Angel Witch, support from Darkest Era, Rabid Bitch of the North and Stereo Nasty
Sunday 15th March 2015 – Limelight, Belfast
Sunday, March 15th: an ordinary day for most Belfastians, but for some it was The Day Classic Metal Came to Belfast, with the Limelight becoming a mecca for every Northern Irish headbanger who’s ever worn (or indeed, still wears) double denim and multiple band patches.
Kicking off proceedings was Kildare’s own Stereo Nasty, who arrived onstage resplendent in brain-puncturing spiked vests (yes, all of them) and a sea of double denim. After a quick introduction they launch into their NWOBHM-style tunes, all snarling riffs and thrashy grooves. This is proper headbang metal, with shades of Accept and Judas Priest (‘Under Your Spell’ even sounds a bit like ‘Breaking the Law’), with touches of Iron Maiden thrown in for good measure.
Vocalist Mick Mahon puts in a raspy, gutsy performance, particularly during set highlight ‘Black Widow’ and closer ‘Death Machine’. With the crowd suitably both impressed and warmed up, they exit the stage having undoubtedly made some new fans tonight.
Regular readers of Chordblossom will know that we are huge fans of tonight’s second support act Rabid Bitch of the North, so expectations are high. And we were not disappointed: they launch into their set with ‘Your Misery’ and sound just as tight as the proverbial drum (speaking of which, how the hell does drummer Chris Condie make playing look so easy? There he is, knocking out some pretty fast-paced and often complex stuff and he’s just…nonchalant. Impressive, Mr Condie!).
They blast through their set, playing highlight after highlight: the epic, galloping ‘Defending Two Castles’, thrashtastic new song ‘Green Eyes’, the chugging, pulsating ‘God of Punishment’…each band member is clearly in their element onstage, with vocalist Joe Mcdonnell pouring his whole body into his performance – at one stage we wonder if he even needs the microphone – and guitarist Gerry Mulholland a picture of fierce concentration, making sure each note is perfect.
The crowd duly roar up a storm of appreciation; this is one band that you simply can’t help but smile and nod along to (or headbang, in the case of the people at the front). Their recorded material gets turned up to 11 when they play live, making them an exciting and buoyant act. After a breathtaking ‘Help! I’m Trapped in 1999!’ they wrap up with ‘Us Against Them’, with Gerry’s ballbusting riffs taking centre stage one last time. A top notch set.
Third support Darkest Era are an altogether more windswept and epic prospect, with their celtic-y metal and storytelling lyrics. Even their intro – all moody lighting and tense music – hints at what is to come.
When they do arrive onstage and vocalist Krum opens his mouth, it’s clear that ‘epic’ is a perfect description. Krum is an absolute powerhouse of a singer, with a huge, booming voice. He is beautifully backed by guitarist Sarah Wieghell as they charge through tracks such as ‘Sorrow’s Boundless Realm’ and ‘Songs of Gods and Men’.
Their music is bombastic and grandiose and the crowd interaction is natural and warm, which garners them loud applause and a room full of pumping fists. Final number ‘The Morrigan’ threatens to shake the Limelight to its very foundations in the best possible way. A vastly talented band and an enormously entertaining set. Show us what you’ve got, Angel Witch…
After a seemingly interminable wait, the house lights abruptly drop and some rather intense entrance music kicks in. Angel Witch – legends of NWOBHM – arrive onstage to a hero’s welcome and immediately launch into set opener ‘Gorgon’, which soon has the crowd bellowing along unabashedly.
Original band member Kevin Heybourne fronts the band with consummate professionalism and wields his guitar astonishingly well, at times seeming more comfortable playing than singing. The newer members (and boy has this band gone through some of those) play with warmth and enthusiasm, clearly thrilled to be attached to such a legendary group.
They gallop through their set, with any chatter kept to a bare minimum (read: a garbled announcement of the song titles), apparently preferring to let the songs speak for themselves. The crowd lap it up, headbanging, singing along and raising the horns for the duration.
Final number ‘Angel Witch’ causes an almighty roar to go up and the pit to go off – clearly their most beloved song, though not the most complicated lyrically. As mentioned, the band are in terrific form tonight, playing a well-loved selection of hits in a short but well-received set. They could have possibly done with a tad more crowd interaction and enthusiasm from vocalist Heybourne though. As frontman and sole original member, he is undoubtedly the main focus for fans, so a bit more chat may have given the set a bit more of a personal touch, a bit more ‘oomph’. Still the happy faces in the packed Limelight indicate that people were pleased enough with the evening’s entertainment. For most it was a (classic metal) Day to Remember.
Photos by Darren McVeigh of http://www.metalplanetbelfast.com/