Altus, support from Two Tales of Woe, Cursed Sun and Disconnect
Saturday 22nd August – Limelight 2, Belfast
It warms the cockles of our collective hearts here at Chordblossom to watch a fledgling band take it’s first faltering steps before growing in confidence and skill to become a force to be reckoned with. One such band is modern groove metallers Altus, who have overcome the usual teething problems and lineup changes to really make a name for themselves in the local metal scene.
Tonight’s gig, their first headliner with their new-ish lineup (featuring Steve ‘Sleeve’ Reynolds on vocals) is a case in point: not only have they bagged a prestigious Distortion Project headline spot, but it comes with a lineup that shows exactly what this island has when it comes to metal.
First up, it’s industrial/extreme metal duo Disconnect. Describing their music as ‘nihilistic love songs’, they eschew a full band for a guitarist/vocalist, bassist and, well, a computer. The resulting sound is deep, discordant and groove-laden, with easily the most reverb-y vocals this reviewer has ever heard.
In true extreme metal fashion, their songs have a rather unstructured, meandering feel, which after awhile actually becomes quite uncomfortable: there’s a constant sense of something on the verge of happening that never really eventuates. Vocalist Miles switches between a deep metal growl and a rather unexpectedly floaty croon, leaving the crowd rather bemused at times. There are traces of melody peeping out from some of the songs, and they certainly have nailed the mash-up of the heaviness of extreme metal and the static throb of industrial metal. However, the overriding sense is that the duo, although obviously talented (bassist Paul in particular), they need to recruit more members in order to be taken seriously as a ‘real band’; at the moment Disconnect have a ‘project in my basement’ feel to them.
A noticeable increase in crowd numbers greets the next band: it’s those quirky fellows Cursed Sun! Drummer Chris McMullan is attending a wedding tonight, so the band have recruited mega talented sticksman – and vocalist Andrew ‘Jones’ Cassidy’s brother – Davy to bash the kit. After a protracted (and astonishingly loud) drum soundcheck the band slam into their set, and heads begin nodding appreciatively. Cassidy’s vocals are as nimble and capricious as ever; the man is simply a joy to behold onstage. Tonight they sound ballsy and taut, nailing their tricky time changes with aplomb. Cassidy wastes little time staying onstage, bouncing onto the floor and pacing like a caged animal, as well as interacting well with the crowd.
A few covers are thrown in tonight (possibly due to Davy only having one practice session!): a slamming version of Mudvayne’s ‘Dig’, which really suits their nu-metal leaning, and an unexpected ‘Redneck’ by Lamb of God that is an absolute balltearer. The crowd duly goes freaking nuts to these two songs in particular, which convey Cursed Sun’s ‘split personality’ nature to perfection.
Now that everyone is thoroughly awake (!) it’s time for Dubliners Two Tales of Woe to showcase their sludge/doom/classic metal. The crowd is at its peak as they roll out their bluesy-but-teeth-rattlingly-heavy groove; it’s doomy, it’s rocking, it’s infectious as hell and everywhere you look people are beaming. Vocalist Carl King is in possession of a fine and pleasingly rich bellow which blends effortlessly with their heavy yet jaunty feelgood music.
Belting through tracks such as ‘SOS’, ‘Serenade of Silence’ and ‘Rise’ (wittily dedicated to “all the ladies here”), their music is certainly doomy and sludgy, but it’s also beefy, beefy, beefy, with some great vocal harmonising and grooves that could knock down walls.
King is also a great one for a bit of crowd banter; he is droll and charismatic which adds another layer to the crowd’s enjoyment. Technical issues aside, they put on a boneshaking performance throughout their forty five minute set which goes down an absolute storm with the enthusiastic audience.
As can often happen at gigs, the time has run on (musicians!), so it’s almost twenty to nine by the time Altus climb the stairs to begin their auspicious headline set. No matter: they launch headfirst into it with their customary vibratingly heavy abandon and sound simply ferocious from their opening chords. Vocalist Reynolds is once again clad in his Star Wars cowl/skirt combo, falling to his knees almost immediately from the effort he puts into his unearthly shrieks and growls (at one point he let loose such a scream that a bottle leapt off the table beside us – true story!).
Reynolds’ devilish theatricality aside, the band are on tight form tonight, sounding brutally heavy as they pound the eardrums of those present.
An unhinged, death metal-ish cover of Sabbath’s ‘Children of the Grave’ is a real highlight, setting heads banging ecstatically both on and off the stage.
Reynolds is really coming into his own as a frontman as he grows in confidence; whether he is offstage bowing to the band and audience members, drolly berating himself for announcing the wrong song (“apparently I can’t read a setlist!”) or swanning around onstage seemingly in a world of his own, he is funny, charismatic and quite bonkers.
By the time their set draws to a close the crowd has thinned somewhat, most likely due to many heading to a late gig at the Diamond. It’s a shame, as Altus are always entertaining and really deserve to be playing to a full house. They wrap up their punishing set with the thunderously groove-heavy ‘Malefic Philosophy’ having impressed all present.
From gigs like this, it’s clear that Altus’ star is on the rise in the local metal scene: they work hard, play harder and have hopefully solidified their current lineup as it works very well indeed. Onward and upward!