Australia may not have the bigger, more grander of some American and European festivals but as it turns out the plugger (thong) wearing “bogans” of “down under” witness a nationwide event to host national and international artists. Soundwave sweeps Australia (five cities) and brings a variety of acts, not just centralized in the metal genre but also punk, rock and a couple of other abstract (read: undefinable) sets. There’s enough variance here to cater to many a niche in music. So where does this rambling end? It starts with a pleasantly (not as hot as it had been in the weeks prior) hot day in Sydney.
First things first. How does Soundwave 2014 stack up in comparison to the last few years? Of course if you’re a cynical elitist, it’s all about how the line-up compares with the line-ups of 2011, 2012, and 2013. At a glance 2014 lacks the ‘big-names’ of past years; no Iron Maiden, Slipknot, Metallica, Linkin Park or System Of A Down instead this year hosts the likes of mainstream royalty Green Day and Avenged Sevenfold. Even with the focus on the metal genre, SW14 hosts enough acts from different genres to appeal to multiple age groups and music fans.
Read the entire line-up below:
Now with a list of hitters that big, there’s no way that we could avoid (at least some) controversy. This year it was about the dropouts, the quitters and the guys getting booted off and reinstated. You’ll notice the lack of Newsted, Megadeth, Sevendust as well as a few other groups – all out due to different reasons (stalk AJ Maddah’s twitter page for more details). But there was also the Australian act, Thy Art Is Murder who after an on-stage incident in the opening leg of the festival were loudly booted from the remainder of the 2014 festival and reinstated within hours. Even with all the controversy leading up to the day, it became a simple afterthought as the last ringing notes fade from the main stage.
Which bands did I see? First stop was the viking themed melodic death metal titans Amon Amarth. With a crash, a bang and a guttural roar this Swedish awoke the grounds of Sydney in style. Supporting their latest album, ‘Deceiver Of The Gods’ early last year, Amon Amarth did not disappoint the early crowd, vitalizing with sensual viking imagery and Johan Hegg’s captivating growl.
Amon Amarth stand testament to the fact that some metal culture will never die, even if it means drinking from a horn. Playing a host of tracks from the new record, as well as some favorites from their catalog of viking infused hits Amon Amarth made up for a short set time with quality track after track. For Soundwave 2014, a definite highlight.
This year I made a special point to give attention to bands I hadn’t seen previously, among those were American grown Five Finger Death Punch. Despite being anatomically incorrect, the band did prove to be a fist pumping, blood rushing five-piece to motivate, attract and curse through the entity of the band’s set. Five Finger singer Ivan Moody showed special attention to the well-being of the crowd covering them with a hydrating source of hose water.
Overall, the Five Finger Death Punch set was hugely entertaining, energetic and seemingly non-stop. The songs were well polished, rehearsed, and perfect for a live setting. It works out so much better when the bands look like they’re enjoying the attention.
After Five Finger Death Punch the attention moved to the smaller stages, the timetables were a bit… iffy, considering acts were being moved from stage to stage into different time-slots. It wasn’t bad waiting for home-grown act Deadc3ll, Coliseum filled the time in nicely. Grunge inspired thematics on top of true rock. It’s something you can bang your head to, and keep on banging til they’re done. The set was short (which is typical of the smaller stages), but showed a bank thankful for every person standing before them as they let their music crash around the shed they were housed (more on the shed in a bit). Coliseum made the most of what they had and thanked everybody listening. This three piece really gave it their all.
After these guys finished, the crowd swelled, grew and pushed forward. It shows nothing beats the atmosphere created when an Aussie act plays for an Aussie crowd. Darkc3ll hails from north of the border, but the guys in Sydney are well warned of their arrival. The industrialized shock rock of this committed four-piece showcase their ethics working towards success. Soundwave was the vehicle to promote the boy’s ‘Dark Verses’ released last year through RTD Records. For those wondering what the guys from Queensland sound like; it’s a darker Murderdolls, a more serious Rob Zombie with hooks to sober up many a radio act. The performance was great, energetic – but still managed to be a hint of things to come.
There were a couple of issues with having an indoor concert. It’s not the fault of the bands performing in these tin sheds with nothing but concrete floors. If you’re looking for ‘quality sound’, this is not the way to do it. Heavy metal bands making harsh music with audio waves bouncing off tin? These sort of soundscapes either need open air or something to soak it up. For bands like Coliseum and Darkc3ll their greatest assests come back in this environment in the worst possible way.
A fellow in the crowd happened to ask me where I was in 1988, the answer came quickly: “I wasn’t even a twinkle in my dad’s eye”. We both agreed that the music of Pennywise can be passed from generation, or can appeal to a multitude of age groups. The live set did not disappoint, if you want to see where a sound came from and why some bands are respected more than others, go to a live show, enjoy what’s on offer and get absorbed in the atmosphere. Beers on stage, random artists from other acts helping sing their favorite songs, Pennywise are the punk/hardcore fathers celebrating every second of the band’s 25 year career.
From there the Festival kicked up a gear, Korn don’t exactly have the same values of the bands before them, but for a lot of the crowd the feelings of nostalgia. With a backdrop highlighting the demise of mainstream media (crazy Miley Cyrus, an arrested Justin Bieber, a remodeled American Idol symbol: “American Idiot”), you get the idea. The dubstep was far and few between, but new songs and old songs were intertwined into gorgeous ratios. As you can guess, “Freak On A Leash” was an instant crowd favorite, lifting the atmosphere and giving fans old and new what they want.
A number of other bands filled the space between here and the headliner, and even though the sun was still where it had been since 10am, we were starting to see the tail end of the festival. Rob Zombie took his usual funky space, adding giant balloons to the crowd throughout the typical blasting of “Sick Bubblegum”. A John 5 solo isn’t out of place either, the set was solid; but it wasn’t anything different from the Zombie camp.
Second last of my night was the new moniker for ex-Killswitch Engage’s Howard Jones. Devil You Know had been moved off a smaller (smallest) stage 7 and onto the annex of headlining stage 3. Despite an energy typical of veteran musicians, the technically new faces of Devil You Know were out of place so late in the night next to a headlining act.
I do have a couple of gripes with the band’s set; Howard Jones spent too much time complaining about the people waiting for headlining act, Avenged Sevenfold. Never mind the thousands of people in front of you listening to your music, complain act the few thousand forty metres away that are well able to hear your music. The other issue is the fact that Devil You Know have no officially released music. Fans and listeners can engage so much better when they know the music you are promoting. Regardless, the music was tight and ready to be released from a studio stand-point, Howard Jones and Co. show that they are willing to make good to great music.
Now for the headliner, I was never big on the likes of Green Day so I stuck with the gateway metal band full of teen angst and nostalgia. Avenged Sevenfold came out with a bang, literally. Pyrotechnics, fireworks and a show as bombastic as the flames above the stage. Avenged Sevenfold payed special tribute to The Rev who passed by playing the last song he wrote for the band (which even included The Rev’s vocal recordings). Songs new and old met the now-full crowd at Sydney, including tracks from the mildly controversial “Hail To The King”. I’ll give credit where it’s due, Avenged Sevenfold closed off the night in style.
I’m in this picture, think of it as a game of “Where’s Waldo?” Overall Soundwave 2014 was a new experience, for completely new reasons. Sydney welcomed the festival with open arms and multiple rays of sunshine.
Photos taken by Robert Garland unless marked with a “*”. Those photos sourced from Soundwave Festival’s Facebook page.