G’Day, I’m Emmy. As well as writing bits and pieces here at Music Feeds, I play in a band called RedHook. Since showcasing at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND back in 2019, we’ve been lucky enough to tour the UK and Europe three times (would have been more if not for ‘rona) where we’ve been welcomed onto the stage at some of the world’s biggest rock and metal festivals (Download UK, Rock Am Ring, etc). And you know what’s funny? Every time I’ve been over there, everyone in the UK/EU industry seems to be buzzing like mad about Australia.
“There must be something in the water over there,” they always say. Because, in the eyes of the rest of the world, there’s an explosion of talent coming from down under. From the crushing metalcore of Polaris, to the shapeshifting pop-punk of Stand Atlantic, to the avant-garde heaviness of Void Of Vision, there are so many local legends in the punk, rock and heavy space kicking monster goals on a global level. And yet, the strength of the scene here largely flies under the radar on home turf, like the proverbial Harry Potter, shut away in the cupboard under the stairs of the Australian music industry.
Parkway Drive: ‘Getting Heavy’ Australian Story (Trailer)
For instance, our ARIA award category is never televised in the free-to-air TV broadcast (and often awarded to artists who feel like they don’t belong in the category in the first place). Our genre is increasingly locked out of most major Aussie music festival stages and struggles to find much support from the mainstream media
Case in point: late last year, I worked with Australian Story to spotlight the great Parkway Drive, during which the editorial team found themselves grappling with the challenging task of telling the Parkway story, while simultaneously trying to explain to the majority of Aussie viewers why they’ve never heard of this band, who just so happen to be one the country’s biggest and most successful musical exports. Just think about that for a sec.
It’s a sucky sitch, and one I’m loud and passionate about trying to remedy. We’ve got a world-class scene that deserves more appreciation, recognition and support within the wider Australian music culture. I don’t know what the solution is, but I do believe that meaningful change often starts at the grassroots. And with that, I’m using this opportunity to shine a spotlight on five ridiculously talented artists from the Australian punk, rock and heavy space who brought the heat to BIGSOUND 2023; the same festival that served as a launchpad for my little band back in 2019.
The Best Punk, Rock and Metal at BIGSOUND 2023
If you’re a fan of bands like Jinjer or Spiritbox, then you do yourself a favour and catch this Sydney act live. Combining tech-metal wizardry with an energetic and captivating live show, these new kids on the block have all the ingredients required to blow the fuck up. Not to mention, frontwoman Lauren Coleman is one of the most impressive heavy vocalists I’ve ever seen – period.
From heavenly trills to big gritty belts, earth-shaking fry screams and guttural roars, she’ll have your jaw on the floor by the end of the first song. Check out this one-take vocal play-through of their original tune ‘Syndicate’ to see what I mean.
I’d already had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Battlesnake, a wacky gang of seven pope-cloaked shredders, on The Smashing Pumpkins’ recent Aussie tour. But witnessing them crammed onto a tiny stage at Brisbane’s Valley Loft was truly something else. They made such a huge impact during their Tuesday night showcase that word spread like wildfire, with the Thursday night crowd packed elbow-to-elbow as a long line of impatient punters trailed out the door and down the street – a near-unfathomable feat for the only glam metal band at the southern hemisphere’s biggest music industry conference.
Battlesnake have had almost zero radio support in this country, but the strength of their live show made them one of the most hyped acts at BIGSOUND 2023. They delivered stadium-sized energy to this tiny venue, complete with pyrotechnics. I can’t wait to see how high these legends can climb.
Say hello to the world’s most br00tal jazz band. This seventeen-piece group of horn-toting thrashers-in-cloaks were another delightful anomaly on the BIGSOUND bill. Their Tuesday night set at The Warehouse was the horniest riff-fest you ever did see, a head-on collision of big band brass and furious prog metal. It was as filthy as it was fantastic. Let us pray Australia embraces Valtozash before they abandon us for metal-worshipping EU.
Jenna McDougall‘s star quality is undeniable. After leading Tonight Alive to global pop-punk superstardom, she launched a new solo project, Hevenshe, last year. Armed with a guitar, a backing band, an arsenal of earnest indie-rock hymns and a reinvigorated sense of purpose, Hevenshe captivated the packed crowds at both of her BIGSOUND showcases.
McDougall’s heartfelt storytelling and those familiar, pitch-perfect vocals cast a spell strong enough to make even the chattiest of industry schmucks fall dead-silent. She may have already graced some of the world’s biggest stages in her Tonight Alive era, but now that she’s doing music on her own terms, Jenna McDougall’s star is shining ever brighter.
5. Southeast Desert Metal
Hailing from the Aboriginal community of Santa Teresa, in Eastern Arrernte country, Northern Territory act Southeast Desert Metal are often referred to as “the most isolated metal band in the world”. But based on the sense of community radiating throughout Fortitude Valley’s Wonderland venue last Tuesday night, you wouldn’t know it.
Witnessing this band of brothers’ raw and spiritual connection with heavy metal live is a humbling experience, the visceral grit of each thrash riff and cement-mixer vocal hitting you like a gut-punch. With boundless talent and passionate fire burning through every note, Southeast Desert Metal have defied their geographical odds to convert metalheads nationwide. Kindly bow down, throw your horns up, and allow these homegrown rifflords to take Australia by storm.