Nasa Assassin with support from Conjuring Fate
Saturday 1st November 2014 – Diamond Rock Club, Ahoghill.
Review by Al Gilmore. Photos by Colin Price
If you aren’t into Heavy Rock music, you may think that every night at a Rock club is ‘dress up for Hallowe’en night’. Har-di-har. Ok, on your average night at the D.R.C. there is a lot of black worn, a lot of costume jewellery and a fair amount of faux-satanic/pagan imagery on show. But tonight the annual D.R.C. Hallowe’en show proved to me that the Diamond faithful can take it up a notch, and then some. It’s nights like tonight that prove that, no matter who is on the stage providing the entertainment, the abiding stars of this wonderful place are the patrons themselves. Fancy dress doesn’t work if no one plays along, so even yours truly donned his werewolf mask (yes, it was a mask!).
Belfast’s Conjuring Fate are perfect for a night like this. The setlist almost reads like a list of dvd titles to rent for Hallowe’en night – ‘House On The Haunted Hill, ‘Land of The Dead’, ‘Backwoods Witch’ to name but three. Dressed accordingly, they crash headfirst into a blistering set of Power Metal that left everyone fully satisfied and howling for more. This is a band that has recently returned after a hiatus, with 3 new members joining lead guitarist, Phil Horner (Jack Sparrow), and vocalist, Tommy Daly (Hannibal Lector). With each show you can see the chemistry between the 5 guys intensify and their performances become more and more assured. Again, suitably for Hallowe’en, there were a few gremlins in the works but the mark of a band’s professionalism is not necessarily in how many gremlins there are but how they cope with them. If it throws them off their game, you know they are not quite there yet, but if they can carry on undaunted, even make light of it, then you know they have what it takes to become a great live act. Included in tonight’s japes was that Kym Horner, wife of Phil, who had dressed up as Phil for the evening (including beard) managed a guitar duet when Phil (or was it Jack?) joined Kym (or was it Phil?) down the front (see below). Conjuring Fate handled everything the gremlins threw at them and just kept going, though I don’t think Phil will try to play with an eye-patch again. Seriously though, if they continue on this trajectory they could perhaps rival Stormzone, who currently rule the roost locally in this genre, but first they have to write songs within this genre which match Harv and the boys.
I make no apologies for saying, I LOVE Nasa Assassin. I saw them live before I bought their debut album ‘Area 69’ and although ‘Area 69’ is a fantastic album, which I recommend you buy (see review here), you really do need to see the band live to really understand how good they are. Firstly, before all the issues around their quirky image and singer, The Watcher’s, unique brand of showmanship, what needs to be said is musically, Nasa Assassin are top notch. Sure, some of their songs are based around seemingly simple Punk/Garage Rock riffing, so you may ask, ‘what is the big deal?’ The big deal is how well and so fluently the band meld the various sonic influences it has. We’re not talking about weedily, weedily guitar virtuosity, we’re talking about a group that effortlessly pulls off all the various musical styles they run through, sometimes several per song.
But you cannot avoid talking about The Watcher. Dressed as ever in his lab coat and geek glasses, with his band of pseudo-nazi black shirts at his back, he dominates the stage with his personality. Technically, he’s not the best singer or rapper, but he is perfect for the band and, just like the R.H.C.P. wouldn’t be the same without the flawed Keidis, neither would N.A. be the same without The Watcher. His quirky take on his surroundings is just as valid as Keidis rapping about L.A. In fact, I tire easily of local bands basing songs around the staples of Americana when, in reality, you know few of them have been further west than Donegal.
But none of this would matter without the songs. Good musicians can write bad songs. Good showmen are nothing without the material to project to their audience. Nasa Assassin have the songs. Flip me, where do I start? Their frenetic self-titled theme song? The space grooves of ‘Super-Collider’ or ‘White Panacea’? The brutal-yet-infectious ‘Mystified’? The call-to-arms of ‘Not Giving Up’? The ‘spide’ expose of ‘One Man Crimewave’? They have songs that you can really lose yourself in, but none moreso than the perfection that is ‘Nasa City Rockers’. I defy anyone not to get swept away by this steamroller of garage rock abandon. A case in point is yours truly, and here’s where this becomes less a review, more a study in social behaviour.
I am of a certain age (40+) and am not in any great physical shape (understatement). Add to that that I am an erstwhile muso myself and, like most musos who go to gigs (erstwhile or otherwise), I tend to be the one of those guys you see standing, aloof, arms crossed, never giving away too much – assessing more than enjoying it would seem. Guilty as charged very often. But, even allowing for that wonderful feeling of anonymity that my werewolf mask gave me , even allowing for all the liquid refreshment I took on (tricky though it was in said mask), I was right down the front against the barrier, rocking and grooving my ageing ass off (and yes, I am still feeling the pain now). I have enjoyed many, many wonderful gigs at the Diamond Rock Club. I have seen some heroes, I have seen local bands be outstanding, I have been blown away by bands I hadn’t previously heard: all of them left me hoarse and with sore hands from intense and prolongued clapping, but none of them move (and groove me) like Nasa Assassin did tonight. Any area will throw up its AC/DC soundalikes, its Metallica wannabes, its Maiden acolytes etc etc and Northern Ireland is no different, but bands like Nasa Assassin aren’t found everywhere. They are unique by their nature. The closest you could come to saying ‘they sound like’ would be Faith No More. But they would be an influence, no more than that. There is no attempt to sound like Patton, Martin, Bordin & Co, no attempt to be anything other than boys from Nor’n Ir’n but, by crikey, they are good. If you haven’t seen them – put it on your to-do list.
By the way, this gig was £5 in. Considering you’ll pay a fiver to be allowed to drink till 1 a.m. in some bars with a pretense at entertainment being provided in order to get the late license, this is a pittance. So yes, put Nasa Assassin on your to-do list, but put ‘visit the DRC’ on it as well. Both will be money well spent.