Dead of Winter Festival 2018 - Review

From inauspicious beginnings nearly a decade ago running out of the now defunct Step Inn, the Dead of WInter has become a mainstay and number one event for much of Brisbane's metal and punk scene. This year the festival accommodated nearly 3,000 music lovers and spread the love across half a dozen stages over two venues. These guys know how to run a festival FOR the people. Brisbane’s melodic black metal Kaerulean kick the day off on the drum cartel stage giving early starters a real treat. The band actually have a great turn out considering they are the opening act of the day. With the recent news of their new EP ‘The Orwellian Dream’ and their upcoming gig with Psycroptic just around the corner, Kaerulean are a band to keep a close eye on.

Up and coming Gold Coast band Level H move the festivities to the upstairs room in The Jubilee and while the room is somewhat hidden away they still manage to drag the masses of metal heads up for a good old fashion thrash out. Unfortunately due to no fault of their own the band were let down by a disappointing live mix with guitars being almost buried under drums and vocals. Despite this the band smash through their set with confidence and leave a great impression on everyone who saw them. Brisbane groove metallers Massic don’t hold back and from the opening note of their first song it is pure chaos. Each band member is so charismatic and full of energy that it is felt throughout the venue and sets off the first crowed surf for the day. The bands frontman Simon is hands down one of the best in QLD and commands your attention onstage and off as he is lifted up into the pit by the many fans during their set. This band should be on everyone’s bucket list to see live and should do so if given the chance.

Following the release of their new EP ‘Homeblokes’ Northern rivers turbo blues favorites Hammers bring the swagger and groove to the beer garden stage. Frontman Fish is in full party mode sporting an epic Hawaiian shirt and swinging a beer as he prowls the stage and dance floor like he has still been going from the night before. Extremely entertaining and really helps set up the fun for the rest of the day. It’s come the time in the day when everyone has had a few beers and packing in to see The Black Swamp unleash their sludge groove filled goodness. The Swamp boys are one of the tightest bands around and have one of the biggest pulls for people for the Festival and it’s hard not to be drawn into the pit when they play. The perfect band for a midday beer and a mosh, flawless set from these local lads.

Decryptus take the stage in the upstairs room and even for winter it was boiling in there, the band have worked hard to build a solid fan base and it’s like all of them are packed in there at once to the point that the floor was moving like a trampoline. Even though they had a couple of power issues the band soldiered on to deliver one of the most memorable metal sets of the day and even managed to leave a great impression on a few that hadn’t seen them before. After a bit of time catching up with a few people we made our way up to the Tivoli to see Melbourne’s Zeolite who were crushingly heavy. The low down tunes guitars rattle the Tivs walls and you can feel every note like a punch in the chest. The band have been making a name for themselves in the heavy scene of late and they are one act I am definitely looking forward to seeing again when they return to play the Crowbar later in the year. After stumbling back into the Jube we came across a band called Neptune Power federation who reminded me of a cross between Ghost and maybe some of the weirder Nick Cave ish moments. This band were mesmerizing to watch with singer Loz Sutch dressed head to toe like an ancient goddess addressing her many followers to obey her commands, totally hypnotic! Pagan put on one of the most energetic and memorable sets of the day, front woman Nikki really gives the boys on the rest of the bill a run for their money as she it seems she is possessed by the spirit of rock n roll itself, growling and screaming as she stalks the stage demanding your attention. The band had only just released their debut album ‘Black Wash’ the day before and there were many people in the packed Tivoli that had already learned most of the words. Towards the end of their set Pagan announce that they will be playing a special 1am set at the Crowbar after Dead of Winter finishes which is insane considering how much energy they put into their slot on the Festival alone. Outside on the Carpark Stage, Clowns provided a welcome change of pace from the chugging tech and death metal being staged elsewhere with a blistering set of punk rock. Mixing post-punk cues and mic moves (a la At The Drive In) with balls-out hardcore the early evening crowd were set off with an unrelenting set of mosh-inducers. Back in the carpark, Radio Moscow are a few minutes into their set and pot smoke is drifting back from the front few rows. Unsurprising, all things considered. These guys are more than a little like The Black Keys and if the vocalist had a deeper voice, Hendrix comparisons would abound. I love a good jam band and these guys are that, if nothing else. A friend of mine complained that they didn't have any songs (they did) but I shot back, "with talent and tone like that, who needs songs?" Pangea were a band I remember going to see way back at Livid Festival when I was a young lad and I totally forgot how good they were live but quickly reminded as soon as they hit the stage. Ben Ely’s bass tone alone is like a time machine that takes you back to Festivals long gone and you can’t help but feel nostalgic as the band rip through some of their classic tracks. Most of the punters here to see them play are pushing 40 but there are still a few young faces around that have stopped to appreciate what this band has to offer even if it’s been years since they have jammed. Prior to the set Lindsay 'The Doctor' McDougall was spotted at the bar sculling water and looking like he was 'one toke over the line'. He showed no signs that he's a 40 year old rock star who can't handle his piss when he took the stage with Frenzal Rhomb to round out the year's festival. Dressed in his hi-viz gear, he kicked things off with some Farnsy before being joined on stage by the rest of the band and the set proper kicked off with 'We're Going Out Tonight'. What follows is what you'd expect from a Frenzal set: a high energy punk show from veterans of more than 20 years. Classics like 'Cunt Act', 'You Are Not My Friend', 'Storage Unit Pill Press', 'Mr Charisma' and 'Bird Attack' are punctuated by stage banter about being a clue in the Sydney Morning Herald crossword and having a song played on Neighbours. Soundtrack to a Dreamworld ad, 'Never Had So Much Fun', 'You Can't Move Into My House' wraps up an hour of Australia's best punk and by extension the festival itself. Exhausted and cooked we stagger out of the Jubilee. Once again the organisers have put on hell of a party and it is agreed by all that this year was epic and we all look forward to next years Dead of Winter.

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