Norse, Eternal Rest, Mephistopheles, The Seer, Apparitions of Null, The Bald Faced Stag, Sydney, 7/02/2014

Norse return to the stage and bring a whole bunch of awesome bands along with them.

You can tell a lot about a city's metal scene by the number of people that attend any given local show. Your first assumption to seeing a modest number of people (say 30 to 80) at a show would be to think that particular scene is weak. That indeed may have been a reasonable assumption if you were at the Stag for this gig if it weren't for the fact that another metal gig was being held just across the road. Say what you like, but I think it speaks well for a scene to be able to hold two local shows across the road from each other. Those of us at the Stag were in for an all star Aussie lineup in an intimate setting.

First band Apparations of Null played a set that, as I was later informed, contained only one song. This was impressive as the 20 minute opus contained enough creative ebbs and flows to be a set within itself (which, I guess, it was!). The first few minutes contained some of the chaotic math type riffs that made The Dillenger Escape Plan famous before the song settled into some serene post-rock soundscapes which provided an interestingly placid start to the evening.

Next up, The Seer hit the stage with their brand of symphonically-tinged death metal. The performance was tight and heavy on the riffs, sounding similar to the kind of precision carnage perpetuated by bands such as Septicflesh or Behemoth. Most of the material consisted of stuff from their upcoming debut album that vocalis/guitarist Ryan Huthnance assured us was coming soon. if their performance tonight was any indication, that album will be very strong indeed.

Mephistopheles are an interesting band to watch live, if only to witness the way they go about their craft. Tech death bands can often feel very clinical or sterile, especially in a live environment, but there's this off the cuff feel to Mephistopheles that's downright jazzy in it's execution. The technicality of the music coupled with their casual garb (death metal in thongs!) and the hilarious stage banter by vocalist Matthew "Chalky" Chalk made for a refeshingly fun set. The band took the music seriously, but not themselves, which is always good to see.

Eternal Rest brought even more crushing riffs and blastbeats to proceedings. Their robust brand of death metal certainly proved to be enticing to the punters, drawing what seemed to be the biggest crowd of the night away from their beers. A big part of that appeal surely lied in the guitar work, with many middle-eastern themed melodies and solos; it sounded as if we were listening to Nile by way of Brisbane. The band played their hearts out and their ferocity may have been fuelled by the fact that, as we were told during the set, that this was one of vocalist Josh Robinson's last ever shows with the band. His replacement is certainly going to have big shoes to fill.

After a brief sound check, the stage went dark and Norse emerged clad in full black metal regalia (that's corpsepaint to you laymen). Their set was a brisk rundown of stringent black metal aesthetics. That meant not smiling, no banter between songs and definitely nothing to distract from performing their set as tightly as possible. This dedication to professionalism is commendable, even if it left one or two punters confused as when to applaud. Norse's music itself is a mix of death and black metal done right. With plenty of songs culled from their latest work All is Mist and Fog, they were a fitting closing act for the evening.

Quality gigs like this bode well for the Sydney metal scene. Just as long as we can get a few more people attending...