What the hell is this metal stuff anyway?
And, why you should pay attention to the heavier side of Northern Ireland music
TWO thirds of the periodic table is made up of metallic elements, and metal ores are amongst the most mined materials on the planet. Most of these elements are ‘heavy’ in the atomic sense. And, Northern Ireland right now has a wealth of heavy metal.
Pushed to the side by music journalists, sidelined by radio shows, the heavy metal music scene is regarded with disdain; a novelty feature akin to local country and western music.
Yet, despite this heavy metal continues to flourish with literally dozens of Northern Ireland bands plying their trade, alongside their closely related hard rock kinfolk.
Wander down to the Limelight2 on a Saturday between five and nine pm and you’ll see a range of acts blasting out heavy riffs and screaming solos on stage as part of The Distortion Project’s weekly RockD.
And, it provides an outlet for bands, and can be a springboard for many a band to hone their craft.
The latest band to see it as a step up is Donum Dei. After Hatriot pulled out of the Onslaught/Artillery line-up Donum Dei were given the support slot, and despite pre-gig nerves delivered a blistering set that saw headbangers young and old raise the ‘horns’ in salute.
Engaging stage presence, well arranged songs and excellent musicianship were displayed by the four-piece.
But, local metal bands are also reaching out beyond these shores. Long standing members of the metal community played at this year’s Sonisphere Festival at Knebworth manner, as did the classic metal sound from Stormzone.
Stormzone, now with their third album receiving plays worldwide will also be performing at the prestigious boutique festival, Bloodstock Open Air, where they will be joined by Rabid Bitch of the North. RBOTN have been gigging behind their three-track cassette EP Defending Two Castles.
Add into that the success of Sinocence – currently recording Vol2 of No Gods, No Masters – in winning a slot at festivals alongside local classic rockers Screaming Eagles.
The interest local heavy metal garners is, however, a two-edged sword. While Anthrax, Slayer, Devildriver and the like can sell-out the Limelight1, and Iron Maiden and Metallica can sell-out the Odyssey, turn-up at the Diamond Rock Club, RockD, Voodoo and you’ll find a smattering of fans, ranging from 50 to 100 paying customers.
Gig prices can be prohibitively expensive, of course, and once you add in beer tokens and something from the merchandise stand £100 is pretty much gone.
In other words, on one hand heavy metal is as big as ever in terms of the ‘name’ acts, while local bands struggle to gain recognition inside and outside Northern Ireland owing to prohibitive touring costs.
Some manage the transition, such as long standing alt/metal rockers Therapy? and the emerging Celtic Black Metal act Darkest Era. Stormzone have also gathered international fans through gigging and festival slots.
The challenge is not so much for the bands, but the ‘fans’. Looking at the acts named above, plus a list of others such as A Little Bitter, Altus, Defyed and many, many more a fan of hard rock and metal could do worse than to turn-up at a local gig, by a local promoter to see heavy metal at its grass roots.
Or, if all that seems a wee bit too much, if you’re planning to go to this year’s Sunflower Fest check out Zombified – they’ll scare the living bejesus out of faint hearts. They really should have their own place on the periodic table, with their intense death metal attack…