Beholder – Belfast, Limelight 2 – 24 September 2015

Northern Ireland is currently gripped in the greatest financial scandal in its chequered history.  It is a scandal which already has practically crippled the economy south of the border, and brought down at least one government there.  It has politicians running for cover, and has resulted in the current well-publicized stalemate which, once again, has threatened to bring the joke that passes for a devolved legislature in this part of world to its knees and makes the ‘Pig-Gate’ saga which has engulfed the Cameron administration seem like something out of an Enid Blyton story.  If you want to know what I’m on about, then just put NAMA into a search engine and prepare to have your mind well and truly boggled at the sums involved (as I type this, the headline in one local newspaper refers to £45 MILLION in “fixer fees” alone).  It is against this background that Beholder, with their well-known stance on corruption, and especially the world’s fucked-up and corrosive banking systems, returned to Belfast for a well-deserved headline slot.

Paul Docs of By Any MeansIt’s rough outside, with the first night of autumn seeing rain lashing the venue’s boarded windows.  And the fact that Heart Of A Coward are also performing in another venue a few hundred yards away doesn’t help when it comes to coaxing all but the most diehard metallians into the darkened confines of the historic Limelight.

Returning to a Belfast stage for the first time since their ear-opening appearance at Bloodstock, By Any Means deliver their particular brand of hardcore pride with intense ferocity.  New vocalist Paul Docs (pictured right) really has made the role his own, prowling the stage like a hungry tiger, while guitarist Paul ‘BAM’ Anthony and bassist Chris McDowell stand beside him as strong and powerful as the twin cranes of the city’s shipyard.  Drummer Gavin Brown also has fitted well into his role, adding his own character to the punctuated riffs – and even the distraction of Beholder’s Simon Hall invading the stage to pour an unidentified and by all accounts noxious alcoholic substance down Paul’s throat doesn’t stop the BAM steamroller from delivering another characteristically powerhouse set.

Set list:  On These Streets / City Of The Dead / Built On Respect / By Any Means / Life Support / No Last Chance / To The Point / Using Both Hands / Misnathropy (Reprise)

Anthony McCaugley of Sinocence‘Intense’ and ‘ferocity’ also are words which can be attributed to Sinocence’s set on this otherwise cold and dank evening.  Opening with the duotych of ‘Perfect Denial’ and ‘Long Way Down’, Moro immediately proves that, after some recent personal travails, he has relit the fire in his throat as he virtually breathes flames over the miniscule moshpit gathered stage front.  ‘Making A Monster’ and ‘In Kymetica’ are particularly vicious in their delivery in a short but emphatic set fuelled with furious passion and angry commitment.

Set list:  Perfect Denial / Long Way Down / Making A Monster / Ascension Rising / In Kymetica

With their messages of ‘betrayal’ and ‘deceit’ adorning their back drops, Beholder start slowly but quickly build the momentum, with their man mountain frontman Simon paraphrasing the Sins by berating and cajoling onlookers to “wake the fuck up”.  The vitriol of the band’s aural assault takes those audience members who haven’t witnessed the quintet in the flesh by surprise, but very quickly hair is flying, necks are snapping and horns are raised high and proud.

Simon Hall of Beholder, live in Belfast

The band, with their thick, broiling riffs and rhythms and dense melodies, are tighter than Carl Frampton’s technique.  Chris Bentley may be the most diminutive member of the band, but his drum technique is huge, with some absolutely stunning double kick work shining through the depth of the overall sound.  But, the star of the show is undoubtedly Hall (pictured right):  he has an amazing voice, which stretches from lyrics spewn forth with the venom of his disdain for the subjects they address to a surprising, and extremely welcome, crystal clear top end.  He also knows how to use the microphone to best effect, holding it away from his mouth to let his voice stretch and breathe into it.

The band debut some tracks from their forthcoming third album, ‘Reflections’, due for impact early next year, starting with ‘Dance Macabre’ and ‘Army Of One’; the former has a deep, swampy groove to it, while the latter is thrashier, with a progressive edge to it’s twin guitar patterns.  ‘Speak To Me’ is darkly melodic and probably as close as Beholder will ever come to a ballad, with its slower, atmospheric pace, while set closer ‘Footprints’ has a huge epic feel to it, with Hall’s spoken interludes strangely reminiscent of Marillion’s ‘Forgotten Sons’ (and that’s probably me barred from Bloodstock for life for that particular comparison!).

And so, all too prematurely, this night of in-your-face, we-don’t-give-a-flying-fuck metal came to an end, and the disappointingly small crowd was ushered into the bar next door to be subjected to the cacophonous din and whine of outrageously pathetic disco muzak while we quickly guzzled the last dregs of our pints before heading to the nearby pizza parlour!  Fuck disco:  live, breathe and die METAL \m/

Set list:  Black Flag / The Awakening / Here I Stand / Dance Macabre / Army Of One / Razorline / Speak To Me / Host / Footprints

  • By Any Means and Sinocence both play The Distortion Project’s 15th anniversary ‘From Hell To The Unknown‘ all-dayer at the Limelight Complex on Saturday October 17.
  • Photographs by The Dark Queen.  All content © PlanetMosh 2015.

About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff