|The Crawling/Scimitar/Neamhní – Belfast, Voodoo – 6 January 2017|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Wednesday, 11 January 2017 04:00|
Seriously, it was getting bad. It had just been TOO long. The withdrawal symptoms were all there, for all to see: the hot sweats were getting worse and the shakes were extremely noticeable. I was becoming a gibbering wreck… It had been three weeks since my last fix and if I didn’t get another soon – very soon – I wasn’t going to be responsible for what would happen, not only to myself but those around me… And, then: boom boom badda boom! It came along… a full 21 days after I had last had a hit – the first live gig of 2017! Phew… all is right with the world once again…
The band with the unenviable task of delivering that first set of the new gigging year were Belfast blackened metallians Neamhní (pronounced Nev-nee and roughly translating from Gaelic as “nullifier”). Now, although they’ve been kicking around the local scene for about 18 months now, this was my first encounter (of the close kind) with a band I have been eager to see for quite some time: somehow, our paths hadn’t quite crossed – until tonight.
They take the stage in almost complete darkness, setting the mood right from the start, as the sparse stage lights match the menacing depravity of their sound, which is made up of dense winding melodies underpinned by big ass blastbeat-driven percussion. Vocalist Alessandro Rocco has a few technical problems, which mean he only becomes audible halfway through the second song, and the overall muddy soundmix unfortunately detracts from the band’s extremely obvious technical ability, as guitarists Steve Martin and Peter Gilliland integrate superbly to produce back alley black metal soundscapes which match the backstreet location. Despite the atrocious soundmix, Neamhní definitely left me wanting to hear them again... fortunately, I won't have to wait too long...
Scimitar deliver tightly blended old-school Bay Area style thrash with an aggressive DM edge, resulting a sound that lies somewhere between formative Slayer and Exciter. Their rhythms – slightly reduced in impact by the extremely muffled bass mix – couples with some extremely impressive double kick work from Ryan, who can pick up a ferocious pace at the drop of a (hi)hat.
John’s guitar melodies are precise and measured, as is the overall performance, as the four boys eschew the niceties and concentrate on hitting the impressively-numbered crowd right between both the eyes and ears. With a new album in the pipeline, I have a feeling this is going to be a good year for Scimitar, especially if they can fulfil their wish of getting on to a few festival bills.
A quick trip to the bogs and the bar, in that order, fills the changeover time before headliners The Crawling create a mood darker than the venue’s black-painted walls but joyous enough to welcome the sunshine of the next morning’s mid-winter dawn a few hours early.
Mainland readers might be familiar with the band’s name from their absolutely crushing set on the New Blood stage at last summer’s Bloodstock (funny how the Irish bands, from both sides of the border, absolutely destroyed every other act on the bill that weekend). For those unfamiliar with them, however, this dark destructive force deliver doom-infused deathly riffs heavy enough to wake the slumbering giant on the hill which overlooks the city, coupled with huge, gristly, throbbing rhythms with loads of fat on them, coupled with gnarly, growling harmonies driven by behemothic blastbeats that at times defy the laws of physics in their psychotic speed combined with practised precision.
The result is huge, dynamic soundscapes which belie the intimacy of both the venue and the occasion and, as referenced above, are equally as capable of decimating massive festival stages as they are tiny clubs. It’s loud, it’s aggressive, it’s don’t-give-a-fuck pure metal noise. It’s beautiful, in a purely dark and dank way.
The trio are one of the tightest bands I have ever seen, not just here in Northern Ireland but anywhere, and serve up the perfect start to another year of intense gigging. Bring it on 2017, you big, beautiful, bad ass bitch!
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Darren McVeigh/Uber Rock.