This past weekend, PlanetMosh once again was delighted to be associated with the wonderful event that is Blazefest, a fundraising bash inspired by a wonderful little boy who has, in his short life, succeeded in bringing together rockers and metallers on an annual basis to raise money for the work of the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. This year’s shenanigans once again took place in the historic Empire Music Hall, which, over the last four years, has become the event’s physical and spiritual home. A horrible clash, however, meant that your PM team had to split ourselves in two, albeit temporarily…
The task of opening this year’s extravaganza falls to the winners of a recent Battle Of The Bands, Oracle (8) – and, by the gods they opened it with a fucking bang! As the first forceful riff blasts through the PA, the smallish crowd of early comers are blown away. Frontman Jason prowls the stage like a tiger ready to pounce as he delivers his vocals, backed by a band that are tighter than a Scotsman’s wallet. Feeling brave, they unveil a brand new song, ‘Burn The Nameless’, in front of a crowd mostly made up of people who haven’t seen them before and win a few new fans. A great start and a standard setter for the rest of the night. [DQ]
Next up, Tequila For Breakfast (4) are playing for their first time in Belfast. As the first notes feed through, these guys seem to know their instruments, but as the vocals come the first problem of the set becomes apparent: they are out of key and flat, causing quizzical looks from the crowd. Their set is plagued by technical difficulties, due to them playing borrowed equipment. They have a good stage presence, but every song is a different musical style, which in turn makes their set seem a bit of a mismatch. [DQ]
Ironheart (9) take to the stage next, for only their second ever live gig. This quintet are out to prove themselves, and with the opening chords of ‘Revolution Calls’ blasting the eardrums of the growing crowd and the dramatic interpretation of their lyrics by frontman Stevie K, they quickly have everyone’s attention. It’s easy to tell that they are all seasoned musicians and know their shit, as they bounce of each other – including bass player Tom reeling the new rhythm guitarist Davy back in when he makes a few mistakes. These guys have the crowd eating out of the hands as they blast through their set and show no signs of nerves – especially when lead guitarist Shaun breaks a string and smoothly changes guitar, tunes it and is straight back in for his solo without most of the band noticing it. This band have a bright future and for me personally are the band of the night so far… [DQ]
With an ever increasing crowd, Baleful Creed (10) amble on stage in their usual understated manner. As frontman Fin introduces ‘God’s Fear’, the powerful crunchy chords speak for themselves. Fin’s gravelly vocals blend to perfection to announce their intention for rip this place a new one. “New” bass player Davy has reinvigorated the passion this band has always had and it’s obvious with new song, ‘Walking Wounded’. Davy himself then takes on the vocals for ‘Loose Religion’, with his close to Lemmy style. This band have everyone partying as they smoothly slide through their set and as Fin introduces their last song, ‘Autumn Leaves’, he dedicates it to someone called Carolyn! With their huge riffs and the gravel that comes from the pit of Fin’s stomach they set the bench mark for the bands still to come. [DQ]
Having hastened from judging the latest heat of the Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses competition just down the road, the second half of the PM team arrives just in time to see (and hear, natch) Selene (7) fill the Empire with their huge, sweeping operatic metal. Despite a false start with their intro, and the first half of their set being plagued by technical problems with their backing tracks (at least they make no secret of using them), the quartet quickly show their growing confidence on stage, and especially frontwoman Shonagh. They are joined by Maverick frontman David Balfour for a powerful version of Nightwish’s ‘Planet Hell’, which threatens to bring down the former church’s roof, while the epic and atmospheric ‘Piano Black’ is a fitting way to close a set of this nature. [MA]
- Selene compete in the fifth Northern Ireland heat of Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses this coming Saturday (26 March), and appear on the Warehouse Stage at the Siege Of Limerick on Sunday (27 March).
Gasoline Outlaws (9) are undoubtedly one of the fastest rising stars in the Northern Ireland rock firmament, and so it is appropriate that ‘Rising Up’ rips into the venue, and the growing audience, in a pure, rock ‘n’ roll adrenaline rush. The songs grunt and grind with a fiery passion and Ryan Hood is having fun being back behind a kit and playing live again after too long an absence, while the rest of the band are tighter knit that one of the wife’s crochet patterns, and “wee” Matt Fitz once again is on stunning form. Although they could do with perhaps dropping the Electric Mary cover, especially in a shortened set, ‘Someday’ is one of those songs which would melt all but the most metallic of hearts, and once again had herself crying into her pint of flavoured cider. [MA]
- Gasoline Outlaws support The Jokers at the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill this Saturday (26 March).
The task of rounding off this year’s Blazefest falls to not one but two Dublin bands. The first, Stereo Nasty (8), deliver thumping traditional metal with not only its heart but its bollocks sewn on its sleeve. It’s a classic NWOBHM-infused in your face riff-fest. However, unfortunately, the band’s enthusiasm is not matched by that of the crowd who, with a few exceptions, are largely apathetic. But, that doesn’t deter the band as they rip through their set like DiAnno-era Maiden with a million sets of balls. [MA]
Closers Stone Trigger (8) also plough the classic rock vein, but of a much different style, as they strut, preen and prance like Ireland’s answer to Eclipse, at least in terms of their classic sleaze/trash attitude. Frontman Tommy Rockit looks and acts like a cross between a young Axl and and equally pubescent Bret Michaels, and both he and guitarist Andii Andrews have great stage presence. After dedicating ‘I Declare War’ to young Blaze, they unveil a new song, ‘Children Of The Night’, which in turn they dedicate to all fans who keep the metal flag flying, pointing out that they do so on the anniversary of the death of Randy Rhoads. And they can’t really resist bringing the party in style, when they’re joined by Davy Balfour, Matt Fitz and Stereo Nasty’s Mick Mahon for a raucous shout out of ‘Rebel Yell’ to bring this latest instalment of Blazefest to a suitably noisy and triumphant conclusion. [MA]
- Photographs by The Dark Queen.
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