Soundwave- Olympic Park,Sydney, 28/02/15- 1/03/15

A weekend of sun, sweat, storms and musical mayhem ensues as the Soundwave juggernaut roles through Sydney once again.

So here we are once again Soundwave. You prove to be only place that such a large number of lifelong metal heads, pop punk teeny bobbers and shirtless dudes with Southern Cross tattoos on their necks can gather together in such large numbers. It will be interesting to see how the move to a two day festival will affect the experience as it has proved to be a rather controversial decision. Adelaide has already bitten the dust because of poor ticket sales and Sydney’s notoriously pernickety audiences must surely have been affected by the change.

Not that you’d be able to tell if you were seeing King Parrot as the first band of the weekend. Delivering a typically stellar performance, the Parrot boys get the day started with an array of flailing limbs, beer guts, butt cheeks and a wall of death. Blimey, it’s not even past lunchtime yet. The more spread out timetable of this year allows more time to go and explore new sounds, so after King Parrot’s set, it was over to Stage 5. There, we got to experience the sub-Krokus 80’s throwback rock of The Treatment. Their set seemed more derivative than exciting, so it was all too long for next band, Deathstars to take to the stage. However, it was not too long for them either, as bad sound made it more preferable to move elsewhere. Well, that, and the fact that Ne Obliviscaris were setting up to play at Stage 4.

Ne Obliviscaris emerge triumphant; this is a truly defining moment for them (and King Parrot too for that matter). Thanks to their 40 minute time slot, they deliver a 3 and a half song set that blisters almost as much as the afternoon sun. The sound is perfect and so is the crowd, an early highlight of day 1.

However, for every high there must be a low. In the interest of keeping this review from becoming a series of hyperbolic adulation, and to comply with my companion’s request of getting good spots for Steel Panther, I must now put up with the insipid sounds of Gerard Way on the main stage. He is the face of the bland, watered-down, kid-friendly dreck that occupies a large portion of the Soundwave bill each year, of which I do my best to avoid, but must now confront in its entirety. I will say this about his performance; it did possess some miraculous ability to slow down time. It’s actually kind of cheeky to immediately follow this super clean, super nice music with the decidedly non-pc 80’s glam satire of Steel Panther. For many, the Steel Panther joke has started to wear thin, but this is my first time seeing them live, so the jokes and the set still worked for me.

After Steel Panther wrapped up, there was something of a dead period in the lineup. Unless you happened to be a fan of 90’s industrial metal, which I’m not, there wasn’t a lot else to do than sip on a $12 drink and try and escape the excruciating sunlight. Background music was provided by Fear Factory and Ministry, but all in all, few fucks were given.

After killing time for an hour or two, I had a choice to make. I could go see Dragonforce and Lamb of God play Australia for the umpteenth time, or I could go see the 90’s grunge royalty combination of Soundgarden and Faith No More. Naturally, the latter won out. Admittedly, I’m not too familiar with either band, if you can’t already tell; the 90’s have kind of been a gaping maw in my music history. So, now is as good a time as any to expose myself to them.

Soundgarden was up first, and played a decent set, cranking out hits like Black Hole Sun to an appreciative crowd. I can’t say I was totally won over, but it was enjoyable nevertheless. The same can’t be said for Faith No More. I’d always been a fan of Mike Patton as a singer and entertainer, but for some reason never taken the time to dive right into FNM’s wider discography. This will change after today.

Taking to the stage in suits of all-white, the band proceeds to make collective jaws hit the floor for an hour and a half. Playing a musically varied set containing of some of their greatest songs, the band even managed to include their cover of Easy. An absolute delight and the high point of day 1.

Day 2 got off to a slow start thanks to a combination of fatigue, long travel times and the decision to start drinking early. First band of the day, Apocalyptica, did well playing in the 30+ degree heat of the mid-day sun. I can’t quite say I was in a state to distinguish individual songs, but I recall enjoying myself nevertheless. Next, it was over to stage 5 catch Animals as Leaders. The largely instrumental set coupled with Toshin Abasi’s tasteful, intricate playing made for a welcome chance to actually lose yourself in the music, rather than constantly participate via headbanging or other activities.

After spending a few hours hiding from the sun, we emerge to find that the weather has changed quite drastically. There’s a storm brewing and it’s just in time for Godsmack’s set. It’s almost as if God was angry that they were playing and sent a storm to smack them down (I apologise wholeheartedly for that joke). I will say that the most interesting part of their set is when it started bucketing down, especially as the band spent more of their time playing drum solos and jamming than playing actual songs.

Putting up with both the rain and Godsmack was worth it, however, just to experience the next two and a half hours. This was what I was waiting for, the main event. Two of the most legendary metal bands ever playing in tandem; Exodus and Judas Priest.

This is the first time Exodus has played Australia whilst fronted by classic frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza and to say that his re-addition to the lineup has revitalised the band is an understatement. Even despite the fact that Gary Holt couldn’t make the tour because of family illness, they still managed to sound absolutely ferocious, tearing through songs old and new with terminal velocity.

Finally, it was time for the metal gods themselves to take the stage. Seeing Judas Priest live is bucket list entry for most metal fans, and I was finally popping my Priest cherry. It couldn’t have been a better set to do so either. It was a veritable greatest hits affair, with selections to please just about every Priest fan (except those poor souls that fancy the Ripper Owens era). From the monolithic Victim of Changes, to the sing-along pomp of Turbo Lover, to the showstopping Painkiller, it was a mind-blowing performance from start to finish. Any fear that age might have diminished their prowess proved to be unfounded, even Rob Halford’s aging but still legendary voice managed to hold up well.

Simply put, it was a perfect end to the festival and the weekend. As people flocked to go see Slipknot after Priest had wrapped up, I thought “why bother”? There’s no way that could be topped. After poking my head in to the main stage and seeing some malarkey about broken barriers and a general vibe of frustration amongst the Slipknot crowd, I concluded that I was quite right.