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  • Imperial Slave - Gig Review: Imperial Slave @ Castle 789, Palmerston North - 21/01/2023

Imperial Slave - Gig Review: Imperial Slave @ Castle 789, Palmerston North - 21/01/2023

23 Jan 2023 // A review by River Tucker

It was pretty balmy in Palmy last Saturday night at Castle 789, but the Summer heat didn’t deter people from wearing black, with nearly every major metal band represented on patches and T-shirts by a small but dedicated crowd of enthusiastic metalheads.

Tribute band Meiniak kicked things off with an extended set of all the Pantera greats, nailing such crowd-pleasers as A New Level, 5 Minutes Alone, Drag The Waters and Walk. Apart from a couple of chord selections and the Mouth of War false start, it was a faultless performance from the first support band who genuinely made me feel like I was back in the day watching Pantera play.

Tending towards the more speed side of Death Metal, Sam Sheppard’s (Sinate, 8 Foot Sativa) new band, Imperial Slave, set about demolishing people’s eardrums with a brilliant selection of songs from their must-have self-titled debut album. Bands sometimes run the risk of treating the first gig on a tour as a practice session, especially when they’re playing their hometown. Not so Imperial Slave, who proficiently blasted through their short but sweet set.

Every bit as crisp as the studio recordings, Imperial Slave’s set was boosted by a new track from their much-anticipated upcoming second album. Perhaps inspired by early Cradle of Filth, Exterminate somewhat overshadows COF’s latest material with its precision and ferocity. But there are lots of metal bands throughout the ages that you could reference while listening to Imperial Slave. In this respect they’re a quintessential metal band that has large crossover appeal.

It’s not just Sam Sheppard’s ability to write killer riffs and produce high quality material that sets Imperial Slave apart from much of the competition. There’s also the exceptional interplay between guitarists Isaac Lundy and Ant Hati, who both displayed a mastery of their mean Ibanez and Jackson axes. At times Imperial Slave set such a blistering pace that the PA struggled to keep up with the bands intensity, with chugs and slapbacks being eclipsed by incredibly intricate and brutal dynamics. It certainly helps that Achilles Manley is a beast on the bass and drummer Matt Wright is supremely ambidextrous when it comes to playing such punishing and demanding blast beats.

Of course these bands are in your face. But there’s a common misconception that metal musicians are all deviants because of the aggressive music they play. However most aren’t the reprobates many believe them to be. Instead they’re often the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. Invariably the genre itself and the dedication it takes to become accomplished creates mutual respect, which was a nice dynamic on display when different band members helped each other out with equipment during changeovers.

It was well into the witching hour by the time New Zealand’s preeminent Motörhead tribute band Metropölis took to the stage. Frontman Jay rocked the mic just like Lemmy while his monumental guitar solos on an exquisite Gibson Flying V Custom kept the audience enthralled. A few technical and tempo issues didn’t deter punters from enjoying an excellent selection of Motörhead’s classics, as well as some B-sides, well into the early hours. Metropölis even threw in a sing-along rendition of Louie Louie, but it was an up tempo cover of the Ace of Spades that drew their largest applause.

If you’re ready to be audibly impressed with some guitar-drenched mayhem, heading along to see Imperial Slave is definitely worth ticking off your bucket list.


About Imperial Slave

Formed by Sinate and ex-8 Foot Sativa drummer Sam Sheppard in Palmerston North with local musicians from Deaths Door, Reignmaker, Skitz Hydro and Decoma.

Imperial Slave was formed in 2020 and released their first self-titled album in 2021.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Imperial Slave


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