THEY were the second act on a "death-core" heavy-metal tour called Christmas Carnage. The headliners were an American band called All Shall Perish.

Yesterday morning, the tour's name proved sadly prophetic. The lead singer and a crew member of the Red Shore, from Geelong, died when the minivan they were in veered off the Pacific Highway at Moonee Beach, north of Coffs Harbour, about 7am.

It was another horrific day on Australia's most dangerous road in the approach to Christmas. An hour later, there was a nine-car pile on the highway north of Coffs Harbour.

The Red Shore, an up-and-coming five-man band, had played at Club Phoenix in Brisbane on Tuesday night and were heading south to play Hermann's at the University of Sydney last night. All Shall Perish decided to go on with the show.

The hired Hertz minivan carrying the band and crew ran down an embankment and into a tree. Pronounced dead at the crash site was the 27-year-old driver, Andy, whose full name had not been released.

The lead singer, Damien Morris, 22, was taken to Coffs Harbour hospital after being trapped for an hour in the vehicle. He died later.

The six other band and crew members were admitted to Coffs Harbour hospital. They are all in a stable condition but "two or three are expected to undergo surgery tonight", a hospital spokesman said.

Australia's leading heavy music publication, Blunt Magazine, dubbed the Red Shore one of the "25 bands you have to hear in 2008" in the issue that,

coincidentally, was published yesterday. Its editor, Matt Ricky, said his reviewer had been impressed by the band when they supported the influential American death core band Job For A Cowboy on their Australian tour. He said the review stated: "Victoria's Red Shore finally got a crack to play outside their home town to a larger audience. Their technical prowess and total heaviness shook the venue's foundations."

Lachlan Marks, a staff writer with the Sydney music magazine Drum Media, said the Red Shore were quite successful. "If there was a big American metal-core band touring they would often pick up the support slot, as they had in this case," he said.

"They have a strong underground following but not much mainstream support. Bands in that position have to tour really hard but they had no budget to do it in a comfortable way. They had to drive long distances between gigs."

Jarrod, a barman at the National Hotel in Geelong, where the band had played, described the lead singer as quiet and "chilled out". "He was a nice, quiet guy, contrary to the band's music," he said.

Fans paid tribute to the lead singer on the band's MySpace website. Daniel, 16, of Melbourne, told the Herald: "Damo's loss has certainly hit the metal music scene hard. He was tremendously talented in all areas of music but showed pure greatness in his vocals. Without a doubt he has inspired many people on and off stage. There is not a word great enough to describe the dedication and emotion he put into his music for his fans. It is most certain that he will never be forgotten and always remembered as one who loved his music enormously and was a master at what he did."

The later nine-car pile-up blocked the Pacific Highway at Emerald Beach for nearly an hour. Police believe that one car was preparing to turn right when it was hit, causing a chain-reaction.