Oh how glorious 6 months ago was destined to be. The annual Slayfest set to go down in Perth, Australia: Carcass to headline, Burgerkill along for the heinous ride. Interstate acts to visit. We are all so very familiar with the worldwide story that rapidly unfolded and shut down much of our established way of life. The Metal community suffered enormously with the absence of live shows – simultaneously the lifeblood and the ambrosial fluid that slakes our collective sustenance.
Fast forward to September and with serious effort and repeated obstacles overcome by its promoters, Slayfest arrived in an all local celebration of Western Australian Metal. Old, new, reformed: A collection of music any WA Metal fan would die for.
Even a final painful arrow – the delaying of the final state COVID restrictions being lifted causing ticket numbers to be heavily reduced several weeks out – could not slow this beast.
This live review will eschew some of the elements on which others may dwell and instead focus purely on performance and musicality – the reasons why you should have these acts in your rotation. Follow the links, check these acts out and enjoy some of Perth’s local brands of Metal.
So here goes – Slayfest as experienced by Your Grouchy Friend.
Launching the evening on the indoor main stage were Dethlahem, delivering their particular variety of the Old School Death Metal that would so heavily permeate the evening. They bring the thunder with a laid back, good humoured and beer drinking frontman who really does espouse the scene here across the last few decades. There is a tradition in this town – one of punch-above-weight musicality and a loving, alcohol fuelled mateship that is uniquely Australian. The night was utterly devoid of negativity or violence: issues that have been rife in nightclubs with people returning to the party life as restrictions are lifted. Metal heads truly are a different breed – intense moshing from the get go that never once became conflict. But I digress. Dethlahem’s superb riffery and delivery were a great intro and the skipping d-beat closing out the opener was very tasty indeed. In a genre where similarity reigns, feel is king and Dethlahem possess it in spades.
All This Filth
Rushing out part way through the opening set to catch All This Filth (ATF) proved to be a fantastic idea. What a deadly mix of styles and delivery – something that proved a feature of “Gary’s Garden Stage”. There is something satisfying when a band proves to be somewhat a sum of their shirts – it’s a generous community service announcement when that summation sounds like ATF. Those shirts? Sepultura – “Roots,” Bad Religion and Chimaira – this doesn’t suggest their sound is derivative but provides a serviceable map to guide you on your way. ATF execute a Hardcore-to-Nu-Metal bounce that flattens you when it kicks. After experiencing it a couple of times, you then know it’s coming, you are aware, it doesn’t surprise and you just don’t care – it rips every time and is a great reason to check out these cats. Their performance was also memorable for a brilliant bass sound: crisp, crunchy, deep and coupled with the bass player’s simian lope and heavy set brow, promissory of heavy intent. Vocally the band is similar to Code Orange in spots – particularly the Hardcore sections which makes total sense. A great mix of flavours, big energy, and the exuberance needed to launch the evening properly in the outdoor areas.
Another old school special and the first band on the second outdoor “Marquee” stage, what was striking in the live setting were the band’s very precise guitar tones. They wield a super raw feel with superb cut through in what proved the most sonically challenging environment of the three stage areas. If there were a “distinguished palm mute sound” award it would be Crypt Crawler’s for certain – when Cryptcrawler chug, they chug with impunity. The band produced very occasional almost seventies Rock melodies which rolled beautifully within a structure of blast beats, killer Death Metal vocals with serious range, and addictive guitar work. Their latest album is absolutely worth your while.
For Your Grouch Friend, Bayview Suspect produced what was the set of the evening. Deathcore takes a hard rap from the old school faithful at times but the brutality, precision and aggressive energy of the band were indisputable. Incredible guitar tones made this a treat to the ear – from crushing Rectifier fuelled rhythm to liquid lead and melody. Top shelf groove holds it all together and a frontman who is both smiling showman and bringer of hellacious rage makes for an absolutely quality experience.
Highlights of the set were their cracking tune “Laced With Deception” and new addition “Maleficent” (affectionately working-titled by their grinning frontman as “Cheese” – gotta get that cheese son). Fucking wow, Bayview Suspect are a tight, professional outfit with high level showmanship. The short sets of twenty to twenty five minutes for most bands were a tough ask on both performers and crowd, and this set was particularly tough to have cleft so short. Brilliant all the same – you should absolutely check out their album.
Transcending Obscurity Records stalwarts Depravity were up next in the Marquee. With a new album on the way (December if stage banter is reliable) and three teaser songs now floating around this was prime time to catch one of Western Australia’s finest exports. What an absolutely crushing performance it was: disturbingly brutal vocals, a polished rhythm backbone and exquisite leads that together are a whole even mightier than their sum would suggest. The band brings a rich rhythmic diversity that sets them aside from their fellow Death Metallers on the bill. Truly a top shelf set and it would frankly be irresponsible to omit mention of their stellar cover of Sepultura’s classic “Dead Embryonic Cells.” Depravity nailed their version to wall and the crowd lost its collective mind – a treat to behold and one of those moments when you feel like you have won the lottery such is the privilege of seeing it.
Inside to the main stage to catch the final songs of Infected. A band that, professing my age, were a huge part of my youthful introduction to live music. Local gigs would frequently see them as headliners and they grew to be a force. When Carcass toured Perth almost thirty years ago it was Infected who supported – and they were often the support for many of the early 90s era’s legends. Straight up – frontman Joey K still has it. His roaring, bellowing presence is even more powerful now than it was in my impressionable, rose coloured teenage years. As a unit they sounded incredible – a feature of the band has always been song and delivery over flash and individual technicality, the exception being their drummer who is on another level entirely. The band wades into slightly Industrial waters – think very early Fear Factory as a not unreasonable example, although Infected were their contemporaries rather than influenced by them. “Once More” was the set closer; along with the promise of more in 2021 (a show has indeed since been announced for December this year in the time since the show).
Lordy. Lordy. Lordy. Sanzu pounded their way through another of the sets of the evening. A slow rolling sea of tremolo picked, theatrical, bombastic brutality. Metronomic double kick pervading everything, their drummer was flawless and provided the perfect foundation for a blend of guitar and bass cacophony that is beautiful in its relentless assail. After a solid start Sanzu really found their swagger mid set. Although their vocalist claimed he blew his voice one and a half songs in, he decimated the faithful with a purpose and fire that suggests we may not have survived the auditory carnage had he full strength. If you’ve not heard of this band you absolutely must check their long player from a few years back to experience their excellent sound and approach. Sanzu wield a quality sound with a deliciously idiosyncratic use of bass and subtle effects.
https://myspace.com/rabidplague/music/songs (yes, that’s right, MySpace)
Fuck yes what a set from what would have to be one of the most underrated bands of the later nineties / early naughties in Perth. Plague have attitude. They have it in spades. They then use the spades to dig up your sorry misused corpse and batter you with more attitude. A cracking set intro with three quarters of the band laying down an instrumental, leaving me thinking “when did they become an instrumental band?” As that first song closed a sample of the movie about real life Australian anti-hero and underworld crime figure Chopper Reid kicks in (check the movie out for a taste of Australiana and Eric Bana tearing it up in his early years). A scene where “Uncle Chop Chop” counts to twenty before unleashing on some criminal “colleagues.” The count hits nineteen and cuts. The band starts on twenty. Vocalist swaggers in mic stand aloft with a view to really get shit started. I’ve seen a lot of shows… A LOT. This was impossible not to eat up with a huge smile on your face. The crowd went berserk. Showmanship is alive and well down under.
Plague are still raw, still urgent, still bringing the aggression and threw down the gauntlet to a crowd hungry for the chance to get loose. Chopping and changing with a plethora of feels and the utter disregard for heavy-sub-genre boundaries that has long been a hallmark of this town. Perth has never been big enough to segregate its Metal and it has resulted in such an amazing melting pot over the years. Americanization was a show stealer that – true to the band’s word – rings truer now than it did when written.
Headlining an event of this strength requires a Herculean effort and Perth Metal favourites Pathogen were well and truly up to the task. They brought a massive sound with a truly talented guitar duo – in the traditional metal sense – that shared their rhythm and lead duties beautifully. A gargantuan bassist and hard hitting drummer… and a vocalist that was openly loving the huge crowd and fervour of the evening’s culmination.
Pathogen are Metal. Their arrangements and instrumentation have a very traditional feel, with excellent pacing and layering, clean sections that build to quite traditional riffery… and then when you feel like you have them figured the vocal arrives blackened and savage and tearing through the mix. Blackened traditional metal perhaps? Whatever the label, their headlining status atop a billing brimming with talent was unquestionably justified.
Band founder, leader, driving force and lead guitarist Aidan Barton is truly one of Perth’s Metal legends. His business, Sovereign Studios has seen him recording, mixing, mastering and supplying touring live sound for some huge names in modern metal. His performance on the night was typically flawless, charismatic and good humoured. His lead and clean work in particular are highly emotive and his creative force is all over the well balanced arrangements.
Plenty of shout along sections and crowd interaction made this set a winner but the songs really do stand strong and Your Grouchy Friend would urge a listen: the band truly is a talent.
This was an evening of wall to wall Metal goodness: Precisely the underground laden celebration that makes our scene both locally and worldwide such an incredible thing of which to be a part. When everyone you speak to has a different stand out band for the show you know it has been an epic evening. Local events like this are our lifeblood and as COVID restrictions ease across the globe, supporting your local scene with your feet and your dollars will be vital to its survival. We in Perth consider ourselves blessed with an insane level of quality bands and a responsibility to reward their efforts. This truly was a night of emotive celebration. When your turn comes in your corner of the globe, your darkened path of The Metal Wanderlust… be there for your scene.
Rating – 5/5