Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, February 19, 2016

LIVE REVIEW(S): Saturday night's all right for...rockin' as eight of the best play Northern Ireland

SOME Saturday's are just special. Sure every weekend can be great but when you have the opportunity to revel in two special shows and see eight bands you know it is a Saturday (February 13th) to remember.

The main focus was The Distortion Project fundraiser at Limelight2 from three o'clock before a dash to The Diamond to round up the night.

The DP fundraiser was an important event as it was an opportunity for the rock and metal community celebrate the 15 years plus that James Loveday has been supporting metal in Northern Ireland and help secure the future of more local, national and international acts playing here.

During that time the initial promise grew small shows in Katy Daly's to regular slots giving new and emerging rock and metal stage time, through to attracting the likes of WASP, Sabaton, and many, many more to Belfast.

But Saturday's celebration was a fundraiser and about the music that was about to be laid down.

First up in proceedings were Molarbear who delivered a heavy opening, with three guitars, mixing between dense rhythms and tight melody sections. They also had one song that had the crowd gleefully chanting 'fuck' - we think it was called 'Swearwolf' but we were too busy shouting "fuck" and laughing.

That aside Molarbear are dripping with promise and potential. For the inherent silliness of shouting "fuck" the rest of the set had enough strength in depth to ensure we have them tipped for the future.

When it comes to the southern metal scene in the USA, the likes of Down, Corrostion of Conformity are synonymous with NOLA grooves. Baleful Creed take that sound, add layers of Sabbath and pound it down.

Airing new song 'Memento Mori' and playing fan favourites such as (our editor's favourite) 'Autumn Leaves' recent months have seen Baleful Creed grow into not only a tighter unit, but also with added layers of heaviness. They take the conventions of their influences and add a Northern Ireland metal take, with dark humour and dark intent.

There is doubt of the unity of the vast majority of the metal community, something on display when By Any Means take the stage. Gacy Threads stick man Stephen Currie took over drum duties as usual drummer Gavin was otherwise engaged. Sinocence's Anto McCaughley was adding a second guitar and before the show was over Andy from Overoth was on stage with Wayne Donaldson ex of Defyed joining Paul Docs on all sorts of vocal contortions.

And, contortions are something that Paul committed himself to with his usual leap into the crowd and hyperactivity. For those that didn't know the other Paul in BAM was playing despite a heavy cold and 'flu-like symptoms'. Manflu can be fatal but the lurgy was not going to stop Paul donning his axe. A cover of Motorhead's 'The Hammer' added to the sense of occasion.

'Built on Respect' maybe a song, but it also expresses the attitude of By Any Means, and the respect those at Limelight2 showed for each other, each band and for James Loveday.

But at times we must always harken back to our roots, as Altus did when they covered Sabbath's 'Children of the Grave'. But as a band Altus must be taken note of. A few years back their sound was a pick-a-mix of influences that sometimes left you scratching your head as to where they would go.

In 2016 Altus - with a few line-up changes - are a very more focussed act, brimming with dark metal intent; a ritualistic sense of evil, added to by Sleeve on vocals donning a druidic cowl. Altus's new(ish) interpretation of death metal has seen many take note of where their next chapter will lead to.

Up from Dublin to pay their respects to Mr Loveday and The Distortion Project were Two Tales of Woe, who brought the groove to the evening with a set filled with rampant rhythm, searing riffs and melody so intricately woven into the songs that it was almost on a sub-conscious level that you found yourself caught by TTOW, and by then it was too late - you were hooked, humming along and headbanging.

Fellow Dublin band Xerosun were the penultimate act, and for those who hadn't seen this act before they were immediately taken by the vocals of Martyna, who can deliver the sweetest of melody lines and death growls that would have Dani Filth cowering.

But Xerosun are more than vocal gymnastics. They have songs that are complex and driven by a tight sense of metal drama, with death metal and more traditional metal. Familiar to many across the Irish scene Xerosun are growing as a band that deserve a bigger stage.

Unfortunately with time tight both Xerosun and Two Tales of Woe had to cut their sets, but it did perhaps give everyone a few moments to prepare before the depths of Hades open and Overoth unleash their unique version of metal pestilence upon the unwary.

Last year's Northern Ireland winners of Metal2TheMasses, Overoth took the Bloodstock New Blood by storm and just why was apparent to all. They are commanding in their look, sound and vision, no more so than the towering Andy on bass.

All the band are majestic musicians, all the while leering with a jaundice eye at a world gone awry.

As the final applause died out, there was one thing sure - that there is nothing awry with a scene that can come together to help the DP foundation upon which so many have grown from.

Snatched cigarettes and a last gulp of beer then we and some like-minded chancers boarded the BAM Battle Bus for the journey from the heart of Belfast to Ahoghill Rock City, where the Diamond Rock Club was hosting another couple of bands for our delectation and delight.

Tumbling from the bus and into the heat of the Diamond where Derwin and crew were on hand to welcome one and all, symphonic metal act Selene were already on stage. Thankfully the Belfast refugees hadn't missed much in the dash up through County Antrim.

Just a year ago Selene seemed to be strugglers as the band and singer Shonagh Lyons crumbled at a Metal2TheMasses show. What a difference a year makes. They have now harnessed the sweep and technicality of symphonic metal, have real confidence and project their songs and sound in a really inspiring way.

Never mind all the 'from adversity...' crap, Selene are the real deal now. At a time when so many labels are picking up mediocre symphonic metal acts Selene show just how it should be delivered - technical, tight and dramatic.

If you were to give a teenager with ADHD a massive dose of amphetamines and load them with all the energy drinks you might get something of an idea of the level of energy that Oli Brown brings to the stage with RavenEye, but no chemical enhancements were needed for this three-piece.

The road weary who had travelled from Belfast were instantly given their second wind, as Aaron Spiers, Kev Hickman and Brown took the Diamond by the scruff of the neck and shook it the audience into smiling submission.

This is hard rock at its most celebratory. Sure Brown is one of the great guitar exponents of his generation, but the RavenEye show is not about guitar wankery (even if does it extremely well!), it is about a show - the sheer enjoyment coming from the band engendering enjoyment from the audience.

For all the live japes of Oli leaping off the bass drum, and jumping on Aaron's shoulders for a romp around the room, it is the songs that anchor everything. New tune 'Hate' shows yet again that RavenEye have much more in the tank. Even tunes already known by some such as 'Hey, Hey, Yeah' still sound fresh.

With new tracks and this sort of stage presence Oli and co are sure to be playing to bigger and bigger audiences. As long as they remember to come back to Northern Ireland as regularly as they have done over the past 12 months or so we have no problem with that.

Saturday 13th February, 2016, one of the days set to live long in the memory - a day to support The Distortion Project, to witness six bands pay homage to DP and to enjoy another night of rock in Ahoghill.

Review by Jonny
[Amateur] Pictures by Jonny


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