The New Dead @ Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide 15/4/2023

When it comes to underground alternative music events, Adelaide is generally spoiled for choice, but it would be ignorant to think that these events will always be around. Touring and putting on large scale events has always been a costly exercise for promoters, especially post COVID with rising costs and many punters still sleeping under their isolation rocks. While we have seen a mass influx of international and local gigs occurring in the past year, it’s important to remember that this abundance of choice for entertainment relies of a delicate ecosystem of promoters, musicians, media and fans all making a conscious effort to get out and support each other, and more importantly the local legends who are not making anything and are doing it for the love.

The New Dead being one of Australia’s premier metal festival and mainstay from the powerhouse that also brings Froth and Fury and the soon to be revived Heavy SA had it’s 12th innings this year, but it’s no secret it had been put on the endangered list, with headliners pulling out and embarrassing ticket sale numbers. Bands and punters prepared themselves for what could be the last one, so attending the event was bittersweet for many, and begged the question- is New Dead… dead? Thanks to a last-minute push from the tight knit local Metal community and some of the most impassioned comradery I have seen from the industry for a long time, it appears that New Dead is not dead yet, and the day was a raging success with some of the wildest performances and obscure underground acts I have witnessed. With twenty one local and international bands on the bill playing over two stages back to back, you would be forgiven for needing to sink a whole lot of beer for it. I personally took full advantage of the couches upstairs for a quick early evening nap, being lulled to sleep by the hum of blackened beats by Adelaide death metal three piece Altars.

There was something there for everyone regardless of what your preferred flavour of metal, but it was nice to see the festival come back to its roots with a large focus on Black Metal. Whether you are a seasoned listener or just keen on a completely immersive cultural experience, the acts on display were top tier. Newbies Apocalyptic Annihilation popped their gig cherry and sounded unreasonably good for a first show with their raw and fast first wave sound. Karina Utomo of High Tension’s new project KILAT delivered a ritualistic performance of eerie guitar solos, screeching vocals and contortive gambol, confirming that Utomo is one of Australia’s most endearing frontwomen in Metal. Another new group straight from playing their first ever gig for Unholy Mass in Melbourne was Lumen Ad Mortem who brought the theatrics with war paint, demonic vocals and melodic synth, absolutely mesmerising the audience. To top the bill of black was Hexis, hailing all the way from Denmark and sounding huge, the strobes so intense the whole set felt like a terrifying art installation. They were due to hit Port Pirie the following day for the town’s first ever international gig, and all I could think was Lord save them.

A lot of local acts made the cut this year and purely because, as biased as I may sound, we have some ridiculously talented musicians here. Opening for the day, I Choose Violence weren’t messing around, and the crowd was already thick and well and truly getting down by midday with their tight thunderous groove. Bifurcation sweated it out with their heavy bass lines complete with astonishing Mariah Carey squeals neatly packaged in tracks you would likely hear in a blockbuster slasher film. Hell Machine, the two piece pretty blonde blackened thrashers did their usual wizardry of sounding insanely large with nothing but a four-string bass, drumkit and an impressive stack of pedals.

Honourable mentions go to Ashen hailing from WA with their incredibly catchy riffage matched with rich bass lines and synchronised windmilling. They pulled out all the stops and are everything one could ever want or need in a Death Metal band incorporating doom and thrash into their colossal sound. Remission brought the goods with their unique blend of melodic death and thrash while the crowd stood awe-struck, or perhaps just suffering from the 3pm crash when in all honesty the band sounded so hectic, I expected a mosh pit. Flaming Wreckage managed to finally open the pit for business coming out with the biggest glow-up since they last visited in 2019, lead vocalist Dave Lupton has developed some serious star appeal while the guitars are tighter than ever and drummer Matt Thornton is a human drum machine- like seriously these guys need to settle down.

By the pointy end of the evening, the savagery of the final acts was almost cruel. Japan’s Butcher ABC came out with some frenzied Gore Grind while vocalist/lead Butcher, ‘Butcher Analtoshit’ (yep) managed to don a gasmask with a microphone attached proving he’s not only insane but also resourceful. Looking back on my notes for this I had simply written ‘what the fck am I seeing’ and I think that probably tells you enough. Deliriously tired by this point, I had no idea and cannot definitively tell you, but it was quite a sight to behold. Finishing off the night and also figuratively the crowd, Brisbane brutal death metal outfit Disemtomb unleashed chaos and completely levelled the joint. Many got their last hoorah in with an anarchic mosh breaking out and unleashing hell right there in the Lion Arts Factory. After one very frenzied finale from the band, the crowd dissipated exhausted, sweaty and full of endorphins.

There are so many amazing elements to events like New Dead that make it worth going. You see bands you know and love and discover new ones, some you will love and some that will make you think ‘what the fck’ but all the while it is pure entertainment. It’s a good day and an important one for supporting the music community we know and love. New Dead XII successfully delivered another mind-blowing festival of pure unadulterated underground metal and if you weren’t there, you can hand your Metalhead card in at reception by the end of the week.

Live Review By Bec Scheucher

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