AS we head into another weekend of hard rockin' and heavy metal we took the time here to look back on last week in a review of our thoughts, notes and consider the real diversity of talent in this small land.
On Monday February 24th at Belfast's Voodoo we racked up, unfortunately missing out the fantastic By Any Means, who were opening proceedings.
However, we were in time to see the much improved Sentient. While Thomas's guitar was always a star of this band, in 2014 they are now a coherent, more balanced act, with the songs to match the range of excellent abilities on show from all quarters of the group.
With two high concept science fiction songs in their set - including the excellent Rocket Scientist - they also showcased the excellent Backhand with its powerful thrust.
However, while covering Pantera may seem to be a good crowd pleasing move it might be a better idea to hear more of their own original material, or give the Sentient treatment to a song no-one would expect.
Baleful Creed's sound has always had a real vibe and groove to it, with the likes of Double FS, Illuminati and Autumn Leaves giving an edge over many bands that attempt southern groove metal and Sabbathy riffs.
They are also insanely self-critical, and sometimes should worry less about getting it 100% right and make it 100% enjoyable.
Altus were showcasing their new line-up with singer, Matt Corden now in place. They are also planning to release their début album at Blazefest this coming Saturday (March 8th).
From what was on evidence on February 24th they will provide an enjoyable heavy set. But they are clearly a band in transition. From the early releases and ep Altus are now taking the next step.
Beast, Brand New Skies and Nail in the Coffin sit a little differently from newer offerings: it will take time to adapt these for Matt, as will he need time to carve his identity with the songs.
What is clear is that Altus are moving forward - and that is never a bad thing. What is a 'bad thing' is the on stage banter between band members and friends in the audience. While they may get away with it in front of a small crowd this is an indulgence they have to put aside and put the music to the fore.
With Monday at the Voodoo out of the way we took a brief break before it was on to the Stiff Kitten for RockD's presentation of Rabid Bitch of the North, Zlantanera and Cutter. Once again the vagaries of traffic and travel meant we missed out the opener, but we were assured by reliable sources it had been an enjoyable set.
Zlantanera are a sort of Norn Iron metal super group with various members of Interrogate, Residual Effect and Stand Up Guy and others making up the ranks.
What they all are combined are a powerful force, deeply groove driven, with solos and rhythm to complement a direct approach that should have heads-a-nodding and oozes potential. Hugely enjoyable!
Rabid Bitch of the North have transformed themselves over the past two years from likeable scene regulars to a potent force. While the three-track cassette that was due to be launched wasn't available on the night RBOTN still pounded a set of NWOBHM style tunes, masses of riffage aplenty.
Defending Two Castles really is a song to be adored, and overall Rabid have managed a neat trick in convincing all us older metalheads that we're still in the early 80s....
Missing out on the last couple of Rabid Bitch of the North songs for a quick dash to Comber Rec for another gig proved to be worth it, mainly to see the last (for the time being) Trucker Diablo gig; the fact of which only emerged on Monday.
Opening for Trucker were Baleful Creed, who despite having Fin a little 'under the weather' produced as always an enjoyable set; no matter what John might have said afterwards any flaws in the set went unnoticed to the majority of the crowd, many of which wore proudly their Baleful Creed shirts.
What was billed as Simon's last show with Trucker was a searing endorsement of why TD is one of the most widely listened to acts Northern Ireland has produced in recent years.
Explosive, fierce, catchy - throw any adjectives you like at their music they aren't enough to capture the sheer force of Trucker Diablo on this type of live form.
While - of course - family must come first and hence the hiatus, it is with regret that it may be a very long time before this good a set of hard rock is played. On this form there is not a band from these shores or further afield who would dare compete with Trucker.
From favourites such as Drink Beer, Destroy and Drive through to the pounding joy of Year of the Truck this was hard rock as it was meant to be: edging on a metallic assault, but with choruses that are catchy, solos that fit just right and riffs that you can hum along to.
A packed Comber Rec, rose in adulation: it was rightly deserved.
So, scanning over these three gigs there is no doubt of the diverse talent in Northern Ireland, of which this was only a sample. Sentient, Baleful Creed, Altus, Zlantanera, Rabid Bitch of the North and Trucker Diablo are all fine acts, all of which you should take delight in.