Monday, April 30, 2012
Cú Chulainn’s rockin’ the house - and we're right in the middle of the Stormzone
THERE’S a lot of stories about the fighting, fucking, all round bad ass Cú Chulainn in the Ulster Cycle. The Hound of Ulster can rightly be described as one mean so and so of a bezerker…
But like all myths, the story Cú Chuliann was probably just some bloke who enjoyed a pint of ale, partying, and when it came down to it could fight a wee bit – the hype sort of got out of control…
And hype is what too often afflicts rock and metal bands. The ones that reach the mainstream media usually have teams of A&R people, PR specialists and pluggers. Even the metal bands at the upper echelons have to strive hard to meet all their obligations and end up doing the work partly themselves.
But here in Norn Iron we have a profusion of talent in rock, punk and metal…and on Saturday night at the Spring and Airbrake three true exponents of great rock and metal came to the fore. Cú Chuliann would have been right at home, pint in hand and head-a-banging.
The night was to celebrate the launch of Stormzone’s latest album, Zero to Rage – a platter destined to go down as one of the finest local releases in 2012, and maybe of releases further afield.
Kicking out the jams as party openers were Triggerman – masters of the riff and lords of groove. At least two seasoned reporters and reviewers were down the front, hair flying and generally getting down, because as we all should know, the Riff Holds Sway…and the crowd didn’t catch the lurgy. (check the Triggerman site to see what these references are, if you don’t know already!)
The intensity was cranked another notch with the technical exponents of metal, Sinocence blazing a trail of solos and songs designed to pummel and also challenge. Toes-a-tapping, bonces nodding and mouths gapping at their prowess is the usual reaction to Sinocence…and it was difficult not to appreciate the precision of the performance as they were met with the same appreciative reaction.
But Cú Chuliann was there to party with Stormzone…
Zero to Rage is a fine platter that acknowledges the history of local rock and metal as eloquently demonstrated by album opener and surefire live testimony to the band’s roots. Where We Belong is a statement of intent...a eulogy to Northern Ireland and metal.
It would be fair to say that one or two members of Stormzone have been round the metal block a few times – some might see that as a criticism, but on Saturday it was clear that experience counts for more than just having a good set of great songs.
Any set of songs have to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and thrown to the crowd as sacrificial offerings. Being a singer doesn’t just mean you chant out the tunes – you have to be a frontman prepared to pound and cajole the audience into adoration. Being an axeman means you deliver the licks and show the audience that you have wrestled the stringed beast to meet your will and the will of the audience. Being the drummer or the bassist you have to lay it down with beats and tone that have breastbones vibrating.
Did Stormzone meet all these criteria? Damn right they did! Harv used all his experience at the front, and Davey, Graham, Andy and Steve stepped up to the plate as a unified a force for metal.
Title track Zero to Rage was the stand-out song, there’s no need to hype this – on the album it’s great, live it moves on to another dimension.
With tracks new and old given an airing this was a band comfortable in themselves and excelling.
In Northern Ireland the ancient differences are not in evidence when rock and metal rule the house. Cú Chuliann’s myth has been misappropriated by both nationalist and loyalist groups. But when Stormzone sang Cú Chuliann’s Story, the Hound of Ulster was reclaimed from political clutches and honoured as one who epitomises the flawed hero – a hero we can respect, and a hero whose tale resonates in metal.
And where Stormzone heroes of metal on Saturday night? They were. Now if there is justice for all in this world they should be among the pack of acts rampaging from these shores to tell the world that this wee country on the outer edges of Europe rocks like a bastard.