February 9 marked the inaugural Cove Events gig at Richmond’s Central Club Hotel, featuring five Melbourne bands of diverse Metal genres. A solid crowd gathered from the get-go to support Ballarat-based relative newcomers Haunted Steel as they kicked off the evening.

With influences spanning primarily New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands, but also encompassing elements of Thrash and even some more modern influences through Liam Tobin’s delivery of his harsh vocals, Haunted Steel are best not pigeon-holed and rather simply considered Heavy Metal. Adding a more aggressive front to the NWOBHM sound had a few in the crowd comparing Haunted Steel to the later output of Tim “Ripper” Owens, which is a fair call.

Though the band are still somewhat rough around the edges, they deliver a solid sound, and lead guitarist Damon Carey particularly shines. Tobin’s on-stage persona and his vocals definitely became stronger as he settled into the gig. With their relaxed and good-humoured approach to delivering a punchy, fast-paced show, there’s no doubt Haunted Steel will continue to find a welcoming place in the Melbourne Metal landscape.

There could scarcely have been a bigger change of gears as Wood of Suicides took to the stage next. Where Haunted Steel dropped punchy Metal bangers, Wood of Suicides are a dark and frostbitten Black Metal band of the slow and atmospheric variety, with songs that wallow in darkness and misery. Of course there were moments that launched into absolute blast-beat and riff-driven chaos, but the highlight of the set was the band’s most unexpected cover as they gloriously rendered Berlin’s iconic Take my Breath Away, best known from the soundtrack to the 1986 film Top Gun. The cover was received with laughter and rapturous applause, and proved that even the most ‘kvlt’ of Black Metal bands have a sense of humour.

While Omnipresence as a band are also relatively new, frontman Zebådee Scott is very well known to the Melbourne Metal scene as the powerhouse drummer of Death Metal misery guts Myridian, and the haunting atmospheric artisans of Black Metal, Aquilus. Fittingly, Omnipresence draw from both sides of the Death and Black spectrum, with a sound that ultimately settles into what could reasonably be described as melodic Black Metal. Certainly Omnipresence’s songs are more direct than Wood of Suicides’, and with a stronger focus on vocal and lyrical content, where Wood of Suicides are inclined to long instrumental meanderings. Overall Omnipresence can readily be compared to early Opeth (of the ‘Orchid’ through ‘My Arms, Your Hearse’ era), particularly in Scott’s vocal and guitar stylings. Like Opeth frontman Mikael Akerfeldt, Scott is able to present surprisingly beautiful and haunting clean vocals among his brutal Death growls, and more of these deeply contrasting cleans may certainly be welcomed. Scott does seem to have a little reticence as a frontman, and this likely stems from his usually being behind the drum kit. Drums in Omnipresence are provided by Dean Hulett, who naturally has a lot of live up to – and while Scott probably remains the stronger drummer of the two, Hulett does not disappoint as he delivers the intricate and powerful drum-lines of Omnipresence’s material.

Next up were crowd favourites Scaphis, with frontwoman Spyke Jägerkrieg easily proving the most charismatic and engaging vocalist of the night. Scaphis seriously picked up the pace with their hard-hitting blend of Death Metal and Grind, with the blistering guitar solos of Josh Riström and Ben Eberhard particularly standing out. Though a smaller crowd than has been seen at some previous Scaphis gigs, the band got some chaos going in the room as they are always wont to do, with Jägerkrieg keeping the crowd riled up as she wove her tales of flesh-peeling, zombies and morbidity. Jägerkrieg especially impressed with her vocal abilities during the band’s final song, where they covered Viking Metal legends Amon Amarth’s Guardians of Asgard. Jägerkrieg’s approach to tackling Johan Hegg’s vocals was more than convincing, and the fact that a cover of such a well-loved band was so well received really says it all.

Topping off the evening were the melodic Death Metal masters Catacombs. The crowd rushed to fill the floor as soon as the set opened with Blood Countess, with heads banging and hair flicking through all the devastation to come. As a six-piece including the keyboard talents of Dan Liston, Catacombs have a full and well-rounded sound that moves with depth and versatility through heavy, Swedish-influenced brutality through to dulcet beauty that emphasises the melodic side of melodic Death Metal. Catacombs’ strength however is definitely in the band as a whole, with no particular member stealing the limelight; rather, the Catacombs experience is one of control, balance and deeply considered song writing. As such, the band put on a set of consistent strength, with no song letting down the pace or impact. These consummate Death Metal artists provided an excellent climax to the night, with the array of smiles among the punters as the lights went up indicating a solid evening of Metal excess.

With a successful opening event under their belt, no doubt punters can look forward to future Cove Events gigs with similarly diverse line-ups, focusing on both talented up-and-comers, and respected stalwarts of the Melbourne heavy scene.

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