|Heel Of Achilles/Call To Arms/Words That Burn/Lock Horns/Ketos – Belfast, Voodoo – 20 January 2017|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Tuesday, 24 January 2017 17:16|
One of the more attractive aspects of this game called music journalism is the joy of discovering new music – and especially great new music – by artists with whom you were previously unfamiliar. And tonight was a case in point, as four of the five acts being showcased by dynamic young promoters Blackstaff Music had not previously crossed my radar – and least in the live environment…
Ketos have been covered by Uber Rock in the recent past, in our Extended Play feature, and received airplay on our Sunday Brunch radio show… so, there was a keen sense of anticipation on the part of yours truly in terms of this, their first ever live show. And, boy was I not disappointed, as they kick things off in hugely impressive style. The rhythm section is tighter than the mud on a gravedigger’s shovel, while the band are taut, with a dark energy exuding from every note and chord.
Pete is acerbic and confident while the four musicians deliver beautifully layered and thoughtful melodies which writhe around the dynamics of the brutal riffs. The only downside is the audience reaction: I still can’t figure out why everyone was standing ten feet from the stage instead of getting it going in front of it… maybe they were saving themselves for later…
Lock Horns do what their name says fight from the start, as their singer challenges the still slightly apathetic crowd to “get your fucking arses to the front right now.” A few hardy souls do venture forward, followed by more as the band get ripped into their set.
Musically, they deliver a dense groove with loads of mudhole-stomping bottom end and equally huge melodies. They defy the smallness of the stage with their huge, panoramic sound, characterized by riffs that steamroller through your brain and balls simultaneously. It’s thick and it’s crunchy, it’s heavy and it’s also rammed to the rafters with the sort of huge harmonies that demonstrate their technical proficiency while retaining more than enough passion within the almost mathematical precision to ensure that they impress on every level.
Dundalk’s Words That Burn are travelling north of the Irish border for their first ever Belfast appearance – and they most definitely ensure it won’t be their last. They are proper adult-sized metalcore: none of this kiddie-pleasing crap that clutters up the so-called “rock charts”. Their sound is underpinned by thick rhythms and solid percussion, while frontman Roni MacRuairi strikes a good balance between growls and clean singing, which matches the music in its seamless combination of dense groove and monolithic melodies, which wind and twist around the main harmonics without losing any of their brutal effect.
Dublin’s Call To Arms are another band who live up to their name. Their fast and furious riffing is held together by a deep grinding bass and bottom-ended guitar combination, while singer Dean Donnelly possesses a punkish fury and sense of rebellion coupler with a middle-finger DM-meets-hardcore attitude, and, overall, their taut, intertwining melodies mesh with practised precision, yet still with that all important passion shining through every word and note.
It’s a bit of a risk closing with a song so new it has never left the rehearsal room, but, despite getting off to a false start, the ultimate fury of ‘Exile’ shines through and epitomizes this intense and domineering performance from another band I look forward to seeing back on this side of the border before too long…
Which, as one day moves into the next, only leaves us with headliners Heel Of Achilles – the one band on the bill I have seen and covered before.
Their emotional hardcore veneer is underpinned by a huge progressive/tech metal sound, especially in Andre Michoel’s deceptively complex five-string bass work: in fact, it could be argued that he fulfils more the role of a second rhythm guitarist, allowing actual second guitarist Jim Ward to bounce of Daire Turley’s lead work with an aplomb that adds depth to their ever maturing sound. Frontman Patrick Scanlon has grown in confidence with each show I have seen, something which is reflected in the fact that, as the evening hurtles towards its looming curfew, he finally manages to get the dancefloor alive and jumping, and singing along.
As I said at the top of this piece, one of the joys of this vocation is discovering new sounds. Certainly, from that point of view, tonight was an extremely rewarding experience. See you all that the next one…
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © Steven Donnelly/Blackstaff Music