LIVE REVIEW: Beastwars @ Crowbar, Sydney

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Beastwars with Witchskull, Potion
Crowbar, Sydney
July 11th, 2019

Crowbar is quickly establishing itself as the home of Sydney’s metal and hard rock scene and tonight it hosted New Zealand’s finest metal band, Beastwars. They’ve just chalked up their first number one album, in the wake of breaking up, singer Matthew Hyde’s diagnosis and treatment of cancer, a reformation and the recording the devastating new album IV. In our review we described it as “a blistering, pummelling, cathartic battle cry of a record,” and the expectations were for a similarly brutal live performance.

Potion are a psych/stoner metal trio that know their way around mystical bedrock heavy riffing grooves. Song titles like ‘Dead Mountain’ give you an idea of the territory they inhabit. They do heavy and slow, fast and chugging with equal aplomb, getting the heads a shakin’ early.

Witchskull dialled back the clock to a more classic rock and metal sound. Sonically it was Ozzy fronting Motorhead with many of the songs pulled from their album of last year, Coven’s Will. A bassist that looked like a lumbering, menacing Rick Rubin and a guitarist/singer with the stature of Ronnie Dio owned the front of the stage, laying down tight, paint-peeling solos and rolling, monolithic bass lines. It was an impressive set that balanced and progressed old and newer styles as one.

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Beastwars are now four albums deep so they’ve got plenty to choose from when it comes to an hour-long setlist. They drew from all of their albums, giving a holistic overview of their churning, emotive and visceral metal and hard rock. What they do so well is channel everyone from The Melvins and Soundgarden through Kyuss and Neurosis and onto contemporaries such as Pallbearer. There’s an industrial sheen to their sound but at its core there’s a primitive and primal human howl.

C9F7B23D-7FB0-49AD-9350-E067D63C03ACFrontman Matthew Hyde is hard to take your eyes off. He’s in slow motion as he sways, conducts and conjures up spirits and demons with raised hands. He’s essentially in the eye of a sonic storm, that calm spot at the core, as the fury rages around him. All his energy, no doubt dented and damaged from everything he’s been through in recent times, is channeled through his lungs and larynx. Meditative, brooding, tension-building verses invariably open up like an arriving hurricane into choruses of lacerating, throat-shredding howls that scream desperation and vindication in equal amounts. Highlights of the set included ‘Mihi’, ‘Raise The Sword’, ‘Rivermen’ and more. At times some songs blended into a morass of sludge riffing and dense rhythms but the peaks were more plentiful than the valleys across their set. When the dynamics fell into place with the rock solid rhythm section and Clayton Anderson’s clinical yet full-blooded guitar playing, Hyde seemed to channel something otherworldly and intensely personal – and the power and impact was immense. 

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Beastwars proved they’re a band who know how to convert emotion into music with intensity and gravity, hitting the hearts and bodies of the generous crowd who bowed down before them.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Beastwars – IV

Beastwars

Beastwars
IV
Destroy Records

Sometimes it takes monumental life events to galvanise a band, or any creative endeavour for that matter. In the case of New Zealand band Beastwars it was the diagnosis singer Matt Hyde received, confirming Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In the weeks following his chemotherapy treatment the band hit the studio and recorded their fourth album – a blistering, pummelling, cathartic battle cry of a record.

“You can never get away from your mortal decay,” Hyde howls on ‘Mortal Decay’. This is an album that addresses mortality and the brutal reality of our time on this earth and the fragility of life. Out of that there is a sense of immense strength and resolution from both singer and band. There are winding, ruminative passages in some songs that add a reflective quality to the heavier, more visceral sound that dominates the album, but don’t start thinking this is a metal band going soft, their essence of heavy swinging and paint-peeling riffage is still firmly intact, made even more powerful with the quality of the songwriting and ideas on IV. 

As musicians, the band sound freer and more inventive than they ever have before. There is colour and shade on a song such as ‘Omens’ which combines the moodiness of Tool with lumbering doom metal density, while on ‘Mortal Decay’ the song straightens into pure metal chug and gallop at the three quarter mark to brilliant effect. On ‘The Traveller’, Hyde stands exposed, delivering an affecting primal scream  before the band join him and carry the song forward on a comforting melodic bed of heavy bass and avant garde guitar squalls. ‘Wolves And Prey’ tumbles and churns like a spinning vortex and ‘Like Dried Blood’ combines a piano and Hyde’s ghoulish vocal to great effect as the thunder grows and the riffs thicken and fill the air like heavy smoke.

“Out of adversity comes opportunity” said Benjamin Franklin and Beastwars have taken that mantra and bled a visceral, life-affirming album into existence. You’d be hard pressed to find many better metal albums than this in 2019. 

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Beastwars– Omens

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photo by David James

New Zealand metal band Beastwars return with their first single since singer Matt Hyde successfully underwent 6 months of treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2016. ‘Omens’ comes from their new LP IV, due out on Friday June 28th.

 Hyde said that through his diagnosis and subsequent treatment, he was given an opportunity to look into the abyss beyond life as we know it. “Throughout the treatment – I was numb – and it’s interesting to have the ability to confront that, to confront the void, to confront the idea of mortality. I didn’t make peace with it either.

To celebrate the album release Beastwars are touring New Zealand and Australia in June/July – presented by Panhead Custom Ales. They are hitting Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin in New Zealand and then jumping over the Tasman to play Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne shows.

IV can be pre-ordered now at all good digital stores and streaming platforms and Limited Edition Vinyl, Cassette and T-Shirt Bundles are available at http://www.beastwars.bigcartel.com. Single ‘Omens’ is available for streaming and purchase now.

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2013 MID YEAR FAVOURITE ALBUMS

2013 mid year faves

Here we are again at list time, halfway through 2013 and already there have been a swathe of great albums released. We’ve been listening to an eclectic mix of stuff as usual including dub electronica, skronking freeform saxophone, abrasive art rock, retro-leaning post punk and heartstring americana. These are the records we’ve loved the most from what we’ve heard this year. There will be others from the last six months that we’ll discover as the rest of the year rolls out but we can at least highly recommend these ones – in no particular order…

  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
  • Protomartyr – No Passion All Technique
  • The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango
  • Kirin J Callinan – Embracism
  • The Drones – I See Seaweed
  • Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird
  • Jason Isbell – Southeastern
  • DJ Koze – Amygdala
  • Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
  • Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol 3: To See More Light
  • Zomby – With Love

ALBUM REVIEW: Beastwars | Blood Becomes Fire

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by Chris Familton

Rating8.5square-600Beastwars are something of a musical anomaly in that a group of men in their late thirties arrived seemingly fully formed on the Wellington scene before releasing their debut self-titled LP and rapidly building a strong, nationwide fanbase. The musical allegiance of their fans in the metal scene isn’t a surprise as devotees of the hard, fast and heavy dictum are notoriously passionate followers. What made the Beastwars story all the more interesting was their infiltration of the mainstream media in the form of award shows, TV and radio exposure.

There was the hope that the first record wasn’t the full extent of their songwriting capabilities, a lifetime culmination of their combined musicality. That fear is allayed instantly with their sophomore release Blood Becomes Fire, a supercharged slab of metal that cuts a swathe across many of its myriad sub-forms, chewing them up and angrily spitting them out as bludgeoning musical statements.

The opening jackhammer riff of Dune makes it instantly clear that the band hasn’t decided to mellow and explore post rock or prog metal diversions. They hit the ground running and they don’t let up for three minutes of churning Tool-like sludge metal. Imperium takes a step back in speed but ratchets up the intensity and in the process shows doffs its cap to the influence of early Shihad in the brittle chopped up chords and that semi-industrial bass churn. The defining moment of the song comes at the 3:38 where you are left in no doubt that Matthew Hyde is one of New Zealand’s finest exponents of visceral throat shredding as the music momentarily eases and he unleashes a spine tingling guttural bellow that sounds like the aural equivalent of a tortured soul desperately baying for redemption. Hyde isn’t just a screamer though, he shows restraint and variation at various points on Blood Becomes Fire, a key to ensuring that the album doesn’t drain and exhaust the listener by rote of its relentless intensity.

Economy is a key to why Blood Becomes Fire maintains its presence across its ten tracks. Only the last song exceeds five minutes and generally they work within standard rock song parameters of verses, choruses, middle eights, breakdowns and build ups. Beastwars also display a wide range of influences, albeit through subtle means. There are nods to everything from Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, the lesser prog tendencies of Tool, the classic demonic industrial metal of Ministry and Godflesh, the punk/hardcore intensity of bands like Refused and the intergalactic stoner rock of Kyuss. They have ultimately figured out how to combine all those disparate influences into their own cohesive and succinct brand of heavy music. Moments like the sci-fi metal intro to Shadow King, the melodic interplay of The Sleeper and the almost Gordons-esque bass at the start of Ruins show that the band and engineer/producer Dale Cotton have worked hard to build in those small, often surprising elements that lift the album well above the plethora of metal releases trying to out-muscle each other.

Thematically there are a bunch of typical metal signifiers at work on Blood Becomes Fire – from death, redemption and judgement to apocalyptic dread. In lesser hands they can become cartoonish but via Hyde’s vocal cords and the ruthless playing of Clayton Anderson, Nathan Hickey and James Woods they create an entirely self sufficient world of physical and emotional death, destruction and the vagaries of mortality. Often it is difficult to hear what Hyde is singing/screaming but the band more than make up for any  loss of literal interpretation by shading the music with light, dark, intimate and epic shapes as required.

Blood Becomes Fire is a hugely impressive album that many hoped for but not all expected. The band have built on their strengths almost perfectly, never once over-stretching themselves or resorting to filler to flesh out the record. The world stage beckons and is probably a given in a genre of music where its best exponents generally rise to the top regardless of where they hail from. Beastwars’ mantra is ‘Obey The Riff’ and though they have bent, abused, reconfigured and honoured it they haven’t for a second lost sight of its power and importance.

this review was first published on Under The Radar

NEW MUSIC: Beastwars release first taste of their new LP

New Zealand masters of the heavy Beastwars have gone from strength to strength on the back of their live shows and their great debut LP. Ahead of the release of the second album they’ve pressed up two of the tracks on ‘glow in the dark’ 7″ vinyl. You can check out The Sleeper (B-side) below, a dark ominous lumbering monster of a track and the band will unleash the even heavier A-side Tower of Skulls in the coming weeks.

Tour Dates

AUCKLAND
Saturday 17 November – Kings Arms Tavern
With Bloody Souls and Proton Beast
Tickets from http://www.utr.co.nz

WELLINGTON
Friday 23 November – San Francisco Bath House
With Arc of Ascent and Von Thundersvolt
Tickets from http://www.utr.co.nz

NEW PLYMOUTH
Saturday 24 November — NZ Tattoo Festival, TSB Stadium
With Cobra Khan and The Bleeders
Door sales only

CHRISTCHURCH
Saturday 1 December – The Irishman, 177 St Asaph Street
With Anthesiac and Hayne
Tickets from http://www.utr.co.nz

BEASTWARS ON FACEBOOK

NEWS: New Zealand’s Taite Music Prize 2012 Finalists Announced…

The Taite Music Prize is the equivalent of the UK’s Mercury Prize or the Australian Music Prize and recognises outstanding creativity for an album release. The award is $10,000 in cash to be used however the artist wants. This year’s finalists are:

Andrew Keoghan – Arctic Tales Divide (Brave Beluga Records)
Beastwars – Beastwars (Destroy Records)
David Dallas – The Rose Tint (Dirty Records)
She’s So Rad – In Circles (Round Trip Mars)
The Bats – Free All The Monsters (Flying Nun Records)
Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea (Spunk Records)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Seeing Records)

The judging panel is comprised of:

Jon Bywater (Programme Leader, Critical Studies @ Elam School Of Fine Arts)
Hugh Sundae (Entertainment Editor, NZ Herald Online)
Stephen O’Hoy (IMNZ / Amplifier / DRM)
Jeremy Morrow (Warner Music)
Leonie Hayden (Editor, RipItUp)
Richard Thorne (Editor, NZ Musician)
Andrew Tidball (Editor, Cheese On Toast)
Russell Brown (Public Address)
Charlotte Ryan (95bFM)
Glenn Williams (Wammo) (KiwiFM)
11th Man – John Taite (BBC America)
The Judge Wrangler – Damian Vaughan (APRA)

Personally we’ll be hoping the award goes to Tiny Ruins, The Bats or Beastwars when the winner is announced on the 20th April in Auckland.