There I was, ’round my local Wetherspoons, quietly minding my own business and reading my Sunday newspaper while enjoying my traditional Ulster Fry when I saw a headline which nearly made me choke on my extra piece of grilled potato bread… “The Vikings Are Coming Back” it proudly proclaimed!
The tabloid headline writer obviously hadn’t been at Belfast’s most historic rock venue the previous afternoon as, if he had, he would have known that the Celts are more than ready to meet the challenge – and repel it, time and time and time again!
First to meet the longboats are Celtachor, a marauding band of warriors from beyond the pale of Dublin city, and a band (led by wild-eyed frontman Stiofan de Roiste) who just get better and better the more they play – on this occasion, it’s their second foray north of the border in just a few short months and they certainly win over many new fans with their charismatic retelling of ancient myth cycles and their seemless integration of the whistle and bodhran into their catchy but hard-hitting songs.
Co-headliners Mael Mordha prove that anything the Vikings (or the Varingians, for that matter) can do, the Celts can do much better as, regaled in blue warpaint, the warhorns are sounded loud and proud – with the band even giving two fingers to their Scandinavian brethren with a riotous cover of Bathory’s ‘Vinterbolt’. As probably the only person in the venue who could genuinely claim to be of Viking descent, I was absolutely quaking in my battered Nu Rocks (as I moshed my brains out, of course!)
Darkest Era more than make up for not including their homeland on their recent spate of dates with Alestorm (strictly due to financial issues, the band make clear) by storming the stage and delivering an absolutely stunning, take-no-prisoners set. Musically, they are as tight as fuck, with the narry a glimpse of light between the rhythm section of Lisa and Dave – and the same can be said of the twin guitar attack of Ade and Sarah, who build riffs that would be equally at home on the murky, fog-bound shores of Lough Erne as on the blood-soaked battlefields of ancient Erin. But, the band’s strongest and most focal element is frontman Krum, who leads his troops into battle with the confidence and cockiness of Brian Boru himself… he’s a singer who has matured remarkably and, by the end of his charismatic performance – highlighted by awesome versions of ‘An Ancient Fire Still Burns’, ‘The Last Caress Of Light before The Dark’ and ‘The Morrigan’ – there wasn’t a fan who, without a second’s hesitation wouldn’t have marched out of the venue, grabbed a broadsword and daub shield and waded into the waters of Belfast Lough to await the invading fleet the ‘papers warned about the next day (even if it was only a PR stunt for a charity boat race!)…
Éirinn go Brách may stand for ‘Ireland forever’ (and the way our two provinces of Ulster and Leinster destroyed all before them in a certain rugby tournament, are you going to argue?) – but, this evening it means “OK, you horrible Viking lot, come get some…”
You can watch the video for ‘An Ancient Fire Still Burns’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnr8KQ5eCzQ
You can see our gallery of photos from Darkest Era’s recent tour with Alestorm here: http://planetmosh.com/darkest-era-o2-academy-leicester/