Formed in the mid-Ulster area in late 2011, upstarts Donum Dei have spent the intervening period ripping up stages across Northern Ireland and establishing themselves as perhaps the singularly most impressive young thrash act in this part of the world, going from copycat Metallica wannabes faster than some of their riffs and evolving into a band of brashly confident young musicians. Now, more than three-and-a-half years into their career, they have come to one of the defining moments in any burgeoning young act’s timeline – the release of their debut EP. But, we’ll come to that anon.
With planned openers ProXist having to pull out at the last minute, due to their vocalist falling ill en route, Dubliners Theories Divide make their much anticipated return north of the border slightly ahead of schedule. Having managed on this occasion to make the 100 or so mile trip with their bass player in tow (the band’s only previous Belfast appearance was blighted by the fact that that particular quarter of its membership strangely didn’t make the trip), the quartet deliver big, crunching, melodic riffs coupled with huge progressive harmonies, underpinned by dense rhythms and topped off by Garreth ‘SG’ Quinn’s passionate, guttural yet soulful vocals. TD play with ferocious intensity as their neck-snapping DM-edged grooves ensure that, while this may be only their second time playing Belfast it sure as fuck won’t be their last!
By Conquest Or Consent hit harder than the demolition crew on the new office building around the corner. Their melodic death metal contains a hardcore edge, yet manages to retain the use of multiple layers of light and shade, especially in Pete Crenshaw’s mixed of growls, shouts and clean vocal harmonies. The frontman also possesses an Anelmo-esque stage presence, without the bullshit attitude. One of their set highlights, as always, is the towering and pummeling ‘We Came To Bring The Fight’: BCOC always win more convincingly than local World Champion Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton on each and every occasion on which they step into the heavy metal squared circle.
Determined to impress from the off, and make the most of the big occasion, Donum Dei – with the obvious exception of drummer Alastair Marshall – make their way through the crowd to the strains of ‘Iron Man’. It’s a move which demonstrates the band’s increasing maturity, as they proceed to deliver not only confident but reworked and expanded renditions of their growing repertoire. After the opening thrashfest duopoly of ‘No Escape’ and ‘Redemption’, the massive sounding ‘Retrace The Line’ and the suitably morose ‘Gravelands’ displays their moodier, groovier side, before ‘Terrorized’ puts the pedal to the metal again and gets the necks of the growing number of punters stagefront snapping and voices raised in the first singalong of the set.
Frontman Thomas Marshall does show some nerves – understandable on this, their highest profile gig to date, headlining Belfast’s notional “home of metal” – as he introduces the EP’s title track instead of the thumping ‘Erased’. ‘Justice Fails’ itself does indeed follow and brings another enthusiastic singalong, while Thomas also decides to take a walk along the bar during the song’s bridge.
If there is one down side to this performance, it is that Donum Dei are in danger of becoming a touch too arrogant, especially in their stage demeanour, and this is an aspect of their performance that they may wish to look at reigning in – especially as Northern Ireland is a very small scene and one which is quick to put anyone with ideas above their station back in their box – in favour of letting their music do the talking. However, this is not to disavow the power of their songs, and the massive steps which the band have taken, musically, in the past few years, as main set closer ‘Courage From Within’ summarizes succinctly, before a more than competent rendition of ‘Seek And Destroy’ (with Theories Divide’s SG returning to the mic) brings a mass stage invasion to close this hugely enjoyable evening of metal.
- Theories Divide play an album fundraiser at Fibber Magee’s in Dublin on Friday September 4.
- By Conquest Or Consent play the PlanetMosh-backed Perverting The Innocent festival in the Voodoo Lounge on Saturday September 12.
- Donum Dei play Stormzone’s ‘Seven Sins’ album launch on Saturday September 5, followed by The Ivy Bar, Newtownards, on Saturday September 12, with By Any Means, Scimitar and High Sundays, in aid of the Ulster Bull Terrier Club.
- Photographs by The Dark Queen,
- All content © PlanetMosh 2015.