Primal Fear, Hazmat, Sydney 12 June 2016

Metal is Forever at the Newtown Social Club

It’s always interesting in this digital age of global communication to note the differences in popularity a band can experience across the world. For whatever reason, be it economic or cultural forces, a band can have much more success in one corner of the globe than another. Take Primal Fear for example, who are playing their first Australian tour in their close to two-decade career. In Europe, their brand of classic, balls to the wall heavy metal sees the band playing prominent spots on major music festivals and drawing thousands to their own shows. The draw is nowhere near as big in Australia.

Instead, the band will be playing the Newtown Social Club. It’s a venue very typical of inner Sydney, the kind of place you’d expect to find $9 craft beers and acoustic indie duos performing rather than European heavy metal powerhouses. Which isn’t a slight against the venue; in fact I’d bet that there are a lot of Europeans that’d pay a pretty penny to see Primal Fear in such an intimate setting. With that in mind, the 200 or more (or less, I’m terrible at crowd estimations) metal fans here tonight were in for a treat.

First up were Sydney locals Hazmat. They were billed as a thrash metal band, but if you had gone in expecting something in the area of Municipal Waste due to the nuclear connotations of their name (as I had), then you would be mistaken. Their music was much more mid-paced with occasional bursts of thrash energy. Which is probably much more fitting for the general theme of the evening than what I was expecting. The band was clearly chuffed to be playing here tonight and put forth an energetic performance. While their set was peppered by many great riffs, I’m not too sure if this equalled to great songs. Nevertheless, they put on a good show and started things off well.

Primal Fear took to the stage with the slick professionalism that only a band with as much experience as they have can put forth. Starting off with Final Embrace, the band launched into a near two hour full-fledged metal assault. There was a good range of classic material, such as the stellar Metal is Forever, mixed with cuts from the new album. The new songs particularly stood rather strong in the setlist, The End is Near and Angels of Mercy were particular standouts of the whole set, gaining a lot of audience participation and singing along. 

Primal Fear manages to put out a lot of energy, even despite the cramped settings that had vocalist Ralf Scheepers cheekily commenting on how much room he had to run and jump around on stage. The size of the venue was both a blessing and a curse. It allowed the crowd to get up close and personal with the band, but also once again highlighted the haemorrhoid on the arse of the music scene: smartphones. It’s bad enough when people record shows as it is, but when you’re two feet away and shoving your shitty iPhone in the band’s face for 60% of the set, you deserve to be blasted into orbit. 

Despite that, every member of the band put on a stellar performance. They thoroughly rocked the house and hopefully it won’t be another 15+ years until they return.