Armored Saint/Sinocence – Belfast, Limelight 2 – 21 March 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby   
Thursday, 23 March 2017 05:00

By the time some of you read this review, I doubt if there’ll be much left of Belfast’s historic Limelight – the original one that is, not the rebranded larger version next door. Having been the scene of many nights’ exercises in heavy metal debauchery (sic) over the years, this particular week is a brutal one for this battered old Victorian building, witnessing shows by Napalm Death (this past Sunday), Crowbar (last night), Sonata Arctica (Saturday) and Grand Magus (Sunday)… Oh, hang on a second… I’ve missed one out, haven’t I? No, not deliberately, as the reason for our visit on this otherwise chilly Tuesday evening was to witness the return, after an 11-year gap, of the mighty Armored Saint – a gig which had Belfast’s metal hordes salivating with expectation since it was first announced towards the tail end of last year.


Sinocence - Belfast March 2017


No matter how experienced a band may be, especially in their native environment, most would still jump at the chance to support an iconic act, as so it proved with Sinocence, one of the stalwarts of the Belfast, and wider Irish, metal scene for more than a decade now. Showing the generosity of a truly professional headline act, da Sins were allowed a full 45-minute opening slot both here and the previous evening in Dublin. And the guys used it well, from the opening grunt and growl of ‘Long Way Down’ through to the closing frenetic of ‘Metalbox’.


The tight and concentrated performance is enhanced by the excellently balanced sound mix (I know, often a rarity for a support band), which lends plenty of bottom end while at the same time adding a visceral edge to the delivery of the likes of ‘In Kymetica’, ‘A Coda On Self Slaughter’ and the huge ‘Ascension Code’. The Sins are enjoying a rare foray back into the live arena (they’re currently concentrating on writing new material from entering the studio to record the third part of their ‘No Gods No Masters’ triptych of EPs), and this is evidenced by Moro’s easy banter with the crowd: “it’s great to see all your beautiful faces” he remarks… well, it’s not hard, as the lighting tech thinks it’s more important to illuminate the crowd than the band themselves! But, that’s a quibble. Otherwise, it’s another impressive battering ram of a performance from a local band who still stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to delivering taut and controlled heavy metal beatdowns.


Armored Saint Belfast


As I said at the top, it had been more than a decade since Armored Saint had last visited this part of the Überverse (next door at the former Spring And Airbrake). In the intervening years, as they have done in their entire career, they have proven themselves to be one of the most enduring and consistent forces in the heavy metal world, helped in no part by being one of the very few acts who have enjoyed more or less the same line up since their formation away back in 1982 (the exception being, of course, the recruitment of current guitarist Jeff Duncan following the tragic early death of David Prichard in 1990).


And right from the off they proved exactly why they are one of the most consistent live acts on the circuit as well, as what follows over the next 90 minutes is a display of pure, honest, heavy metal riffery, characterized by double guitar harmonies, twin solos and huge bottom-ended rhythms, all topped off with John Bush’s distinctively charismatic and insightful vocal delivery. Throughout the set, Bush proves why he has remained one of the best metal vocalists of his generation: while many now struggle, he is at ease, as he delivers a flawless and note perfect performance, interspersed with an easy banter and cool rapport with the crowd, who he knows are eating out of his hand.   And, fair play him, he gives a big pop to the Sinocence lads, not only for their support slot but for loaning the Saints their back line for these two Irish shows.


Armored Saint - John Bush 1


Ploughing almost the entire depth, and breadth, of their hugely impressive back catalogue – damn, I had actually forgotten what fucking fine tunes they have produced over the years, all of which, from ‘An Exercise In Debauchery’ through the epic ‘In An Instant’ and ‘After Me, The Flood’ to sucker punches such as ‘Chemical Euphoria’ and ‘Left Hook From Right Field’, have well and truly stood the test of time – AS prove that they are a total heavy metal groove machine. Their supremely well-oiled performance is also aided by a superb sound mix, which brings out the most intricate aspects of their sound, and especially Joey Vera’s funky bass runs and the stunning time guitar harmonics of Messrs Duncan and Sandoval.


There are a couple of left hooks (sic), such as a rare airing for ‘Aftermath’ – or “the long song which pissed off our record company” as Bush describes it – but it elements such as this which summarize the epic nature of this metallic masterclass, which is brought to a suitably ferocious and rousing finale with everyone in the room singing themselves hoarse to main set closer ‘Reign Of Fire’, before ‘Can U Deliver’ does just that as the crowd meet the challenge of raising their voices, fists, and the roof, even higher.


Armored Saint Belfast 1


It is amazing the number of “old school” bands which not only are continuing to make a living on the circuit some three to four decades into their careers, but also are doing so while remaining fresh and relevant. Armored Saint are the epitome of this assertion. If you haven’t caught one of their live shows, I recommend you do so just as absolutely soon as possible \m/


Armored Saint play Hammerfest tonight (Thursday 23 March), followed by Rebellion in Manchester on Friday and the O2 Institute in Birmingham on Saturday.


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/ Über Rock


Read our recent interview with Joey Vera HERE.


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