Heavy metal fills Aussie outback at Blacken festival



April 16, 2017 12:53:47

The heart of the Australian outback has become home to one of the nation’s fastest-growing heavy metal scenes.

The genre of music has become such a hit with the Alice Springs community, it has led to a number of local bands making it big on the national stage and created what is considered one of the biggest heavy metal festivals in Australia.

Locals have been playing heavy metal for generations, but five years ago Nicholas Ned — known as Pirate — started the Black Wreath Collective in Alice Springs.

It was formed to encourage local metal musicians to release, distribute and perform their music.

“Where it is today is just night and day compared to where it used to be,” Pirate said.

“We started with a backyard studio that we built ourselves out of recycled materials, produced our first five albums there.

“And now there’s bands that are coming out of here that are getting national recognition and touring around Australia and South East Asia.”

The world’s most isolated metal band?

One of those bands, Southeast Desert Metal, hails from the Aboriginal community of Titjikala about 80 kilometres south of Alice Springs in Eastern Arrernte country.

Self-described as the most isolated metal band in the world, frontman Chris Wallace said the band loves what it does.

“We grew up listening to Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Black Sabbath,” he said.

“We were just looking around and seeing a lot of Indigenous bands playing more of the reggae style of music so we thought to try something different.

“We just recently came back from our tour late last year and the festivals in Melbourne and Sydney.”

Metal festival in the desert attracts hundreds

Blacken Open Air Festival is held over the Easter weekend in Alice Springs and has become one of the biggest metal events in Australia since the shutdown of nationally touring festivals like Soundwave.

The community-driven event has grown over the past five years from an impromptu gig in the RSL car park to a two-day camping festival, attracting about 500 people and live-streamed to Europe.

“We could see people going down that same dead-end street having all the passion and all the talent to do something but just needing those opportunities,” Pirate said.

“It started out as 13 members, now we’re involved with uncountable amount of people and everyone comes down and just gets better and better at what they do and we run a smoother event.

“It’s just that real community spirit that sets us apart.”

Local musicians keen to ‘amp up’ the industry

It has not been an easy journey for the Black Wreath Collective with some in the community deeply opposed to their music and the festival’s growth.

But Pirate insists nothing will stop them from playing the music they love.

“It’s not for everyone but we’re here and we’re doing it off our own backs,” he said.

“This is just the beginning for us.

“Our goal since day one has been to put Alice Springs on the map for heavy metal in Australia.”

The festival wraps up tonight.





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