Assault on T13
Friday 26th September 2014 – T13, Belfast
Belfast’s reputation as a shipbuilding city is, of course, renowned the world over. Unfortunately, rather lax promotion on the part of tonight’s venue, the Titanic Quarter-located T13 meant that this gig was barely known throughout the local metal community, let alone anyone else. This resulted in a disappointingly poor turnout, despite the Herculean efforts of organiser Michael Legge and Planetmosh’s local scribe Mark Ashby.
For those who did turn up, they were treated to six local bands displaying the jawdroppingly talent and variety that this wee country’s metal scene has to offer.
First up were the aforementioned Mr. Legge’s band Altus. The last year or so has seen a lot of upheaval for these guys, but based on tonight’s performance they have settled on a lineup and a sound that suits them down to the ground. Taking to the stage whilst it was still light in the mammoth ship repair warehouse, they begin with a doomy guitar intro before vocalist Steve Reynolds opens his mouth and screams – and jaws drop throughout the crowd. A slight man with a huge voice (which perfectly encapsulates the new sound of Altus – beefy, powerful and heavy), Reynolds snarls and roars his way through the band’s set. At times channelling Liam Cormier from Cancer Bats, at times going as deep as Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg, he is an intense performer with a slightly unhinged air whilst singing – check out his Ozzy-esque crazed grin – and an amiable, friendly warmth when not. He is more than capably backed by the rest of the band, including the inimitable Mr. Legge, on tracks such as the pounding and brutal ‘Stranger Amongst Men’ and groovy, hard-hitting final number ‘Born to Exist’.
It seems, then, that the band’s recent turmoil has resulted in a new, heavier sound; a sort of doomy, stoned death metal full of aggression and dripping with menace. Definitely no bad thing and a hell of a way to open up proceedings.
Next up, it’s time for a bit of hardcore: “We are Defyed!” hollers frontman Wayne Donaldson, over a bruising drum intro and charging riffs. What follows is a blistering set of galloping punk anthems, with Donaldson spitting bile-filled political lyrics with passion and aggression. It’s not all about the politicians and their evil ways though: set highlight ‘Victims’ is a rallying cry to everyone, with its roar of “we are not victims, strength from within!”. The band are tight and ferocious, and give their all despite the small and somewhat reserved crowd.
Dubliners Theories Divide follow them, minus their bass player but certainly not lacking in enthusiasm and riffage as a result. They roar into life and go from ‘go’ to ‘woah!’ within seconds. Their Motorhead-y vibe and Metallica-y chainsaw riffs are a clear nod to their heroes – it’s a bit chaotic but very, very catchy. This is pure, joyful heavy metal.
They play half a dozen or so songs from their arsenal, including ‘Buried Alive’ and ‘We Stand’, wrapping it up with their latest single, a thunderous beast of a number entitled ‘Reborn’. Vocalist Garreth Quinn is humble and earnest, remarking that tonight marks the band’s first trip to Belfast and that they are having an brilliant time. It’s pretty clear that they need to be brought up here again to pummel Belfast’s collective ears with their superb modern take on classic metal (hopefully with their bassist next time…)
If you like your metal full of groove and with the added rock swagger of the likes of Aerosmith then Zlatanera are the very band for you. Their toe-tappy, headbang-y tracks include, as always, “a trilogy of tracks about Satan”, and are a pleasing mix of groove metal, rock and the stoner vibe of Sabbath (their first song channels ‘Iron Man’ and vocalist Andy Campbell even sounds like Ozzy at times).
When they hilariously dedicate their final number to recently ousted health minister Edwin Poots it is obvious that this is a band who don’t take themselves too seriously. Those riffs though man – they’re definitely serious…
After a brief false start, Scimitar, the fifth band on the lineup, begin the equally serious task of playing classic, balls to the wall thrash metal. There are no frills or subgenres here, just Flying V’s, pounding drums and flailing hair throughout.
Their visceral, dramatic forty-five minute set contains songs both old and new, from their epic first ever track ‘The Act of War’, to ‘Beaten to Death’ from their last EP, and newie ‘Black Death’. They come thick and fast, with drummer Ryan Atkin a blur of limbs and vocalist Jonny Gray snarling and howling like a man possessed.
The band, Gray in particular, have grown in confidence with each gig, and one gets the sense that they are really hitting their stride now. Looking forward to hearing new material from these thrashers!
Headliners Rabid Bitch of the North arrive onstage to an all but deserted venue, a result of the previously mentioned lack of support from the venue and, one suspects, the late hour (late for an all ages gig, anyway). Nonetheless, the trio play as hard as they always do. Opening with ‘Your Misery’, they rattle through their NWOBHM-influenced songs, including the title track of recent EP ‘Defending Two Castles’, the sibilant ‘Sisyphus’, ‘God of Punishment’ and the brilliantly bonkers ‘Help! I’m Trapped in 1999!’. As ever, vocalist and bassist Joe Mcdonnell looks every inch the rockstar, guitarist Gerry Mulholland is all intense concentration and sticksman Chris Condie makes his often complex drumming look cool and easy.
RBOTN are one of those bands that come alive onstage and blow their recorded material out of the water. The song’s long instrumental breaks really allow the band to show off their individual prowess and talent, while vocally Mcdonnell is startling and powerful – all of which results in a mesmerising performance. They perfectly channel their NWOBHM influences such as Iron Maiden, Accept and Judas Priest, culminating in a riotous, hugely enjoyable cover of Priest’s ‘Metal Gods’. If anyone can do Rob Halford and co justice, it’s these guys!
A set packed with fast-paced, chugging metallic riffs and swaggeringly catchy drums comes to a close with ‘Us Against Them’, during which Mcdonnell unfailingly hits all of his high notes with aplomb. It’s a suitably epic ending to a stunning set – and indeed, evening.
Despite the problems that the venue’s lack of promotion (and indeed, professionalism) caused, Assault on T13 was at least musically a success. It was possibly a bit too long, and a bit too late for Belfast’s younger metalheads – a shame, as the variety and talent displayed by tonight’s six bands would have been a fantastic introduction to the local scene, and in fact to metal music in general. That said, we at Chordblossom are always proud to support local acts, and tonight we couldn’t be prouder of the metal scene on this island. Any one of these acts would fit comfortably into the international scene – in fact, many of them could easily blow a huge hole in it. The bar has seriously been raised tonight!