Black Peaks/Employed To Serve/Making Monsters – Belfast, Limelight 2 – 28 January 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby   
Saturday, 04 February 2017 05:00

Brighton bruisers Black Peaks caused something of a ruckus among the Über Rock team last year, with Rich Hobson comparing the “post-hardcore-meets-alt-rock” of their debut album, ‘Statues’, to the likes of Tool, Dillinger Escape Plan and Deftones and proclaiming their live shows as the perfect counter-argument to Gene Simmons’ failed claim that “rock is dead”… with this is mind, myself and The Dark Queen didn’t really have much of a choice (well, we did, until The Answer show scheduled for the same night was cancelled) when the south coast mob announced that they were intending to pummel Belfast into submission for the first time than to dander ‘round to our local and see what all the fuss was about…


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With scheduled main support Two Glass Eyes having pulled out of the two Irish dates at a few days’ notice, the task of opening fell to locals (well, relatively so) Making Monsters. It had been a little under 18 months since we had seen the Londonderry quartet, in a basement bar in the local Students’ Union building: on that occasion, their performance was ruined by an absolutely atrocious sound mix resulting in an ultimately nondescript and frankly mundane performance, especially from the three guys… But, oh what a difference tonight…


Benefitting from a crystal clear mix, their hardcore-infused riot grrl-empowered power pop truly shines through. The solid bass rhythms exhibit plenty of chunkiness while Emma Gallagher inevitably evokes comparisons with the likes of Courtney Love, especially in her independent attitude and confidence: and it is the latter which helps her project her own powerful personality.


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As the set progresses, a sub-grunge alt-punk vibe bubbles to the surface, and the quarter are obviously comfortable in the well-crafted set, which is delivered with easy aplomb and a tight rock ‘n’ roll sensibility.


“Move forward or fuck off” challenges Employed To Serve frontwoman Justine Jones – a reference to the stand-offish attitude of the crowd so far (it seems to be a trend at Belfast gigs for audiences to stand as far back as they can practically get during the support bands). A hardy few venture forwards, but not as many as to Jones’ liking, as she berates the crowd again, until eventually there is a healthy number gathered before her to enjoy a set of fast and furious streetwise, spunky hardcore interjected with venomous abrasiveness.


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There is no let-up in the intensity or the pace. This is ferocious stuff, designed to snap necks and decimate braincells with its slam dunk riffs. About a third of the way through the set, guitarist Sammy Urwin takes a running jump off the stage, clearing the pit wall in one leap before arriving in the venue’s small seated area, where he threatens to cave in skulls with his flying headstock. It summarizes the essence of their performance, which is passion-filled and fuelled, and injects anger straight into your veins to produce that ecstatic feeling that only the drug that is rock ‘n’ roll can produce.


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Right from the off, it is extremely clear that Black Peaks are one of those bands whom it is extremely difficult to categorize – they described themselves as “progressive post-hardcore”, so I guess we’ll settle for that – as the room is immediately bathed in swathes of melody underpinned and hyphenated by hints of violence which momentarily flash to the surface before just as quickly ebbing into the background once more.


The crowd has changed completely from earlier in the evening. Now, they’re crammed against the barrier and filling every inch of the floor, displaying a massive passion as they sing every word from the opening line of ‘Glass Built Castles’. “Oh my God, we’re gonna have a good time tonight” exclaims Will Gardner, before admitting that they hadn’t quite known what to expect on their first jaunt across the Irish Sea: “I thought maybe we’d be playing to 20 people!” It was a wee bit more than that…


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Running through the above referenced ‘Statues’ from start to finish, Black Peaks deliver big, swelling Cinemascope soundscapes with loads of atmospherics, drawing on prog as equally as it does stoner at its most eloquent. The crushing bass crescendos mix with darkly but accurately drawn guitar stabs, which accentuate the dense elevation of the songs, as they move eloquently from moments of almost introspective depression to glorious beatdowns with the grace of a ballerina in full flight. By now, the crowd doesn’t need much encouragement from Gardner to open up a pit, or a wall of death, while those in the barrier are headbanging until their eyeballs threaten to fall out. And they are rewarded as, as the venue’s usually strict curfew ticks past, the singer introduces encore ‘Hope’, a song destined for the Peaks’ second album: “we were gonna do this only in London, but you guys deserve it…”


On the evidence of tonight, it won’t be long before both Belfast and the Black Peaks deserve a return.


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/Uber Rock 2017.  Not to be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.


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