By Calen Vanstone

After the recent failings of the Big Day Out Festival in Adelaide, Soundwave, along with Future Music Festival, have needed to lift their game to hammer some of the last remaining nails in the coffin of their once-reigning predecessor. Back in mid-2011, when Soundwave Revolution backfired, along with the promise of bringing the reformed Van Halen to our shores, all seemed lost for founder AJ Maddah and company, as well.

Everyone was ready to completely write off the 2012 Soundwave before it had even begun releasing any information. Then something happened. Several months after the Revolution debacle had been forgotten but still not forgiven, some names were released for Soundwave 2012; System Of A Down, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, Machine Head, Bad Religion, Lamb Of God, Mastodon, Trivium, A Day To Remember, to name a few. Suddenly most, if not everyone, forgot 2011 even existed, and social media networks flooded with applause and admiration for Maddah who had conjured up arguably the best metal/hard rock festival line-up this country had ever seen. Oh, and did I mention Limp Bizkit was on the line-up?

First up for the day was Finnish Viking Folk-Metalists Turisas, a band I was eagerly awaiting and they did not disappoint. They blitzed through their set with a welcomed energy to get everyone pumped for the day, only really slowing down to allow singer, Mathias “Warlord” Nygård to take a few minutes to express his love of local Australian beer. The group closed with the epic “Battle Metal”, before leaving the stage to a cheering crowd. I was lucky to catch Turistas at all as they had been moved from an eleven-am start to twelve-thirty-pm at a different stage for some reason. I was informed a few other minor changes occurred to the early acts, but nothing that would upset anyone’s day.

It was then time for everyone’s new favourite band, Steel Panther. As someone who is not that familiar with the band’s material I found the most entertaining moments were in the banter between songs. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the music, but as an outsider it felt like one big in-joke I’m yet to crack. Nevertheless, the audience loved them and I wouldn’t stop hearing about them for the rest of the day.

Despite the masses staying at the main stage for Steel Panther, I was quick to sprint to Stage 4b to catch the mighty French Extreme Metallers Gojra, featuring Joe Duplantier, who some may know from his stint as the bassist for Cavalera Conspiracy’s first album. I am a huge fan of Gojira, so I got a lot more satisfaction out of this set than the previous one. Duplantier and co. offered a relentless thirty minutes of some of their finest tracks as a band, even stretching to include “Love”, off their fourth demo Wisdom Comes. At one point Joe’s brother and the band’s drummer, Mario Duplantier came down from his perch in a fiery rage to attempt to enlist those “sleeping” to wake up and those outside the barricades to come in closer through several hand gestures and a lot of fierce pointing. It wasn’t clear whether it worked or not, but it didn’t matter, as they finished off with two more scorchers, then came down the front to wave goodbye, with a smile returning to Mario’s face along with the rest of the band.

Right next door at Stage 4a, Texan hard-rockers Hellyeah, consisting of members of Mudvayne and Nothingface with legendary drummer Vinnie Paul, of Pantera fame, burst on to the stage before Gojira were out of sight. A thoroughly rousing thirty minute set ensued, with the group covering all their recognisable tracks in between vocalist Chad Gray declaring his love for Adelaide. Almost every band I witnessed that day did too, but none with more conviction than Gray. What could have been preachy and unnecessary was instead genuinely received and respected by the audience. It was a privilege to finally see Vinnie Jones live, and despite being unable to barely see him over his hulking kit, he was battering away like it was 1994.

My next destination was to the main stage to catch Alter Bridge, who finally seemed to have escaped their past as three-quarters of post-grunge wailers, Creed. Vocalist Myles Kennedy is everything Scott Stapp from Creed wasn’t, a real rock front man, capable of stimulating crowds, not only with his actions but also with his stellar voice. It is fitting as Alter Bridge are a true rock band now. Recently releasing their third album to critical acclaim, the band is growing stronger each day, and their strength was shown in full flight at Soundwave. Opening with “Slip Into The Void”, the first track off their new album, the show didn’t stop until the final chord of the set.  They blazed through material from all three albums, including “White Knuckles”, “Isolation” and “Ties That Bind”. Despite all of this, the short time given to them, and the lack of a strong local following meant that an intimate venue tour might be a better way to experience them next time.

Now back to Stage 4a for Swedish titans Meshuggah, who have been tearing audiences a new set of ear lobes since the mid-nineties with their unique brand of extreme groove metal. They were back on our shores to showcase tracks off their latest album, Koloss, as well as pummelling us with plenty of gems from their back catalogue. I’ve had the privilege of seeing these heavyweights before, back in 2010 when they caused a storm tearing through a brutal set as the audience proceeded to throw everything they had at one another, from the circle pits to the fly-kickers. So it was a disappointment to see a much tamer crowd this time around. Mind you, this year Meshuggah played on an outside stage, whereas last time it was in a tent away from the scorching sun. Either way, the music was in equal parts faultless as it was enjoyable.

My excitement at this point was almost unbearable as I was watching Meshuggah from in front of Stage 4b, where Dez Ferrera would soon appear, not with his current band Devildriver, but with his original act, the one and only Coal Chamber. Overlooked at the time, other bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit, of the much-maligned genre “nu-metal”, were stealing the limelight from them. Coal Chamber were the dark horse in a dark race. They burst onto the scene with their self-titled album that hosted the likes of the epically twisted “Loco” and equally demented “Bradley”, to name a few. However, it was no surprise many turned out for this special set, with this Soundwave tour notably doubling as their reunion tour after a decade of inactivity. A ferocious set was soon to follow, slowed only by a brief power outage and drummer, Mikey “Bug” Cox’s attendance to his three previously broken fingers. Churning through a greatest hits set of sorts, with highlights including “Big Truck” and “Rowboat”, Dez and his crew were in top form. Cox was especially entertaining to watch, at times receiving all of the attention with his energetic and at times peculiar playing style, including the incessant aggressive removal of a barely played splash cymbal from his side. I’m very keen to know what that was all about, along with that same cymbal and stand being seen flying around behind the stage at certain points. If anyone knows, please comment below.

After a food break, it was off to the main stages again to get a good position for Limp Bizkit. Bad Religion were on the adjacent stage, playing through many of their classics, including “21st Century Digital Boy” and “Punk Rock Song” to name a few, but the crowd on my side of the D-Barricade were getting anxious. Complaints about Bad Religion’s tracks “all sounding the same” were in abundance. To be fair to the punk rockers, they were fantastic live, displaying their mastery of a genre they helped create. However, the looming presence that one of the most universally mocked and despised groups ever was soon to be performing was too great.

A tech from the Limp Bizkit camp stirred up the mouth-watering crowd twice before the Bad Religion set finished. Singer, Greg Graffin signed off and thanked their adoring crowd before promptly leaving. Then it all went a bit crazy. The crowd went ballistic. Most wore faces with mixed emotions and thoughts, pondering their conflicting feelings as to how it would turn out. I suspect many were there initially for a laugh, expecting to see the critically and publicly bashed group fall flat on their faces as their reputation may have hinted at.  It wasn’t long until DJ Lethal appeared, sideways cap and swagger in tow. He jumped up to the decks before bassist Sam Rivers and drummer John Otto emerged, immediately followed by guitarist Wes Borland, donning a bizarre all-white outfit with fake blood smeared around his crotch and backside, which is not unusual for him. Then the man himself, Fred Durst, vocalist for the group, appeared. He instantly began hyping up the crowd and getting the ball “rollin” (see what I did there?) with the enjoyably explicit “Hot Dog”. No one could have expected exactly how incredible the following hour would be.  A band consistently criticised and hated by the good majority of the music industry and public since their inception tore through all their hits like they were the biggest band in the world, and the crowd loved it. Durst proved he could out-frontman the best of them, from delving into the crowd on someone’s shoulders mid-set, to inviting all the girls he could muster on stage for “Rollin”. A very moving moment came in the form of an ode to Jessica Michalik, who tragically passed away at a Big Day Out show in Sydney in 2001, with the Limp Bizkit banner dropping to show a large pink banner with Jessica’s name on it that remained for the rest of the set. To the cynics, it was a band representing a genre that had died around ten years ago for a reason. For the rest of us, it was one of the most entertaining and exciting sets we’d seen, and won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Marilyn Manson was up next on the other main stage, someone I was very excited to see as his album Anti-Christ Superstar was the first “heavy” album I ever heard. Unfortunately, the rumours that had been spreading and the poor reviews from previous Soundwave instalments across the country were quite accurate. The fire that was still burning after Limp Bizkit, and new flames igniting in anticipation for the headliners were unmatched by Manson’s rather boring hour on stage. It was interesting to hear some of the classics in action, but all impact was lost for some reason, and it was disappointing to see a genre legend at the mercy of his crowd, instead of commanding it like he used to. All in all, it was a flat, dull ride with an evidently worn-out and unenthused leader at the helm.

Manson eventually clambered off stage before switching attention back to the other main stage once more anticipating the arrival of the notorious nine, Slipknot. The nine-piece blasted on the stage, tearing through song after song, fireworks and all, like they were the only band on that day. I was delighted that tracks off their recent album fitted so neatly with the classics off their first, including a epic performance of “Psychosocial” off their latest. Everything from the popular “Duality”, which was accompanied by a crowd jump from Sid, their DJ, to early single “Wait And Bleed” were delivered with an acute intensity and tight performance that critics and fans have been praising the band for for over a decade. Recently deceased bassist Paul Gray is still missed heavily by the band when they perform, and being the first time in the country since his passing, vocalist Corey Taylor’s ode to him was another unexpectedly moving moment of the day. Finishing on “Spit It Out”, the crew from Iowa kept their reputation as one of the greatest live acts alive and well.

It was then time for the main headliners, System Of A Down, to take to the stage. Slipknot provided a hard show to match, but SOAD did the best they could. The crowd around me relished every moment, as did I. Particular enjoyment came from the older tracks, especially “Sugar”. Well-known songs, “Chop Suey” and “Toxicity” incited the biggest responses, but the newer ones from the more-recents, Hypnotize and Mezmerize, still held up in my opinion. They were a joy to watch on stage, especially singer, Serj Tankian, swinging to the music like a crazed-ringmaster, and drummer …’s stint front-of-stage as Slipknot’s Joey Jordison filled-in temporarily as he jumped around with a huge, rarely seen smile on his face before diving in to the crowd. Certainly, Slipknot put on a more entertaining show. However, System Of A Down was the appropriate choice to end the night. Come nine-o’clock, most people are either drunk or worn-out, and despite a few moments of intensity, System Of A Down provided the perfect balance to Slipknot’s non-stop aggression. Tankian, Malakian, Odadjian and Dolmayan, along with many of the aforementioned acts from today, provided us with an explosive day that brought a dead genre of metal and hard rock music history back alive and kicking, even if it was just for one day.

An overall solid and tightly run day, with the majority of punters kept happy by everything from the performances to the catering. Soundwave 2012 was in dire need of succeeding to get ahead of the competition, and they did so with flying colours.

To check out pictures from the day, go here

Follow Calen on Twitter, @CalenVanstone


  1. Reading your review I can’t help but feel that my experience was similar to the one you had. A little bit of nostalgia, some newish stuff, and some tired music that needs a bit of work.
    Not sure if you caught Mastodon; I’ve only heard them briefly and was not overly fussed if I missed them but, they completely blew me away with their ‘comfortable in my skin attitude’ and ballsy progressive style. For me they were band of the day despite needing to see SOAD and Slipknot whom I have recently found to be quite awesome. I know slow learner.
    I was impressed with SOAD despite some not so praisey press at other soundwave / sidewave shows, and once again I could see where other critics or music press could perceive a lack of interest or fire from this band. I believe the performance was solid, not brilliant but I at least got the vibe that the band was enjoying themselves, just as I was!

  2. Hey man, yeah didn’t catch Mastodon purely because I’d seen them before, as with Machine Head… i wish i could’ve seen them… but also as a reviewer i wanted to catch a lot of bands i hadn’t seen before and may not get another chance to.
    Yeah SOAD were indeed solid, i just think Slipknot were a hard act to follow for most, especially as they do give it their absolute all every time! Thanks heaps for the comments!

  3. p.s Mastodon’s new album is insane, and I hope they return to tour that one on their own!

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