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Live Review: Dead of Winter Festival 2018

Over the last decade or so, the people of Brisbane have become accustomed to July being an incredibly exciting time of the year. As Queensland’s generally half-arsed attempt at winter rolls on through, the Dead of Winter Festival brought with it another HUGE lineup packed with an array of all the dark, heavy goodness punters could want. Now in it’s ninth year, Dead of Winter boasted yet another sold out event with six stages spread across two venues in the heart of Fortitude Valley. We headed down to catch as much of the action as we could.

Kicking things off at the Jubilee Hotel we made our way around the already fairly packed venue, scoping out the five stages around the venue. Straight away we were met with very friendly staff and a buzzing atmosphere that you’d expect from any ridiculous festival. Not only did the festival attract punters of various ages but it also served as a common ground for the likes of many impressive mohawks; some insane body art (I’m fairly certain I saw one of those Avatar women!); many a goth and a vast number of heavy-metal, punk-loving, hardcore motherf*ckers.

Just a short walk up the road to the Tivoli housed a slightly different crowd as the Young Henry’s stage showcased some of the best heavy acts Australia has to offer. The vibe at The Tivoli was very chilled as many punters enjoyed the sights of the super trippy wall projections and wall art while the Beats Bus busted out all the heavy anthems our hearts desired. The food trucks kept punters more than satisfied although, as it turns out, Indian food is not a festival favourite.

As with any multiple-staged festival there was bound to be clashes, which made it tough for us to decide which bands to catch. But instead of running around like headless chooks trying to catch every single band between multiple different stages, we decided to set up camp at the Tivoli and watch the next wave of Australian metal bands strut their stuff.

Local lads Sensaii warmed the ever-growing crowd up with metalcore goodness with new track Bipolar Bears, a hit amongst fans while Melbourne’s Zeolite brought some deathcore-grind to a crowd in dire need of a massive pit that quickly became the catalyst for the electric energy felt throughout the night. She Cries Wolf were a favourite amongst local fans, filling the room substantially with their early time slot. They also demonstrated the importance of not getting your guitar strap caught around your body, as their lead guitarist somehow managed to tangle his guitar strap around his neck and arms mid song. However, we take our hat off to him given the rest of the song was completed using only his thumb while playing the guitar basically upside down.

Brisbane’s best live band, Deadlights, weren’t quite up to their usual high standard. Through no fault of their own, an array of technical issues seemed to restrict the four-piece as they were noticeably distracted by amps and pedalboards playing up, taking away from their otherwise capturing sound and stage presence. To their credit, Deadlights powered through and still provided fans with big breakdowns, pitch perfect vocals and an energy that had arms swinging and bodies twisting in the pit.

Sydney’s Black Rheno were arguably the most entertaining band of the night. With no more than a drummer, guitarist and vocalist, the three-piece created a wall of sound that you’d expect to hear from a five-piece outfit. Running guitars through bass amps, jumping head first into the crowd on multiple occasions, forward flipping on stage and creating push pits while performing, we haven’t seen a band capture every member of the audience quite the way Black Rheno did. The highlight of the set though was when vocalist Milla, climbed the mezzanine of The Tivoli before jumping off the railing with no hesitation, landing on the hands and heads of fans in a true f*ck yeah, rockstar moment.

Following the mayhem that was the Black Rheno set, were the kings of quirk in Ocean Grove. Going from strength to strength, the Victorian five-piece were on fire as they dished out tune after tune to the packed Tivoli room. What was noticeable is the positive affect that endless touring has had on the band. Clean vocalist, Dale Tanner’s vocals were pitch perfect, while the musicianship was at an all-time high. Softer songs like Mr. Centipede and The Wrong Way were carefully balanced with bouncy, heavy tracks like Stratosphere Love and I Told You To Smile in a sign that Ocean Grove are maturing and building towards something very big in the future. By far the most sonically unique band the Australian heavy scene has seen in a long time, Ocean Grove’s set was by far and large, one of the sets of the night.

Rounding out the night were the new faces of Australian metal in Polaris. Having blown up since the release of their debut album ‘The Mortal Coil’, the Dead of Winter crowd certainly emphasised their success, packing the relatively small Tivoli venue to capacity. With a circle pit in full flight before the stroke of one note, Polaris tore straight into popular tune Lucid and took the night to a whole new level. With a headline length set, the next glorious hour of metal goodness was crammed full of beautifully brutal breakdowns, exceptionally tight guitar solos and, “f*ck they’re so good,” moments left, right and centre.

The wall of sound that is Sonder, the brutality of Regress and the dramatic and emotional interlude of In Somnus Veritas just highlighted the sheer talent and diversity within Polaris’ sound, who are already talked up to be the next Parkway Drive in the heavy scene. From the vocal performances of Jamie Hails and Jake Steinhauser, to the insane guitar skills of Ryan Siew and Rick Schneider, Polaris are one of the most well rounded and talented metal bands we have seen in quite a while and to see them own the limelight like they did as a coheadliner at Dead of Winter festival has us very excited for the future of Australian metal.

Overall, we consider Dead of Winter 2018 a huge success. While we wish we could’ve seen so many of the other bands, this year’s lineup really delivered and we cannot wait to see what is in store for 2019.

Written by Sam Muggleton & Daniel Devitt.

Written by Sam Muggleton