GIG REVIEW: LAGERFEST- The Halo Effect, Lagerstein, Beyond The Black, Devilskin, Temtris – Sydney November 16th 2023

Manning Bar - Sydney, NSW

The Halo Effect

Yesterday night at Manning Bar, Sydney metalheads were treated to a thoroughly enjoyable assortment of Metal bands (both local and international) as part of Lagerfest. This festival is having a pretty solid and diverse lineup comprised of Devilskin (New Zealand), Lagerstein (Brisbane), Beyond the Black (Germany) and The Halo Effect (Sweden) touch ground in both New Zealand and Australia for a series of concerts, with respective local support acts. The mix in bands and styles resulted in a very healthy dose of Melodic Death, Symphonic, Folk, Power and Alternative Metal throughout the evening. I am a massive advocate of mixed lineups, so I was keen on this concert since it was announced.

The show was meant to kick off at 6.50 pm, but due to some general organisation setbacks, local Heavy/Power Metal band Temtris were not able to hit the stage until 7.30 pm. Unfortunately, this 40 minute delay resulted in them having to cut their set short, way too short in my opinion. Regardless of this, with the 3 songs that they were allowed to play, Temtris treated the audience to a pounding lesson in Power Metal and set the bar high from the very beginning. Their set started with the title track from their latest album ‘Khaos Divine’, a hard-hitting anthem that is as catchy as it is heavy, and continued with some older songs as well. I have seen this band a few times before and I can confidently say that last night they were sounding more grandiose than ever, which made the fact that they could only play for 15 minutes feel even more unfair. The dual guitar solos from axemen Anthony Fox and Nadi Norouzian were absolutely on point, the rhythmic base was rock-solid and vocalist Gen Rodda’s powerful voice took the band’s songs to an anthemic level.

After a pretty quick changeover, New Zealand band Devilskin took the stage and owned it for 35 minutes. To be very honest, I have never listened to this band’s music before, so I was excited to listen to them with fresh ears, and they didn’t disappoint at all. With a very energic stage presence, the band led by vocalist Jennie Skulander kept the intensity flowing throughout their whole 35 minute-long set. Guitarist Nail Vincent and bassman Paul Martin were delivering a nonstop barrage of chunky riffs and groovy songs that forced me to start headbanging immediately, and as a side note, I am really struggling to think of a drummer that beats the skins as hard as drummer Nic Martin. This band was HEAVY. Jennie is a great singer and a true frontwoman, from cartwheels and air kicks, to intense vocals and death growls than can rival anyone, she made sure that Devilskin could leave a very good impression on anyone watching the show. With 3 albums on their back, they were able to deliver a set full of fan favourites and newer songs as well, from groovier headbangers, to fast Thrashers, their song selection was a cleverly planned rollercoaster of energy.

Now, the true surprise of the night for me came with Beyond the Black, who took the stage at exactly 8.50 pm and delivered an absolute masterclass in Symphonic Metal that felt almost too short. I knew this band before and I actually like a lot some of their songs, but the way they were able to translate these songs to the stage was just mesmerizing. This is one of those rare bands that really feeds from the energy of a live audience and gives back that energy amplified 10 times. Led by the awesome and very talented Jennifer Haben on vocals (who is one of the most charismatic and engaging frontwomen I can recall) they opened their set with ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ and its very catchy and atmospheric falsetto samples that quickly turn to a hard-hitting anthem, and followed with a very healthy collection of songs from their 5 albums. Some highlights included ‘Songs of Love and Death’, ‘Shine and Shade’, and the absolute masterpiece that was the closing track ‘Hallelujah’, with its Power-Thrash take on their style, which was just the perfect way to end one of the most enjoyable sets I have ever witnessed. Beyond the Black deliver a very fresh take on the whole Symphonic Metal formula, mostly delivering bite-sized songs with extremely catchy melodies and masterful execution that can see them go from Gothic Rock to guitar shredding and Thrash Metal in no time. This band is ready for the big leagues.

While Lagerstein were getting ready to jump onstage, I spent a bit of time taking in the atmosphere and talk to a few friends and familiar faces in the crowd, and we all agreed in one thing so far: the overall sound quality of the gig was actually being pretty excellent, like surprisingly so, considering that these several-bands mini festivals can sometimes be hit and miss in regards to this. I already mentioned how Temtris sounded huge, Devilskin’s drum kicks were body crushing and Beyond the Black had the perfect mix that allowed me to listen to literally every single note and detail.

At 10pm Brisbane Pirate kings Lagerstein hit the stage for a quick but fun-filled set. Unfortunately, they too had to cut their set shorter than usual, which meant we were only treated to a handful of songs during their 22 minute set. Regardless, the band brought in their contagious energy to the stage with their very own brand of Pirate-infused Folk Metal. Stage presence is very important in a Lagerstein show, and the band knows it, so they included some fun dynamics like a shoey drinking session with whomever wanted to join in and a Metal version of classic Aussie 80s song ‘Down Under’, which was well received by the audience. These guys are a band that like to have fun onstage, and this works marvels for them, because the fact that the 7 musicians literally didn’t stop jumping and prancing around, makes for a more engaging live experience.

It was finally time for the headliners, Sweden’s The Halo Effect, and the audience was ready. At 10.45 the lights went off, and the first notes of ‘Days of the Lost’ could be heard, effectively sending everyone to a frenzy as soon as the musicians jumped onstage. The Halo Effect are the hottest Melodic Death Metal supergroup of the moment, formed entirely by ex-In Flames members from different eras of the band. This means that their sound is pure and unadulterated 2000’s Gothenburg MeloDeath nostalgia, and I love it. They are also a relatively new band, being around only for a bit more than 2 years, and since they only have released one album (Days of the Lost), their setlist was basically comprised of the whole tracklist plus a couple of new and unreleased tracks. Ever since their debut album came was released a year or so ago, it became a staple on my playlists, as it truly captures the essence of the music that I used to listen to in my teenage years, so needless to say, I was extremely keen to see them live, and I am very glad I did.

The Halo Effect deliver a flawless live experience where every musician is perfectly in sync and harmony with each other. It is immediately evident that these are musicians that have known each other for many years and have played together at different points in their careers. Led by the unmistakable voice of the amazing Mikael Stanne, the band does feel more Dark Tranquillity than In Flames at times, but that is not a bad thing at all, given both those bands are true pillars of the genre. Stanne is a very charismatic frontman, always polite and not as effusive as one could imagine, but always engaging. His communication with his band members and with the audience makes for a truly excellent experience where the listeners really feel immersed in the full energy of the concert. Their sound quality was exceptional and perfectly balanced as well. Some of the gig highlights were the ultra-catchy ‘In Broken Trust’, new song ‘Become Surrender’, and of course, the fan favourite and gig closer ‘Shadowminds’ which was also the first song ever released by the band and the one that people are most familiar with. The band played for exactly 50 minutes, and personally I would have loved to listen to a Dark Tranquillity and an In Flames cover to round up the full hour and complete the ultimate MeloDeath Supergroup experience, but I am not complaining at all because The Halo Effect delivered one of the tightest and most professional sets I have seen in a long time. Unfortunately, original members Jesper Stromblad (guitars) and Daniel Svensson (drums) were not able to join this Australia / New Zealand tour, but the musicians that replaced them and the rest of the band felt just as crushing and melodic as they do in their album. I must say, it is amazing that a band that is so relatively new is able to deliver flawless headliner sets and to create this sort of connection with the people already, especially people like me, who grew up listening to that classic Gothenburg sound from the late 90s and early 2000s. This is a band that I would watch live every time I have the opportunity.

All in all, Lagerfest was a thoroughly enjoyable evening that allowed me and many others to witness some bands that normally we would think rather unlikely to visit our faraway lands, and even if it was evident that there was some organisation turmoil before and during the gig, the end result was a Metal-filled night of great variety and talent that I won’t forget anytime soon.

written by Roman Ibarra & photos by Drew Fulton

The Halo Effect:


Beyond the Black: