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:: Descent into the Maelstrom

Descent into the Maelstrom charts the rise and fall of legendary Australian band Radio Birdman. Named after a track from their 1977 album ‘Radios Appear’, Descent into the Maelstrom is directed by ex-ABC TV editor and filmmaker Jonathan Sequeira and features the band members (for the most part, interviewed individually) recounting the story of their brief reign as one of Australia’s first American-influenced rock bands whose legacy influenced in turn the likes of Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil.

Band members Deniz Tek, Rob Younger, Pip Hoyle, Warwick Gilbert, Ron Keeley and Chris Masuak each share their own tale of how they came to join the band and offer insightful, if sometimes brutal, assessments of each other. The film also includes frequently dispersed interviews with Alley Brereton, a long-time fan of the band who offers further insights into the broader music scene that the band largely created with their now legendary gigs in 1970s Sydney.

Radio Birdman were renowned for their fierce and energetic live shows and along with Brisbane band The Saints, have been heralded as pioneers of the Australian punk rock movement. In the ultimate punk gesture (years before the alleged ‘bat biting’ incident courtesy of Ozzy Osbourne) Birdman singer Rob Younger once scooped up a hand full of brains from a sheep’s skull onstage, chewing them then spitting them into the crowd.

What emerges from watching this film is what a disparate bunch these guys were. Knock-about Aussie lads, a Canadian and an American, with guitarist Denis Tek and Pip Hoyle somehow managing to study medicine whilst juggling working and touring with the band. Tek is now a qualified trauma surgeon and pilot.

The band have continued sporadically since 1996 when they reformed to perform at the Big Day Out Festival, but Descent into the Maelstrom will, for many, form an entry point into knowledge about this retrospectively important and significant Australian band. No prior knowledge of the band is required to enjoy this film as we hear the band tell their own fascinating story. The film is a great addition to the steadily growing oeuvre of Australian rock music documentaries.