Soundwave Brisbane Review 2013

Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

I sat in a Fortitude Valley coffee shop sipping my double-shot flat white, casually observing hordes of black-clad teens and men with shoulder-length hair. This could only mean one thing: Soundwave was upon us. And this year's line-up, arguably the best yet, promised to make Soundwave 2013 one to remember.

I first found myself at stage four watching hardcore metallers, Memphis May Fire, and the group kicked off the day belting out plenty of bludgeoning grooves, pop-friendly hooks and breakdowns. And considering the cathartic, almost 'emo' imagery vented in songs like 'The Sinner', it was unsurprising the crowd consensus was one of 16 year old girls and hardcore moshers. While Memphis May Fire weren't necessarily bad — in fact, they were the perfect openers — it was disappointing the group refused to touch upon anything from perhaps their best album, Sleepwalking.

By now I was hungering for something a little less contrived and melodic punk rockers Billy Talent were just what the doctor ordered. And while early on vocalist Benjamin Kowalewics almost sounded inaudible, the band continued pummelling out barrages of upbeat distortion and hooks galore. A note must also be made on Kowalewics. The look of menace he cast out into the crowd was unsettling. His charisma: superb. But the highlight here was undoubtedly 'Fallen Leaves' — an anthem which had the entire mosh pit singing every word.

I then decided to relive my high school years with pop punkers Sum 41, and let me start by saying vocalist-slash-guitarist Deryck Whibley has aged terribly. While still sporting a low strung guitar like Joe Strummer and spiking up his dyed red hair, he fooled no one. His youth: gone. And it rubbed off on Sum 41's performance, too. Yes, the band played fan-favourites like 'In Too Deep', 'Still Waiting' and 'Fat Lip' (with the crowd pogoing to the tracks vigorously), but Sum 41 seemed devoid of that same energy. Even their cover of 'We Will Rock You' was lacklustre at best. Maybe there was a reason why I moved on from pop punk after graduating after all.

After Sum 41's average set, it was time for this year's most unexpected inclusion: Cypress Hill (before the hip hop quartet even hit the stage my nostrils were flooded by pot smoke). Nonetheless, the group was welcomed by fans and metalheads alike, blasting out golden era classics like 'Insane In The Brain'. And while 'virtuosity' might not be a term often associated with rap music, you've gotta give it to Cypress Hill. Drum solos, scratch battles, their greatest hits on demand — all while B-Real toked back on the biggest joint I've ever seen.

But eager for variety, I next opted to see something a little more frenetic, and hardcore punks, Cancer Bats, delivered just that. Their onslaughts of thrashed ultra-distortion, ear-bruising screams and groove-laden breakdowns were downright brutal. And the band's frontman, Liam Cormier, flailed his body around violently, like a fish out of water. Needless to say, Cancer Bats were the most chaotic band on this year's bill by far.

Now it was time for the headliners — the undisputed kings of heavy metal — Metallica. And watching from the grandstands, I must admit never in my life had I seen a crowd of that size awaiting their arrival. Metallica didn't disappoint. From the get go the band roared through the classic thrash numbers 'Hit The Lights' and 'Master Of Puppets'. But it wasn't just Metallica covering their entire catalogue that made their show brilliant. It was their unrivalled showmanship, too. Kirk Hammett's timeless solos (I counted 15 of them before losing track); James Hetfield's image when spotlighted on 'Fuel'; and the timed pyrotechnics throughout their set guaranteed Metallica the title of Soundwave 2013 champions.

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