Condemned + Hexxed + War Iron at Limelight 2, Belfast – Saturday December 22nd

CondemnedAfter some 15-plus years very firmly at the top of the local tree, NI death grinders Condemned shocked many fans a little earlier this year when they announced their decision to call it a day. The reason was not the usual ‘internal divisions’ or ‘musical differences’ bullshit that many acts churn out at such times: the band, both collectively and individually, felt that they had taken the project as far as they could, and they were best served to quit while they were ahead… and what better way to do that than with a very special farewell show at a venue that has been good to them (and vice versa)?

Opening proceedings, Belfast progressive sludgers War Iron are not a band to be taken lightly: in fact, they could quite rightly be described as true heavyweights of the city’s metal scene, with a sound that has been bludgeoning audiences into submission with their aural assaults for the past seven years or so. They are a daunting, intimidating beast of a band who play songs which wash over you with the subtlety of a tsunami, carrying you along in their doom-laden double bass intensity so heavy on the Richter Scale that the UN declares an international emergency any time the quartet even threaten to venture towards a stage.

By total contrast with the brutality of what has gone before, Hexxed’s musical progressionism soars around the room with the majesty of an albatross: highly technical, their instrumentals nonetheless are hugely melodic, and the result is a captivating and entrancing half hour which would put many other bands of their ilk very firmly to shame and ensures that the forthcoming ‘The Synapse Collision’ will be eagerly awaited in these circles.

For this farewell show – which ever-savvy promoter James Loveday, cognisant of the date, had billed as the ‘Countdown To Extinction’ – Condemned opted to play not one, but two sets: the first, with the current four piece incarnation of the band (regarded by many fans as the definitive line-up), and basically a run through of (what we didn’t know at the time would be) their only album, ‘A Dying Art’.

Despite dying of the dreaded lurgy currently doing the rounds of the Belfast metal scene, vocalist Pete Taylor nevertheless battled through, delivering yet another aggressive, in-your-face performance and giving tracks such ‘My Blood Runs Black’, ‘A Dying Art’ itself and ‘The Body In The Box’ the right degree of vitriol. The rest of the band were also on fire, with Willy Taylor covering every last millimetre of his massive kit with his characteristic aplomb, while Owen Boden’s bass work thundered and snapped and Steve Moore laid down one deadly riff and solo after another.

The second set re-united the band’s original line-up, including bassist Darren Lavery, who had flown over from Manchester especially for last hurrah with his buddies, and rhythm guitarist Graeme ‘Skippy’ Young (who Clarke informed us hadn’t picked up his instrument since leaving the band in 2004) . The result is a furious neck-snapping, back-breaking, bone-crunching blitzkrieg of classic Condemned blood and guts, finishing right back where they began with the mammoth ‘Slaughtering’, the first track from their very first demo…

A great send off for a great band who will be sadly missed.

About Mark Ashby

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