School night gigs in Belfast – possibly in common with most other locales – are notoriously difficult to fill, unless of course they involve a “big name” touring band. But, increasingly, Thursday nights seem to be becoming the “new Friday” and so a healthy crowd of 70 or so grinders and deathsters braved the freezing cold conditions to find their way to the city’s most intimate venue for the return to these shores of Welsh deathcore deities Desecration.
Openers The Crawling are already on stage by the time your humble PR scribe climbs the two flights of stairs to the club room. Playing only their second ever gig – and their first with this line up – the experience of the constituent members nonetheless shines through immediately. Their dark, growling, grunting blackened metal has a rock ‘n’ stroll groove, and is deeply melodic and atmospheric, centred around Stuart Rainey’s thick bass sound and Andy Clarke’s impactful minimalistic guitar riffs.
With drummer Gary Beattie pulling a double shift, and therefore no need to change his set up, it’s a remarkably quick turnaround before Zombified launch into their hard and grinding blackened death metal. What stands out tonight, thanks to the thoroughly excellent sound mix, is the deceptively subtle, almost jazzy, feel to the bass lines, which counterpoints the band’s otherwise brutally annihilistic approach: this is best exemplified on ‘Through A Black Lens’, one of a number of new songs unveiled this evening, whose dark, winding melody gives the tune a tense, doomy undercurrent.
Making their first ever visit to the island of Ireland, Bury’s Foetal Juice deliver insane grindcore with a gross sense of humour with songs about subjects as diverse as Twisted Sister, Kurt Russell, jacking off in a cup of tea and other lunacy. Ben and Rob provide a tight and solid rhythm section, with the latter having an easy style which belies his intense double-kicking beatdown, underpinning Ry’s twisting, wrenching guitar and Sam’s harsh, crushing vocals. One of the highlights of their set is the sublimely titled ‘Service Station Masturbation’, which summarizes every aspect of their style in three inglorious moments which get necks snapping and horns raised instantaneously.
The last time Desecration played this part of the world, the Newport trio lived up to their name, and they returned to Belfast filled with the intent to re-violate the city. After a few technical problems force a somewhat delayed start, the self-styled “hardcore death metal bastards” deliver a fierce aural assault propelled by huge driving rhythms, furious but precise drumming and head smashing riffs as the three musicians sound off and within each other to produce a tightly integrated sound. The occasional melody is just as brain-impressing, while Ollie and Andi also display a self-deprecating between song banter – much of it aimed at drummer Mic, who constantly has to reset his kit after repeatedly battering it into submission. The result is a satisfying set of classic deathgrind delivered with ease, professionalism, cheek and panache – all the right ingredients in one horribly pleasant recipe which not even Gordon Ramsey could match.