It’s the last Saturday in March, and just hours before the clocks are turned forward the start of what is supposed to be British Summer Time – what a feckin’ joke! Outside, the temperature is barely pushing above zero degrees, and inside… well, I swear it’s even colder, with the small bunch of hardened metallers who have ventured out of the warmth of their homes sitting huddled together in corners, wrapped in layers of hoodies and trying to grip their plastic-glassed pints with fingers like icicles.
Newry mob F.A.S.T.L.I.F.E. have the job of trying to warm up the very few early arrivals: I’ve seen the five piece before, and never been overly impressed – but, I must say, this evening was one of the most incoherent and shambolic sets I have witnessed in a long time… Vocalist Callum Payne has only just joined the band, and his inexperience shows – and very painfully so: he is nervous, has less than no stage presence and his attempts at interacting with the tiny audience are lame in the extreme: his introduction of their cover of Three Doors Down’s ‘Kryptonite’ with “have you heard of it?” and prefacing of ‘Grim’ with “I think is on one of our EPs, but I’d have to check” summarize the band’s performance. Not to lay all the blame on young Callum’s shoulders, the choregraphed stage moves of guitarist Sean McCullough and James McNulty are pretty pathetic, and only bassist Miceal Larkin displays anything approaching a minim of charisma during their messy set.
Mid-billers Baleful Creed are much more like it, with their classic stoner doom vibe steeped in mid-era Sabbath, with elements of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and, particularly, Alice In Chains woven into their powerful sound. Vocalist Fin Finlay has a style that lies somewhere between the world-weariness of Wino Weinrich and an addled Layne Staley, which perfectly complements the quartet’s dirty, NOLA-infused groove-laden sound, with its thick, warm bass lines and grinding fuzzy guitar. Their set is also characterized by the first decent use of the venue’s lights I have seen in many moons…
It’s the first time Dublin trio Electric Taurus have played in Belfast and, at least in terms of audience numbers (apart from band members, including their own entourage, there are no more than a dozen people present to watch their debut in the northern capital), it could hardly be less auspicious… but what that does not stop them putting their all into a killer set. Their sound is stripped down and basic – no frills for a band that draws as heavily in the underground psychedelic movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as it is in its more latter day desert-dwelling counterparts.
The band have spent a considerable amount of time crafting and perfecting their sound: the result is the sort you immerse yourself in, letting it wash over you until you lose yourself in the embrace of its beauty. There are long, rambling improvised instrumental passages, which mould together like a cross between Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly and Sunn O))), all re-imagined by Hunter S Thompson. It’s riveting and hypnotic, by turns cathartic and vivacious, and, even though the temperature both inside and outside the venue is getting colder, Electric Taurus leave everyone with a warm, comforting glow inside and around them.
‘Veneralia’ by Electric Taurus is out now on Moonlight Records, and can be downloaded from http://electrictaurus.bandcamp.com/album/veneralia