Grand Magus – Voodoo Lounge, Dublin – 13/03/2014

It’s amazing the difference half an hour can make.  One disadvantage for those of us living in Belfast and wishing to attend gigs down the motorway in Dublin is the infrequency of late night return coach services from the Irish capital to that north of the border.  With the last public transport service leaving at the ungodly hour of 11pm – usually just minutes after gigs are letting out – punters face the prospect of either almost killing themselves sprinting to the station or hanging about (usually in the freezing cold) outside same until another bus deigns to turn up in the wee small hours… thank the metal gods, therefore, for private operators, whose service leaves from smack in the city centre just a short half hour later, making it much more amenable to the travelling gig-goer…

The Vintage Caravan
The Vintage Caravan

So, with that little guide to the vagaries of the Irish transport system out of the way, it’s down the business in hand, and the reason why a clutch of Belfastards have travelled south of the border this fine Spring Thursday evening – to catch a triptych of power trios in the rather unassuming surroundings of Dublin’s Voodoo Lounge:  a venue nestling a brisk dander along the banks of the River Liffey from aforesaid bus stop, and unique in that it doesn’t actually have a ‘proper’ front door, with patrons entering via what to all intents and purposes is the (suitably named ‘Black Magic’) café next door!

First up, Icelandic retro-psychedelics The Vintage Caravan seem genuinely delighted to making their first foray to this part of the world, and – despite a few early technical problems – their youthful enthusiasm quickly transfers itself to the growing band of early comers (which does not, unfortunately, include the vast majority of the Belfast contingent, most of whom arrive just seconds before the band quit the stage).  Bassist Alex in particular is a ball of unleashed energy, not standing still for a single second (even while retuning his instrument), bounding around and grinning from ear to ear like a cross between Flea and Sweet Savage mainman Ray Haller.  Frontman Óskar is charismatic and likeable, engaging fluidly with his audience, and the band’s set of punchy, melodic psychedelia is well-paced and passionately delivered.  Definitely a young band who will be welcomed back to the Emerald Isle with open arms by the many new fans they made tonight.

wGM_0192Talking of bands making new friends, I have to be honest and admit that I had never even heard of Asomvel before I saw their name on the Facebook post advertising this gig – but, they have earned an immediate convert to their particular cause.  Delivering a punchy set that’s about as subtle as a Belfast punishment beating, the trio play Motorhead-infused classic metal, very much in the vein of Tank and Vardis:  it’s hard, heavy, unrelenting, pure honest-to-badness old school stuff with an equally old school attitude – just get up there, plug in, play your collective asses off and then retire to the bar/merch stand and wait for the fallout (which in this case involved your reviewer parting with some hard-earned Euros to fill the gaping hole which suddenly had arisen in his CD collection!)…

Grand Magus - Dublin 2014
Grand Magus – Dublin 2014

‘Triumph And Power’ summarizes not only the quintessential nature of Grand Magus’ recently released eighth album, but also their intense live performances, which always are a triumph of powerful heavy metal delivered with the force and accuracy of a brogue kick.  They quickly turn the tiny venue into the biggest sweatbox on the planet, as JB cajoles his adoring fans to give him more and more in return for what he, Fox and Ludwig are laying down upon them.  The three mages play good old-fashioned heavy metal at its best, with no airs or graces, and tonight is no exception, as the three Swedes are clearly pleased to be doing just that, and in front of a hugely appreciative crowd of fellow metallians (some of whom have travelled over from the States just for this gig!).  The set is solid and powerful mix of tracks from the new album and fan favourites, with the grand finale of ‘Iron Will’, ‘Triumph And Power’ and ‘Hammer Of The Gods’ (everything seemed to come in threes with this gig) seeing every fist, horn and voice raised in salute to another masterful performance from a band who are one of a handful who truly understand and embody the true essence of heavy metal \m/

Photographs by Steve Dempsey / Down The Barrel (

About Mark Ashby

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