Band of Skulls with support from DZ Deathrays
Thursday 30th October 2014 – Limelight 2, Belfast
An early concert with the doors of Limelight 2 opened at 6pm to greet a crowd of impatient rock music fans. We didn’t have long to wait until the first band adorned the stage to kick off the night. DZ Deathrays, an Australian ‘thrash-pop’ duo, dive straight into their first song: A very heavy, riff-driven tune which sets the tone perfectly for what the rest of their set has in store. With screaming vocals which contrast superior melodic choruses, captivating time signatures and hugely dynamic stage presence, this band are the two-piece equivalent of Slayer crossed with Placebo. Everything about DZ Deathrays exudes power, from the constantly changing tempo to the obscure scales layering the punchy rhythm that the drums smash out. Because of this, DZ Deathrays are a very hard to define group; pop melody choruses coalesce surprisingly well with thrash metal verses, and the product is unfamiliar to the common music fan. Observing the onlooking audience, who are clearly enjoying this new brand of music as they headbang along with frontman Shane Parsons, this genre clearly took Belfast by surprise.
From the side of the stage, walking into the sight of the eager followers, Band of Skulls begin their set with a broken, segmented rendition of the ever popular ‘Light Of The Morning’. The silence between the band’s playing was filled with screams from the crowd, and smiles from the band. This was heavily welcomed by the audience, evident from their ecstatic reaction, and much singing. Following on with songs decorated with steady palm muted guitar riffs, harmonic vocals, and anthemic choruses, elements in their live performance become more dominant in their set when compared to the record. This is most prominent in the back and forth conversational instrumentation between bass and guitar, an element mirrored with equally conversational vocals between Russel Marsden and Emma Richardson. It wasn’t long before the band had the whole place buzzing, prepared for more of the same and a night filled with energetic indie rock.
Alluring the crowd, Russel Marsden exhibits a lot of expert improvisation on the guitar at each chance he’s given, blending perfectly with the rhythm section of the band. To do this alone is admirable, but from this performance it’s hard to describe the aesthetic appeal of his playing style – especially while also singing a twisting vocal melody – which is an element the crowd seem to appreciate and acknowledge with excessive ardour. Guiding Marsden’s guitar playing was Emma Richardson on bass and Matt Hayward on drums, playing in perfect synchronisation to provide excellent backing. Richardson’s stylish bass guitar playing is surprisingly accomplished considering she plays over equally complicated vocal melodies and harmonies, each blending elegantly into the songs.
Throughout the set, Band of Skulls heavily demonstrate their power in performance with dynamic shoegaze movements on stage which paralleled well with their nineties vibe. As they powered through their set, more of these alternative dimensions developed. With the use of Western scales, progressive grunge components and the vocal harmonies, the band consistently enticed completely positive reactions from their audience. As the crowd became more and more entranced by the band’s music, Band of Skulls grew more and more engrossed as their performance progressed, with sections of introvert improvisation between the three, not to mention the consistently virtuosic guitar solos, ornamented with syncopation and incontestable drum rhythm from Hayward.
Many songs in the set came from the new album ‘Himalayan’, along with older hits which surely pleased every one of their fans in attendance. The passion in the performance of these songs is demonstrated to the crowd, who clearly relate to them. One instance, during their performance of ‘Sweet Sour’, the band even chose to eliminate the multiple effects overlaying the music to leave clean guitar, bass, and vocal harmonies, giving a raw sound and maybe even providing an insight into the songwriting process and development. And then came the song many of us were expecting – ‘Death By Diamonds And Pearls’. An immediately obvious crowd favourite, perhaps mostly among those new to this band, however this was a different version to some degree. The vocal harmonies, guitar melodies, additional breakdown sections, and even the overall rhythm at certain points in the song differed in very subtle and short-lived ways. Certainly a peculiar take on a well known song, however I’m not sure the crowd noticed much different due to going completely insane via the medium of dance.
Band of Skulls ended their set with an emission of discordant ambience following the illustrious ‘Hollywood Bowl’ from their first record. A perfect conclusion to the night of music that preceded it. This show gave the impression that Band of Skulls have rightly earned their mass following; a performance of such high quality – inducing enjoyment and adoration from the crowd – rarely goes unappreciated. Not solely regarding the dimension of stage performance, but also in terms of musicianship: With radical, ‘out-there’ guitar and bass riffs, awe-inspiring build-ups finished off with more than satisfactory climaxes, and very advanced melodies – surprisingly obscure and unexpected – integrated with the band’s signature blues rock vibe, Band of Skulls know how to give their audience something to cheer for.