot to look at. Punks, goths, metalheads, circus costumes, corpse paint, a colourful bearded lady… Darkcell’s Psycho Circus was already living up to its name. Even better was the “Psycho Makeup” stand, offering to gruesomely paint people’s faces for $10. This local festival is the first time that Darkcell have brought together such a diverse range of bands and thrown them together into one night of insanity, and they did a damn good job. With incredible acts like Seraphic and Flynn Effect, not only did they provide a wide range of genres to experience, they made sure that the lineup was not lacking in female presence onstage.

Consisting of 9 bands in the lineup, not a single genre was left out. From hard rock to powerfolk metal, rap hardcore and operatic metal, Darkcell’s Psycho Circus left everyone satisfied and wanting more. Sadly the bands were forced to share just one small stage inside the venue, but even this didn’t stop each band from putting on an intense performance. As the night deepened, so did the crowd. By the time the second band was on stage, people were steadily trickling into the pit to mosh and drink. My favourite part of the night was seeing a diverse genre range bring in an equally diverse crowd to coexist and dance together.

To start the evening off, local rock trio Trash Queen took to the stage, bringing a relaxed energy to the small audience. The guitarist/vocalist played to impress with dirty hard rock vocals and inventive, finger-picked riffs and solos. The bassist strutted his stuff in cowboy boots, furiously headbanging and delivering great basslines to fill out their unique sound. The drummer was intensely focused and energetic, bringing each song to life with a solid beat. I was very impressed by Trash Queen, and i was sad to see that so little people were there to see them play. Being the first band of the night however, that was to be expected.

2nd on the bill was New Clear Vision, a 5 piece nu-metal band from the Sunshine Coast. A large and energetic crowd had gathered for this band, testament to the fact that they definitely had a decent fanbase here in Brisbane. Blasting the crowd with their freaky riffs and rap verses made violent by screaming choruses, New Clear Vision were perfect to rile the crowd up and really get the night started. The vocalist had an interesting method of using two microphones for different screams, something I personally haven’t seen before. Fans of the band got a laugh out of lifting the bassist’s kilt up during their set, and I found myself noticing a trend of interestingly dressed bassists happening.

Next was The Molotov, a band I had been looking forward to seeing. Unfortunately I was left disappointed with their performance. Musically, they were fantastic and original with a dark and intense sound. Their female vocalist seemed awkward and unsure, but I was blown away by the quality of her screams and her ability to smoothly transition from screaming to singing. Once she was singing however, she struggled with pitch changes and her clean singing noticeably deteriorated throughout their set.

Bringing even more dark energy and intensity were Flynn Effect. After their suspenseful intro, they brought a calm, cool and professional energy to the stage while still delivering a powerful performance. The female vocalist’s smooth and masterful singing was effective at drawing the audience into the music, while the brooding but heavy guitars and impeccable drumming kept the crowd moving and involved.

Seraphic, a 5 piece local to Brisbane blew their audience away with incredible operatic vocals and beautifully intricate piano parts from their female singer/pianist. They brought a cinematic metal feel to the crowd and as I looked around, I saw many mouths agape in amazement at the pure quality of music that Seraphic executed with calm confidence. Despite being limited by her keyboard, the vocalist was full of energy and focus while her bandmates filled the stage with their power and emotion.

Another local 7 piece band by the name of Dragonsmead took to the stage, and with the bassist wearing a dragon onsie and one of the guitarist wearing what looked like a potato sack, I knew we were all about to have a lot of fun. By now the crowd was suitably sloshed ready to cause a ruckus, and Dragonsmead were happy to give us a good reason. Dousing the crowd in powerfolk songs about drinking and fighting, we were rewarded with our first decent moshpit of the night. Hilarity ensued, with fans grabbing a gargoyle prop for the band to pretend to sexually defile, and the guitarist being fed a beer by fans during every solo he performed. Dragonsmead were my favourite of the night, simply because of the insanity that ensued during their banger of a set.

Bringing powerful hardcore vibes were Holistic, hailing from the Sunshine Coast. Sadly, this was to be their last show, and fans made sure to bring the energy to see them off. Breaking necks with forceful, punchy guitars and cripplingly heavy drums the crowd was galvanised into a violent pit. The vocalist performed aggressively with ripping screams and guttural growls. Holistic ended on a high note, breaking the crowd in half for a wall of death to finish their set strong. I’m glad I got to see them live, but I am definitely sad it will be the last time.

Coming all the way from New Zealand, These Four Walls brought a very different and more mainstream sound to the stage. With skilful and melodic vocals and strong riffs backed by perfectly timed drum beats, this band have found a perfect balance of hard and soft, intricately coupling an emotive pop rock sound with a forceful hard rock element. They didn’t seem to fit with the crowd that was waiting for Darkcell, but their performance was appreciated nonetheless.

Finally, the band that put all the whole night together was due to play. Revered as heroes in the local metal scene, Darkcell came onto the stage oozing a raw and terrifying energy. With corpse paint and coffin-shaped guitars, as well as a skeleton microphone stand, these guys were ready to get dark and dirty. The pit became packed in the small venue, bodies heaving and heads banging along to Darkcell’s meaty riffs that brings White Zombie and early Marilyn Manson to mind. I found myself laughing as the vocalist threw glitter on the crowd, unleashed balloons into the pit and made a point to constantly call Brisbane “Brisvegas” or “Brisneyland” throughout their set, bringing humour to an otherwise intense and aggressive performance. I feel like Darkcell is a band that provides what every metalhead wants on a base level; simple and easy to follow riffs, pounding drums with a deep and dark bass tone and dirty, grungy vocals.

All in all, for a first-time local festival, I feel that Darkcell outdid themselves. They made a huge effort to put together a phenomenal range of bands that perfectly showcased the incredible and diverse talent that Australia has to offer in the heavy music scene. The changeovers between bands were smooth and well organised, the crowd was happy and enthusiastic, and every band put on a stunning performance. The only drawback for me was the small venue and tiny stage, I felt like it limited the performances and larger bands seemed like they barely fit on the stage. I can’t wait to see what Darkcell do next, and I sincerely hope they continue to grow and develop Psycho Circus into something truly amazing.