Of all of the most isolated places on Earth, Norfolk Island is not one you would expect to have tasted heavy metal history. Sure it's proximity to Australia and New Zealand would probably argue against that, but it's the same with Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the latter owing to an active metal scene and the former with no metal music history at all.
It's only a matter of time before other Oceanian nations / areas get tinged by metal music, it's progression to Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and Hawaii suggests this. But for now our focus is on Norfolk Island, a dependency of Australia with a population of just under 2,000 (the UK's smallest city St.Davids in Wales only matches this with a hundred or so difference). GMA spoke to Ben Boerboom, a former Norfolk Islander about his experience growing up on this almost-isolated island, the struggles of the metal scene and his thoughts on metal music as a whole.
"The [Norfolk] island has a pretty laid back mentality, and the islanders will support anything local, whether it be metal or otherwise"
Can you tell us how you first got into metal music? Who inspired you and what are you listening to now?
"I've been into metal since I was 2 years old (according to family - I wouldn't know!) I used to share a room with my older brother, who would listen to AC/DC & Iron Maiden around me all the time. My dad was also into a mixed bag listening to everything from ABBA & Creedence, through to Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Uriah Heep. Mum was into everything Woodstock plus Led Zeppelin, whilst my older sister loved 80's pop like A-HA, Madonna & Duran Duran. So, I had a very mixed musical upbringing, but it was metal that struck a chord. I don't know whether it was the dark imagery or just the music itself, but everything else failed in comparison. Plus it was always cool to be the outcast at primary school when most boys & girls my age loved music in the charts, whilst I would bring in WASP & Iron Maiden to listen to in class.
As I got older, I yearned for heavier (as I believe most metalheads do) and I discovered Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth & Slayer, which eventually progressed to the darker sh*t like Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary etc.
Iron Maiden was the band that made me want to drum. Metallica was the band that made me want to learn guitar. Nirvana, Green Day & Pennywise were the bands that made me want to form a band. I don't know why, probably the sheer simplicity of punk & grunge made me realise, you didn't have to play like Kirk Hammett, you just need to write a good tune.
Right now I listen to pretty much everything rock / metal and I can tolerate any type of music due to having a 9 year old daughter (except country - although southern blues rock is almighty close, and I don't mind that). Basically my phone has a 64GB SD card full of albums, and it sits on random play. Everything from Richard Cheese (awesome lounge / comedy act) & TISM (Aussie music at it best) through to Whitechapel and Impaled Nazarene."
You were situated on Norfolk Island for a period of time, was the metal scene you were a part of short-lived or is still active?
"Norfolk didn't have a metal scene as such. At one point (around the late 90's) there was a select few who listened to punk & metal - mostly surfers and my mates. It was also around this time I started a radio drive-time show playing rock & metal for an hour & a half, which gained a small, but loyal following. I also started a band with a couple of mates called Caktus. We recorded and sold a demo tape around the island and played a couple of gigs before disbanding due to my mates moving off the island for work / university. Its then I began to write, play and record everything myself, only playing live in cover bands. I haven't lived or been back to Norfolk Island for over 10 years, so whether there's still a following over there, I'm not so sure. However, the island has a pretty laid back mentality, and the islanders will support anything local, whether it be metal or otherwise. Country music is the genre that is most popular."
What are the challenges of being a metal music fan or band in the Australasian continent?
"With today's technology, there really is no challenge any-more. Everything is available 24-7, music videos on YouTube, online shopping etc. When I was younger, things were a little different. Any band that wasn't on a major label was hard to obtain and very expensive.
Live gigs in Australia were limited to major rock / metal bands, and with no dedicated metal festivals, smaller bands didn't have a chance in hell of getting here. Even Iron Maiden, struggled to get out here, I think they toured Australia in '82 then '84 then didn't come back until the early 90's. The only upside to never seeing bands or struggling to get material, was it added a certain mystique. I still remember that at 10 years old, I believed that Alice Cooper killed people on stage. Now, you can watch last night's gig from Montreal, Canada - learn the set-list and buy the tour shirt online. PUT YOUR PHONES DOWN PEOPLE!! ha-ha."
Outside of Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and French Polynesia, do you know of any metal bands from other countries in Oceania e.g. Fiji, Tuvalu, etc?
"Unfortunately, no. But there is a really cool metal band in New Zealand that sings in Maori, can't remember their name though (ed. it's Alien Weaponry), one of their songs made the NZ mainstream charts...very cool."
Are you surprised about the global spread of metal music? What for you does metal music represent?
"No, I'm not. Metal was destined to be big. It strikes a chord with people on so many levels. Ask any metalhead what their favourite song is, and most will struggle. It's not a flash in the pan thing, fans genuinely love the music, the scene and the people involved, whether that be the band or other fans. It has longevity, chart music is here today, gone tomorrow. Hell, even I hear chart songs from the 90's / 00's and go "Shit, I'd forgotten about that song!"
However, again, with today's technology, metal may be spreading a little thin. People want shit now now now, and when they get it, they just want more more more. I'm just as guilty. I couldn't tell you the last time I absorbed an entire album over and over until I knew every word and riff back to front - but that's because I'm not a moody teenager any-more, lying on my bed all day listening to CD's! I guess that's just age though, most of the old stuff brings various memories back, so the new stuff has to be really good for me to take notice. (I really liked Decapitated's new album & COF's new one too)
Metal, for me, represents opposition in numbers. Whether its political, social or religious, metal seems to be the perfect outlet / release for anger, negativity or any sort of anti / "f*ck you" attitude. It represents musical freedom, with no set boundaries or rules. A genre that can mix with anything and still kick arse. Rap metal, Symphonic Metal, Metal / Reggae, Industrial, etc etc. A genre that can provide 15 minutes epics and still be taken seriously. Band members can wear codpieces, spikes & weaponry and not be laughed at. As long as the music is good, the fans will follow. That is why I love Metal."
Would you ever try to setup a metal band and or scene on Norfolk Island in the future?
"No, I have no real plans of heading back there, although, I think it would be awesome to organize a huge festival over there. But, airfares etc are just way too overpriced, and it would cost an absolute fortune to do. Also, its hard enough to get bands to Australia & New Zealand, let alone a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific. But you never know, maybe one day in the future when they have figured out teleportation."
Australia. The very mention of the country's name sparks off the thoughts of sandy beaches, BBQ's, stray kangeroo's and the Sydney Opera House. Underneath all the glitz and glamour of this glorious nation known colloquially as 'down under', Australia has a savage metal scene that has seen the likes of Ne Oblivicaris, The Berzerker, Buried In Verona, Thy Art Is Murder and Destroyer 666 among others break out into the wider international metal community over the last 2 decades.
But despite the success of the bands above, the scene as a whole seems rather isolated when it comes to touring. It's down to bands like Aetherial who look at the challenges ahead, take them head on and forge their own path to progress forward. For Aetherial this is through the concrete metropolis of Melbourne, famed for it's Grand Prix circuit. GMA spoke to Cassandra, the band's bassist to unearth what the band is all about, what the scenes down under are like, their new single, visiting local attractions and 2018 plans.
As Fosters put it. Good Call.
"I don't see why metal [bands] can’t emerge from smaller nations like Fiji or the Solomon Islands - they would have to be creative [with music exposure]. If bands can emerge out of countries like Saudi Arabia where it is illegal to play metal, I'm sure we will see some coming out of places like Fiji - metal doesn't have boundaries!"
Hi guys, for those unfamiliar with Aetherial could you give us a brief history of the band? Were you / are you in previous / current bands?
"Hey, thanks for having us Global Metal Apocalypse! I’m Cassandra, bassist in Aetherial.
Currently, we are based in Melbourne, Australia. Aetherial was formed by Shep and myself in 2013. Previously, we both played in a stoner / metal / grunge band called Cave Of The Swallows which also featured our friend and original Aetherial drummer Mr Paul Gatt. Shep was also the former vocalist in the South Australian-based Stoner / Southern Rock band Mammoth, with ex-Suffocation / Autopsy member Josh Barohn.
We recorded our album, 'The Still Waters of Oblivion' over a two year period at Everland Productions. In 2016 we signed with New York-based management company Extreme Management Group and most recently this year to Imminence Records in the US and Truth Inc Records over here in Australia, who will be jointly releasing the album worldwide November 10th."
What is the Melbourne and wider Australian Metal scene like? Do most bands do a tour of Australia and New Zealand than SE Asia?
"From a Melbourne perspective, the scene is pretty small, there are a handful of good venues to play at in the city and some good regional venues that work hard to keep live music going outside of the city. Unfortunately over the past 5-10 years quite a few great live music venues have closed down in Melbourne due to residential developments and noise restrictions, which has made it difficult for smaller bands to get a gig. A smaller population in general will always impact audience size and peoples interest and engagement in metal, particularly as its not common in mainstream culture here.
It is common for bands over here to tour the East Coast in the main cities, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with a few stops in-between. But the sheer distance in-between and cost that is involved with getting to these places often prevents many bands embarking on a full national tour. You see a few bands heading over to New Zealand and Asia, generally larger more established bands though."
What are the challenges of being an Australian Metal band?
"Getting your music seen and heard!! There is a lot of really good music over here, if people would take the time to listen to it! Getting people to shows is another massive hurdle over here. People will have no hesitation paying $150+ to see established bands, but will not pay $10 to see 4 local acts?
Breaking through to reach people outside of the country, even reaching new fans interstate is also very challenging. It is important to utilise social media to try and get out there and engage people, it is a continual and ongoing aspect of being in a band now, particularly with reach being limited on Facebook and now Instagram for bands unless you pay for it. Many Australian bands head overseas to Europe or the US, simply because they can reach more people and play more shows!"
You just released your new single 'The Fallen Mark The Way' from your forthcoming album, what has reception been like?
"Great thanks! We have had a lot of good feedback from our fans and made a bunch of new fans too! It’s always great to hear positive words from people who get inspired from hearing our music."
Check out the lyric video for 'The Fallen Will Mark The Way' (taken from Aetherial's forthcoming debut album 'The Still Waters Of Oblivion') below.
Seeing as Oceania is slightly isolated, could you see metal music ever emerging from countries like Fiji and the Solomon Islands? Is metal music in Australia widely accepted?
"Yes, it is rather isolated over here! We don't get a lot of bands touring here. It is a long way to come and quite expensive to travel here. Due to our smaller population the audiences are a lot smaller compared to overseas as well.
Metal music generally is not part of the everyday culture over here, like it is over in Europe. It’s accepted by those involved in the scene and other musicians, but in the general population it’s not particularly well known, well received or publicised. For example metal or even hard rock is not played on commercial radio, it’s really only played on dedicated metal or hard rock community radio shows. People over here still have a lot of preconceptions about the music, artwork and general themes of metal; most people don’t / can't understand it, they seem to find the content too confronting and don't want to be involved. Hopefully though with some amazing bands coming out of Australia now more people are becoming interested in the genre.
I don't see why metal can’t emerge from smaller nations like Fiji or the Solomon Islands - There’s probably already some killer bands over there! However, I think they would have to be creative with how they get their music out there. If bands can emerge out of countries like Saudi Arabia where it is illegal to play metal, I'm sure we will see some coming out of places like Fiji - metal doesn't have boundaries!"
For metalheads holidaying in Melbourne, aside from the Grand Prix, are there any attractions / sightseeing locations you would recommend?
"Yes!! You could seriously spend months here and not see everything - the great thing about Melbourne is that there is always something going on and to discover! There are some amazing music stores where you can pick up some vintage and / or rare guitars / amps / pedals like Found Sound or The Swop Shop. For art lovers, there are so many tiny galleries all over the city showing local art and The National Gallery has killer diverse exhibitions from Van Gogh to Dior to Mid Century Modern Furniture.
For wine lovers, you can take a day trip down the coast to the Mornington Peninsula or The Yarra Valley, for amazing wine and scenery. You can visit boutique spirit distilleries like Starward Whisky in Port Melbourne or Four Pillars Gin in the Yarra Valley - which seriously gives some of the English Gin a run for it money! Melbourne is paradise for lovers of good food and coffee!! With markets like South Melbourne and Prahran Markets and amazing restaurants on every corner. There are festivals for Beer, Cheese, Salami and now even a chicken nugget festival. The Great Ocean Road makes for a good drive- for beautiful rugged coastline, Healesville Sanctuary for meeting kangaroos, koalas and other native animals. And of course you can catch some local bands at The Brunswick Hotel, The Bendigo Hotel or Cherry Bar, folks over here are always up for a chat and a beer."
With your debut album 'The Still Waters Of Oblivion' out in a week's time, will there be a tour supporting the album?
"There definitely will! The Australian Tour will take place early next year with hopefully some International dates to be announced as well! But you’ll have to stay tuned to our social media pages to get the details."
What plans have you got leading into 2018? Do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
"Lots of touring and promoting our record! We currently have some killer merch available now at Merchnow and there’s some brutal new merch coming out soon! Shep and I have been co-hosting a heavy metal radio show once a month on Melbourne’s 3CR called The Heavy Session, so along with our friend and host Chris we have some awesome plans for the show as well.
We’d love to send a massive hello, to all our friends and fans over in UK - we’re working hard to come over and play for y’all in 2018!!! Thanks very much for the support!"
This time the victim to fall into the GMA interrogation cell is guitarist Bizz, of whom formerly played with the American industrial metal act Genitorturers feat. David Vincent of Morbid Angel. Bizz now plays with the Australian Industrial Metal / Alternative Metal mob Our Last Enemy and it was time for GMA to get the low down behind why Our Last Enemy could be the next big Industrial metal export since the glorious days of The Berzerker (minus the grind). No musicians were harmed in the interrogation process.
By Rhys Stevenson
So Bizz, how long has Our Last Enemy been going and what would you say the band's music style is without the use of genre tagging or cliches?
Our Last Enemy was formed in 2006. Our music is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. I'd say it's 50 / 50 but it only takes moments to dream up some killer riffs, but it takes a much longer time to work out the finer details to get the most out of those cool riffs and other musical parts. In other words, inspiration comes easily. It's the arrangements and the finer details that require lots of attention. I think that's where most bands go wrong. They just slap a song together and call it 'good enough'. We don't do that. Sure, it ALWAYS starts with inspiration, but to end up with a final product that you're truly happy with, it takes a lot of work. That said, there is the occasional song that just seems to write itself, and it all comes together quickly. But even with songs like that, we like to dig deep into it and make it the absolute best it can be. I think it's called O.C.D. Haha! But seriously, after all is said and done, an artist must know when the painting is done. And that is one of the reasons we run this band as a true democracy. We vote on what stays and what goes, until the majority feel that the song is complete. From there, the songs just sort of mutate naturally somehow. Just like my answer to your question just did.
And who inspired you to become musicians and who do you idolize?
I don't remember. I've loved music since I was old enough to sing. I don't 'idolize' anyone. I think idolize is a strong word. It sounds like worshiping someone. I bow to no man. Except maybe Alice Cooper haha.
I like a lot of bands from different styles of music. Over the last 13 years, I've been listening to a lot of Japanese metal and Visual Kei. But my influences spread across a many different styles of music, including (but not limited to) Punk, Industrial, Metal, Goth, 80's New Wave, etc. If it's good song writing and it has a cool vibe, I probably like it. But especially if it has a bit of a dark vibe or lots of attitude.
Focusing on New South Wales, how do the metal bands in cope during the times of wild fires?
Well, I think we all just sort of watch the news and hope the fires don't reach our own houses lol. I dunno. I've only been living in Australia for a little over 4 years. I guess I should say that we do benefit concerts or something cool to help the less fortunate. Like maybe give out free Our Last Enemy t-shirts or free dinner dates with teen heart throb and lead singer of Our Last Enemy, Oliver Fogwell.
Seriously though, we haven't actually done any benefits for wildfire victims that I recall, but we'd certainly be happy to do so should the opportunity arise. So there you have it. Our hearts may be black, but at least we aren't heartless. Oh, wait...maybe it's not our hearts that are black. It's our........lungs.
On a whole what would you say the trickiest thing about being an Australian Metal band would be?
Breaking out of Australia. Also, The Wiggles give us metal bands a run for the money in terms of heaviness. Those guys are really brutal with songs like Rock-a-bye Your Bear and Toot Toot Chugga Chugga. It's mindblowing. I mean, how could any of us ever compete with that sort of brutality?
How does mainstream media cover metal in Australia?
Oh, come on. We've got to keep some air of mystery about our country!!! lol
Reverting to Our Last Enemy, what plans does the band have for 2013 and beyond?
I personally don't want to say too much just yet, but it looks like it's going to be a very big year for us, which means it will also be a big year for our fans. Lots of exciting things in the works.
What is the local town / city metal scene like?
Sydney is a great place. There are a lot of good bands and loyal fans.
Finally any thank you's, hello's and any other messages you wish to say?
Thank you for your interest in Our Last Enemy. It's zines like yours who make a big difference to bands and music fiends alike. I'd also like to send a big thanks out to all of our fans, future fans, and to anyone else who has allowed us to pollute their minds by reading this interview.
We hope to see you all in the UK at some point in the not-too-distant future. Until then, remember to question authority and don't forget to do whatever you want.