Taberah / Awaken Solice / Cerebral Contortion / Grim Demise / By the Horns
The Vault Newcastle Saturday 17th June
Review and Interviews by Mark Snedden
Another big night in Newcastle at The Vault! Tonight is courtesy of Mr Dave Balfour and Metal Evilution, the Sydney based Heavy Metal Promoting Machine!! People like Dave and his company have spawned a real rebirth of the metal community in Australia. It is powerful when someone committed to the music puts time and energy in to the scene and nurtures it organically. The Australian scene has never been healthier, thanks to devoted metal warriors like Mr Balfour. Now to tonight, this is probably one of the most varied line ups that Newcastle has witnessed in this venue – the Tasmanian reprobates Taberah, the symphonic nuances of Awaken Solace, the thrash empowered Cerebral Contortion, the death laden Grim Demise and the crushing “riffery” of By the Horns. There are a lot of metal heads in Newcastle but sometimes it is hard to get them out and the supportive thing about this line-up is there I something for everyone! Unfortunately the turnout was not what is should have been, but those present made the most of it and had an awesome night. Tonight I focussed on each set and spent a little bit of time with both Awaken Solace and Taberah.
First up tonight was Sydney’s By the Horns, but due to my timing of the evening I regrettably missed their set. I am so sorry guys! But for those unfamiliar with By the Horns, let me fill you in. They are a five piece who came in to existence in 2014, but despite the band only being around for a few years they have released a demo (mid 2014), a seven track EP (2015) and have played across the state. They are a metal band, but a metal band that blends the sound of the old school with the ferocity of nu-metal, and the thrash movements of the last ten years or so. Check them out!
Next up was Grim Demise, They are a four piece death outfit hailing from Newcastle. Grim Demise are a death metal band as stated, but they have a lot of punk and hard core overtones in their music. The band are definitely getting tighter and this was the impact of the set for me. What I really like about this band is when the vocals are mixed up with a dark clean vocal lines. This creates a dynamic in their music that provides separation amongst, and within, their compositional structures. I look forward to their second release as this band develops further.
Next were Awaken Solace. Now Awaken Solace are not the first symphonic Australian metal band, but they are definitely the best. This band has a solid foundation of musicianship, like all symphonic metal bands need to, but what separates them quite dramatically, is their sense of vision within their compositions, and how this is symbiotically linked with melody. A lot of symphonic bands have the bombastic dynamic compositions with seeping orchestral arrangements, this is symphonic metal, but a lot miss the subtleties of why we listen to music, the melody and the hook. Awaken Solace don’t. On the back of two releases, the second album is being released shortly, this band has the melody and the hook needed to make their compositions in to songs. Looking at the history of this band they have years of musical experience and this is something that balances the essence of what makes this band great.
I caught up with Robert (keyboardist) to broaden my understanding of Awaken Solace.
I am sure not everyone in Brisbane plays symphonic metal so how did Awaken Solace find each other?
“Well, you know music is more international these days, we would have found each other through our mutual love of symphonic metal anyway and this is ultimately what happened. We were independently looking and were in the right place at the right time. It is was the battle horns of Northern Europe that turned us in to the ‘frenzic symphonic metal zombies’ that we are!!”
So Robert, who is the principle songwriter of the band?
“Maree (vocals) is the lyricist and theme of and image of the music, this is with her. However I, and guitarist Elspeth, are responsible for the music. But I am the final filter and polish of the compositions. Ultimately, because we have complicated music, it isn’t ‘jammable,’ the orchestral stuff is written up prior. Sometimes lyrics come first and sometimes music. This time we had finished demos of the songs, the two of us, and then Maree wrote the lyrics. But before this latest album we had the story line, beginning with the concept and the number of songs and we went from there. We recorded all of the lyrics and harmonies at the demo stage. We have a full demo of the whole album, even before we were rehearsing with the drums, and this was a picture and helped us to find what we liked. This gave us an overall soundscape and with this solid structure in rehearsals we could learn the songs prior and work them through from there. So during recording we could play along with the demo.”
How has your latest album, MYTHANDRIEL, or samples of, been received?
“Nothing has been released officially from the album as yet, and the release date is the 7th of July. We are so proud of what we have done and we are excited about its release. We will be playing six of the songs tonight and live the material has been well received. It is definitely a step up from the last album it is more mature and so it is an exciting time for us”
What is the game plan for the band, do you have a road map or plan?
“This latest album has been so long in the making, you know we first started writing for it three years ago, so at the moment we are just focussing on this. We will have guest musicians to play on the release day and this will be big. We will release a single and a video after the album is released also. After this we will play more show and then obviously start thinking about the next one”
At this stage has there been much interested from overseas?
“It has been very positive, a lot of our sales are from Europe, Japan and the US. It is very much an international style of music and not necessarily Australian music as such. We are lucky that we live now and we can use the internet and technology to get our music out there. Our following is not people who live close to us and this has been great and exciting in itself.”
Awaken Solace can play, and seeing them live really emphasises this point. I don’t think that a symphonic metal band has graced the stage of The Vault before and it was about time. The Newcastle crowd took to them straight away and the band had come to make a point! My initial ear was taken aback by the solid rhythm section, very tight, but with room for expression and experimentation. Generally the rhythm section of a symphonic metal band holds up the melody and the drama and stabilises the sound, but not this section. Vocally, Maree is very impressive. It is a huge ask vocally to carry the story of symphonic styled music but she is talented. She has the range, she can create characterisation within her tone and intonation, but even more than this, she has a presence and I could see tonight that her voice is going to develop further over time and experience. Robert was a very engaging keyboardist, and not just another musician on stage, he was great to watch and Elspeth was very impressive and a solid guitarist.
It will be interesting to see where this band goes. It is hard to push a symphonic metal band in a country like Australia and I hope that they obtain the attention they deserve from the European market which can advance their career to the next level.
Next was another Newcastle institution, Cerebral Contortion. I have always been a fan of these guys, no nonsense, no rubbish, no frills, just THRASH! There sound is modern but harks back to early Kreator and Sodom for me, and there is nothing wrong with that! They were very tight tonight and had a solid sound. They had their original drummer step in for the show and he held the band and pushed the pace of the set forward. By this time in the night, they were the perfect fit on the bill, the Newcastle crowd lapped them up and the set seemed to finish very quickly; always a good sign. I am not sure what is in store for these guys, on the back of so many powerful thrash bands coming out of the wood work in Australia at the moment, they can stand side by side, and hopefully they will benefit from this movement. They are band to definitely keep an eye on.
Now to Taberah, they were headlining, it was their gig, and they were showcasing their third album, Sinner’s Lament. This band has gone from strength to strength over the last five to ten years. The first time I saw them was in support of Motorhead, during their last ever tour of Australia at the Big Top in Sydney. Taberah were excellent this night, despite a few nerves they really won over the crowd and played so well; and this was on the back of winning a competition to get the gig. From this point I have seen them on a number of occasions, the most memorable being in support of Nightwish at The Enmore Theatre during their last tour. Taberah by this point had turned in to a formidable force to be reckoned with. They are a band who infuse elements of metal, hard rock and straight up rock n roll and are a unit who sincerely enjoy what they do. I caught up with Jono (guitar/vocals) prior to the bands set
Jono, can you talk me through where you got the name Taberah from, considering the history behind this name?
“When I was sixteen, I literally I picked up a bible and looked for a band name and came across it. Cool word and cool story. You know it is a symmetrical word, great for a logo, and it has three syllables and is easy to chant. As simple as that!”
How did Taberah, the band, come about?
“Tom (drums & spandex) and I went to high school together and we developed similar musical tastes. It was in wood work we became friends. Actually, if the truth be known, he broke my hat rack in year nine at high school, he still owes me a hat rack!! We started jamming at school and it went from there, just guys who had a similar taste in music and wanted to play. He had some drums and I had a guitar that was it.”
How do you write songs and arrange them as a band?
“I normally just hear something in my head and come up with an idea. I will noodle around on guitar and go from there. There is no set way, it is really based around a pop formula. The ideas are all put together then as a band. Lyrically it is around life, but music it is just fooling around. It is easy to just let ideas flow and let the music come together. As a band we show each other stuff and if it’s exciting to us, we run with it.”
To the new album Sinners Lament, how do you see it sitting with your previous releases?
“It is third! It’s the third album…nah it is a natural progression, but I guess more than that, production wise, it is the way we have always sounded in our heads, and what we wanted to sound like in the studio. When we were younger we didn’t have the money to record and this time we invested in the production of the album because we could. We had Lord Tim (LORD / Dungeon) work on this, we had mates rates, and he has made a big difference to our sound, in a good way. ”
How has it been received overseas, I know you have some distribution deals beyond Australia?
“In Japan it is going really well and Europe it will be released on the thirtieth of June. We secured this through just sending emails and asking around; Tom did most of this. We had a huge list and it just went from there. Rock Stack in Japan have picked it up for us. You know if the big, main distributers (Nuclear Blast, Metal Blade, Roadrunner) didn’t want us, we weren’t going to bother as we can do a lot of it ourselves and really benefit from everything.”
Now to Taberah live, you are a band that is full of energy and always seem to be having a great time, what is the chemistry like for you guys within the band when you play?
“We are just happy to be doing it. Whether it’s five, fifty, or a thousand people it’s all the same to us. We just love to play and we have always wanted to do this, it’s a good job. We don’t worry about anything except playing, it is who we are.”
So where to from here with Taberah, is there a next move professionally for the band?
“We will start writing the fourth album and we really want to get to Japan and also Europe, obviously. We don’t want to go over there unprepared though. We want to get there following hopefully a bit of hype, and make the most of what we are going over there for.”
Finally Jono, can you talk me through how Taberah got involved with Head Space?
“I used Head Space when I was young as I was an angry young man! We thought to ourselves, let’s pick a charity and do something good. We have had a lot of people talk to us about support they have been given from organisations like Head Space and so people just drop money in to the tin. I have a tin on tour that is sitting on our merch table and people are contributing, and not just loose change, people are really contributing and see this as worthwhile which is great. ”
Taberah hit The Vault in full swing, they came to play, and play they did. They burst in to the set on the back of the new album Sinners Lament and they had the Newy strong hold eating out of their hands. The interaction between these guys is great to witness, they are close, support each other musically and are always ready to give each other a hard time. They could actually be one big married “couple,” but that would be quite weird, so I will just leave it there! To say they are tight – would be an understatement, to say they can write songs – that would be an understatement, and finally, to say they can hold a crowd – well fuck me, this place was buzzing! There were a number of highlights from the set, notably for me was Jono being excited about wearing a Psycroptic tank top that a punter had on in the crowd. Weird but interesting, watching a punter give the singer their shirt, and then the said singer wear the shirt for a few songs, and then hand it back! It went down really well. But ultimately, the highlight of the set was just the performance in general, these guys really do have the world at their feet and I just hope that the next step is a smooth one for them because with the right representation they are up for a hell of a career. I wish Taberah all the best and I sincerely look forward to seeing them live again soon; maybe Jono will want to wear my shirt next time.
This was a great night at The Vault, a plethora of metal from nearly every sub-genre on the one bill! A big thank you to Metal Evilution again, for making this happen. I just hope that we can coerce more Newy metal heads out of their lounge rooms in the future to support the amazing talent we have in Australia who are making the effort to come and play in our town.
Raise the Horns!!
(DIO trademark….not Gene Simmons)
All Images © MickG Photography