Thurisaz with support from Sorrowfall and Altus
Thursday 15th October 2015 – Voodoo Belfast
Metal fans: do you cringe when you hear the words ‘avant garde’, ‘atmospheric’ or ’emotional’ used to describe heavy metal? “Oh god, wanky and boring music alert!” Right? Well, fear not! For we’re here to introduce you to a band that uses all of the above adjectives to describe themselves and is neither wanky or dull. Read on…
First, though, local groove metallers Altus took to the task of warming up the ‘school night gig’ crowd in Voodoo like a man – a loud, brash man with balls of steel, that is. Vocalist Steve ‘Sleeve’ Reynolds, clad in his ubiquitous skirt/Ewok costume begins their set by meditating on the floor, before the band abruptly blast off with ‘Malignant’ and he joins them onstage.
As usual, the combination of Reynolds’ eccentric and floaty onstage persona and the pummelling heaviness of the band creates an arresting juxtaposition, and a highly enjoyable one at that. Musically, they are as tight as a gnat’s arse tonight, with some spectacularly heavy guitar interplay and some niftily trippy non-distorted parts from guitarist Mick Legge rising up between the huge chunky riffs being fired out.
There’s nothing worse than a po-faced mob standing onstage with zero emotions being shown: happily, Altus are at the other end of the scale, with each member playing hard but joyfully. Sleeve, staying in character, is all intensity and mystery: with his bare feet and scalded cat screech, he’s like a sprite possessed by the Devil.
Their latest parlour trick – a heavy, corpulent cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Children of the Grave’ – is wheeled out, much to the delight of the crowd. They then finish with ‘Malefic Philosophy’, with its thunderous, chugging groove, during which Reynolds disappears like smoke into the crowd. Elvis has left the building…
And he’s back! Gone is the kooky costume and morbid facepaint; in its place is Smiley Steve and his bass, fronting local metal stalwarts Sorrowfall. Cracking jokes about ‘the hot singer in the other band’, he then leads them into a blistering set of thrashy blackened death metal.
They’re a faster-paced beast than Altus: think ‘punishing wall of sound that briskly kicks you in the gut’ and you’d be on the right track. They, too, play with joy and vigour, and clearly love metal.
They treat the crowd to tracks old and new, from ‘The Lonely God’ to newie ‘Dust’, all triple guitar work, lush and expansive instrumental breaks and powerful screamed vocals (and even a touch of clean singing, nice!). After taking a bit of a break from the scene, it’s great to have these guys back as they always put on a hell of a show: tight musicianship, a gregarious and talented frontman, lush and expansive songs and a clear work ethic. What more could you ask for? The crowd certainly enjoyed their set, that’s for sure.
Time now for the Belgians to invade the stage, in the form of those avant garde metallers Thurisaz. They open their set with a roar, impressing the assembled crowd immediately, and take off at a frenetic pace, complete with keyboards(!) and a surprising three vocalists: guitarist Peter Theuwen tackles death metal roars as well as some clean vocals, fellow guitarist Mattias Theuwen screams black metal style, and keyboardist Kobe Canniere has a powerful clean voice. It’s all a bit unexpected and unusual, but when you call yourself ‘avant garde’ you can presumably throw anything into the mix, as long as it sounds good!
The songs themselves are quite opus-y and epic, with almost a folky feel to them (heavy as f**k folk, mind). The clean vocals lend them a touch of beauty seldom heard in metal, while the song lengths give them a rather proggy vibe.
The combination of black/death/clean singing styles harmonises surprisingly well, whether they’re going hell for leather or pausing for some more understated moments. It’s an interesting effect that gives the music real texture. The songs also take unexpected twists and turns here and there which keeps you focused and anticipating.
Returning to Belfast after a four year absence, they treat the enraptured crowd to a packed set of songs such as ‘Falling’, ‘Switch to Red’ (which they dedicate to Sorrowfall) and a blazing ‘Point of No Return’ (“do we have headbangers? This one’s for you”), as well as a few from their latest album The Pulse of Mourning including ‘One Final Step’ and ‘All In Remembrance’.
A band that can deftly combine three types of metal singers, keyboards, Celtic, folky touches, delicate, Pink Floyd-like beauty and almost Rob Zombie-esque stomp with the bruising aural assault of heavy metal is not only breathtakingly talented but also brimming with off-the-charts inventiveness. Tonight Thurisaz took all of these elements and simply levelled Voodoo. This was no ordinary gig: this was something special. Expansive but never self-indulgent, blisteringly ferocious yet blessed with grace and fragility, Thurisaz’s music takes the words ‘avant garde’ and turns them on their head in the best way possible. Masterful.