Sick Of It All with support from By Any Means & Murdock
Monday 2nd February 2015 – Limelight 2, Belfast
On a freezing cold Monday night in Belfast, can you think of a better way of keeping warm than a good old mosh at a hardcore gig? Nope, us neither!
Clearly thinking along the same lines, a small but dedicated crowd gathered at Limelight 2 to see New York veterans Sick Of It All blow the cobwebs out and the cold away. First up, though, it was local lads Murdock, who clamber onstage and immediately flood the room with a wave of noise. Drummer Ronan Nolan almost instantly becomes drenched in sweat as he enthusiastically provides the machine-gun beats to the trio’s raucous, snarling hardcore punk attack.
Each song whirls through a mix of time signatures at breakneck speed, and drips with bombast and aggression. The music itself is more ‘moshpit inciter’ than ‘headbanger heaven’, placing Murdock decisively at the punkier end of the hardcore spectrum, albeit with nods in the mathcore direction at times.
Vocalist Aiden Cunningham pauses briefly to announce the upcoming release of their new album Dead Long by hardcore champions Basick Records. It will be interesting to see if such a visceral and bruising live act can translate that to their recorded material, too – because live they are really very good. Their bass and guitar meld together seamlessly, creating a vast and violent clamour, while the drumming is exceptional: Nolan looks like a toy stuck on fast forward yet never loses his technical ability or power.
With the evening off to a flying start, up next it was another local band, this time By Any Means. A more straightforward prospect than their predecessors, they play hardcore with a pretty even mix of bolshy punk and pounding metal.
Within seconds of the opening notes, vocalist Chris Curlett has abandoned the stage and leapt to the floor, often sharing his mike with multiple bellowing fans. With barely a pause between songs, the crowd interaction here is literal – he’s in the crowd for a good quarter of the set – while the rest of the band fire chunky riffs and muscular drumbeats from the relative safety of the stage.
For final track ‘Taking Back What’s Mine’ they recruit Defyed frontman Wayne Donaldson for some double-barrelled vocals. It’s a suitably punchy ending to a lively set, although the bulk of the crowd seem strangely subdued – conserving their energy for the headline act, perhaps?
If so, they hadn’t long to wait: to the strains of ‘Bird Is the Word’ (hehe) Sick Of It All arrive onstage to a heroes welcome, ready to start the party properly. Suddenly, gratifyingly, the crowd surges forward and goes nuts, moshing and howling along to the words at the barrier. With the band wreathed in smiles, they launch into a bouncing set punctuated by good natured banter and thirty years worth of legendary hardcore tracks.
Vocalist Lou Koller is an intriguing prospect: a warm and engaging fellow, he looks like a cross between a teenager skater dude and an insurance salesman on holiday, yet he sings like the Devil himself has possessed him. Clearly he is where he is meant to be, as he pogos and leaps about like a man half his age, his voice never faltering once.
The band play a good mix of songs both old and new with an energy that belies their thirty year long history and that would put many younger bands to shame. The music is effervescent, catchy as hell and at times almost ska-like in its exuberance. This is music to bounce to!
Each song is a short, sharp sonic shock, exactly as hardcore should be. And while the band are consummate professionals, the set never feels contrived or slick, maintaining a sense of chaos that all good punk shows do.
The interaction with the crowd is lighthearted and sincere, with Koller thanking everyone for turning up on such a chilly Monday night, and cheekily ribbing shouted requests. He even takes a pop at the venue for erecting a barrier: “Who’s that for? It can’t be to protect us!” – indeed. He holds the crowd in the palm of his hand from the opening notes, demanding singalongs, forming moshpits and joking “pretend we left the stage and came back” prior to the band’s ‘encore’.
Sick Of It All are a band who clearly remember where they came from and never forget their fans, which is clear from the personal touches tonight, such as inviting a rather starstruck Chris Curlett back onto the stage for a blinding ‘DNC’ and staying back for a considerable time after the show to chat with the audience.
Tonight was proof of just how varied the music within the hardcore genre can be. From snarling punk attitude to ballsy metal might, the three bands stepped up and provided a hell of a show. And from the beaming, sweaty faces of the people filing out after the gig, it’s pretty clear that they were definitely warmed up. Mission accomplished, then.
Photos by http://www.metalplanetbelfast.com/