Nestled in an otherwise quiet side street off Dublin’s most famous thoroughfare, Fibber Magee’s is the watering hole of choice for a large proportion of the city’s metal community, as well as those of us from 100 miles or so further north venturing over the border on a frequent basis for various gigs and other drunken shenanigans… so, it’s hard to believe that it has been more years than I care to count grey hairs on my head since I actually checked out a gig at this most infamous of fair city venues, the walls of which could tell as more tales of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery than even the most experienced of tour managers!
Initially, things seem somewhat disorganised as, just over an hour before the advertised start time, not even the bar staff seem to know what is going on, and the afternoon footie is still showing on the big screen where the bands are supposed to be setting… but, things soon start moving apace as the screen is raised, the two lone West Ham fans are shoo-ed away from the performance space into the main bar and the backline is fired up… still, it’s more than 45 minutes after the aforementioned kick off (sic) that openers The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back (https://www.facebook.com/TheDevilWantsHerSwaggerBack) ask “is this the soundcheck or are we ready to go?”. The room is still pretty empty at this stage, but the band nevertheless deliver a tight and efficient set of hard and groovy melocore: vocalist Stephen Cannon could do with a touch more stage presence, especially between songs – although he does grow in confidence as the set progresses – while the rhythm section of Ryan Cummins and Dylan Scully combine well together and Cannon and lead guitarist Mick Hynes produce some pretty neat riffs.
A little over a month ago, this reviewer came across Axial Symmetry (https://www.facebook.com/axialsymmetry) for the first time: they played to an empty venue in Belfast, with a laptop providing the drum parts and minus a bass player. Tonight, the band is an entirely different beast: yes, the laptop is still there, and the bassist isn’t, but this is the former duo’s first gig as a new look three-piece… yes, there’s a real live human behind the kit! The result is an additional vibrancy to the band’s tight and efficient blackened death metal – although the recruitment of a new bass player (what is it with Dublin bands in this regard at the moment?) undoubtedly would add the depth which their otherwise rich sound deserves: nevertheless, their extremely technical delivery combining skull-crushing riffs with majestic twin guitar harmonies has the desired effect.
Having raced down the motorway before getting stuck behind a herd of sheep and a tractor with only one gear somewhere outside Cullyballygobackwards, Norn Iron’s Rabid Bitch Of The North (https://www.facebook.com/NWOBHMRBOTN) and their NWOBHM sound seem slightly out of place on a bill dominated by more extreme metal acts. Nevertheless, right from the first Middle Eastern-influenced riff of ‘Your Misery’, the Belfast trio had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands and proved yet again that they are more than capable of taking any venue – be it somewhere of the prestige of Bloodstock, a cavernous skate park or a sweaty back room in a pub – and giving a jolly good seeing to, just by their pure charisma alone, nevermind their superb musicianship and extremely catchy songs.
The room is appropriately swathed in green light for the dark and gloomy vibe of Aeternum Vale (https://www.facebook.com/AeternumVale): theu espouse evil at every level, from the guttural growling vocals of imposing frontman Colin Byrne to the deark, dank basslines of Raych Corcoran and the seismic guitar riffs, combined with huge melodies, of Dave Gibson and Owen Hanbury, it’s a brutally nihilistic and punishingly effective in both its intent and delivery.
Kicking off the second half of the evening, Killface (https://www.facebook.com/Killfaceirl) once again prove that they definitely are a band who know how to rip up a stage – and they do so with boundless energy and typical intensity: oh to be that young again and able to tear around a venue with such gay abandon while knocking fifty shades of the brown stuff out of both your interests and those assembled to see you. Talking of such, the audience has swollen substantially by this point, and the response is magnified accordingly as the band unveil a few new songs to a terrifice reaction. But, while Killface may be the end of the first act or the beginning of the second, depending upon your perspective, they are a mere appetizer for what is still to come…
Syphor (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Syphor/128276987232475) were the other Dublin band who played the woefully empty gig mentioned a few paragraphs above – and, so, it was a sheer delight to see them playing to a now virtually packed out room… and reward with a suitably incendiary set of punishing, technical death metal characterised by wild-eyed Dan Golding’s devil -summoning vocals, their tight-as-fuck delivery, which is fast, acidic and dynamic, which definitely brings the darkness into the room’s fading light. Truly dark and evil stuff and further evidence, if it was at all needed, of the depth and quality of the Dublin metal scene at this moment in time.
The second of the two bands from north of the border, Overoth (https://www.facebook.com/overothband) blitz into their set faster than the strobe lights behind the drumkit. The demonic death metal crushes all before them as they introduce several new songs from their long-delayed forthcoming new album: ‘Sigil Of The Empty Throne’, in particular, thumps and grinds its way into your subconscious with immediate effect, while ‘God Of Delusion’ is fiery and abrasive, and the Belfast quartet prove once again why they are one of the most impressive DM bands not only on the island of Ireland but in this little archipelago as a whole.
With the impressive set of performances which the seven ‘local’ acts had ratcheted up, headliners Witchburner (https://www.facebook.com/Witchburner) definitely would need to pull something out of the bag to justify their travel over from Germany – but any doubts were quickly dispelled as the launched into the thrash- and DM-infused set of good old-fashioned traditional metal with energy and power: led by the charismatic Pino, who intereacted extremely well with his audience, the band made the most of the comparatively small stage, and qucikly manage to open up a circle pit during ‘Blasphemic Assault’ (the title track to their second album, just to prove to the trivia freaks that I was paying attention!). This is proper heavy fuckin’ metal, delivered with fury in its belly and as solid as a Harland and Wolff river, and played with crowd-pleasing aplomb and the perfect way to end off an evening of damn fine heavy fuckin’ metal in one of the true heavy fuckin’ metal cities on planet fuckin’ mosh!
Photographs by Anamaria Mieu.