One day after the release of their sophomore album Bully, High Tension brought I Exist and Outright along to Howler to launch the record and to show everyone how it’s done.

Outright were on stage when I arrived and tearing the place apart. The two headed, thrash inspired guitar attack and the aggressive vocals of Jelena Goluza were both a perfect complement to the band’s politically charged lyrics discussing – among other themes – feminism, domestic violence and mental health. Every song and its respective message was received with positivity and their closer, which Goluza dedicated to the night’s headliners, was an overall celebration of the hardcore scene and a perfect end to their excellent set.

Canberra’s I Exist were next on stage, upping the ante with three guitarists and some extraordinary Cannibal Corpse-esque vocals. While they weren’t the most visually impressive band, guitarist Josh Nixon grabbed the crowd’s attention with his unique facial expressions and riff poses. Their music also had stoner influence that wasn’t always obvious but a couple of riff heavy moments were definitely evocative of Kyuss and in one song bassist Alex Young took the lead, lending the track his best John Garcia impression.

I’ve said before that one can only really experience a High Tension show properly up the front and I stand by that, so I made my way forward during the break. The crowd seemed perplexed as the metal on the PA gave way to 2 Unlimited’s classic hit ‘No Limit’ but that quickly changed as “High Tenno” hit the stage and unleashed instant savagery. Early on in the set, the ode to their home suburb ‘Collingwood’ pushed the crowd into overdrive: beers were spilt, shoes were lost, limbs were beginning to bruise and singer Karina Utomo made her way into the fray, screaming in the faces of the front row before launching herself onto the pit, both of which frequently recurred throughout the night.

Midway through the set Outright’s Jelena Goluza made her way onto the stage, joining Utomo for history’s most vicious duet and she wasn’t the only guest to be invited up, the entire cast of the ‘Bully’ video also joined the band on stage for an epic performance which featured a lot of crowd surfing. With about 3 songs to go in the set, Utomo delivered a sucker punch, announcing that the show would be Ash Pegram’s last with the band. He certainly made the most of what was left of it though, shredding his way through to the end of set closer ‘Are You Safe?’ and barely pausing, even as a fan in the front row handed him a blunt – which was promptly confiscated by security.

There’s a good reason High Tension list their genre as ‘Brudal \m/‘ on their Facebook page. Their sound is an amalgam of every element they bring – Ash Pegram’s sludgey guitars, Matt Weston’s thunderous bass, Damian Coward’s frenetic drumming and Karina Utomo’s ferocius vocals – and they combine that with such raw energy that there just is no other descriptor. And to truly experience it, you’ve got to do it live.

Wes Fahey

FULL GALLERY HERE

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