|Raging Speedhorn / By Any Means / Dead Label – Belfast, Voodoo – 18th September 2016|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Wednesday, 21 September 2016 03:40|
It’s a Sunday night in Belfast city centre, and everywhere is shut. Literally everywhere. Herself can’t even get a cup of tea, even if she wanted to brave the pishwater that most places try to pass off as a brew these days. But, down a quiet back street, there is a dark and ominous noise which is drawing mysterious creatures towards it…
Yes, it is the return of English sludgecore gods Raging Speedhorn on the last night of their first Irish tour for nigh on eight years… And what a short trip it has been, by all accounts: big Paul Bam, guitarist with main support By Any Means and the man tasked with driving the Northamptonshire bruisers the entire length, and back again, of the Emerald Isle, is truly a broken man…
The room is starting to fill up nicely – even if there seem to be more photographers and other band members waiting front and centre - as Dublin trio Dead Label make their way on to Voodoo’s tiny stage. And frontman Dan O' Grady tries to get the ferociously hard to get the early comers going, constantly encouraging them to move forward.
The band’s groove is fuelled by the total machine that is drummer Claire Percival who, despite her diminutive stature (and, as she later revealed, dying of a massive dose of the ‘flu) has more energy and drive than a 1000 Duracell bunnies, laying down a precise and taut percussive backing to the band’s equally tight metallic onslaught.
O’Grady’s bass work is so closely harmonized to Percival’s kick work that it’s impossible to spot the join, while guitarist Danny Hall nonstop headbanging belies the deceptive simplicity with which he adds layers of harmony and melody over his bandmates’ fiery rhythms. It’s another immense, if brief, performance from one of the true power houses of the Irish metal scene.
“C’mon you cunts at the back – get the fuck up here!” challenges By Any Means vocalist Micky Higgins as he takes the action to the floor right from the off.
This is the first time that BAM have played their home town with the current line up – and the only time this year they’ll do so – and it seems as if the sense of the occasion has injected them with a new dose of venom. This is exemplified by the fact that, the last time your UR team caught the band live, at the Siege Of Limerick this past Easter, they were on the verge of disintegration: their singer and drummer had just announced their intention to quit, and actually played the same bill with their new band! Now, however, with Higgins back in the ranks and former Gacys Threads sticksman Stephen Currie behind the kit (and it’s great to see him back doing what he does best: looking gorgeous and hitting things very hard), the quartet have pride in their hearts again and are harder, tighter and angrier than ever.
The night is made all the more special when former BAM singer Davy Lyness joins the onstage fun for a storming rendition of the anthemic finale of ‘Using Both Hands’, which emphasizes the qualities of honour, loyalty and respect which the band exemplify with every pore of their collective beings.
Things take a decidedly weird turn during the interval, as, after a complete change of drumkit – probably needed anyway after the battering the first one had taken during the opening acts – we are then subjected to an almost complete play through of the ‘Straight Outta Compton’ soundtrack. It’s a really long changeover period (especially bearing in mind there’s a relatively early curfew – it is Sunday after all and this is “God’s Own Country”): but, there are ominous reports coming from the dressing room, suggesting that one of the band members has taken seriously ill…
But, when Raging Speedhorn do eventually hit the stage – some 20 minutes behind schedule and fortunately with their full complement of six members – they unleash a firestorm of positively Biblical (sic) proportions and deliver a set which is both furious and intense, as well as totally unrelenting in its pace (well, until they get to the encore).
The set is a well-balanced mix of older material and songs from their stunning ‘Lost Ritual’ comeback album from earlier this year: the new tracks are extremely well-received by the now almost capacity crowd, but it is the older ones which really open the pit up – especially when Paul Bam tells his sore back to “do one” and interjects himself into the middle of it!
With the four musicians tighter than a nun’s fanny behind them, the vocal duo of Frank Regan and John Laughlin find time to have some fun on the minute stage, coming off with some neat Blues Brothers-style routines with take their influence from the gig taking place on the hallowed Sabbath eve, with Laughlin in particular coming off with some great “Help Me Jesus” mimickry. But, at the end of the night, it’s all about the music, and that is delivered by a band who are very clearly at the top of their game and determined to take no prisoners no matter where and when they play.
Hopefully, it won’t be another eight years before the RS machine finds its way back across the Irish Sea.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Dark Queen.