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  • Beastwars - Gig Review: Reign of the Beast @ Whanganui Musicians Club, Whanganui - 13/10/2023

Beastwars - Gig Review: Reign of the Beast @ Whanganui Musicians Club, Whanganui - 13/10/2023

15 Oct 2023 // A review by River Tucker

If you're into metal music, the Musicians Club in Whanganui was the place to be last Friday night for a feast of auditory delights to satisfy even the hungriest of souls. Brought to you by Lost Art and Panhead beer, Beastwars and Shepherds Reign headlined an epic concert that was set to bring the house down on the first leg of their not-to-be-missed Reign of the Beast tour.

First on stage was local band Flowers of Hades, who proceeded to melt people's eardrums with some tasty metalcore music. Supremely heavy throughout their energetic set, vocalist Ben Burton's contagious stage presence encouraged the small but growing audience up front to enjoy something that was truly fresh to most people's ears.

With a precision of musicianship far beyond their years, Flowers of Hades blasted through their six-song set, clinically executed to capture everyone’s attention. Superbly tight riffing by Christian Garrett and Scott Oaks was nicely enhanced by Ryan Burton's exceptional polyrhythms on drums, setting the scene for the rest of the night's musical festivities.

Flower of Hades isn't the kind of multi-genre metal band that is likely to get much mainstream attention. But that shouldn't stop you from checking them out live at a good music venue near you.

Second on the bill was another Palmerston North band called Bad Schematics, who began their set by playing songs from their debut EP, Keep Your Gods. The high-energy songs Pilots, Carousel, and Kings + Queens were all well received, but their slower tempos were a bit harder for the predominantly metal loving audience to get into. Bad Schematics also showcased some new material from their upcoming, yet-to-be-named album, which drew a good amount of applause from an appreciative audience.

Charismatic lead singer Caleb Hickmott sang his heart out while triggering some sequenced keyboards, which, along with his hard-working band, provided for a very punchy performance. Daniel Braithwaite's drum fills were particularly effective, but a very muted snare drum tuned for death metal didn't fit in well with Bad Schematics' more rock-oriented sound.

Although their set felt a bit laid-back in comparison to the intensity of the previous band, Bad Schematics won the audience over, and by the time they played their last song, Cry Yourself, a good-sized crowd had gathered to enjoy a tasteful blend of nu-metal and emo rock-styled originals.

After a long changeover, My Damned Kind (formerly known as Narcosis) took to the stage with gusto, but unfortunately, some terrible feedback early on in their set hampered their performance. Mainly reinterpreting Metallica classics, singer and guitarist Matt Lorigan's vocals were too quiet until the offending microphone causing the problem was identified and replaced.

My Damned Kind didn’t let that equipment failure dampen their spirits and soon built in strength as they progressed further into their set, particularly drummer James Lorigan who seemed more at ease while performing some of the band's original punk orientated material. The highlight of their show was the cover of Stone Temple Pilots song Cracker Man, where a loud hailer during the chorus was employed to great effect.

You could feel the anticipation growing as New Zealand's somewhat secret musical weapon, Shepherds Reign, prepared to take the stage just before eleven o'clock. Lead singer Filivaa James kicked things into high gear with a call and response to his band for the intro of Aiga, which took many in the audience by surprise with its sheer intensity. Their unparalleled cohesiveness was apparent right from the start of their commanding and faultless performance.

With a fierce stage presence, afros and 'ula (necklaces) helping to create a uniquely Polynesian atmosphere, Shepherds Reign performed Samoa Mo Samoa, which showcased a log drum (Pate) solo by Filivaa. The maestro then thanked the audience and organisers while announcing their new song, Nafanua, written in respect of the Samoan Goddess of War. Introduced as a love song, to some jeering from the audience, Shepherds Reign also played Finally, followed by a number of other equally impressive songs mainly taken from their second studio album, Ala Mai.

Experts at creating distinctively thunderous rhythms, flawlessly executed tempos, and out-of-this-world guitar solos, Shepherds Reign know exactly how to craft a metal song to provide enough space for their pitch-perfect vocalist to cut right through. Shepherds Reign obviously had a blast with a set that was sure to convert many new listeners into fans; a spectacular live show that captured the inherent energy of their studio works perfectly. Their performance was so proficient that vocalist Matt Hyde from Beastwars rightly described it as a "masterclass."

The high calibre of previous bands provided a type of gateway music into Beastwars' supremely heavyweight performance. Sporting his customary Datsuns' T-shirt, frontman Matt Hyde commanded attention as soon as he took to the stage, and it didn't take long for the sludge metal wizards to have the entire audience headbanging along to their musical masterpieces.

Damn The Sky, from Beastwars' groundbreaking 2011 self-titled album, was a great way to warm up the crowd, who were soon mesmerized by the band's hypnotic rhythms and powerful melodies. Despite the gigs late start and long changeovers, Beastwars was able to play through their full Blood Becomes Fire album to celebrate its ten-year anniversary, thanks to Shepherds Reign dropping a few songs from their set. Nobody seemed to mind the organizers and musicians sticking to the venue's midnight curfew and everyone appeared completely satisfied with the smorgasbord of metal music on offer.

Receiving praise from fans and the original artists alike, Beastwars also played a number of songs from their new album, Tyranny of Distance, the standout being the first track, Identity, originally performed by The Gordons. Released on the same day as their Whanganui gig, Tyranny of Distance is an eclectic mix of cover songs from other well-known and underground New Zealand artists, nicely interpreted with that distinctive Beastwars flavour. Make sure you get yourself a copy and check out Beastwars live while you still can.

Photo Credit: Amanda Hodge / It's the Little Things - Amanda Hodge Photography
Beastwars Gallery
Shepherds Reign Gallery
My Damned Kind Gallery
Bad Schematics Gallery

Flowers of Hades Gallery


About Beastwars

New Zealand sludge metal four-piece Beastwars abide by one steadfast maxim: Obey the Riff. Described as "a mongrel mix of Kyuss, Neurosis, and the mighty Godflesh..." (NZ Herald) and playing "heavy tunes for heavy times" (ALARM), the Wellington-based sonic soothsayers utilize the chaos that engulfs our world as ammunition for their defiant howls into the abyss.

Two years on from their internationally acclaimed, self-titled debut, Beastwars return on 20 April 2013 with Blood Becomes Fire. The new album serves witness to the end of days, told through the eyes of a dying traveler from another time. It is a work inspired by eternal themes. "It's a reflection on mortality, death and disease. Sooner or later they come for all of us and we've all screamed to the gods for answers, not that they've ever come."

On Blood Becomes Fire Beastwars hammer the story home with concussive force. "It’s a heavy album, both sonically and lyrically, but what solidifies it are the really triumphant 'fuck yeah' riffs. To us, this music is like getting psyched up to go into battle. You could be at war with someone else or yourself.”

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Beastwars


Tyranny of Distance
Year: 2023
Type: Album
Live at San Fran
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
The Death Of All Things
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Blood Becomes Fire
Year: 2013
Type: Album
Year: 2011
Type: Album

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