The Hard Word: Ballina freezes over

While temperatures dropped in Ballina to the point that Hell could have frozen over, things were heating up at an unprecedented local metal festival.

Run by local drumming legend Josh Paish, the 'When Hell Freezes Over' metal festival at the Ballina Hotel was witness to musical excellence of the highest calibre.

Twelve bands took the stage over eight hours with gold coast titans Azreal and progressive/math/technical metal virtuoso band Humality headlining.

 

Meridian Theory

This punky band incorporated elements of screamo and hardcore with some nice melodies and breakdowns interspersed with a more pop element.

The band found their feet in the last few songs and started to find their groove and tightness.

The Heartless

 

The Heartless at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
The Heartless at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

The second band on stage were impressive with a slightly 'Incubus' vibe including some expansive vocals and funky mix of heavy riffs.

They did not have a bass player on stage but the sound was nice and fat.

The singer Dylan Smith was enthusiastic and charismatic and the guitar stayed away from predictable heaviness to incorporate a slightly hill billy rock, funk, hardcore, and metal element.

The Outcome

 

The Outcome at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
The Outcome at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

I cannot emphasise how impressive this band is.

If you are into Karnivool, Deftones, Mudvayne or Hellyeah then this band would have appealed to you.

The mix of heavy and clean vocals was perfectly done and something most bands fail miserably at.

It created a fantastic atmosphere and the band was incredible tight with atmospheric riffs running through the set.

 

Kobrakai at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Kobrakai at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

I really enjoyed Kobrakai with their own brand of Black Label Society/ Kyuss stoner rock mixed with a bit of 70's infused groove, prog, psychedlic style riffs and vocals.

The three piece were tight and the guitar tone was so fat I felt like you could have made a steak sandwich out of it.

Devonian

 

Devonian at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Devonian at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

One of the more interesting bands of the night was Devonian.

Female led metal bands are a hit and miss thing for some reason.

Some bands do it really well and some just don't really seem to pull it off.

Devonian, with their Italian singer Diletta Luna, look to be well on the road to making a name for themselves in this style.

Diletta didn't miss a note, and the guitar was very 'Iron Maidenesque' with its rolling triplets and tricky lead.

Certainly not 'Arch Enemy' but more along the lines of 'Lacuna Coil' this is a band that you should keep an eye on if you like that genre.

Violent Sun

 

Violent Sun at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Violent Sun at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

Proving that organiser Josh Paish has no prejudice in the types of bands that could play, we saw Violent Sun hit the stage.

Vocalist Tim Burton had a Hilltop Hoods t-shirt so one could be worried that we may see a Limp Bizkit revival.

Thankfully, it was a brilliant set.

The guitars were maniacally heavy with Grafton metal icon Luke Gough on the left of stage.

This mix of death/thrash/hardcore sounding guitar got it away from the cliche's of the nu-metal rap world and put it into a much more aggressive, heavy class.

It was great.

Closer to New York hardcore than nu-metal this was a refreshing take on the metal/rap mix.

Fly Agaric

 

Fly Agaric  at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Fly Agaric at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

With Ned Cain on drums the band was incredibly tight and it was a pleasure to hear the fills and little 'easter egg' moments he puts into his drumming.

The stoner rock band were filled with infectious grooves, blistering solos, and exotic scales bouncing between guitars as they moved between the octaves to create some nice harmonies.

Fly Agaric have made a name for themselves around the Northern Rivers and it is obvious why they were included on the bill.

Synapse

 

Synapse at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Synapse at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

Certainly the wild card band of the evening, it was hard to know what to expect from this band as they took to the stage.

With a front man Matthew Robison wearing a quicksilver shirt and looking more like he was ready for a relaxing beer at the coast than a metal gig, a barefoot female drummer with a rainbow headband, Lauren Tarrant, and the most terrifying bassist you have ever seen , Kane Dorrington,wearing a gas mask... you could be forgiven for being curious.

The feedback from the audience was all positive.

The strat inspired guitar was definitely not the heaviest of the night, but it combined brilliantly with the 'Primus' like bass,' and proggy drumming.

This groovy three piece brought their own unique sound and owned it much to the enjoyment of the crowd.

The Silencio

 

The Silencio at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
The Silencio at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

The Silencio have strong ties to the Northern Rivers with frontman Jan Nicholas Blom formerly fronting legendary local metal band In-Cyde.

Once again a unique act that shatters the cliched concept of what metal is about.

They have worked hard to perfect a sound which seeks to use acoustic guitar and piano as tools of heaviness, combined with the bass and drums.

The emphasis is on song writing and lyrics, and it moves between an alternative rock vibe and a metal band, constantly shifting tone and mood and bordering on a slightly punk/hardcore song writing ethos.

This band can fit into any venue, style or genre.

Highly adaptable it will be interesting to see what audience will become their largest.

Snake Mountain

 

Snake Mountain at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Snake Mountain at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

If you haven't seen Snake Mountain you need to put it in your diary.

This band is quickly becoming one of my favourites and it is the second time I have watched them live.

While lead singer Nev "Optimus Rhyme" Pearce does an incredible job of revving the crowd up, moving between humour, psychosis, and sheer aggression, it is the guitar by Dan "Judge Shred" Maynard that really pulls it together.

The riffs are a heavy, brutal, unrelenting speed/metal montage that just force you to listen.

And Nev "Optimus Rhyme" Pearce makes sure you just can't take your eyes off the stage.

This band just works, masks and all, and I hope to see them on many more lineups.

Azreal

 

Azrael at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Azrael at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

It is at this point the notes in my journalism pad stop. Just white blank pages staring back at me.

Why?

Because you just don't sit writing notes when Azreal hit the stage.

The intensity of this band rivals King Parrot even though their groove metal clarity is different from the sludgy grindcore sound.

This band has gone from strength to strength over the years, recently support Sevendust, getting signed and turning their eyes to overseas.

I hope to see them on the bill at Legion next year, but I'm sure there are some pretty exciting announcements just round the corner for this band.

They have definitely made a name for themselves and have perfected their sound.

They are well known amongst the ranks of South East Queensland bands that have a professionalism that precedes them and the entire metal community can be proud of - other bands include Chronolyth, Tria Mera, and The Black Swamp.

When you watch Azreal's burning riffs, and groovy drums you just know that there are exciting times ahead for Queensland metal.

Humality

 

Humality at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images
Humality at Ballina Hotel for the Hell Freezes Over festival. Photo Asagai Images Contributed

By the time Humality came on my ears were burning, my feet were sore, I wanted a coffee, and another beer.

Organisor Josh Paish assured me they were worth sticking around for.

Having seen one of their film clips a year or two ago I knew Humality were a highly technical band.

I also know that whenever their name pops up, invariably there are nods of approval and respect for the progressive/ technical playing of drummer Matthew Lynn, bass player Craig Irons and guitarist Nathan Dakin.

This band should have been included on the Parkway Drive tour in my opinion, not because they have any metalcore elements, but because there sheer tightness, professionalism and vocals and strong presence of lead singer Clint Curtis all lead me to believe they would have been a valuable contribution.

One look at the gear and you know these guys are gear nuts, with the musical knowledge and focus to make it all come together.

They are perfectionists, who seek to have the cleanest purest sound possible, while melting your face off.

They got in on the Legion Festival votes and I'm not sure of the outcome but I feel like they will be in with a good chance if their fans got off their asses and put in a vote.

Which I am sure they did, because I watched the band create a whole new collection of fans last night.

I wonder what the collective noun for a group of metal fans should be: maybe clutch

I watched Humality create a whole clutch of fans last night.

Buy their EP!



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