The last of the Distortion Project’s (almost) weekly RocKD Saturday afternoon promotions of 2014 brought together two bands, one from either side of the Irish border, who really have made names for themselves over the past 12 months, with a headline act who have been relatively quiet in comparison but seemed determined to make the year go out on a high with the release of their latest EP…
The first thing you notice as rising mid-Ulster based youngsters Donum Dei (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Donum-Dei/144914665575849) pummel into their set is how loud and crisp the Limelight sound mix is – a factor which ensures that the quartet’s aural evolution is showcased to great effect. This evolution is further manifested when they unveil a new track, ‘Retrace The Line’, early on: adding a thumping groove to their new-wave thrash sound, the song demonstrates the band’s increasing maturity and progression in the songwriting department, as well as their increasing confidence and technical ability.
Many PM readers will remember madcap Dubliners Psykosis (https://www.facebook.com/Psykosisthrashmetal) from their triumphant “free beer” performance on the New Blood stage at Bloodstock this past summer: well, they were on something of a high for their return north of the Irish border, having, in the wee small hours of the very same morning had their hometown show invaded by another rising young band by the name of Machine Head, who had joined the lads for what, by all accounts, was one of those memorable jam sessions to end all jam sessions. Their old-school, fast and furious, Bay Area-style thrash is tight and proficient, as their well-crafted songs are delivered with cheeky aplomb. With lyrics about lobotomies, weddings being attacked by zombies and drinking beer on the beach in Barcelona in December, the quartet induce a proper Christmas party atmosphere.
As intimated above, Bäkken (https://www.facebook.com/bakkenband) are launching their new EP, ‘Worldwide Genocide’ – and things start well for them… their hard-hitting thrash, with its very Metallica-meets-Pantera vibe, may be somewhat workmanlike (a factor which may be down to a degree of stage rust?) but it’s tight and efficient (or maybe that should be the other way ‘round!), frontman Simon Pickett’s vocals are impressive, with the right degree of earthy grunt and growl, and the twin guitar attack is precise and effective. But, tonight, there’s just something (panache? pizzazz?) missing – as demonstrated by a pedestrian early Megaduff cover – and the venue starts to slowly empty as ‘Derry quartet’s set progresses. Even, ‘Sasquatch’ – one of my personal favourite Bäkken tunes – is bland and unenergetic, and it’s an unfortunate indictment of the proceedings that the highlight is the site of two drunken women, who really are old enough to know better, trying to dance around a balustrade before one of them falls ignominiously falls on her arse! The inclusion of a second cover – and efficient but again pedestrian run through of ‘Orion’ – has many of those of us who have remained for the duration just screaming “WHY?”… although ‘My Darkest Day’ is, in the circumstances, surprisingly uplifting and acidic while ‘Mystic Mogul’ showcases the most impressive aspect of the evening’s performance – Niall McGrotty’s rapid fire drum salvos. Overall, however, a disappointing set from a band who are capable of so much more than they delivered this particular evening.
‘Worldwide Genocide’ is streaming at http://bakken1.bandcamp.com/album/worlwide-genocide-2014
Photograph of Donum Dei by Marc Leach (taken at a previous show).
Photograph of Bakken by the author (taken at a previous show).