Brewtality Festival 2016, The Tote/The Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne, 6 August 2016

One of rock and metal's most jovial festivals, Brewtality returns to two of Melbourne's iconic venues in mind blowing style....

The Melbourne chapter of Brewtality 2016 promised an enormous bill over 12 hours, two iconic venues and three stages. With merry memories of Brewtality 2015 I was extremely excited to check out what the incredible crew at Desert Highways had pulled together this year.

In classic style, I arrived fashionably late, as the sun was setting over the beer garden of The Tote…just in time to catch The Devil Rides Out. The Devil Rides Out treated the swelling crowd at The Tote’s main stage to some new tracks from their EP Ugly Creatures including mesmerising the audience with the soulful, hedonistic and passionate number The Righteous Walk. With steady, catchy, bluesy grooves and raw, whisky-soaked vocals the Perth-based rock foursome set the perfect atmosphere and slid right into the night.

Held across two venues and three stages, there was bound to be a lot of stage-migration at Brewtality. Running upstairs, I caught the last few high-energy, attitude-packed minutes of Melbourne punk-rock group The Fckups and raced back downstairs to see The Tote’s main stage jumping wild to Sydney thrash-punk-hardcore band Hostile Objects. Keen to catch as much as possible, I again scaled the stairs to see Sydney-based Sumeru’s thick grinding wall-of-sound pull the headbangers to the front.

The excitement was building at The Tote’s main stage as the crowd gathered around for Melbourne’s own metal titans Frankenbok, no doubt curious to witness the new lineup, including new guitarist Reiki Barbosa’s first appearance with Frankenbok. With his fiery uncompromising glare, vocalist Dan White engaged the raging crowd, and from start to finish the pace of this set never let up.

Feeling super-wired, I joined the march back to The Bendigo Hotel to check out Colossvs, who brought their hammering display of blackened riffs mixed with frenetic blasts to the candlelit stage. Featuring the return of vocalist Christopher Tew, Colossvs came out firing with the phenomenal speed of Unholy III – Eschaton, driven by the drums from Ash Denman who deserves some serious props for a mindblowing set. Heosphoros showcased the mournful, technical soloing of guitarist Michael Calle as the set moved through songs from Colossvs’ 2014 album Unholy including memorable catchy tracks with deep black metal grooves like Crown of Thorns that had the moshpit grinding. In total Colossvs nailed it in a captivating and technically tight set.

Like many others, I was very curious to check out Southeast Desert Metal who had traversed from the Northern Territory on their first national tour. These guys totally rocked it in one of the most jovial, energetic and catchy sets of the night. The hard-rock style vocals of the front-duo Cedric Ross and Chris Wallace, inspired the crowd to bounce and mosh along to anthem-style numbers such as Evil and Let’s Rock which featured a sweet tapping solo from guitarist Gavin Hayes. The diversity of Southeast Desert Metal’s repertoire became clear through eerie, sombre sounds supported by heavy blasts from Robert Wallace in Disturbing the Spirits and songs with slower, passionate sections such as Break the Silence.

Hopping between venues like a hungry butterfly, I whisked back to The Bendigo to see one of Melbourne’s premier melodic death metal acts, Orpheus Omega. Opening with their signature impressive full-bodied sound; by the second song vocalist Chris Themelco had fuelled the crowd into a circle pit before returning to one of their classic numbers Winds of Change showcased Themelco’s virtuoso soloing and an atmospheric keyboard run by Keswick Gallagher. By far one of the most manic moshpits of the night, the entire floor of the Bendigo’s bandroom became a lively circle pit in Tomorrow’s Fiends and Yesterday’s Ghosts. The set rounded up in chaotic style with a wall of death smashing the last song, Sealed In Fate. Definitely a polished set from a band that repeatedly slays it live.

Speaking of slaying it live, the headliner at The Tote’s main stage, Dreadnaught delivered an epic performance comprising of some numbers from recently released Caught the Vultures Sleeping interchanged with classic merciless Dreadnaught onslaughts. I was excited to see so many songs from their new album performed live and curious to see how these innovations would be interpreted in the live set. I was not disappointed. Despite the variety of moods in this set, Dreadnaught slid seamlessly between songs in a practically flawless set. Richie Poate’s wailing solos transfixed the crowd in Clenched Fist as the stunning vocal range of Greg Trull took us on a powerful journey through altering dynamics. Captivating theatrical antics continued in the foreboding intro to Pure Lunacy, an eerie and thundering song that features a fierce tapping solo by Richie Poate. Moving into a melancholic mood, Warning Signs, the concluding track of Caught the Vultures Sleeping, opened with atmospheric glory and smooth vocals then erupted with blistering rage, to return to an introspective chapter with guitars nothing short of beautiful.

<!--EndFragment-->Overall, the Melbourne manifestation of Brewtality 2016 was a pumping rock and metal festival packed with engaging bands that all brought their best to the three stages between The Tote and The Bendigo Hotels. The crowds were amazing, supportive and convivial. Saturday night set a huge precedent for next year’s festival but I certainly look forward to what Desert Highways brings next time. Cheers, Brewtality!