It could be argued that, although they hail from the Midlands of England, Diamond Head share an affinity with Belfast: after all, it was they who helped shape the sound of the nascent Metallica – a place in history they share with a band from this neck of the woods, in the form of Sweet Savage. While it took Diamond Head the guts of almost 30 years to actually to make it to the stage of playing in Belfast – first visiting this dirty ol’ town as support to Megadeth a decade back – they have subsequently made it as regular as a stop-off as possible on their infrequent touring schedules (although the last time they were here was a full five years ago).
Hitting with the thumping grooves of the opening Triptych of ‘House On Haunted Hill’, ‘Trust No One’ and ‘Land Of The Damned’, openers Conjuring Fate show that they are getting tighter and more confident with each performance: the lack of space does sap some of the energy from their movement, but not the enthusiasm of the delivery. While frontman Tommy Daly [pictured left] does remark on the somewhat lackadaisical response from all but the most diehard of fans, ‘Chasing Shadows’ nevertheless gallops and thrums with elegiac passion, while ‘Mirror Mirror’ sees Daly join guitarist Phil Horner for the latter’s traditional walkabout, delivering his vocal while dancing and cavorting around the dancefloor like a Buckfast-possessed demon.
The opening chords of ‘Your Misery’ immediately sees Rabid Bitch Of The North turn the clock back to the golden days – or should that be daze – of NWOBHM, with its furious pace and old-fashioned sensibility. Propelled along by Joe McDonnell’s throaty, Lemmy-esque bass lines and Chris Condie’s pounding double kick work, the retro feel of RBOTN’s thumping grooves are added to by the contrasting vocal harmonies, Joe’s own superb range given additional gravitas by Chris’s backings, especially on the likes of ‘Sisyphus’ and the anthemic ‘Help I’m Trapped In 1999’. Let’s not forget guitarist Gerry, who sets about his job stage right with his usual quiet, efficient aplomb – and, yes, he was playing that pink guitar again!
With the band having taken to the stage to the strains of the ‘Imperial March’, Diamond Head immediately show their fans that tonight is truly going to be something special: with an opening scream that is pitch perfect, new vocalist Rasmus Bom Anderson [pictured right] shows that he is a superb addition to the band, and a frontman capable of breathing new life into the DH legacy as they prepare to embark on the next chapter of their historic story. In addition, he has a hugely charismatic stage persona, and within moments has almost everyone present eating out of his out stretched palms.
The rest of the band are clearly enjoying the injection of fresh blood, as ‘Lightning To The Nations’ sounds so fresh that it could have been yesterday, standing proudly alongside the handful of new songs which are unveiled – such as ‘Speed’, which more than ably lives up to its name with its almost thrashy feel and Motorhead-ish bass grunt. ‘To Heaven From Hell’ – which served as Anderson’s “audition tape” when the vocalist vacancy arose last year – is raw and filled with fiery energy, while other “classics” such as ‘Shoot Out The Lights’, ‘It’s Electric’ and ‘(Living On) Borrowed Time’ are just as vibrant and undoubtedly take many of the older metallians present back to the days when such tunes sent them whirling ’round their bedrooms or the dancefloors of their (now long closed) local rock bar.
However, the highlight of the night is undoubtedly ‘Am I Evil?’ itself: in the hands of Anderson, it is simply monstrous, with Tatler [pictured left] wringing out that iconic riff with a grin on his face wider than the stage while the singer adds a new darkness to the vocal line in a way which suggests it has waited almost three decades to be performed this way.
As the roadcrew move in to start clearing the equipment from the stage, drummer Karl Wilcox grabs a mic and walks forward: in a nice personal touch, he takes time to thank the crowd for coming, as well as the promoter, sound engineer (both by name) and venue staff, promising that the band will return on the promotional run for their new album (which they start recording this coming month). It is one of those human gestures from which so many bands could learn a lesson in suitable humility.
The last time I saw Diamond Head live, at Hard Rock Hell a number of years ago, they were staid, tired and looked like a band on their last legs: tonight, this was one re-energised and re-invigorated, with the three featured new songs very much showing respect to their heritage while mindful of the need to modernize and progress in a way which reflects their position as one of the most innovative bands of their generation.
Photographs by The Dark Queen / (c) PlanetMosh 2015.
Listen to our exclusive interview with Brian Tatler HERE.[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157654819565899″ size=”z” count=”100″]