The History Of Australian Metal In 10 Bands


To treat a UK in the grip of winter to a searing blast of Aussie sunshine, Hammer has assembled a chronological rundown of ten exceptional tunes from the shores of Oz that made the rest of the world sit up and take notice and shit the bed, cobber. Strewth!

Buffalo – I’m A Skirt Lifter, Not A Shirt Raiser (taken from Only Want You For Your Body, 1974)

Displaying the kind of tongue-in-cheek, anti-PC macho braggadocio that would come to define Australian rock (also evident on the dodgy cover photo), Sydney’s fabulous Buffalo were already onto their heavyweight third album when they unleashed their signature tune, this irresistibly rugged, headbanging caveman classic with plainly comical lyrics extolling the band’s rapacious heterosexuality.

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock (taken from Let There Be Rock, 1977)

On their fourth album’s compulsive, heads-down juggernaut of a title track, Australia’s greatest band not only cemented their own implacable prowess and global stature, but by mischievously presenting a narrative of rock’s short history as a tale of Biblical importance, Let There Be Rock provided an energising stimulus for headbangers worldwide, helping spawn new waves of heavy metal in the late ‘70s.

Slaughter Lord – Legion (taken from Taste Of Blood Demo, 1986)

Later covered by At The Gates, Legion is perhaps the most assertive and focused of all Slaughter Lord’s barbarically brilliant 1986 demo tunes. The four-piece imploded before they could record an album, but earned kudos from the global tape-trading underground as the only Australian band taking thrash to bestial new levels of black death extremity – and having a ball doing it: “It was that magic time that all thrash heads from that time pine for,” says drummer Steve Hughes. “Not to be boastful, but it was just a really amazing and magical time.”

Mortal Sin – I Am Immortal (taken from Face Of Despair, 1989)

One of the last great thrash metal anthems of the 1980s, I Am Immortal boasted exactly the sort of rampaging mega-chorus that major label Parlophone were presumably hoping for when they snapped up the Sydney thrashers, hoping to bag the new Metallica. It didn’t quite work out that way, and the band dissolved five years later, but this was a highly memorable single (and accompanying live video) that pricked up the ears of thrashers worldwide.

diSEMBOWELMENT – The Tree Of Life And Death (taken from Transcendence Into The Peripheral, 1993)

Kicking off like the sort of cryptic raging death/grind that you’d expect from their name, Melbourne’s quirkily-typeset diSEMBOWELMENT soon send the terrified listener spinning into orbit with dissonant headache drones and weird alien frequencies, before crashing headfirst into a sprawling labyrinth of devastating, funereal sludge doom. Lee Dorrian later used the title of this spellbinding ten-minute opener on Cathedral’s Garden Of Unearthly Delights album.

Deströyer 666 – I Am The Wargod (Ode To The Battle Slain) (taken from Phoenix Rising, 2000)

From the hushed subtleties of its darkly beautiful intro, I Am The Wargod is a comprehensive masterpiece of blackened thrashing death metal, shot through with clattering bursts of white-hot speed, haunting atmospheric melodies, inventive technical flamboyance and a deliriously satisfying chorus. Formed in 1994 by Bestial Warlust axe-devastator KK Warslut, D666 remain a world-class riot of bloody leather and spikes.

Alchemist – Solarburn (taken from Austral Alien, 2003)

Eclectic space cadets from the suburbs of Perth, on the compulsive Solarburn Alchemist give Fear Factory a run for their money in Killing Joke-infused sheet metal riffing, but this dense nugget of amber nectar also bears elements of shimmering psychedelic groove, co-existing with dissonant noise-rock guitars, deadpan gothic vocals and animal yells. Deftly melding sounds and vibes with brains, soul and guts, Alchemist are one of the most distinguished and hard-working bands down under.

Thy Art Is Murder – Laceration Penetration (taken from The Adversary, 2010)

With the sickening hacking, slashing and crunching of the opening guitar chords and an archetypal ‘typewriter falling down the stairs’ drum barrage, this New South Wales quintet proved with their debut that they were more destined to cause a mighty stink on the world deathcore stage; though there’s not much ‘core’ about this brutally out-of-order, Suffocation-tinged hammer to the brain.

Parkway Drive – Sleepwalker (taken from Deep Blue, 2010)

Instantly distinguished by what is surely the Byron Bay boys’ niftiest riff, Sleepwalker confidently swings between scampering tech-chops, discreet bursts of blastbeat and ‘phat’ lurching grooves like Korn if they’d grown up on Iron Maiden and Cannibal Corpse, before ascending to the sublime with the tasteful melodic solo towards the end.

Portal – Curtain (taken from Vexovoid, 2013)

The enigmatic demons in Brisbane’s mercurial Portal have been chucking bloody chunks of apocalyptic death metal into infernal realms of nightmarish abstraction for over 15 years, but with last year’s Vexovoid they streamlined and crystallised their unorthodox, wildly divisive approach, even providing this classy video in homage to the silent horror of the ‘20s.