Hammer Does Australia: Soundwave Festival

With a host of so-called Sidewave shows to boot, it’s a living, fire-breathing swarm of bands, roadies and crew that sweeps Australia and leaves tens of thousands of hangovers in its wake. Hammer was invited down to witness 64 bands walloping Aussie metaldom. Strewth.


**13:32 **Touchdown. After 10,000 miles and 23 hours, the cast and crew of Hammer Down Under arrive in Melbourne. Given the ambitious breadth and scope of coverage we have planned over the next nine days, and that we’re due to arrive on site in less than 12 hours, we’ve wisely opted not to take advantage of Qantas’s generous drinks policy and definitely don’t immediately hit the pub across the road.

23:15 Unimpressed by said pub’s range of lager, we head back to the hotel in search of a cab and bump into Of Mice & Men. Beer? “Ah, no thanks, guys, I’ve got a show tomorrow so gonna rest up,” says Austin. It’s cool, man, not like we put you on the cover or anything…


00:15 There is a bar in Melbourne called Cherry Bar and it’s on AC/DC Lane, a name the city council unanimously voted to support back in 2009. We debate the relative merits of lobbying Boris Johnson to anoint Iron Maiden Avenue in London over a few rounds. Who’s with us?

00:55 “What are you guys doing here?!” It’s Joel and Ryan O’Keeffe from Airbourne! Apparently the Cherry Bar’s their local. We reveal our plans to cover Soundwave festival in Melbourne before hitting some Sidewaves. “You need a review of Priest on Tuesday?” Joel, we thought you’d never ask. Ryan soon introduces us to his speciality drink, Kinky Water. Hell knows what’s in it. Hold on, that could be tequila. Gish’a nuthwun. Thanksh./o:p


09:05 The hammerdownunder team assemble to plan a heavy day of coverage ahead. And bacon. Lots of bacon./o:p

10:30 Our bus pulls up to the vast expanse that is the Melbourne Showgrounds. In the car park we bump into Troy from Mastodon, who’s pacing up and down with a pair of headphones on. Nervous about the first-ever show with Killer Be Killed later? “Nah, just doing some vocal warm-ups. OK, a little. It’s been over 10 years since I got up with a band for the first time…” Fair dos.

14:00 Not long after King 810 have torn up the third stage, Killer Be Killed assemble and a hush falls over the crowd as Max Cavalera, Greg Puciato and Troy Sanders emerge to play one of the most brutalising, joyous, and soon-to-be-legendary sets of their career. Believe what you’ve heard, this is something special, and those here have witnessed history. We catch up with him afterwards. “You know, these were going to be the only Killer Be Killed shows but I think we’re gonna have a little talk about that…”/o:p

Above: Moments before Killer Be Killed kick the fuck out of Melbourne/o:p

16:00 We wander down to see Judas Priest and bump into none other than Ebenz from Burgerkill. How you doing, man? “Just here on vacation with my family,” he says. “Why don’t you pop over to Indonesia?” Just then, Rob Halford and company drop Dissident Aggressor. The universal language of throwing silly metal shapes is, on this evidence, in no danger of ever dying out.

19:00 Corey Taylor and Clown stop by, and seem pumped about being here. “Soundwave is awesome,” raves Clown. “It’s bands from all kinds of genres, that’s a cool thing to be part of, instead of a typical festival where you miss the alternative stuff. Smashing Pumpkins are playing tonight! I love that, keeping your mind going with art, and this might be the first time I have a chance to have a little vacation and do something I’ve properly want to do – I want to go out and catch some big fucking fish.” And, presumably, stick them in a jar to fester for years on end for future work in necrotic aromatherapy.

“Every time we’ve played here it’s just gotten better, and that’s going on 16 years,” adds Corey. “There’s so much to do down here. We just spent two days feeding sharks. I fed a giraffe, and that is just so metal.”

23:30 Cherry Bar./o:p

Above: Rob and Richie, defending the faith/o:p


17:00 “’Sup, man!” Oh look, it’s Randy Blythe backstage posing with none other than Lexxi Foxx from Steel Panther. As soon as he’s done here he’s off to the beach for a spot of surfing, a habit he developed as a way of trying to complete his book, which is out later this year. “I had to leave everything behind and be by myself,” he says. “I thought it was gonna be easy. I exhibited every neurotic fucking writer’s behaviour I thought I was immune to. The hardest bit is making yourself sit in the chair.” We’re sure it’ll be worth the effort, chap.

18:00 Butcher Babies stop by the Hammer compound and reveal plans are going to be “heavier and thrashier”, and possibly whisper something about abducting a koala, at least for a little while. “We need to find a place where we can hug koalas,” says Carla Harvey. “To be honest, I could just use a hug.” Aw. Anyone free?/o:p

Above: The Panther and Lamb collide

18:40 A dreadlocked space alien… no, Uncle Al Jourgensen from Ministry walks by. “Fuck sake, can I smoke in here?” he asks, lighting up. No, but we won’t be the ones to tell you that you can’t. “Good answer,” he cackles. “Can you believe it’s 40 ̊C?! Justin from Godflesh just about passed out, and Burton from Fear Factory vomited in his mouth… I don’t know how this old goat made it through! The last three songs of the set I was just hugging the drum riser!”

You’ve had some health scares, you alright? “I’m healthy as a 56-year-old alcoholic Hepatitis A, B and C carrier you-name-it can be!” Good to know, Al.

19:00 There must be something about the 36 ̊C heat because Faith No More have just taken the stage and Mike Patton appears to be snacking on bugs into the main stage camera. It does nothing to take away from the peculiar groove of new song Motherfucker or the soaring brilliance of Epic. No, wait… he’s just stopped the show to do an a cappella version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight, complete with a field-wide singalong. ‘A-wim-o-weh a-wim-o-weh…’

23:30 Cherry Bar? Cherry Bar.

Above: FNM attempt to recreate the moon landing


11:00 It’s a day of travel to Sydney but not before we hit the world-famous Vicious Sloth Collectables. It’s an incredible place, and reputedly one of the best repositories of Australia’s rock and metal heritage in the world. And, if you’re Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron, also an ace place to pick up a sweet pressing of Led Zeppelin IV and David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. Nice one, Matt.

23:00 After a delayed flight due to a spot of rain, which by any other country’s standards looks like fucking Armageddon, we check into our Sydney hotel. There’s a rumour of a place called Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice that does pizza and booze. It’s… it’s like the most beautiful thing we’ve ever heard of. We head over and bump into Jacoby Shaddix, who’s singing along to a country song that seems to come over the jukebox every 10 minutes or so – Big Fanny by Neil Ray. The night disappears into a carousel-blur of beers, song, and… Big Fanny. It’s contagious./o:p


20:10 We pile into a sweltering Enmore Theatre for a few beers and a spot of Priest as we’ve got the night off, though we’re getting worried, as our star reviewer Joel O’Keeffe still hasn’t turned up. Nope, wait, there he is. Nice Cold Chisel shirt, chap! “I’ve gotta wear me best, don’t I?”

What follows as the band take the stage can only be described as Olympian shape-throwing and one of the tightest, most thrilling sets all week, and it’s apparent that new guy Richie Faulkner has slotted right into the legendary lineup. We catch up with Glen Tipton afterwards.

“We always said that if a key member leaves we’d call it a day, but then we heard about this guy,” he says. “We put a call through and he ignored our emails for a week. He thought it was a joke! I knew as soon as he walked through the door that he was the one.” Good news for everyone, Glen./o:p

Above: Priest make time for a Sidewave show


20:45 For possibly the third time in his career, Marilyn Manson takes the stage on time and affirms the widely held suspicion that the Antichrist Superstar is back, and back on form – tight, hilariously camp and simultaneously creepy and menacing, and backed up by a well-oiled machine of a band, it’s as if he’s undergone some transformation, or perhaps he’s simply re-connected with whatever made him great in the first place. Again, a sight for the history books.

01:35 Frankie’s Pizza is heaving, and it looks like pretty much every band in town has converged here – Of Mice & Men, Mayhem, Twiggy Ramirez, Apocalyptica – as well as some great Sabbath covers band doing War Pigs… no, wait, it’s actually Exodus and Dino Cazares who’ve taken over for the covers band! They swiftly launch into another cover of Piranha. Holy shit, this is amazing. Waiter, more tequila!/o:p

Above: Manson gets the blues


12:00 Ouch.

22:30 Soundgarden have just brought the house down at Luna Park, and we’re off to a nameless speakeasy where, inevitably, the conversation turns to Seattle. Kim Thayil is circumspect about what happened in the 90s.

“When something gets successful, labels will always try to manufacture a similar project. Every label had to have a Nirvana- or Soundgarden-type band. It happened in the 60s too – everyone had to have a Beatles or a Stones. The 80s had millions of hair bands. It’s not that we did or didn’t follow that, it just wasn’t even on our radar. It was Meat Puppets, Butthole Surfers, Black Flag… that was our culture. It’s surprising that it got as big as it did. It’s interesting.”

01:00 We hit Frankies, but it seems to be more crowded than normal, particularly in the corner of the room where Dave Grohl – fresh from playing the nearby stadium – seems to be on a drink-receiving line from the bar as he chats with Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins. Oh look, someone is taking a selfie. And another. Aaaand another… Aaaa…. hang on, is that Ben Shepherd from Soundgarden standing behind the bar?/o:p

Above: Chris Cornell, grunge god


21:50 Our heads explode at the Metro in Downtown Sydney as, following on from a blistering hour of industrial might courtesy of Ministry and support band Godflesh, Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory takes the stage for a stunning version of Just One Fix. You’d have to hear it to believe it, but it’s a total joy to behold.

“Yeah, that was fun,” he tells us later over a generously poured glass of red. “This was supposed to be a day off, but you know…” As it turns out, he also worked as the lighting guy for Godflesh. “Justin Broadrick’s an old friend of mine. I saw them with Napalm Death and Nocturnus with Dino back in 1990 and it just went from there…”/o:p


10:00 It’s the first day of Soundwave Sydney and the Hammer press area is looking a little sparse. It needs something… inflatable. We pool our funds for a blow-up kangaroo to, you know, help us blend in. Axl Roos, welcome aboard!

15:00 The festival site is rocked by the news of the death of universal metal hero and all-round inspiration Leonard Nimoy, the man behind one of the most iconic screen personalities of all time. Steel Panther appear and, visibly upset by it all, agree that instead of the Shocker, they’ll be doing the Spocker today. Spandex at half-mast, gents./o:p

19:00 We’re hanging out and drinking champagne with Faith No More before they go onstage and Roddy Bottum, possibly one of the friendliest men in rock, is telling us about the one-man opera he’s working on in his free time, called Sasquatch: The Opera.

“No one’s ever really worked out how to tell the story of the abominable snowman in operatic form until now,” he says. And who are we to argue? “Dude! Check this out!” Mike Bordin’s got his laptop out and is excitedly showing us pictures he’s gotten from his friend of the headstock from a guitar that Ritchie Blackmore threw at a cameraman at the 1973 California Jam. “That’s what I call an artefact, man!”

He tells us a little about the new album, Sol Invictus, which is out in just a couple of months from the time of going to press. “We really needed this time off so it’d be fun again,” he says. “It’s got all the weirdness of Angel Dust.” This is very good news, Mike! Now go play a show./o:p


14:35 Matt and Wayne from notorious Aussie death metallers King Parrot, who’ve just demolished the third stage, stop by to say hello and offer to give Hammer an Australian language lesson. “Eh yoo gan.” What? “Eh… yoo… gan!” Eh? Oh! ‘How are you going?’ “Yes!” Strewth.

20:00 We’re hanging backstage with a visibly amused Tino and Austin from Of Mice & Men, the latter of whom’s just revealed the kind of secret that’ll rot your insides. “I don’t care man, the world can know about it.” It seems Austin’s musical tastes include the unthinkable. “The Kenny G Classic Christmas Album on the alto saxophone! I can say that! I can say that! Screw genres, listen to whatever the hell you want.”

22:00 It’s impossible to believe, really, but we’re watching the final notes of yet another stellar set by Slipknot when – suddenly – the set stops just before what we presumed would be a victory-lap encore. Apparently the weight of the heaving throng is so heavy it’s moved the entire barrier forward by an inch, and they’re having to stop the show to ensure it doesn’t move any further. Safety first, kids. Five minutes elapse, then 10. The problem rectified, the band re-emerge to prove themselves kings of the metal jungle. It’s the best high-note to leave on – this is one adventure that’s left us spent, broken and grinning ear-to-ear. Same time next year?/o:p

Above: Slipknot: Clown’s Aussie BBQ got a bit out of hand



> Soundwave was a monster > blast as always. There were so many great bands to see that I didn’t get to see > them all. They’ll be talking about our Sydney show for the next 10 years. Any > show that comes that close to a riot without anyone getting hurt is a win to > me.

Alexander Milas

Alexander Milas is an erstwhile archaeologist, broadcaster, music journalist and award-winning decade-long ex-editor-in-chief of Metal Hammer magazine. In 2017 he founded Twin V, a creative solutions and production company.  In 2019 he launched the World Metal Congress, a celebration of heavy metal’s global impact and an exploration of the issues affecting its community. His other projects include Space Rocks, a festival space exploration in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Heavy Metal Truants, a charity cycle ride which has raised over a million pounds for four children's charities which he co-founded with Iron Maiden manager Rod Smallwood. He is Eddietor of the official Iron Maiden Fan Club, head of the Heavy Metal Cycling Club, and works closely with Earth Percent, a climate action group. He has a cat named Angus.