The Milk Bar, Perth WA
August 14th, 2021
Lineup: Chaos Divine, Silent Knight, Cold Fate, Woewarden, Legacy Alive, Icarus Lives, Midnight Furnace and The Harvest Trail
Western Australia’s closed borders means open pubs and gigs. It also means Stormrider Festival‘s seventh year is thrashing Perth. This is an all-WA lineup, but this year wasn’t without a few hiccups. As is the ‘new normal’ all plans can change and we need to be resilient and adapt accordingly. So when Perth was sent into one of our now not unexpected short, sharp lockdowns the timing couldn’t have been worse. Originally planned for July 10th at Bandlands, promoter Stu McGill worked his arse off to keep the show on the road and a new date and venue was secured. So August 14th at The Milk Bar was the time and place to be.
The Harvest Trail kicked things of in brutal fashion. The death metal upstarts made sure the early punters would have their hands banging and ears bleeding before the sun had a chance to go down. It was a short sharp set, taking in a clutch of songs from their debut album, Instinct.
It was enough for this headbanger to work up a thirst so a cheeky XPA went down while Midnight Furnace got ready to bring their brand of heavy. The four piece, fronted by vocalist/guitarist Alex Harper, kept the vibes going with less death in the metal but still heavy as fuck. They boys tried out a new song and to be honest their new stuff is as good as the old. A tongue-in-cheek call to start a circle pit may have fallen on deaf ears – wear earplugs kids, but the front of stage had filled considerably so pit or not the black-clad punters were enjoying what the Furnace was cooking.
I wandered back to the bar to quench my increasing thirst while Cam Crimson of RTR FM’s Critical Mass took over the PA to spin a selection of tasty metal between sets. It’s so much better when someone who knows music is in charge and it’s not just the default house playlist.
A band that’s been getting better and better every time I see them is Icarus Lives. The young quintet kept the party going with their own brand of heavy music. Female-fronted metal bands are sadly few and far between and I was concerned we wouldn’t get to see them this time around with the departure of Sara Alexandra. But stand in vocalist Aria Scarlett was more than up to the task, her haunting delivery giving way to stratospheric falsettos being enough to send chills down this reviewer’s spine.
While Cam continued to fill the void between sets with face melting metal a quick trip to the bar took longer than expected as everyone else seemed to have the same idea. But what’s a festival without a queue? … and the staff at The Milk Bar are some of the best and most professional I’ve encountered at any venue anywhere.
Legacy Alive burst onto the stage as we were approaching the 7 o’clock mark. Four blokes, guitars, drums and vocals. What more do you need? This band is high energy. They came to party and their vibe was infectious. Like the bastard love-child of Dokken, Ratt and Andrew WK, the Legacy Alive party had well and truly started. The boys gave a touching tribute to their former bass player who tragically lost his battle with cancer a few months ago. But sadness can bring out great things and the song was a killer. The whole set was a highlight, including the first circle pit of the night with punters giving back as much as the band gave. Take a bow, Legacy Alive. That set fucking rocked!
Woewarden we next to step up. If you came for heavy, these five maniacs delivered it in spades. A slow grinding set guaranteed to pummel you into the dirt with enjoyable misery. I’m the first to admit I love me some black metal and looking at the nodding heads in the crowd those who came to see Woewarden were well and truly entertained by the banshee screams and brutal growls. If you like your black metal dipped in the souls of the damned, then these blokes are just what you need.. It wasn’t so much a set as performance art that left this metalhead looking at the glass of Cab Merlot in my hand as a chalice of sacrificial blood.
More music from Cam Crimson, this time with lashings of old school from thrash metal outfit Testament, Anthrax and Perth’s own Allegiance getting a spin and setting us up for the Bay Area-inspired Cold Fate. The set was loud, thrashy and fast, peppered with scintillating solos. Front man Paul DiScerni has a no bullshit attitude combined with a Chuck Billy delivery. The usual two guitar attack was reduced to one (as Zach Corkery couldn’t make it) giving Cam Nicholas double duties. The man they call Dizzle is quite possibly Perth’s best metal guitarist, so filling the gap was no problem at all. Having said that the band did make use of the odd backing track to fill in the parts even Cam couldn’t. The set was raw thrashy and just what the doctor ordered.
“Hello Perth, we are Silent Knight!” growled vocalist Dan Brittan, as the power metal quintet launched into their set with a cover of the Gamma Ray classic ‘Dethrone Tyranny’. The boys then tore through a clutch of their own tracks including the rousing ‘One By One’. Having seen Silent Knight more times than I can count it’s hard to be surprised, but even with Cold Fate drummer Sebastian Giorgi pulling double duty while regular skins man Dan Granger took time off with parental leave, the boys were as tight as ever. Dan Brittan has a falsetto to wake the gods, but full credit must go to Seb on the drums. Old mate didn’t miss a beat and powered through the hour-long set like he’s been a bandmember since the beginning. New songs, old songs and even a few cover songs, Silent Knight delivered the goods.
All good things must come to an end and it’s the same for music festivals, but what better way to bring Stormrider to a close than with Chaos Divine. There’s a reason these guys are headliners, cos not only do they fucking rock, their musicianship is faultless. If prog cleans with screams is your thing, Chaos Divine is a band you should be all about. The set was dripping with atmosphere, juxtaposed with some of the heaviest shit you’re ever likely to hear. There’s something about prog metal that just draws you in, and this band doesn’t play by the rules. While you’re floating along with the progginess, lead singer David Anderton rips you from reality with a death growl to summon demons. The band took no prisoners, delivering tracks from their substantial back catalogue including 2021’s quite brilliant Legacies. But if you’re one of the minority who may be seeing the band for the first time there’s one song to bring the house down: the cover of Toto’s ‘Africa’. Tonight’s performance was no different and with the added bonus of audience participation, Chaos Divine showed once again why they are one of Australia’s premier heavy bands.
This year’s Stormrider was a bravado display of resilience and adaptability with a number of bands borrowing members and reaching out to friends to fill the gaps. This is the new normal for a while, at least. But the best thing about gigs are the people and the heavy music family in particular are just that. Bonded by metal, everyone looks after each other and Stormrider rose to the occasion. A nod of respect to the people wearing your favourite band shirt, a hug or a high five. Stories are shared, battle jackets compared, drinks move across the bar and new acquaintances are made. This is the arts community. This is our community. This is how it should be.
Festival Review by Gareth Williams