MUDU 2018: Why Is Port Pirie So Metal?

Thirty-odd years ago as a sprog down in Port Lincoln, I used to listen to Mal host the Metal Show on the then MMM-FM – a community station that broadcast in Adelaide, but that I could pick up over the Spencer Gulf on a good day. Mal played a number of South Australia bands, including Outrage, who had a presence in Port Pirie of all places (check them out here, at the Port Pirie YMCA in 1988).

We didn’t have metal gigs in Port Lincoln, and I was given the impression that Pirie had to be huge compared to Lincoln; it was closer to Adelaide by road; it was more industrial by far, and it was a part of the Iron Triangle. Traveling along Three Chain Road at night on a Stateliner bus, and passing by on the wider highways helped the image grow in my mind to no end. Lincoln was comparatively countrified; we had fish, grain, smaller roads and not too many smoke stacks.

Around the time it turns out, Pirie’s population was around 14,000, while Lincoln’s was just north of 11,000. That’s not too big a difference, even with a sizeable margin of error – I was expecting Pirie to be twice the size.

So back in the day South Australia was having a thrash explosion, Port Pirie featured, and I was too goddamn young to go. Fast-forward to this past month, and there’s a Metal United Down Under (MUDU) event to look out for, and Pirie, again, is in the frame.

mudu flagMade it. And just before the first act kicked off too.

***

Naturally, after missing the 2017 MUDU, I had to check this one off my bucket list in case I’d never get the chance again. I traveled via Stateliner bus for the authentic too-young-to-drive experience, so I had to walk briskly across town to the Port Pirie Sporting and Community Club – but I made it in time for the first band; Aftashok from up the highway at Port Augusta.

Aftashok crunched their way through a set of hard rock that non-metal listeners may have still found a bit on the heavy side. Dawn of War and Two Faces were high points, as was the encore: a Metallica medley that started out with Creeping Death and then segued between songs at just the right points for maximum bait-and-switch. I’m not sure if the inclusion of the black album and the exclusion of Kill ‘Em All wasn’t trolling, though – extra points if it was.

Headstrong, a punk outfit of young fellas from Pirie were up next. I wasn’t expecting punk so that caught me a little off-guard. There may have been a few timing mistakes in there, although I was a bit too thrown off to be sure. Chaps seemed pretty stoked to be there though, so hopefully there’ll be more of them featuring around the pubs and clubs of the state in the long run. They closed with a cover of Killing In The Name, something which is usually my signal to head for the door, and as it happened I did have to traipse back across town to check in at the motel right about then.

Said check-in and unpacking caused me to miss the next two acts: Suffer The Evenue (Port Pirie) and most of Ouroboric (Adelaide). Apparently during my absence, Frome independent MP Geoff Brock (who won the seat from the conservatives in a 2009 upset) made an appearance to formally open the event. Dude worked in the local lead smelter, which I guess makes him appropriately metal.

Between all this, and what I can only imagine on account of all the Suffer The Evenue t-shirts featuring Pooh-Bear (getting smashed on West End Draught), it was a fair bit to miss out on in a relatively short space of time. Bummer. Will have to consider a longer stay next time.

***

Sedulous Rouse from Adelaide followed, with tight, proggy, technical but not overly genre-constrained riffs. That and a whole heaping load of chaos. I’ve got to remember, incidentally, to find out where the fuck to get a hold of one of those Bathulhu shirts; bassist made me jelly. Speaking of bass, one of those intros was damn spooky.

sedSedulous Rouse.

I made my first run of the merch tables after the break – getting Wood of Suicides’ Tree of Woe, and In:Extremis’ The Human Plague Vol I.

The sludgy, blackened doom of Wood of Suicides from Melbourne was up next, as it happened. You always know you’ve got good doom going through your ears if you can feel a buzz without taking in any THC. At least I don’t think I took in any THC. It’s Pirie, so you can’t be 100% sure what’s in the air. All the same, I felt the buzz.

And I don’t know if it’s just me, but I really appreciated the drummer’s time-keeping during the down-tempo parts; wayposts in the fog.

Jesus. Next was Hate-Force-Five (from Adelaide). That was unexpected.

hf5“Just Touch The Devil, kiddo!”

Purveyors of the kind of extreme satire that’s apt to be misinterpreted by overly-self-serious critics (and two thirds of the fan base as well?), Hate-Force-Five shunted the proceedings off in to a parallel fucking universe. And by rights, those electronic drums pummeled by Pissedoff Peterson shouldn’t have worked, but they did. Fucking excellently.

For those who aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about when I say “extreme satire”, allow me to risk messing up by putting my serious hat on for two seconds and trying to translate. As far as I can tell, Wanna see ya tits isn’t about tits. It’s about vain political poseurs who don’t give a shit about your welfare, but who wouldn’t mind a bit of sexual appreciation as reward for their posturing anyway. Think TISM’s Dicktatorship or (There’s Gonna Be) Sex Tonight. Or slightly less seriously, think of George Galloway acting like a cat.

A lot less seriously, in practice, Wanna see ya tits means laughing, middle-aged, chubby, tattooed hairy men exposing their nipples in time to the music. Which. Is. Fine.

Adolf Goldstein’s vocals are punchy, and manage to skewer conservative sacred cows without being even remotely po-faced. John Wayne Vein is no slouch on the strings either.

As I watched all this unfold, I thought to myself that Daniel from Paroxysm Press – who I used to go to school with back in Lincoln – would love this. Hell, Paroxysm doing a spoken word gig with Hate-Force-Five cranking out the tunes wouldn’t be bad, right?

Dan Pearse - SicknessWe can’t show you his face, because he’s an event organizer.

Sickness. I’ve said before that I’m not much of a grindcore kind of guy, so unless I was going to rag on grindcore as a whole, which I’m not, my opinion on that side of things is bound to be uninteresting. What I can say is that this picture above is of the back of Dan Pearse, a Pirie local who along with a few other folks, put a lot of work into this gig. Without him it wouldn’t have happened, so thanks Dan.

I should have tried grabbing a photo of him while he was doing the rounds with the fruit bowl, making sure everyone was taken care of. Either that or him making sure people were hydrated, supplied with pizza, or in range to be bombarded by garlic bread missiles.

Trying to grab a snap of Sickness on my crappy mid-range camera wasn’t too easy. So. Much. Moshing. Such blur. Probably the bounciest set of the night.

***

wounded pigWounded Pig (Mount Gambier).

I reckon the heaviest part up until this juncture in the night occurred during Wounded Pig’s set – during Dark Crystal specifically. There’s grind in there, but it’s blackened enough, technical enough to get past my usual prejudices. Mostly I’m left imagining something big, nasty and world-ending that’s crawling out of Blue Lake to punish humans for having had the arrogance to ever exist.

And the bassist; usually I make fun of anything remotely like power poses (such as the ones on display in this Akercocke clip – I mean geez). But no, half the time she looks like she’s carrying something invisible and oppressively heavy; probably that thing out of Blue Lake. If someone moshing up front exploded into a red puddle with a giant footprint in it, it wouldn’t have done much to alter the atmosphere.

Stage presence matters. Dread and heavy: Wounded Pig ‘ave ‘em.

***

Good Time Aussie Bogalars (Adelaide).

At around this point my brain was turning to mush and I had to recharge with chips, salad and caffeine. I’ll summarize GTAB from what I could catch for you though; “cunts”, “cunts”, “cunts”. That and one very bold skullet.

I couldn’t possibly give GTAB a fair hearing on account of the face-stuffing and low blood sugar, although I can’t say the shock-ocker stuff’s really my cup of tea either.

Some time around this point I popped out to the merch table again to grab Hate-Force-Five’s CD, The Bunyip. I’d forgotten I was wearing a Paroxysm Press beanie, and Adolf Goldstein informed me that he liked Paroxysm, and Kami and all that crowd. This didn’t surprise me a bit. Pack of weirdos. (Joint gig: Think about it, Daniel.)

***

extremis
In:Extremis (Adelaide)

Short of a couple of members, In:Extremis appeared as a three-piece bringing with them some of their 1990s-era cred. Stripped back as they were, In:Extremis shredded away reminiscent of early 90s Floridian death, sans-silly trolling or covert braggadocio.

I’ll be continuing with more repeat listens of The Human Plague Vol I before I make my mind up about it, but my early impressions are that I like it (All Hail The Vikings chugs along nicely, taking an angle on battle song not explored by either Viking or Power metal). In fact I think I like The Human Plague on first listening much better than I ever liked death back in those days when we were all laughing at inverted crucifixes burned into foreheads, and songs about ritual suicide.

In:Extremis are clearly hard workers with roots that go way back, and I’d recommend you check them out if death metal’s your thing. That and maybe leave old Uncle Glen to do what Floridians do best; retire and complain about younger people.

oath of damnationOath of Damnation (Adelaide)

Earlier on, I snuck out to get a hold of Shadow Realm’s Into The Shadow Realm EP, not knowing at all at that point what to expect out of Oath of Damnation (who just happen to feature some of the same band members). My first thought during the first song was “there’s another CD you’ve got to buy”, and I’d pass that recommendation onto anyone reading this; blackened death is possibly the best strain of metal to convey otherworldly horror, and Oath of Damnation do it damn well.

Bone-rattling drums, virtuoso guitar work, keys that portend your funeral, and death growls that’ll quake your occipital lobe until you can see hell’s maw opening before you.

Beyond that I’m at a loss for words. Damned, even. (Cough).

shadowShadow Realm (Adelaide)

And then there was Shadow Realm. Beneath The Lies was early on in the set list, serving as familiar, grounding territory given its repeat play on DDD Radio. I’d make a point of how the song shows off vocalist Torsha Khan’s talents, but all the songs do that, keeping your ear drums on the brink of rupture for the whole set with piercing, high-powered delivery.

torshaA few days ago on Facebook, Torsha announced that this was probably his last gig with the band, Shadow Realm having announced earlier this year that they were on the look out for a new vocalist. They’ve certainly got their work cut out for them in finding a replacement.

I caught Shadow Realm live back in February opening for Overkill at Fowler’s, and of course they were damn good. Maybe it’s because the lower stage makes the performance more intimate, or maybe it’s because Pirie is the old stomping ground of guitarist Matt Gillick (Outrage alumni), but the performance this time around seemed a lot more visceral – alive.

matt gI’m curious if Shadow Realm have ever snuck Frozen Over into the set-list, which Mal used to crank up over then-MMM-FM back in the day. Hearing that in Pirie, in lieu of missing out as a kid, is pretty much the only thing that could have made the night better IMO. All in all, the show was a pretty hard act to beat.

I’ve still got a few CDs I’ll have to track down, and now there’s even more bands I’ll have to keep an eye on for shows. It’s not a bad problem to have, actually.

***

I think it’s pretty clear by now that Port Pirie is a pretty metal town. I’m not sure I’m any closer to having an understanding of why it’s such a metal town, though. No doubt it’ll take further investigation but I’ve got a few sneaking suspicions.

  • That smelter. It reminds me of a segment in the video of Priest’s Metal Works ‘73-‘93, where the industrial Black Country, its surroundings, and its significance for the roots of heavy metal are alluded to.
  • Pirie is flat. Metal, for the most part, is not music for people who spend their lives looking down on others. Pretty much everyone in Pirie is made to live at the same level as everyone else – if you want to get by someone, you’ve gotta go around, not over. There’s no suburb for rich-folks-on-the-hill.
  • Not gentrified. While there have been developers, you don’t see them identifying pubs to build multi-story hipster apartments next to for wankers to issue noise complaints from.

That’s as good as I’ve got at this point. I’ll be glad to find out more if I can. Until then, there’s a whole heap of music to dive into, and possible future MUDUs to consider.

Could this be the starting point of regular pilgrimages?

~ Bruce

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