Gig Review: Outbreak @ The Hamilton Station Hotel - Newcastle

Headliner: Death Plague

Support: Carnal Viscera + Terra Mortem + Strip The Dog + Ethereal Realm

Venue: The Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle

Date: Friday, March 13th 2020

Review by Luke Winchester

Photos by Joshua Nash

Well, isn’t everything just fucked at the moment? Tours, bands and small businesses are all feeling the sting of the pandemic which has touched every corner of the globe. So, it’s kind of fitting that tonight’s show is called Outbreak and is headlined by Queensland’s Death Plague. Spooky, right? Fortunately Newcastle metal fans are not superstitious and the venue is nothing short of bustling with sweaty, drunk, animalistic novocastrians. The thing is, both Grindhead Records and Tropical Decay have been working their asses off in the underground scene throwing together some of the best and most vicious bands Australia has seen and tonight is an outstanding representation, a perfect mixed bill of NWOBHM/Trad, Slam, Death Metal, Grind and even Slamming death metal (remember that shit?)

After a slightly rocky start Sydney’s Ethereal Realm get down to their own brand of Iron Maiden/Angel Witch worship with singer TNT producing one of the most commanding melodic voices this reviewer has seen from an unsigned band. The five piece have certainly studied the NWOBHM rule book and each member wears their influences on their sleeves running the gamut of Priest, Saxon and the aforementioned Angel Witch. Lead guitarist Leon is their secret weapon with some of the most ripping solos and lead breaks that would even make KK Downing sweat, Leon shows off absolutely astonishing speed and dexterity coupled with the soul and grit needed to bring out an emotionally charged lead required for Traditional Heavy Metal. The band are young and hungry but well and truly capable of keeping Newcastle’s metal fans engaged, which is good because the Denim Mafia are out in droves tonight to show the out of towners as much love as possible and ER show the love back, this band is clearly welcome in Newy any time they wanna drive up the freeway.

What can be said about Strip The Dog? Excellent band name, excellent band. This 3 piece from up north wins over everyone in the room real quick with their frenetic concoction of punk, metal and thrash. It’s as if 3 punk kids have gotten together to play their favourite Slayer riffs and by fuck does it go off. Vocalist/Guitarist Johnny’s rasp is volatile and full of vitriol, his command of the stage is unrelenting, drummer Zach is a machine, never letting the chaos get too out of hand and bass player Shane's holds it down as if his life depended on it. Who knew a three piece could be so violently entertaining? Well, speaking of three pieces the band erupt the pit into chaos with their cover of Motorhead’s "Ace of Spades." The wonderful thing about crossover bands is they usually have their tongue firmly in their cheek and even though Johnny didn’t speak much between songs what he did say made the crowd erupt into laughter with the personal highlight being “This song is about me and my friend used to start bands just to kick people out, it’s called "Out of the Band” - If only more metal bands took themselves less seriously. This reviewer couldn’t help but pick up one of their demo tapes (which rules in case you were wondering).

Hey kids, remember when Death Metal used to slam? Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Defeated Sanity ring a bell? Yeah, I remember them and apparently so do Orange’s Terra Mortem. A four piece Death Metal band that know how the fuck to slam when they need to, siting influences from Deicide, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel as influences the guys obviously love it sludgy and filthy and they show that without hesitation. vocalist James is an absolute weapon, sounding like Glen Benton screaming into a vacuum cleaner, and I mean that as a compliment, cause Glen is one of the best in the game and James does his justice. Some of the heaviest, filthiest tones of the night are produced whilst Terra Mortem are gracing the stage, they even swing out a Mortician cover, which, to be fair, isn’t that much of a surprise with the incredibly gargantuan wall of noise that the band produce. TM incorporates some “sick horror samples” in between and during tracks to keep up the intensity and once again, an out of town band being shown all the love by one of the best metal communities in Australia (in my humble opinion). Drummer James Budge is a human metronome, proficiently executing blasts, beatdowns and fills like a well oiled machine, the band following along with surgical precision, seriously, what a fucking night so far.

Carnal Viscera have been grinding harder than most, originally a two piece made up of Tom and Allanah (vocals and guitars respectively) accompanied by a drum machine, fortunately they’ve found an animal wild enough to bash the fuck out of the tubs and keep up with their auditory onslaught in the form of Scott, a wiley, epicurean of the beat. The band have been pushing through everything from injury (you should check out the video of Tom smashing a schooner glass on his hand by accident) to cancellations of shows due to this bullshit but their mentality is can’t stop, won’t stop. So, how about their performance? Well, the band suitably came out on stage with medical cleaner suits on (I know, apt right?) and just went straight for the throat of the crowd, grabbing and shaking until their lifeless corpses dropped to the venue floor. The three piece are in their essence a Death Metal band but they incorporate grind, black and slam, a concoction that has been done to death but somehow Carnal manages to present something new, refreshing and downright sinister. In case you can’t tell, I fucking love the shit out of this band and they deserve to play to the biggest crowds and on the best stages. Highlights of their set include the total stage invasion/mosh explosion during their cover of Bloodbath’s "Eaten" and the blatant savagery of "Wrong Night to Pull Over." Vocalist Tom is behind tonight's debauchery, he runs Tropical Decay and co-runs Grindhead Records, the dude is a workhorse, and it doesn’t slow down when he gets on stage, violently articulated vocals spew forth from him as if his very being depends on it. Alannah is a fucking shredder, you could stack her up next to the Hoffman borthers, Trey from Morbid Angel or Pat O’Brien and not only would she hold her own she’d probably show them a thing or two, and did I mention her backup vocals, viscerally disgorged into the faces of the crowd, who are lapping every brutal second of Carnal’s set up like gruel from the floor.

So, because public transport is a bit shitty around the Newcastle/Hunter area this reviewer had to dip out before the headliner but fortunately Ex-Billabong of Blood guitarist and all around good guy Donovan Taylor was there reporting from the front line (Probably windmilling that gorgeous long mane) Here’s what the handsome MF had to say about headliner Death Plague "For the final auditory assault of the night... Death plague. A vicious rampage was unleashed on novocastrians as Death Plague dominated the stage with a unique blend of magnificent filthy black metal vocals backed by crushing sludge/thrash riffage with no shortage of melodic material. The rhythm section sounded absolutely huge with hard hitting drums coupled with driving bass lines. A unique comparison that hit it off with the Newcastle scene. Death Plague caused an outbreak of uncontrollable limbs and bodies with their raw energy, attitude and flow. A portrayal of passionate ,well rounded musicians not limited by genre that will continue to plague the stages."

You know what? If this is the last brutal metal show that goes ahead this year in Newcastle then at least we went out on a high, Now go wash your damn hands you filthy animals.

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