Soundwave isn’t the sort of festival that slowly warms you up, rather it throws you in the fire. Yeah, it was a scorcher of a day, though not nearly as bad as predicted, and perhaps that’s what kept a good chunk of the crowd away for the early part of the day. Of course, you also have to factor in the fact that the bands this year definitely skewed towards the darker end of the musical spectrum, and their chosen demographic tends to function much better out of direct sunlight. In any case, Soundwave didn’t hit maximum density this year until late afternoon.
Finnish battle-metal band Turisas kicked things off with an incredibly loud energetic set on probably the smallest stage at the festival. Dressed in red and black battle-paint and temperature inappropriate leather vests the group smashed out some epic folk metal to the pumped up crowd.
One of the major improvements on this year’s Soundwave was the inclusion of many Australian bands to the line-up. One of these bands was local punk-rockers Break Even. Sadly, Break Even have decided to call it quits, and today’s set could very well have been the last chance that Perth got to see their genuine and heartfelt brand of hardcore rock.
Yet another band to announce their retirement, Thursday played what could very well be their last ever show on the very same stage that they made their first Australian appearance (at 2004’s Big Day Out). With the end in sight, the band made the call to play a set of predominantly older material, which proved to be a hit with the crowd.
Circa Survive is a band that seemed to have more of cult following than most on the line-up. Not many of the punters in attendance had heard of them, yet they still had a very sizeable fanbase who were ridiculously passionate about the band, and the talented outfit did a stellar job in entertaining them. Much of the hype surrounding this band comes from frontman Anthony Green, and in particular his incredible vocal range.
Today Green delivered a performance that not only proved he’s got the chops, but he is an all-round entertainer. While the songs were delivered with gusto and grace, it will be Green’s antics that most punters will remember. “I love you all. When we finish playing, I can’t wait to suck all of your dicks”. Nice work Anthony.
Another major highlight for the day was faux-glam-rockers Steel Panther and their frankly hilarious show. It’s hard to tell if we watched a music show or musical theatre as the LA deviants sang, cursed and made dick jokes to the crowd.
Dressed in red shirts, Germany’s Heaven Shall Burn utilised every minute of the short set time they had and made sure the energetic crowd broke their sweat. They specialise in some form of death/metalcore but were let down a little bit by a sound-mix leaning too heavily on the treble. Granted, the circle-pit generated dust-storms indicated the kids didn’t care that much.
Sticking with the European theme Sweden’s In Flames put on a great, yet disappointing performance in the afternoon. The beardy group opened with the title track from their latest LP Songs From A Playground Fading and followed with Deliver Us. About two thirds of the set was made up of songs from the new album, with just three coming from their back-catalogue. Even if we ignore the “your old stuff is better than your new stuff” argument, there should have been far more variety in the set.
A little bit later in the day, Norwegians Kvelertak kicked some serious arse. Their audience wasn’t the biggest but they still pumped out some killer metal tunes. Three guitarists lay down melodic metal while still keeping things traditional, it was refreshing to see some metal that didn’t involve breakdowns.
Love them or not, the Soundwave crowd was seething with anticipation for Limp Bizkit. Fred Durst strutted on stage and immediately thanked the crowd for having them back after their disastrous Big Day Out show in 2001 where Sydney teenager Jessica Michalik died after being crushed in the mosh-pit. With that, the crowd erupted as they struck into My Generation. After Livin’ It Up, Durst hopped down to the crowd and made his way to the back of the “D” and proceeded to serenade the growing number of girls on shoulders. The whole thing was amazing to watch, but not so much as the tribute to Jessica that followed. Durst brought her father, George, on stage and a massive pink sign with “Jessica” written on it was unveiled. He seemed to be acting with sincerity, and the crowd replied in kind. He dedicated Take A Look Around to her, and then dedicated Faith to metal-loving women everywhere by bring about 30 on stage. The set closed out with Break Stuff, finally fulfilling the dreams of many-an inner teenager.
Next up, Marilyn Manson was a complete disappointment, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the reviews of his prior appearances on this tour. His performance can only be described as shambolic. He lurched aimlessly about the stage, slurring and croaking his way through a pretty stock-standard greatest hits set, and failing miserably at bantering with the crowd on such outré topics as “the weather.” For a man who built his reputation as the ‘King of the Shock Rockers’, the only shock here was how boring and unoriginal he’s become. The faithful at the foot of the stage may have gotten their money’s worth, but there was a steady exodus from the rest of the crowd through the length of his set, as they went in search of an act who actually looked happy to be there.
The Dillinger Escape Plan dominated Stage 7 - incidentally, the home to some of the more interesting acts of the festival - with their raucous, infectiously fun energy. A scheduling slip-up saw them go on 20 minutes ahead of schedule, leaving more than a few punters miffed that they missed half the set, but those who caught the tail end witnessed a table, hoisted by the crowd, used as a platform from which the band could stage-dive, which is not something you see every day.
Devin Townsend easily takes home the statue for ‘Most Fun Act’ of the day, hitting the crowd with a mini-rock opera featuring his puppet mascot, Ziltoid the Omniscient. Townsend manages to combine intricate musicianship and a heavy rock groove with a tongue in cheek sense of humour that is all too often absent at the thin end of the talent wedge.
Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society did things big, and did them old school. After a lengthy delay Wylde finally took to the stage as the sun set, backed by a wall of Marshalls. Through the set he might have said about three words to the audience, but really, he let his guitar do all the talking. After Suicide Messiah he launched into a face-melting solo that went on for 10 minutes? 20 minutes? Days? Weeks? Is it still going? By the end it was quite possible he had exhausted every possible technique and note on the guitar.
The Sisters of Mercy - aka Andrew Eldritch and some guys - played to a middling-sized but enthusiastic crowd. It was a little discombobulating seeing the Elder Statesman of Goth sporting a shaved head and a white hoody, but at least the cellar-deep voice was still in good shape. An unsteady start - the mix was far from perfect - soon picked up into a solid run through a goodly selection of the band’s better known tracks, albeit all truncated to fit into a forty minute slot. Whatever the setting, Eldritch tends to act like he’s conducting a Satanic Mass in St Paul’s Cathedral, and his stage presence more than compensated for any technical shortcomings.
After the incredible set theatrics of Slipknot, System of a Down’s own stage was incredibly sparse by comparison. By the end of the opener Prison Song it became clear their fans were numerous as they knew every word. Serj Tankian was at his sardonic best as he gleefully danced, squeaked and sang, clearly still able to fire off his machine-gun speed lyrics. They harvested their entire back-catalogue and tried to pack as much in as possible to the 1.5 hour set, though they rarely deviated from the album sound. It exposed a same-ish quality to their music, but the energetic crowd didn’t show many signs of boredom. Early work such as Soldier Side moved on to B.Y.O.B from 2005’s Mezmerize, until the crowd was left with Toxicity to close out a hot and heavy day.
So, the final tally. Disappointments: few. Music: awesome. Australian flag capes: one. Southern cross tattoos: too many. Sisters of Mercy t-shirts: more than have been seen in this town in 20 years. All up, not a bad day.
_GEORGE GREEN, BRENDAN HOLBEN
& TRAVIS JOHNSON