LIKE returning prophets the mighty Gama Bomb exploded into action in Belfast leaving all in their wake irradiated by their power and presence atop a mighty four-band line up on Saturday (August 17th).
Backing their album The Terror tapes on a brief Irish, Gama Bomb were back to prove that thrash metal was alive and well, and still speeding through humour and riffs, seeming at times re-born as the mixed their usual frenetic pace with more measured swipes of assault.
And, openers Sentient proved they had a measure of their own power on their first live show, with a varied range of melodic death, growls and harmonies demonstrating massive potential.
At times they showed the need refinement, but the standard of playing was always high. What they could do with is an element of learning in terms of stagecraft, something all bands at this stage need to develop.
Such concerns were not ones that afflict Zombified. They are a band who are comfortable in their genre, with heavy death sounds, tones that grind and the tradition of circle headbanging. Newer and older songs alike were played with aplomb, despite a minor technical problem during the set. The track Human Cull stood out amongst a positive set.
As to the mystery that is Mental Deficiency...masked men, rubber-limbed front man, easy banter, infectious riffs and melodies; all were present and correct.
Seeming to be a joke band on the surface it is easy to miss the point: Mental Deficiency have a superb sense of timing and have notably improved both arrangements and song structures since we last saw them. The overt sexism is there to provoke a response and they duly received a positive response, from all genders that were present...
But Gama Bomb are at different level, no doubt through experience, touring and an ongoing recording career.
The drama of a Gama Bomb performance is often missed, their sense of irony in their songs can be overlooked, and their humour can sometimes shade the talent on stage and on record.
Over-simplified comparisons with the first wave of speed and thrash metal belie the stage in their development. Gama Bomb's woes over the past 12 months are put aside on stage. Philly's charisma as a front man, with Joe as a vocal/banter foil are obvious. Poking fun at themselves and the genre in general (Philly wearing a Michael Jackson t-shirt a case in point) any airs and graces that some bands assume are thrust aside in a compact, powerful performance.
Drawing songs from this year's The Terror Tapes (available on AFM Records now) Backwards Bible and single Terrorscope stood out amid a blur of tracks drawing back catalogue favourites such as Zombie Brew and OCP together in a musical mosaic coloured with tracks such as Smoke The Blow with William Defoe.
There is a poise about Gama Bomb in 2013, which sees them on the cusp of yet greater strides: looking back is now not an option on the strength of this performance and without sacrificing their basic sound it now honed into a fine cutting instrument surely ready to cut a swathe through the metal scene.
Look out for a Gama Bomb special show coming soon on RockRadioNI - featuring interviews and insight into what makes the band tick.