Oxford Art Factory 26/02/14
A small crowd of mostly men outside a venue in Oxford Street isn’t surprising, even more so as it’s coming up to Mardi Gras night. A small crowd of mostly men clad in band t-shirts, with a few fantastic 80’s era denim cut-off jackets covered in patches, that’s different. Well, as far as I know – if anyone wants to prove me wrong, please do so.
The mighty Testament, veterans of the Bay Area thrash scene have returned to Australia on the Soundwave tour, and are playing several sideshows. I’m flying to Perth to see them at Soundwave, but the chance to see them in a tiny club? There was no way in hell I was missing this.
The support was a welcome surprise, with Wollongong band Metraya replacing Newsted at the last minute (According to one of their guitarists, who’s also a former co-worker of mine, at 2:30 that afternoon…) and got the crowd going with an energetic set. My list of funny stage banter* also has a new entry, with “We are Metraya, and this is a song called METRAYA!” (I love bands who write songs about themselves – see also Hammerfall and Manowar) Despite having a fairly thankless job (Several people in the crowd were wondering why they didn’t just let Testament play longer), they got a good reaction with 40 minutes of early Slayer esque thrashing and left the stage to cheers. Check em’ out.
Metraya doing their thing
40 minutes later, (Which featured a section of audience near me having a sing-along to Master of Puppets) and the strains of Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner and Testament hit the stage, storming through Rise Up to applause and roars in equal measure.
Guitarists Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson and new/returning bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Mjolnir pendant round his neck) were in fine form, frequently stepping up on the monitors to shred (Ala Steve Harris) and nearly hitting the ceiling in the process. Drummer Gene Hoglan smacked seven shades of shit out of his kit and singer Chuck Billy’s habit of air guitaring using a half-length microphone stand never get’s old. We got a good mix of old and new, with the highlights mostly the sing along songs, such as More than Meets the Eye (Which isn’t, as far as I know, about the Transformers), Dark Roots of Earth and an utterly storming Into the Pit, while Native Blood was dedicated to the local indigenous population. What was most evident though, was the sense of how much fun the band were having – there were smiles all round, with Skolnick’s goofy grin as he unleashed another brutal riff a sight to behold. I could grumble about the set only being an hour and 20, but it was worth it for the atmosphere. You can take your stadium gigs and shove them – give me a tiny room and the ability to make eye contact with the stage any time. Oh, and Gene Hoglan brushed past me on his way outside pre-gig. *swoons*
Alex Skolnick (Left) and Eric Peterson (Right) duelling axes
Heads were banged. Horns were thrown. Beer was drunk. It was a metal show. What more is there to say?
*The top of the list is Down singer Phil Anselmo introducing a song about marijuana legalisation with “This one goes out to… Where the fuck are we?”