Hornets with support from Spittin’ Teeth & Slomatics
Saturday 26th April 2014 – Voodoo, Belfast
Belfast hardcore troupe Hornets have been gathering a great deal of local and national momentum in recent months ahead of their new EP No Faith. Having only briefly caught a small portion of a previous show from the band before, I thought that their launch for the EP would be the perfect opportunity to catch up with them. It also helped to see the deal sweetened by the addition of Slomatics and Spittin’ Teeth. So a good bill was promised, and a good time was had.
However, what I didn’t know at the time was that when I sat down to write this review, I’d end up having to type sentences I could never have predicted. What follows then, dear reader, is a review of a gig that took a few slightly unpredictable turns over the course of three hours.
I arrive at the venue as Belfast crusty-hardcore act Spittin’ Teeth begin their set, and whilst I knew very little about them beforehand, I had some preconceptions, and they’re pretty much confirmed straight away. The band ply a straight-ahead, no-nonsense brand of metalcore that nods to classic beatdown merchants such as Biohazard and Hatebreed. The riffs and breakdowns are less clinical, so there’s a ramshackle punk spirit at play too, not to mention an entertainingly aggro frontman. Not knowing the material beforehand didn’t limit my enjoyment of some impressive displays of musical muscle, and though the crowd are probably at the timid stage for most of their set, they do get a one-man moshpit going at one point, leading me to think that on another night and somewhat higher up the bill, this band could do some damage. As it stands, there’s no reinvention of the wheel, and they won’t be for everyone, but personally I found a lot to like in there, and they got my foot-a-stomping.
As Belfast’s sludge behemoths Slomatics take to the stage to set up, it becomes apparent that Spittin’ Teeth and a lot of their friends have occupied the back area, and there doesn’t seem to be too many shrinking violets amongst them. Things get even more rambunctious at one point once a stripper gets introduced to the situation – apparently it’s someone’s birthday. This pulls attention away from the stage, and results in the first Sentence I Could Not Have Predicted Typing of the evening, in which a harried soundman has to tell Slomatics to delay their set for a bit while a stripper finishes. Somewhat politely the band hold off, but eventually build up their sci-fi tinged intro regardless, but not before the second Sentence I Could Not Have Predicted Typing, in which a member of Slomatics, not to be outdone, bares his arse to the crowd prior to the intro riff.
And what a riff it is. In fact they all are: currently riding high on the release of latest album ‘Estron’, Slomatics have embraced a sci-fi aesthetic that has deepened their trademark drone metal, and added pin-sharp dynamics which suggest the band know the value of limiting bludgeon. ‘Futurian’ in particular winds down gently after a tumultuous duration, and the effective lead breaks of ‘And Yet It Moves’ suggest grasping for higher ground whilst trapped in quicksand – quicksand made of riffs.
Whilst owing much to the doom genre, Slomatics side-step the more funereal aspects of it, with vocals that straddle the mid-point between despair and rage, and an experimental edge that calls to mind The Melvins. What becomes apparent over the course of the set is that Slomatics are now hugely adept at enmeshing the listener: the crowd of swaying, bobbing heads suggests an immersion in the band’s ebb and flow, and if you’re not immersed, the likes of ‘Lost Punisher’ are well able to drag you in by the scruff of the neck. It’s an environment as much as it is a set of songs, and it’s hugely effective: all you can really do is sway along with it – unless, of course, you are the subject of the third Sentence I Could Not Have Predicted Typing, in which case you are a lady who is expressly determined to strut some very funky stuff to Slomatics, and who does so for the duration of the set.
Proceedings end with the somewhat metronomic / hypnotic behemoth ‘Beyond Acid Canyon’, a stand-out with an uncharacteristically delicate, almost sleight-of-hand middle section that serves to set up the overwhelming loudness of the remainder. All, told, Slomatics walk off-stage with another job well done under their collective belts.
No doubt sensing the opportunity for momentum, Hornets waste no time in taking the stage to swathes of feedback that draws the crowd forward, and storm into an instrumental intro that demands the attention prior to opening track ‘For Always’ – a track that provides a blueprint for their sound for the initiated. It’s a spiky slice of garage metal driven by tight drumming and a searingly energetic showing from the band. ‘Jehovah’ follows suit, its chugging rhythms giving way to frenetic punk blasts and back again. It’s at this point that the stage becomes too small for the band, the frontman spending most of his time within or above the far-less-timid-at-this-stage crowd. ‘Behind Me’ is more mid-paced, featuring some excellent call-and-response vocals between the drummer and vocalist, whose confidence spills over and finally sparks a small pit flurry.
Over the course of a short set, Hornets cover a lot of bases along the punk, hardcore and metal spectrum, and they do so seamlessly, sounding fully-formed yet without the slickness of what might get passed off as similar in genre: it’s, to coin a hardcore cliché, refreshingly ‘real’ in spirit and execution. This earthiness is expanded upon by their call for uploading footage of EP lead-track ‘Stay Free’ to compile a live video – needless to say, exuberance is encouraged and received as the crowd laps up a naggingly simplistic but hugely effective collection of riffs that pushes the intensity to an impressive level. Closing with the impressive (if reminiscent of Slayer’s ‘Angel Of Death’) ‘F-Strings’ builds the communion between band and crowd to it’s highest level, and a fledgling circle pit is galvanised, which culminates in one punter being hoisted aloft and carried round the stage area: a fitting end to a confident and assured set that, to my eyes, could see Hornets making waves much further afield than locally – there are quite a few bands they could completely take to school on this showing, and ‘No Faith’ should provide them with a valuable first step towards doing so.