Winter Solstice Damnation III | Gigs I should have said something about at the time

There’s this thing that I do when I’m at gigs. I’m getting into it, enjoying the show, and then a few songs into a set I take a photo on my phone. I don’t take many photos, mind you, just a couple of quick shots in succession (because I’m not a homicide-inducing wanker who repeatedly blocks your view with a phone when I’m at a gig). A few seconds later, and with the shots finished, I approvingly assure myself that I’m totally going to blog about this night in the near future.
Except, life and all its tiredness and distractions and mundanity get in the way. Before I know it, I’m at another gig, taking more shots, telling myself the same thing. Then life gets in the way yet again. Eventually, I end up with a phone full of gig photos. And as everyone knows, if it’s not on the internet, it didn’t happen, right?
I do this so often that I finally decided to do something about it, so I started a series of posts very imaginatively called Gigs I should have said something about at the time. Mostly it’s me posting photos from a year or six ago or even more. So this time I’m going to post about a very recent gig — in fact, it took place just last Saturday. Hahaha, who am I kidding? That was when I wrote the draft. This was totally a month ago now.
That makes it one of those Gigs I should have said something about at the time — and totally did this time. Well, kind of. That gig was…

Winter Solstice Damnation III at The Tote, June 24, 2017

As the name implies Winter Solstice Damnation is an annual celebration of bands across the spectrum of black, death, blackened thrash, and other assortments of extreme heavy metal sounds lovingly described in terms like dark and putrid and frostbitten.
Held once a year near the Winter Solstice (like, just in case that part wasn’t clear), it draws in a marvellous assortment of local and interstate bands play this style of music.
Before I progress further, I must concede that I did not make it to the venue until quite late in the evening. Remember what I said about life and all its tiredness and distractions and mundanity getting in the way? So, regrettably, I only caught the last three performances.

Dead River Runs Dry

The first of these (the sixth on the bill) was Dead River Runs Dry, out of NSW. My first exposure to Dead River Runs Dry was a year or so earlier, via a rather good track, Skull Of The Wind, on a Terrorizer magazine CD compilation. It’s an excellent starting point from an outfit that plays what (for lack of a better description) might best be referred as something akin to orthodox black metal, with some soaring hooks and epic melodies thrown in.
Kudos also to their vocalist who played the whole set both shirtless and shoeless. As the “Winter Solstice” part of the festival’s name makes clear, this event occurs on the longest and darkest night of the year. This is Melbourne folks — to put things in perspective, I had to don my thick winter gloves just to actually be able to hold my pint in the beer garden. On the other hand, perhaps this was counteracted by the fact that all members of Dead River Runs Dry were blessed with beards? A good volume of facial hair no doubt helps contribute to maintaining core body temperature — and as a bonus, did you know it acts as a passive sun block?


Melbourne’s AK-11 were next up — and they must surely get the award for best outfits. Words are likely inadequate to convey the effort that went into the attire and its stark effect, so the grainy still below (original video via CoveOfQueenSalma - check out some nice footage of the event).
Here was fast, nasty, vitriolic black metal that felt like it was played with a dose of snarly punk attitude, except that the name of the game was hatred and misanthropy.
But… those outfits… if I am not mistaken, that was an Austrian pattern, minus sleeves, matched with DIY corpse paint. Incredibly, the cammo pattern and corpse paint, not to mention front-man Valak’s impressive tattoo sleeves, blended in uncannily well.


Finally it was the headliner’s turn: Ignivomous.
How to describe the bleak death metal darkness that is this band? What is the sound of a group that doesn’t even pretend to venture close to this thing that vanilla folks term “accessible”? If extreme music is meant to be unrelenting and merciless and uncompromisingly bleak and overwhelming in every way then Ignivomous tick every box.
Yet in that beer garden, before they got on stage, I witnessed one chap express his sincere joy and appreciation at finally being able to see Ignivomous live.
“I’ve been waiting 10 years to see you guys,” he said. It turns out he was a long-time fan who lived in the sticks so he’d never gotten around to seeing a live Ignivomous show.
From listening in to this conversation I was once more reminded that one should not judge someone’s character based purely on appearances. This chap wasn’t even wearing a black t-shirt — it was white! — yet here was quite possibly the most devout Ignivomous fan in the room.
A few tracks into the band’s barrage — yes, barrage is a term that gets thrown in far too often, but “set” underrated the aural blindness down the front, as I was — it was revealed that this gig would mark 10 years since Ignivomous formed — and that it would also be guitarist Matt’s last official show with the band. To mark the occasion they even dug into the very early demo days.
After, when it was all done, I was reminded that “ignivomous” is a no-longer-used term to describe the act of vomiting fire. If one had to pick a soundtrack to accompany such an indescribably extreme phenomenon, that would likely be it.
  • Ignivomous Bandcamp on Nuclear War Now (note, the download and merch page links seem to be temporarily down).

A final word
No, the Tote was not packed to capacity that night, yet the turnout was Aussie-decent, given the prevailing winter conditions. Plus, it was reassuring to see the beer garden less than full during actual performances.
I will never cease to consider myself fortunate — and neither should you — for as long as this phenomenon we call the ‘scene’ continues to exist in Melbourne.
Every other week there is an event that involves usually (but not always) black-clad, usually (but not always) long-haired people getting up on stages and (yes, always) making one hell of a racket as they play dark, nasty, messed up noise.

Whatever the merits of individual bands, it is a privilege to know that the forces of darkness are not going away any time soon.

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