Cove Events are known for their diverse line-ups of local and interstate bands from the darker, heavier end of the Metal spectrum, and Saturday, November 3rd at the Reverence Hotel in Footscray was no exception as Cove Events and Girthsword Promotions collaborated on Tamerlan Empire’s ‘Age of Ascendancy’ album launch. Impressively, each band on the bill, from headlining Sydney-siders Tamerlan Empire to openers Suldusk brought something unique to the line-up for an intriguing night overall.
Varyingly described as acoustic Black Metal, Blackgaze or Doom Folk, Suldusk have a sound that is entirely their own and utterly captivating. Driven by frontwoman Emily Highfield, the live band consists of an additional guitarist, cellist and Djembe drummer. The presence of the cello rounds out the sound beautifully in the absence of bass guitar, adding an extra layer of complexity to the music’s sombre atmosphere. Highfield herself is phenomenal, her voice moving between angelic laments and chilling Black Metal screams. While no comparison can truly capture the magic of Suldusk, fans of Opeth’s ‘Damnation’ album are likely to be impressed.
Melbourne Black Metal mainstays Hexreign have been through a number of evolutions, with their current incarnation consisting of just two members – frontwoman Hexbeastia, also on bass, and the self-explanatory Drumwitch, who also provides most of the clean vocals. Together, Hexbeastia and Drumwitch create an impressively layered sound with only vocals, bass and drums. Since their previous iteration, Hexreign have slowed their compositions to miasmic, dirge-like offerings. It’s an odd comparison, but they almost sound like a slowed down and far more brutal Black Sabbath, with savage growls for lead vocals courtesy of Hexbeastia. With both band members wearing white dresses and corpse paint, there was a kind of irony to the blended innocence and brutality of their look that raised a few wry grins.
Moving on from some of the more curious corners of Melbourne Metal, Omnipresence are a straight-up melodic Death Metal band who sound every bit like they could have emerged from Finland as part of the same vintage as Wintersun. Frontman Zebadee Scott is one of the most prolific performers in the Melbourne scene, though he is normally to be found on drums – and spoiler alert, this is not the last we’ll see of him at this gig. It’s clear that over the band’s past few shows, Scott has gained a lot of confidence as a frontman, with his Mikael Akerfeldt-like growls growing steadily more powerful. Unfortunately, his clean vocals – though infrequent – have yet to pick up the same power. Dean Hulett’s drums are complex and well worthy of a band fronted by Scott, while Scott and Ian Mather’s guitars layer chunky, melodic riffs that certainly capture the atmosphere of the Nordic tundra. It was disappointing that technical issues with Scott’s guitar caused a significant disruption mid-set, as otherwise this was set up to have been one of Omnipresence’s strongest performances.
A quick duck backstage to apply some blood tears, and Scott was back on stage as the drummer for Adamus Exul. Arguably the most visually impressive band of the night, frontman Devalsne (also the frontman for Greytomb) emerged with his skin completely blackened, and with his make-up still so wet as to make the blood apparently pouring down his shirtless chest quite convincing. Devalsne is an incredibly dynamic performer, throwing himself about the stage in contortions of agony reflecting the anguish of the lyrical content. Despite the physicality of his performance, Devalsne’s vocals remain on point, whether direct and aggressive or in his uniquely-pitched, signature screams. Scott, of course, is in his element behind the drums, and manages to smash out discernible grooves throughout the high-powered melodic Black Metal – an impressive feat to move beyond the basics and blast-beats to a style that is truly personal and recognisable within the genre.
“Unique” is a word that keeps coming up to describe the bands and performers on this line-up, and it remains apt in discussing Tamerlan Empire. Much more than simply a melodic Black Metal band, Tamerlan Empire weave Turkic / Uzbek influences into all their instrumentation to create a consistently Middle Eastern flavour. This is absolutely reflected in their on-stage appearance, with all wearing black desert robes and only the vocalist, Yassa, having his face visible. At the core of the band’s sound however is keyboardist Vezir, who provides the lion’s share of the Middle Eastern sounds and orchestration. That being said, guitarists Ghorr and Ferus certainly do their share of the heavy lifting, with even their riffs capturing the burning sands of the desert and the overwhelming march of the historical Tamerlan Empire on the stricken Ottomans. While the entire package is certainly impressive, by comparison with the other acts, Yassa’s vocals have a tendency to be relatively one-dimensional; though his powerful growls certainly get the job done. Tamerlan Empire are however utterly engaging and a breath of fresh, if sand-blasted air in the Australian Metal landscape. With their debut album ‘Age of Ascendency’ now unleashed, it’s well worth getting your hands on.
It’s rare to find a line-up that captures such diversity, and yet at the same time maintains enough consistency in atmosphere that every band contributes effectively to the complete experience. From the angelic to demonic, acoustic to brutal, disciplined to thoroughly unchained, this was a gig with a tremendous amount to offer and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
TAMERLAN EMPIRE WILL BE SUPPORTING SINSAENUM IN SYDNEY ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8th. GET TICKETS FROM OVERDRIVE TOURING HERE!