It started back on the cusp of the millennium, in the pub next door, when a group of like-minded friends came together and decided to put on a few metal shows of a Saturday afternoon. Fifteen years later, those ‘RocKD’ sessions (they take their name from that of the bar, Katy Dalys) are still going strong, albeit in the somewhat bigger adjoining Limelight 2. In that same period, The Distortion Project – now helmed solely by the hard-working and mild-natured James Loveday – also has brought some of the biggest names in metal to this part of the planet we call Mosh.
But, not without cost: we live in financially dangerous times, and earlier this year, James was forced to launch a crowd-funding campaign, about which we at PM have written on several occasions. Coinciding with the online campaign, several local bands came together and offered their services for a benefit gig, with the result that Belfast’s metallians came in their masses to watch seven bands, from both sides of the Irish border, both rip up the stage and pay their respects to man who has flown the flag for the genre loftily and proudly for the past decade and a half.
During soundcheck – your PM scribe was given exclusive pre-show access – the venue’s sound engineer was overheard to describe openers Molarbear as “the new heaviest band in Belfast”. And he certainly wasn’t far wrong, as the band deliver huge concrete slabs of sound coupled with tight melodies and taut dense rhythms overtopped with vocals with enough acid to strip wallpaper at a hundred paces. The use of three guitars adds a density to the overall sound, augmenting the heaviness of the rhythm section. They also have one of the easiest songs to sing along to, as every word in ‘Swearwolf’ is “fuck”.
The combination of an early start (doors opened at 3pm) and seven bands (most of whom haven’t able to line check never mind get a full soundcheck) means that things soon start to run behind schedule, and Baleful Creed take to the stage almost 15 minutes after their allotted time. When they do, they deliver heavy, crunching doom with thick, dense grooves mixing with meandering melodies over a foundation so solid that the bodies will never be found! ‘Autumn Leaves’ is both majestic and hungry, while ‘Illuminati’ is taut and blackened, helped by Davy Greer’s dense, thrumming bass and Fin Finlay’s eloquently punchy vocal delivery. The quartet also debut a new song, ‘Memento Mori’, which is again driven by a huge bass line and is one of the heaviest songs BC have produced.
By Any Means had promised a few surprises for this special gig – and they lived up to their word, with former Gacys Threads kitman Stephen Currie temporarily taking over drum duties (regular stool sitter Gavin Brown was off gallivanting around Dublin ahead of the following evening’s support slot with Suicidal Tendencies), while Sinocence’s Anto McCaughley joining in the fun on second guitar. Appropriately, they kick off their set with ‘Built On Respect’, a vitriolic, two-fingered act of defiance symbolising the unity of the Belfast metal community in the face of adversity, and ‘By Any Means’, which clearly demonstrates how that stand is and will be taken. Despite guitarist Paul Anthony battling a dose of the ‘flu, BAM, like the two bands before them, up their personal energy levels – and the crowd responds accordingly. After dedicating a rare cover, Motörhead’s ‘The Hammer’, “from one legend to another”. ‘Taking Back What’s mine sees Overoth vocalist Andy make an early appearance as he vaults the stagefront barrier to join Paul Docs and Defyed’s Wayne Donaldson for an impromptu gang vocal. That’s the spirit of this show: one of camaraderie and unity.
Since their formation three years ago, Altus have changed musical direction as often as their line-up, moving from Trivium-meets-Lamb Of God groove to their present Emperor-esque melodeath vibe. But, there is no doubt that this is the tightest incarnation of the band, and this is evident in the leap forward in both creative and physical presentation. Sleeve, for example, eschews his previous nervously humorous between-song banter for more melodramatic monologues, reflecting the band’s denser and more darkly vibrant sound. They also, as the robe-clad frontman puts it, “give praise to the old gods” with an impressive re-interpretation of the apocalypse-inducing Sabbath classic ‘Children Of The Grave’.
Two Tales Of Woe are the first of the two bands to have travelled up from Dublin, and they do so to deliver massive meaty hooks couple with huge, chunky grooves. The rock solid rhythm section underpins the heavily beautiful intertwining guitar melodies, while the harmonies sweep and soar in a way which belies the underlying density of the sound – but it’s a contrast which works on both emotional and visceral levels. Unfortunately, with time now drastically over-running, they are forced to cut their set short, but not before closer ‘I’m Not Ready To Die’ evokes the spirit of the (now) evening: this scene is not about to roll over and disappear (dis)gracefully into the darkness of musical mediocrity…
Fellow Dubliners Xerosun turn on a seriously heavy groove with a death metal overtone. Vocalist Martyna once again demonstrates her tremendous range, switching seemlessly from demon-summoning death growls and angel-seducing sub-soprano to produce the sort of effect that the likes of Lacuna Coil need two singers to achieve. The other impressive performance is that of bassist David Kuchar, who intermingles into the twin guitar harmonies while at the same time complimenting and encouraging Damian Dziennik’s punishing but highly technical and precise drum patterns and heart-pounding double kick attack. Again, however, it is the southerners who have to pay the price of the earlier over-runs, with their set cut short after just 20 minutes.
Just like the sky outside, the atmosphere darkens to welcome death metal stalwarts Overoth. The backdrop of Jay’s furious blastbeats is matched by his tight, snappy percussion and Andy’s dynamic bass riffs, while the twin guitars of Andy P and Dan shred hellish harmonies and malevolent melodies to deliver brutality at its most bestial and sublime level yet attain levels of dark ecstasy which only the finest proponents of this genre can generate. Frontman Andy is a commanding and towering presence, almost demanding everyone’s full attention without even striking a chord or growling a lyric, and with the band’s dust-covered clothing and blackened faces evoking the image of road warriors of the apocalypse, Overoth are nigh on the perfect DM package and a Titanic-raising way to end this most special of evenings.
With the crowd-funding campaign now having passed it’s halfway mark, here is to another 15 years of James Loveday and The Distortion Project bringing us the best heavy fucking metal around.
- Photographs by The Dark Queen.
- All content © PlanetMosh 2016. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without prior permission.
Forthcoming gigs by The Distortion Project:
Thursday 18 February: Metal 2 The Masses NI Heat Two- Voodoo
Sunday 21 February: Ensiferum / Metastoll / Altus – Limelight 2
Saturday 27 February: Zlatanera + Slomatics + Bad Boat
Monday 29 February: Exodus / Lost Society – Limelight 2
Friday 4 March: Sabaton / Alestorm / Bloodbound
Friday 11 March: The Quireboys / Screaming Eagles / Massive Wagons – Limelight
Monday 14 March: Cradle Of Filth / Winterfylleth – Limelight 1
Wednesday 6 April: Conan / TBC / Slomatics – Voodoo
Saturday 9 April – Overkill / Vader / One Machine – Limelight 1
Saturday 23 April – Korpiklaani / Moonsorrow
Friday 1 May – Corrosion Of Conformity – Limelight 1
Friday 28 October – Hotter Than Hell – Limelight 1