Bad weather was looming over Katoomba for the first night of the Skull and Bones Festival, putting a bit of a dampener on the expectations for a decent turn-out. That promise was sadly not met, and with headliners Buried in Verona pulling out of the event tonight's show was not as successful as it was hoped. Nevertheless, every single band that did play kicked ass as if the joint was full and those punters who did lob up couldn't have gone away that disappointed.
Brisbane's F.U.C. played to literally no one except the other bands on the tour and myself as they tore into an entertaining half-hour set of bass-less thrash that was like watching the Nancy Vandal of metal. First song "Dick" broke down into a comical slanging match between both members and other highlights were the constant jokes, introing "Volunteer" with the phrase "This song's about being a volunteer... it's called 'Volunteer'", a song called "Dolphin Trolley" and "a cover of a song by FUC who are playing here tonight - 'Dick!'" as they ploughed into their opening song again to finish their set.
Next up was BerserkerfoX, a melodic thrash/death band from Melbourne. I was impressed by the technical skill of their playing which they match with songs and their energy, especially that of vocalist Muzzi who worked the stage like there was a thousand people watching before walking out into the room during their cover of "The Trooper" to let a couple of blokes sing part of it. A handful of punters had arrived by now, but BerserkerfoX deserved a much bigger audience.
Western Sydney metalcore band Engage the Fall looked the odd ones out tonight in skater wear and Parkway Drive tees, but they got into the spirit, especially their bass player who rocked out with a couple of blokes up the front during one of their breakdowns. The first song or two seemed a little loose until they warmed up and they almost came unstuck when one of the guitarists busted some strings, but they were all right in the end.
By the time Melbourne's Scar the Surface hit there was a reasonable crowd and the band let them have it with all guns blazing. Vocalist Daniel got out into the melee of the night's first and only real moshpit which was, I have to say, probably the coolest one I've ever seen at this venue. Even a fight in the street outside wasn't about to upstage this band as they tore through a heavy and loud set of tight, catchy modern metal laced with some tasty guitar shred and mosh-inducing grooves.
Masked maniacs Celebrity Morgue have a bit of a following here so the room was at its fullest as they rolled out their incredibly groove-laden death metal assault. This band is as much a theatre show as it is a musical act and they have their schtick down pat, but this room's pitiful lighting doesn't really do it justice. Although their material is a little samey-sounding, the enormous amount of groove in the songs is astonishing and gets a crowd pumping nicely.
Our Last Enemy came on to find the crowd had dissipated somewhat but didn't allow this to hinder them from putting on an impressive show. Bass player Matt smased his mic stand to the ground several times as if he had a personal grudge against it and frontman Oliver commanded attention as he led the group through an impressive set of their dark, melodramatic Goth-edged industrial metal that, despite the announcement they'd be playing longer because Buried in Verona weren't turning up, seemed to actually be way too short.
With the festival's headliners inexplicably no longer playing, Warrnambool band Deliverence We Prey faced up next, delivering a set of surprisingly fast, tight and brutal thrash metal. Their guitar tone made them sound positively savage and Nick Fox proved himself to be quite an entertaining frontman with his threats to disrobe and stories about tattooing his arse for money. Regional Victoria's metal scene is in good hands when bands like this come out of it.
Sydney's Tensions Arise finished off the night, but I was ready to bail so my apologies to them for skipping out before they came on. In terms of attendance, the show was unfortunately lousy but every band that played was well worth venturing out to see without any duds among the bunch, so top marks for that.