Dead of Winter 2015 (Brisbane, QLD)

25 July 2015 at Jubilee Hotel
This was my first time to this festival so I will provide a concise history. Starting in 2009, two people wanted to celebrate everything on the darker side of music covering but not limited to Psychobilly, Metal, Punk, Goth, Industrial, Shock rock and Horror country. Definitely one of the most unique festivals I have ever been to, and from an underground metal perspective, certainly one of the largest representations of our local talent.

As a small team normally, reviewing your standard festival of 15+independent bands when you may not have heard over 50% of them before represents challenges. When you are covering over 40 bands over 4 stages over 12 hours by yourself plus the inevitable sound problems/schedule clashes, it becomes virtually impossible to cover everybody. Some of the bands that were missed were reviewed only a few months ago at Metal Heart however (Metal Heart review) .

Cactus Dill Dos – Cactus Dill Dos kick us off on the Neon Studios stage in the Beer garden. They have an interesting blend of party rock that is appreciated by the diverse audience. I saw these guys a few months ago at Metal Heart, and they are always entertaining. Closing with the "Gotta have big balls" song, they were a solid choice to begin with.

Fuzz Pilot – Opening the Drum Cartel Stage in the Deck Bar, this three piece began with a roaring guitar tone. This developed into a slower, southern groove with a contagious head banging feel that the punters responded to in kind. This three piece were able to generate an impressive amount of noise. I look forward to hearing some more from this group.

Midwife Crisis – My first and not my last trip to the 4ZZZ Carpark stage in that glorious winter sun. Midwife crisis are a refreshing, youthful, up tempo, female fronted, hard-core outfit. I am not even going to edit that down; they were that good. They were already pulling a very respectable crowd, and I can feel the need for a hat on this warm winter day.

Elkenwood – Now to the GBH stage upstairs at the Jube, where most of the metal bands will live today. Elkenwood are a five piece, and seemed a little squished into the intimate stage. Given the nature of festivals, most people tend to walk around for the first hour, just checking things out, and I know I heard at least one person surprised that there was another stage upstairs. Even so, they played to a reasonably sized crowd with their unique style of metal. These songs are well crafted and have a nearly orchestral feel to them with many parts. Their 25 degree reference to the alleged Qld Winter met a favourable response, and many of us were already peeling off layers. When I saw the acoustic guitar come out on the metal stage, I expected something folk-metal-ish but there were interesting dynamics and dramatic volume changes when they changed between clean and distorted. There were a few sound problems at the time, did not hinder the enjoyment of the atmospheric compositions.

Walken – This is a two piece being bass/vox & drums. These guys are a thought-provoking blend of melodic & heavy ideas, despite what you think would be limiting (Om beg to differ, among other Bass/drum duo's). At this point, some of the extremely bloodied performance artists started walking about.

Undeadnecks – Undeadnecks were greeted by a rousing reception and at least they were wearing cowboy hats in this carpark heat. They played a country feel complete with neckerchief as we go into a song called "truck full of fuckoff. "I wrote this song cuz I killed a bitch" takes us to the next piece. Their "Rockin in the free world" cover wrapped us up.

Coffin Carousel -Three piece rock from Melbourne with some dynamic changes. These guys were young and promising with some cool ideas.

Goon on the Rocks – Goon's up tempo brand of punk started to pack the audience in now and people responded instinctively to their intense style. It's difficult to get much instrument separation normally with this level of intensity and speed, but seeing a performance with so much energy live is something to behold. They used the different dynamics well and kept the crowd on their toes.

Obserd – Psycho/street punk says their bio. I tend to agree with this and enjoyed their double bass, rockabilly punk style. There is just something about the entire upright bass thing that just changes the band sound. However, their angrier, political punk edge is undeniable, and differentiates them from some of the other bands who tend to have more rock leanings. One to watch

The Rared – Rock five piece from Brisbane. These guys were just really solid, uncompromising Aussie rock in the finest style. I do have a thing for unpretentious bands who are competent musicians, which they had plenty of.

Azreal – Azreal really packed the crowd in upstairs. I walk in to "Premonition" with its menacing intro and drum work. "Kill your fears" followed with its monster riff. The singer engaged in some banter – "Being in a band is a lot of fun. If you're not in a band, I recommend you join one". Azreal are one of those bands that when they hit that groove, they are untouchable.

Dead Joe – Just as I was wondering who this band was he turned around helpfully to show the band name on back of his shirt. These guys came all the way from Adelaide with their version of punk rock, which had a bit of a misfit feel, which of course was tailor made for this festival. The Dead Joe beanies were also popular merchandise today and now if you see a few of them around town, you will know why.

Horrorwood Mannequins – Luke from Azreal was just behind me, and we had a quick chat before the show. Another great thing about this festival is there is none of the rockstar vibe where bands sit in seclusion prior to the show, play and then bail. Most were also punters who were there to see the other bands just as much as to play, and were often walking around in their stage gear during the day, as the singer of the Mannequins was. Horrorwood Mannequins came out in their facepaint and played heavy Manson-esque type songs. I'm sure one was about a strip club, but that could be the festival talking. The singer was full of banter and kept things moving along even as the guitarist had some technical difficulties showing his experience. "Anybody here had a broken cock?" was one of the more unusual questions the crowd were asked that day.

Swamp Gully Howlers -The Howlers were a female fronted heavy blues group with harmonica. This five piece left the punters wanting more. They were capable of playing the more subtle songs, not just the stomping, party music that they also played well.

Fat – I saw these guys play an amazing set opening for The Meanies recently. Fat are a four piece who blast their well-honed brand of raucous rock, and true survivors of the earlier Brisbane live scene that spawned some of the bands that lead to Regurgitator like Pangaea and Zoorastia, among others. "Bestiality" still sounds as good as when I first heard it in The Zoo when you had to buy your dinner to get in because of licencing (and you could bring your own beers in!!!). They played some of the new stuff off their Blue meets Black album which was well received.

Flangipanis – The Flangipani's began with stretching in front of us in their netball bibs; safety is important. They opened with the high speed, extremely crowd pleasing "I'm drunk so what fuck you" which tipped the fast growing crowd into a level of stagediving that could only be described as heroic over the bitumen carpark. A "mystery beer" was discovered on stage, which was tossed out to a lucky punter. "My period is late", with its epic sing along chorus, attracted a few strange glances from the passers-by, but made perfect sense if you were there. However, "28" was when they crossed over into DOW greatness. Jodie had to swap mikes with the bassist for this one. Her mike was taken by several enthusiastic punters as the stage was virtually stormed to this stirring song of self-deprecation that more than a few of us related to. The new "Nice Haircut Dickhead" song was popular in its brevity and the secret meaning of "just because it fits" was revealed. Sorry but tonight was their night. They finished with the Hawks song, a brief but contagious AFL tribute to Hawthorn. Hard working, talented, funny and a very tight unit; I think we can get them better barriers next time.

The Punk Rock Hillbilly – I was just passing by these guys when I saw Sian Evans on banjo, an amazing local musician who would give some of the local metal guys a run with her chops. Punk Rock Hillbilly were engaging and had many of the crowd dancing along.

Kyzer Soze – I caught the end of these guys. They managed to make the walls hum with each note, and the audience was into it. They were excellent last time I saw them at Neckwreck. A couple were slow dancing to the Black Sabbath music played through the PA prior. … romance in the pit area…

Hadal Maw – I was recommended to check these guys out and was not disappointed. An 8 string guitarist, 6 string bassist and an incredibly punchy drum sound showed that these guys were the business. They were very technical, utilising tapped basslines combined with aggressive vocals. The Metal Maiden (4zzz radio) was in the pit and clearly she is also a fan of Hadal Maw. Hadal were one of the more unusual sounds at DOW and anyone who can contain that sort of madness is worth seeing live.

Kill the Apprentice – It was becoming clear at this point despite high hopes, I was not going to be able to see all the bands, but I was told that I was not to miss this Gold Coast band. I have to say I am glad I didn't. Female led vocals take us into this high octane brand of punk rock. Kill the Apprentice are one of the bands where it won't matter if you know their songs or not (and quite a few did), and… you know the bass player just started dancing on my table right next to me, so at this point my rather delicate train of thought derailed, crashed and burned into super nova… There's that urgency/impatience to get the song moving with these guys that few others get anywhere near to. It's pretty hard to look away from a band like that, and the rapidly swelling crowd didn't really give you the option anyway. Look, if you like energetic rock, you will love these guys.

The Wrath – The hardworking bassist from Kill the Apprentice is also playing guitar in this band. They were met with a warm reception. The Wrath nail the fast beat punk feel with an infectious chorus and occasional harmonies. They have been around over ten years also, and you could see how the experience translated into handling the crowd and driving them into a frenzy.

Lagerstein – Lagerstein have been around some time, and there was no way I was missing out on one of the leading exponents of "Pirate Metal". These guys are a presence and as the name suggests, don't mind a drink. A serious crowd fave and the song words were well known as they sang along. I had serious problems getting anywhere near enough to take a decent photo.

Brimstone – Brimstone are a five piece. I heard "Holy man" sang from the heavily tattooed singer's powerful voice. They began with a stomping beat and the frenzied head banging inevitably followed. Their music has a rock swagger to it at times, and the Deck Bar pulled quite a few more people in as they blasted through their set.

Hobo Magic – This Noosa three piece have a real Zeppelin groove and the bass player is a machine. I can see why they are so popular. They are all remarkably busy as most three pieces are, but it's the kind of rock that evokes the 70's. With talent to burn, and the sort of chemistry that takes most bands five to ten years to develop, they are already a force.

Lord – To say these guys play well is an understatement. Playing up tempo metal in the 80's style to a packed crowd, these guys are proof that there is much mileage left in this genre, especially when played with such passion. Much like the debate Kirk Hammett had with Hetfield in "that movie" about whether solos were still relevant; when Metal is played like this, yes, it's still extremely relevant. If more bands would stop jumping on trends (not aimed at any band at this fest. by the way), and just play from your heart like these guys, I think it would add more longevity to most bands life. Check out their "Because we can" clip on youtube also, it shows the lighter side of shredding, and that they do not take themselves too seriously.

Tumbleweed – Beginning with some mellow fuzz, Tumbleweed let us know they were in the room. The long hair is gone and they've gotten older but it's there's no mistaking a song like "Sundial" with its Mary Jane chorus. Their heavy psychedelic grooves carved as the singer gave a consummate performance. Everyone has their own favourite Tumbleweed song, and mine is "Daddy long legs", which still chugs along in fine fashion.

Whiskey and Speed – I have been so close to seeing this band so many times. This singer was possessed. You would be hard pressed to find a band who worked harder at having fun. The audience sprayed fake blood on the singer as a large man up the front in a dress rubbed it into the singer's chest. "Who thinks we suck?" The "you suck" song or whatever it was actually called started the pit with no grey area, and "Wet and Waiting" was equally well received. A brill cover of Last caress cover wrapped us up.

Our Last Enemy – Back to the upstairs metal stage and the stairs were definitely getting harder to get up now. This Sydney powerhouse were a perfect addition to Dead of Winters horror theme. A sample leads us to their super bass heavy sound, and it was undeniable how professional they sounded. They have relocated to LA to record with an ex Fear Factory member and it has clearly paid off.

Darkcell – I saw these guys support Otep some time ago and they impressed me then. They have developed into a whole different beast now. After some initial sound problems, the vocals were working fine and the grateful punters got to hear this slick industrial outfit who had not only played Soundwave but also a US tour recently. Their dominant set was welcomed in a full room to wrap things up for the upstairs stage.

Dreadnaught – Last show for the Beer Garden. Dreadnaught are a five piece metal band who were nailing every song to the large throng of punters. A very solid band and this man has quite a set of lungs.

Line-up: Tumbleweed, Dreadnaught, Our Last Enemy, Darkc3ll, LORD, Lagerstein, Kyzer Soze, Brimstone, Hobo Magic and many many more

Reviewer: Matt