FROM Finland they came to Ireland - not Vikings, instead a thrash attack from the Axegressor...which does sound a little Viking in the end.
Thursday (January 7th) the Finnish four-piece opened their tout with cannonade of chaotic yet controlled thrash, aided and abetted by two local acts.
First up in Belfast's Voodoo contemporary thrash from Cursed Sun, who deliver a Lamb of God(ish) take on where thrash sits in the second decade of the 21st Century.
But to deliver unto the listener their current metal attack Cursed Sun have evolved from their earlier LOG sound into a unique ten legged monster, merging muscle and subtlety.
Jonesy is a set of vocal chords on a hyperactive body: when not stalking the audience with roars his body still twitches with energy when taking a step back to allow Jonny and Ciaran's guitars rise to the foreground.
Jonny in particular shredded, with some nicely timed solos, notable in the two new songs aired, 'Primordial Chaos' and 'Breeding from Bleeding', which hold much promise for their next release.
Traditional thrashers Scimitar took to the stage with their usual full-on roar, designed to pummel, challenge and, when necessary raise a laugh.
Ryan's drum lines pushed forward the band tonight to heights of ecstatic terror. The only low point a perhaps too passionate tribute to Lemmy, which was well received as the audience raised a glass to the legend, but was a little bit too fast and furious.
However, this was but a blip in a full-on set. Jonny's vocals were, as usual, spot on for the band's sound, both Teutonic and measured. 'Cursed City', as opener was the right choice, allowing the four-piece to get their stage legs, so that by the time they merged into 'Erased from Existence' John (guitar) and Chriz (bass) were trading places and shapes.
Closer 'The Act of War' was the highlight of the set - which saw the band dispense with their usual distribution of plastic scimitars to the audience and concentrate on their music.
Axegressor's portmanteau name may suggest the band spend too much time contriving their title, but there is little in the music to suggest crossing genre lines. This is thrash metal, full stop, no compromise, no remorse for listener or equipment. And, equipment was the first casualty, with technical hitches after opener '15'.
Yet another Johnny in the shape of the sunglass wearing singer and front man of the band engaged in some good natured banter as Seba Forma (guitar) and Aki Paulamäki (bass) muttered and tweaked settings. [We have to admit that some of the Finnish version of English and the Belfast dialect may have led to some phrases being lost in translation...]
When battle was again enjoined there was nothing lost in translation. Simply thrash, that was all that was needed to engage full headbanging mode down the front.
Seba was in full control, the foil to Johnny's throat's roars, while Atte Mäkelä's drums rumbled through the room.
By the time 'SS-18' was played it was clear that despite Axegressor being relatively unknown in Ireland they were being embraced by the audience.
Tracks from the band's 2014 release 'Last' were the stand-outs. The trio of 'Merciless Reality Check', 'Lead Justice' and 'Command to Last' showcased a meld of Germanic 1990s thrash and the Bay Area sound of the early to mid-80s.
Taking into account the technical difficulties and the journey involved getting from Finland to Belfast there were no hesitations, no sitting back; Axegressor delivered all that could be expected and more.
Sometimes thrash gets a bad name for itself for being so uncompromising in terms of its approach, but the doubters never really get it. Like death and black metal, when you emerge from the darkened chambers to the street, you invariably have a smile on your face.
And there is nothing 'wrong' about any music that can make you smile.
Review by (another) Jonny
Pictures by Darren McVeigh