Northern Deathfest – Belfast, Limelight 2 – 27 January 2018 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Friday, 02 February 2018 04:40

Gigs by touring bands are ten a penny – but, every so often, it just takes a little flash of imagination from a local promoter to turn what would be just another such Saturday evening show into an actual event. And that is exactly what happened when Bloodshot Dawn returned to Belfast this past weekend, as the gig got turned into a miniature one-day festival, with not one, not two but five local bands added to the bill to ensure that heads were banged for almost seven full hours of this thrashing mad extravaganza…


Rupuration 3


It was always going to be an emotional experience for many present when Rupturation were announced as opening proceedings – and, to be brutally honest, it is really hard to get around the fact that these are the three surviving members of Shrouded, the emerging monsters of the Belfast death metal scene until the tragically untimely death last October, at the hands of depression, of the band’s driving forcing, Dani Kansaniho. It has to be admitted that it is a shadow which hangs large over the lads, just as it equally has to be said that it seems as if their hearts aren’t totally invested in the performance.


Nevertheless, they use their allotted 25 minutes to the best of their undoubted ability, delivering a set of solid DM with plenty of grunt, taut riffs and tight rhythms. Kicking off with the kind of tight, pacy melodeath which characterized Shrouded’s sound, which nevertheless evokes that desire to hear the second guitar which gave the band the depth they possessed, they ratchet things down to a slower, doomier pace for ‘Dead World’ and ‘Cerebral Rupture’, which possibly hints at a new direction for the three boys, before the aptly titled closer ‘Finality’, originally written for Shrouded but “repurposed for this band” provides a fitting moment of partial closure.


Lock Horns 3


“Bring it on muthafuckas!” Lock Horns vocalist Alex Da Costa leans over the bank of monitors and spits his defiant challenge into the faces of the audiences, his hackles impacting despite the distance they are stood back, as a percussive barrage heralds another typically predatory performance from the four-piece. They possess a huge progressive groove, especially in the bass department, which is coupled with punishing but precise, and concise, drum patterns, which keep the emphasis on the underlying rhythm but also push the sound forward.


Similarly, Junior Afrifa’s guitar work is taut, the riffs delivered with sharp precision and fierce intent, the latter of which is only surpassed by the intensity of Da Costa, who prowls the stage like a hungry panther. Importantly, there is plenty of sonic light and shade, with plenty of subtle layers which reward a more intent listen. Highlight of the half-hour set is one of the tracks from their forthcoming debut album, ‘Blood And Oil’, on which Da Costa literally spits out the line “you will drown in your lust” with all the contempt he holds for the song’s subject matter. “I want to feed your anger, I want to feel your rage” he tells his audience – and both he and they have plenty to channel, in the most positive of senses.


Strangle Wire 3


This afternoon marks the first time I have caught Pete Clarke’s new project since he parted with Zombified – and Strangle Wire are exactly what I would expect from this guru of the Belfast death metal scene: dark and dense, with a macabre undertone, with the band held together by a ‘Psychopathic Glue’. Tight and intense, but still with that all-important sense of melody, they know how to use atmospherics to layer their sound as they tread a very fine line between grindcore and melodic DM.


Up front, Clarke is supremely confident, challenging his audience to give as much as, if not more than, he is giving them by “banging your fucking heads” and demanding “I want to see your heads butting the floor”. Intense and brutal, I didn’t think having your head ripped from your shoulders could be such a pleasurable experience!


The Crawling 3


The Crawling take to the stage to the biggest pop of the afternoon so far (after all, despite the looming darkness outside, it’s barely gone a quarter to five): and, like the day itself, things are getting darker by the second…


As Gary Beattie’s double kicked bass drum punches straight into your heart, it’s hypnotic stuff as the dense growl crawls (sic) its way into every pore of your being and refusing to dislodge itself. Their doom-laden death metal is glorious in its pessimism, celebratory in its menacing magnificence – and, above all, brilliantly executed by a confident and assured trio of musicians who combine a sense of the dramatic with a beautiful sense of the simple joy that a stunning delivered riff can evoke.


With Mrs A having been forced to retreat to the pub next door due to the strobes – an integral, and on this occasion, laconically underused, part of The Crawling’s set but needlessly used to extreme in the others – she misses the funniest moment of the afternoon: Overoth frontman Dan headbanging away to the strains of The Sweet as he sets up his pedals!


Overoth 1


Once they’re up and running, however, they quickly prove why they are the masters of the Irish death metal scene, showing how it should be done as they wash the venue in big, majestic soundscapes swathed in dark dramatics, yet simplistic in their impact, which is nothing less than earthquake-inducing in their sheer power. Front and centre, Andy literally towers over everything and everyone, while, on each side of him, Dan and Andrew concentrate on laying down brutalistic riffs, massive melodies and searing solos.


It’s an important night for Overoth, in that it is one of change for the band, as they are blooding a new drummer – and, despite having massive shoes to fill, Cameron Glass has fitted in seamlessly, nailing everything to perfection (but, then, you’d expect very little else from a musician of his pedigree, with years of experience with Celtic death dealers Darkest Era). A baptism of fire, survived with defiance.


Reprisal 2


At this stage, there is an hour-long gap scheduled in proceedings, to allow the stage to be reset for the two visiting bands. For some, including the UR crue, it’s a great idea, allowing for a run to the local greasy fried chicken outlet for some much-needed grubsteaks… but, for others, it seems to be a confusing concept, as many simply disappear, not to return, as is shown by the slightly diminished crowd which greets Reprisal when they take the stage 15 minutes after their allotted time…


Nevertheless, they hit hard, fast and loud – fucking loud! Despite the crowd having thinned out from the last segment of the previous instalment of the day’s proceedings, they garner an extremely enthusiastic response, helped by charismatic vocalist Tom’s persistent calls to arms. There is a massive bottom end to the taut rhythm section, allowing guitarist Ollie to weave and dance over the top, as he demonstrates some serious shredding ability: he possesses great technical skill, which fortunately is allowed to shine through rather than be lost in a morass of noise, which all too often can be the case for support bands at club gig. The overall result is a hugely impressive performance from a band who may be new to me on the night but I’m sure won’t be strangers in the future.


Unfortunately, massive technical problems plague the opening section of Bloodshot Dawn’s set, with guitarist Morgan Reid particularly struggling and forced to change instruments after just two songs, in turn leading to a protracted delay in proceedings already running ten minutes behind schedule and rushing as rapidly as the band’s riffs towards the early curfew. However, thanks largely to the commanding presence of frontman and sole remaining original band member Josh McMorran, they recover quickly and proceed to present a masterclass in melodic death metal.


Bloodshot Dawn 2


The sound is underpinned by the absolutely phenomenal drumming of Hideous Divinity’s Guido Galati (filling in for the Vader-tied James Stewart), the concrete solid bass work of Giacomi Gastaldi and McMorran’s own tight rhythm guitar work, while Reid definitely could give some of the bigger names in the business more than a run for their fretboards. This may be a completely new line-up from the one that last played Belfast, but the four guys have gelled extremely quickly, and show a band that is re-energised and rejuvenated – and finally able (and hopefully willing) to take on the extreme metal Überverse.


The only disappointment is the audience’s reaction – or, rather, severe lack of it. About ten minutes into the set, McMorran remarks on the absence of a moshpit, asking “are you guys too cool for that?” Apart from a few flailing heads at the front, he seems to be right. Slightly later, in the introduction to ‘The Quantum Apocalypse’, he calls for a wall of death – and is rewarded with a hugfest: fuck, the queue in the local Build-A-Bear the next afternoon showed more angst and hunger! Despite the apathy, they bust their way through the curfew with their horns, and heads, held high, having delivered a performance that proves that this is indeed a band who live up to the title of their new album.


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