Denouncement Pyre launch Black Sun Unbound at the Bendigo Hotel - and I didn't feel too old

Does heavy metal truly flow in your blood? If the answer is yes then I choose to believe that the fire never leaves you, no matter your age. What changes when you’re at a gig is what I like to think of as a case of things getting more efficient — that raging open wood blaze that burnt so brightly and unpredictably is now one of those modern, efficient, possibly quieter but definitely more reliable gas heaters.

There comes a point — usually in what is considered the ‘middle’ part of life — where the wild expectations of seeing a live band are tempered by the begrudging realisation that this dying meatbag body you inhabit isn’t quite as sturdy as it used to be.
I’ve been warned many times not to get old. Especially on Friday nights, when all you can think of at the end of your five-day 9-5 working stiff routine is how nice it would be to block out reality by inching just a bit closer to finally Netflixing all 178 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Yet here I was, on a Friday night, still getting older, but defiantly getting ready for a gig, because I love heavy metal and I love this art form called extreme music.
The occasions was Melbourne’s Denouncement Pyre, who were launching their recently released new album, Black Sun Unbound. The location was that reliable pedestal of a venue that will put on extreme music where other venues won’t: the Bendigo Hotel. I’ve written about Denouncement Pyre before because they put on a great show, and also because I strongly suspect they’re close to being (or might actually be) the band I’ve seen live more than any other. Indeed, I’ve seen Iron Maiden seven times and The Night Terrors on a comparable number of occasions, but I can’t recall the number of Denouncement Pyre live performances I’ve accumulated.

Denouncement Pyre. Pic: Ashleigh Duncan.

As you get older, you tend to get more chilled when it comes to those things that years ago might have caused some existential anxiety. Or, if a younger me was somehow able to address an older me, I might find it amusing to say that you simply have less f***s to give.
On the other hand, you also find yourself in a situation where you need to duck out because you could really do with a coffee before the main act takes onto the stage.
But more on that later.
Denouncement Pyre are one of those bands who seem to get just that little bit better each time. Despite the fact that I cannot play a musical instrument (in my defence, I’m exceptionally good at listening to music), it’s clear that they have ammunition-carrier-loads of technical proficiency and the dedication to drive it. The gig was also an occasion to see Tasmania’s Ruins, who I didn’t know much about but sounded promising.
But back to getting old…
Does heavy metal truly flow in your blood? If the answer is yes then I choose to believe that the fire never leaves you, no matter your age. What changes when you’re at a gig is what I like to think of as a case of things getting more efficient — that raging open wood blaze that burnt so brightly and unpredictably is now one of those modern, efficient, possibly quieter but definitely more reliable gas heaters. Yes, a gas fire is nowhere near as awesome as a raging wood fire, but they’re equally effective and the end result is just the same. And besides, Victorian smoking regulations mean it’s way harder to come home with a jacket reeking of cigarette smoke.
Subjecting your body to lethal doses of beer like you did back in the day would now also mean writing off most of the next day (and apparently, once you add another decade, there’s also all of Sunday to take off). So you tend to get a bit more selective and try to make the most of it.
Assuming you have a stable income, you also worry less about the getting to and from. Back in my day, when you tied an onion to your belt, which was the style at the time, you also had to think about funds. Having less of them generally meant choosing between getting home and getting one last drink. While meeting new and interesting people on the NightRider home did make for memorable encounters, the novelty soon wore off.
It’s a cruel twist of fate, isn’t it? That in order to have the freedom to not worry about being strictly responsible you need to live your life somewhat strictly and responsibly so as to not have to worry about losing all that freedom.
And finally, one last benefit, at least in my situation, is that, generally speaking, there’s hopefully less worry about your place in the world. Figuring out this thing we call identity for many people on both sides of their twenties is a work in progress, but add another 10 years and you’re less likely to carry on in a way that doesn’t resemble the real you.
Of course, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes get fleeting moments of anxiety — and then I remember that I’m here to see a talented band play a variety of music that I love and that I’m privileged to live in a city where this is a regular occurrence.

Quite a line-up.

To wit, the pre-gig grown-up-grade (so not McDonald’s) dinner that my gig-going counterpart and I began with was at the magnificent Mrs Parma’s. Apart from the innuenduous title, they have a first-rate albeit-higher-than-average-priced selection of craft beers and the Mexican parma is simply superb. Beware though, for if you’re not accustomed to chilies, you may end up paying for it the next morning (what was that about getting old)?
Upon arriving at The Bendigo Hotel I sadly missed the power electronics violation from RuiNation. Though power electronics are typically not my first choice of beverage (I won’t knock it back, it just doesn’t feature prominently in my music collection), I do love the fact that a performance of confrontingly atonal noise music like this opens up a metal gig.
I did, however, catch the tail end of Hordes Of The Black Cross, who finished with a rather savage black thrash number. Perhaps it happened to be one of their best tracks, what with it being a done thing in live music to finish with the good stuff. Or perhaps it was something else? Whatever it was, the sound emanating from the stage was excellent. I’ve been to several Bendigo Hotel shows and I’ve occasionally noticed a muddy character to the audio — but not this time. It might have had something to do with new sound insulation behind the stage, or it might have been due to something else, but either way, every band I saw that night sounded sharp.
This quality helped bring out so much of the fine detail for Ruins. From Tasmania, they play an interesting, very non-linear (non verse-chorus-verse) kind of second wave-ish death-black metal, on the mid-tempo spectrum, more about murk and mire than freezing blasts.
That made perfect sense, right?
One unusual thing – and I say unusual in the context of the three-standard-deviations-away-from-normality that is playing live black and death metal – was Ruins vocalist Alex Pope. On this bill there was no shortage of bullet belts, dark and satanic imagery, splotches of corpse paint – death and black metal tropes, if you like. Yet on this night he had none of those. No corpse paint, bullet belts (that I could see), war chains, gas masks — there was a band shirt though.
In no way am I diminishing the inherent value that all these things add to a metal show — I love it when what you see in a performance matches what you hear — but nonetheless, kudos to him for delivering the same vocal savagery, minus the optional accoutrements.
It seemed to me like a very honest performance, as if I was witnessing the spirit of Aussie pub rock — albeit a damned spirit from the last pub in the abyss. It was a good show, incidentally, and (I think it was the) closing track Suicidal Pulse sounded incredible.
After Ruins finished it was time for me and my gig counterpart’s running joke — namely, how we could really do with a little rest between bands. The running joke started earlier this year when we caught the train into town for Iron Maiden and ended up on quite a detour to acquire a much-needed coffee pep up.
And so on this occasion coffee called us again. Alas, no traditional coffee vendors were open at that late hour in the sort of dodgy end of Collingwood. We did pass one place called Everyday Coffee but we were informed that they only sold fancy cocktails. As an aside, I’m proud of my restraint in not pointing out the name of the venue to the staff member bearing the disappointing news, and therefore not contributing to shaping that individual's poor worldview of the hospitality industry.
Ultimately we settled on petrol station-grade coffee. It was dirt cheap and not too far off from dirt tasting either, but we weren’t consuming it for the flavour and that was fine by us.
After we returned it was time to see Denouncement Pyre.

Denouncement Pyre at the Bendigo Hotel.

Wicked bass. Pic: Ashleigh Duncan. Terrible Photoshop editing: me.

As mentioned, they seem to get a little bit better with each show and each new release. The recognition is growing, with that still-recent performance at Maryland Deathfest 2016 apparently garnering some deserving attention.
It turned out to be an excellent show, but you knew I was going to say that. Although terms like tight, imposing and commanding come to mind, the truth is that it’s difficult to sensibly describe in words what music sounds like — best you go hear and see it for yourself. They played some new tunes from Black Sun Unbound and generally owned the stage — a representative example of what I’ve heard overseas people use the term 'scene' when referring to Aussie blackened thrash.
After the gig I spoke very briefly to Ruins’ Alex Pope over the merch table. I asked for a recommendation on which album from the Ruins discography would be a good start (the table had three to choose from) and he gave me a deal on three albums — and even threw in a patch, which was very nice of him. He also thanked me, very sincerely, “for your support”.
And at that, it was almost time to go home and go to bed.
Well almost.
As the main room was emptying I talked to someone who, unbelievably, wasn’t wearing a black band shirt and didn’t listen to all that much extreme music. We discussed cats and tractors — and let me tell you this: Massey Ferguson is the real deal folks.
It was one of the most interesting conversations I’d had all week. Not to depreciate the value of the other conversations that night or that week, but not just cats AND but ALSO agricultural machinery at a metal gig is a rare combination. Regrettably, it was over all too soon and us oldies had to go home and shuffle into bed in preparation for all those forthcoming adulty responsibilities.
As I made my way home in the back of a cab I figured it had been a very decent night. The gig was well-attended and supported. I had some expensive-ish craft beer over a Mexican parma as well as some normal-priced generic beer, and a dirt-cheap-priced coffee too. I was reminded that this art form called extreme music is alive, well, and routinely commanding a great turnout.
I saw some good music. I met some interesting people. It was an affirmation of the great things about heavy metal. But I still thought the bit about cats and tractors was a memorable highlight.

As I said, you look at things a bit differently as you get older.

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