Whether it’s a handful of Goths in Goulbourn or a hundred Rastafarians in Melbourne, every town and city has its own subcultures. Katoomba and the Blue
Mountains is no exception, says Corin Shearston.
Whether its shards of digital noise from Passenger Of Sh*t from Hazelbrook to the psychedelic prog-jazz of Juniper, The Blue Mountains has its cultural
tendrils extended comfortably in just about any genre you could care to mention. But if you seek shock value, loud party jams or evil vibes, there
are many esteemed locals, from bands both past and present, flying the flag for Blue Mountains metal. The HAZE spoke with local bands Red
Bee, Grill, Chaotic Impurity, Be Faced and Summit to get an exclusive insiders look at what’s it like to play extreme music in the laidback creative
hub that is The Blue Mountains.
Local metal expert, author and metal radio broadcaster Brian Giffin, (The Annex; 10PM-12AM Wednesdays, 89.1FM), told HAZE that local metal has only grown
stronger since the mid-2000s, where audiences of only 15 people would frequent heavy shows, such as Hell City Glamours at Tris Elies.
Gig attendance numbers have now grown significantly, with national acts such as King Parrot, Gay Paris, and even Frenzal Rhomb packing the Baroque Bar.
As Red Bee state, “we [Katoomba] get the best of both worlds”. While famous urban bands can come to Katoomba, local acts can get a great hometown following
as well as representing the Mountains in Sydney, Red Bee say.
Our broader local advantages of a vibrant artistic atmosphere with a fairly cool climate and beautiful environment often leads to creativity, as Grill
and Chaotic Impurity both believe. Chaotic Impurity believe their spiritual connection with the mountains is reflected in their music, with Grill,
like many other local acts, attributing some lyrical themes of their band to the local landscape. Disadvantages of playing metal in the mountains are
the 2-hour drive to Sydney and some scarce gig opportunities arising from playing a ‘restricting’ genre, due to stereotypes of audience accessibility
VS ‘the devil’s music’.
Here or Sydney?
Faced with the question of whether Sydney is ultimately the better place to play metal, our bands gave us a variety of contrasting answers. Chaotic Impurity
simply state that the audiences aren’t better, just bigger.
Case in point, their ‘insane’ Halloween gig in Lithgow, 2010. Grill believes the city is the better place, due to a shortage of money to be made from playing
metal in Katoomba, and a smaller audience. Be Faced believe that audiences are hard to please in Sydney, due to the city being spoilt for choice with
bands. As urban audiences are used to more production-polished gigs from famous bands such as Lamb Of God and Gojira, Be Faced believe that audience
reaction isn’t better; if anything, it’s a more difficult situation.
Sydney’s main benefit is larger audience sizes generating more gig opportunities, in metal/hard-rock venues such as the Valve Bar, the Bald-Faced Stag,
and the Manning Bar. Red Bee simply believe that location doesn’t matter, and that bands should make the most of every gig and be thankful to be onstage
in front of any audience; wherever and whoever the crowd may be.
Currently one of the most well known metal bands in the mountains amongst acts like Grenade and Festering Drippage, Red Bee say they strive to give memorable
shows evoking emotional responses from any type of audience. The band say that the album launch of Ictus, (the band’s debut LP), at the Gearin was
crazy. “So much energy was in the room that night, it felt like the room was the center of the universe”. Grill’s most memorable gig so far, according
to the band, was a packed set at the Baroque Bar right before the Winter Magic fireworks one year. Be Faced mentioned the time they converted an unsuspecting
passer by to metal at a Gearin charity gig; their new fan stayed for the whole set, and even bought a CD and t-shirt! The Gearin’s Carnivale concert
is remembered with fondness by the band – “Fairy floss, face painting, juggling acts, metal and a circus combined!”
Unique Mountains memories aside, our scene’s largest advantage is the camaraderie between fellow local bands. For example, Be Faced thank Red Bee for helping
the former secure a slot sharing their stage, as well as with the mighty King Parrot, at the Baroque Bar. Even interstate bands have helped support
local acts, such as when Brisbane’s Kold Kreature and Killers Creed took Be Faced on their East Coast tour.
As Be Faced said, “We tend to know most of our fellow metalheads purely by association. It’s always great to have a catch up with old friends after a show
rather than just blending into the crowd afterwards”.
HEAVY & HeaLTHY
Overall, Australia and The Blue Mountains has a very healthy heavy music scene that only keeps growing, with up ‘n’ coming bands like Isopod and Summit
gaining exposure recently. As Summit told The Haze, all the support the band received has been surprising and flattering for the metalcore four-piece,
with their bassist Kaine even being offered some bass lessons by Northlane bassist Alex Milovic. Although Summit ultimately believe they’ll move to
Sydney for larger metal gigs, they believe the mountains will influence future songwriting.
Aftermath author Brian Giffin, who told The Haze “Australia has a very healthy, very extensive metal scene that needs/needed to be chronicled.”
This led to the publication of the Encyclopedia Of Australian Heavy Metal, that features a handful of local bands, available from Megalong
Books, The Turning Page, and online.
On behalf of the main bands in this article, we would like to give a shoutout to Infinite Black, Magma One, Innsmouth, Nova Incepta, Cruciform, Resonator,
and all those making original creative content in the Blue Mountains.
None of this is going away anytime soon… keep an eye out for local heavy gigs on The Haze facebook.
Words and collage by Corin Shearston