Belsonic is what is referred to in modern parlance as a “boutique” festival: taking place in Belfast’s Custom House Square, a man made auditorium, close by the River Lagan, with apartment blocks to the front and one side of the stage, and the imposing edifice of the Custom House from which the arena takes it’s name on the other side, it’s an unusual location, perched on the edge of the capital’s commercial district, making this annual festival, which has grown over the past few years from a solitary weekend to almost two weeks of eclectic gigs, one of the very few events of its kind to take place slap bang in the centre of a city.
And its sixth year is definitely its most appealing to those of us into the heavier end of the musical spectrum: having struggled over its previous half decade to be taken seriously by real rock fans – with the likes of Biffy Clyro, 30 Seconds To Mars and most recently Thin Lizzy and Paramore providing isolated representation among the plethora of ‘dance’ and resuscitated indie tripe which tends to have cluttered up its stage since 2008 – this year’s programme already had been decimated by a sold out performance by the legendary Nine Inch Nails, playing their first ever Northern Ireland show (and their first headliner on the island of Ireland in almost 20 years – an occasion which PM unfortunately was unable to record for posterity, as the band inexplicably decided at the last minute to ban all online media outlets from the gig…). But, for an event which previously had paid only lip service to the demands of its host city’s rabid metallians, there was more to come, in the shape of this rowdy Bank Holiday Monday finale.
Now, to be brutally honest, Gojira definitely were the main attraction for many of us ‘proper’ metalheads, with more than a few coming only for the openers (we bumped into some lads who had travelled up from Dublin and were heading home again immediately after this first set of the night). The French behemoths – who, it must be admitted, at first seemed an extremely inappropriate addition to this bill – did not disappoint, and if anything exceeded expectations.
The quartet delivered a beautifully crafted set, superbly paced with hypnotic intro passages combining with the head-ripping ferocity of the main riffs (a fellow reviewer referred to it as the heavy metal equivalent of trance, and who am I to argue with such an apt comparison?): the heaviness of their sound was accentuated by the beautiful tone of Jean-Michel Labadie’s bass and the perfect mix on Mario Duplantier’s double kicks – although his brother Joe’s guitar sound was all but lost. It was a brilliantly selected festival set, showcasing the hugeness of Gojira’s sound: frontman Joe dedicated ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ to those (I reckon there were about four us, given the age profile) who had the honour of being present at their Belfast debut, “in some shitty club”, in March 2009: if Belsonic’s promoters have any sense, they’ll get them back to aforesaid club’s big sister asa-feckin-p.
Setlist: Explosia / The Axe / Backbone / Love / The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe / L’Enfant Sauvage / The Gift Of Guilt
Bring Me The Horizon were definitely the band that the vast majority of the teenagers had come to see, and they certainly weren’t disappointed: however, call me an middle-aged old fogie, but I didn’t quite get it! Yes, they are good at what they do, I’ll give them that – but they just try too hard…
Frontman Oli Sykes may think it’s ‘cool’ or whatever to see how many times he can squeeze the word ‘fuck’ and its various variations into a sentence, but it’s a needless use of profanity for the sake of it and his infantile behaviour (such as constantly inviting the audience to “fucking kill each other”!) is just that – especially when he rips off Fred Durst and Corey Taylor in his between song raps; sorry son, but they did that whole “sit down or fuck off home” routine a long time before you – and with much more charisma. Still, the kids love it, bouncing along in time to the band and singing virtually every word: as for us oul’ folk – four quid for a not-quite-full ‘pint’ of warm, flat cider was a much more appealing prospect!
Shadow Moses / Chelsea Smile / Go To Hell For Heaven’s Sake / The House Of Wolves / Can You Feel My Heart / Diamonds Aren’t Forever / Sleepwalking / Blessed With A Curse / Antivist
Taking to the stage to the strains of ‘Carmina Burana’ (a metal intro if there ever was one), Bullet For My Valentine, right from the off, are confident and assured: despite being lumped in with the whole ‘emo’ scene, this is a band with some serious metal credentials – right down to the fact that Michael Paget has a pretty mean line in guitar solos, as evinced by his spotlight slot close to the end of the set.
Matt Tuck is an assured, natural frontman, instantly developing a rapport with his audience without resorting to the childish behaviour of his predecessor: where Sykes has the wannabe arrogance of a second-rate Mustaine, Tuck has the cool swagger of a young Hetfield. The rest of the band are tight and equally convincing, delivering heavy, ass-kicking, stadium-filling riffs, and stunning harmonised solos – very much in vein of Trivium, whose name keeps popping into my head as their set progresses – and again, they benefit from a chest-pummeling drum sound.
I must admit, I’ve always quite liked BFMV – I’ve got all four of their albums, and this year’s ‘Temper Temper’ is a highly impressive opus, which puts a lot of more experienced and renowned acts to shame with its quality – but this was the first time I have caught them live: they’ve earned extra brownie points for being able to deliver in that arena as well, and this particular old fart will gladly brave the teenage hordes to catch them again.
Breaking Point / Your Betrayal / Waking The Demon / Riot / 4 Word (To Choke Upon) / Temper Temper / The Last Fight / Intro / Her Voice Resides / P.O.W. / Guitar Solo / Scream Aim Fire
Pleasure And Pain / Tears Don’t Fall
Photographs by Marc Leach – https://www.facebook.com/officialmarcleachphotography