T13 is a massive urban sports arena which takes its name from it’s former use – as one of the huge workshops which once formed part of the industrial powerhouse that was Harland And Wolff: once the biggest shipyard in the world and famed for building the likes of HMS Belfast, the Canberra and some wee ship called the Titanic, and now a shadow of its former self, reduced to maintenance work on Irish Sea ferries and oil rigs. H&W did things big… and, now rebranded the ‘Titanic Quarter’ is striving to do so again, albeit in a totally different field: just yards from T13 are the Titanic Studios – possessing, outside of Pinewood, the largest single sound stage in Europe and home to ‘Game Of Thrones’… yes, Belfast may be a tiny little city in a tiny little corner of planet mosh, but we made massive muthafuckin’ ships and now make massive muthafuckin’ TV series. We definitely punch above our weight.
In this context, it was perhaps fitting that this huge complex should act as the home to the single most ambitious all-ages metalfest this or any other city undoubtedly has seen. It’s just a downright shame that, in the end, the ambition was not totally realized… as media sponsor of the event, PM is privy to all the behind-the-scenes shit that went down in the days, and even hours and minutes, leading up to this gig – which, right up until the first band took to the stage almost led to it being pulled… but this is not the place for public airings of laundry, especially with outstanding issues still to be addressed. Simple to say that, despite the adversities faced by the hard-working and dedicated promoter, the show went on..
Openers Altus (https://www.facebook.com/AltusBelfast) were returning to live action after an uncharacteristically quiet period, and were unveiling their new line-up – their third in the past year – and yet another subtle change in driection away from their original groove metal sound. Apart from the immediate assault on the senses of the early-comers, what is evident right away is the tightness between bassist Jonny Munro and drummer Kieran Fitzsimons: these two have quickly gelled into an inseparably homogenous unit. Guitarist Mikk Legge’s typically ferocious approach demonstrates his anxiety to showcase the new line-up, while new recruit Dara Monaghan (pictured left) is more laid back but equally as hungry in his delivery; up front, former Sorrowfall frontman Steve ‘Sleeve’ Reynolds brings a darkly growling Satanic edge to the vocals, giving the re-invented Altus a much heavier death metal sound which may take some long-term fans a while to get used to but hopefully reflects the band’s desire to organically grow their sound as they evolve and develop…
Defyed (https://www.facebook.com/defyedhc) are a band who – as regular PM readers will know – have been coming up fast on the outside lane of the NI hardcore scene, and they grow with confidence with each performance. This – the first of two this evening – was no exception, as vocalist Wayne (pictured right) struck an imposing and argumentative (in the nicest possible sense) figure as he spat and snarled his vocals and politically-charged lyrics over the solid, ever tightening musicianship of Trevor’s equally spikey riffs and the suitably intense rhythm work of Fling and Kieran.
There seems to be a thing about Dublin bands turning up at gigs north of the border without their bass players: a little over a month ago, it was Axial Symmetry – this time around it was Theories Divide (https://www.facebook.com/TheoriesDivide), who somehow seem to have misplaced bassist (and PM contributor) Darragh somewhere betwixt and between the two capitals… but, in the spirit of the show going on, the remaining trio of Garreth (pictured left), Leigh and Garrett were determined not have made a wasted trip, and ripped into a fiery set which won them over many new fans to their particular brand of ‘core tinged progressive metal (although the lack of bottom end did detract somewhat from the overall impact – ah well, this reviewer is always looking for another excuse to check out good bands!).
Late additions to the original bill, after the surprise disbandment of the awesome Cutter, Lucifer’s favourite heavy metallians Zlatanera (https://www.facebook.com/zlataneraband) did their Satanic master proud with another characteristically intensely dark and hypnotic set. With Andy Campbell (pictured right) another vocalist who has come on leaps and bounds in the confidence stakes over the past year or so, leading his battalion of dark forces through a series of monstrous songs epitomized by more monstrous riffs than many bands could have wet dreams about producing in their entire careers.
By total contrast – and the beauty of this evening’s bill was that it brought together six bands of varying styles but with only one intent, and that was to play heavy fuckin’ metal loud ‘n’f’n’ proud – Scimitar (https://www.facebook.com/Scimitar666) deliver their brand of unadulterated classically-infused thrash metal with honesty, energy and enthusiasm. Yes, it’s not the most original approach, and it is heavily embedded in the sound of the Bay Area – and from before any of these guys were born, I reckon – but it is done with affection and a desire to keep the thrash metal flame alive which is admirable on all levels, and played with a passion which deserves our utmost admiration, not least for Ryan’s thoughtful drum fills and John’s superb guitar melodies, which make it sound like there’s two of them in such a way that, had these guys been around three decades ago they may well have given the likes of Flotsam And Jetsam, Exodus and even a nascent Slayer a pretty convincing run for their money.
Speaking of honesty and integrity, it’s hard to write anything that hasn’t been written before, both here and elsewhere, about the mighty Rabid Bitch Of The North (https://www.facebook.com/NWOBHMRBOTN) – and tonight is no exception, as the trad metal trio rarely if ever deliver a set which is less than heartfelt and neckbreaking in equal measures… Despite the extreme paucity of the crowd, the three lads rattle through a trademark set in fine style: Joe’s vocals swoop and soar around the cavernous warehouse, closely followed by Gerry’s winding riffs, while Chris’ always immaculate double bass kicking keeps the sound very firmly cemented with its collective boots in the muddy roots of their traditional metal sound.
It’s just a pity that many broken promises and other shenanigans conspired against making this night the huge success it promised: and, despite the equal promise of the venue concerned, I don’t think many of those will even glance twice at it as they pass by, but will instead continue the search to find a decent location in Belfast to stage all-ages shows (and PlanetMosh certainly will back them in this quest): but, at the end of the night, all the bands delivered fantastic, passionate sets – and that’s all that really counts, isn’t it?
Altus review by The Dark Queen (‘cos I was at the offie buying beer to make up for the fact that the promised bar was firmly shut…).
Photographs by Darren McVeigh (copyright Metalplanet Belfast / PlanetMosh.com).