Helfast Metal Festival 2013 – The Limelight2 – Belfast, Northern Ireland

So here I am, at the first ever Helfast Metal Festival to be held in Northern Ireland. 5 hard rock and metal bands spread over several fun filled hours. This was one gig I was eagerly anticipating. Seeing Altus perform their first ever gig. Checking out Warcrux since I last saw them perform, and of course it is always a joy to watch classic metallers Stormzone as the headline act.

Altus
Altus

First band to grace the stage of the Limelight2 is Altus. I was informed that this was their first ever live audience performance. As they get up on stage they do look like a young outfit to my older eyes. The band begins with the song “Brand New Skies” from their new EP Nom Omnis Moriar. It was a nice opening number too, with heavy riff work evident throughout mixed with some lazy laid back vocals. Heavy riff work seemed to be the theme through much of the set and this was even chunkier for “The Sacrifice”. “Stranger Among Men” started with a slower tempo but gradually speeds up towards the end with gruff vocals to boot. This song also had a rather nice long instrumental. What I found during the set is that you could see some slight nerves in vocalist/guitarist David Brady for a few songs in, but Guitarist Mikk Legge seemed to be more at ease in general during the performance and got the crowd going with some fist pumps and chatting to the around 100 or so who were in the audience at this point. The band were tight for the main throughout with some great rhythm being provided by drummer Kieran Fitzsimons and bass man Darran Gourley. “Nail In The Coffin” had Mikk’s fingers working frantically, and had a really nice long instrumental towards the end. Set ender “Beast” was a song like its name sake. This was a beast of a song that again had stacks of heavy riff work, but mixed with some nice dual guitar work during the solo. All in all it was a success with maybe some first gig nerves creeping in which was more noticeable in vocalist David to me. Nonetheless I enjoyed their heavy sounds and look forward to seeing more from these guys in the future as they develop.

Altus Setlist
1. Brand New Skies
2. The Sacrifice
3. Stranger Among Men
4. Becoming
5. Nail In The Coffin
6. Beast

Visit Altus at:
Altus on Facebook

Rabid Bitch Of The North
Rabid Bitch Of The North

Second band to hit the stage are Rabid Bitch Of The North. A Three piece band who jumped in at the last minute with changes to the festival line-up. I had never heard of them before tonight so I was looking forward to seeing what they were all about. To me they kind of had a classic eighties metal look, with vocalist/bass player Joe resembling Zakk Wylde with the beard and brandishing a Lemmy bass. Nothing could have prepared me for what these guys were about to unleash on us. First song “Misery” starts off heavy sounding and pretty fast. Then when Joe begins singing I thought what the hell. His voice is certainly unique and one I haven’t really often heard before. At times his vocals get so high it sounds like he could have provided the sound effects for velociraptors in the film Jurassic Park! Very versatile, and he can also get into the lower registers pretty well too. It was quite hard to put a finger on their style and influences as at times you could hear something and then it changes to something else. A mix mash of a lot of different sounds, but it worked really well and certainly gave them that unique quality. To me the first song at times felt like Iron maiden crossed with Anthrax crossed with Rush. It messes with your mind. By third song “Green Eyes” its apparent that these guys explode with sound and energy. People are still dandering into the venue and most are just watching the music and taking it all in, but I can imagine at larger festival a lot of head banging going on here. “God of Punishment” has even more speed to it, and here the Motorhead influences can be recognised. “Help I’m Trapped in 1999” was a lot of fun and had this infectious chorus with screeching high pitched vocals, you could easily start singing in with this one. The band end with “Us Against Them”, and again the Motorhead influences can be heard, with guitarist Gerry providing some nice riff work and the Rhythms of drummer Chris, this band were a very tight Three piece and certainly were something differen’t.

Rabid Bitch Of The North Setlist
1. Your Misery
2. Slave To The Man
3. Green Eyes
4. God Of Punishment
5. Help I’m Trapped In 1999
6. Us Against Them

Visit Rabid Bitch Of The North at:
Rabid Bitch Of The North On Facebook

WarCrux
WarCrux

Warcrux are a band I had seen before on a couple of occasions and ones I always look forward to seeing to see how they have developed and progressed each time. They are the third band on the night and start us off with “A triumph of Fools”. This was a great opener and to me had that heavy grungy sound with traces of Nirvana going into Metallica. Second song in and the band sounded very tight and front man James Boyd started to get the crowd going by saying “Are you ready to make some Fuckin noise tonight?”, leading us into a long piece of heavy riff work and instrumental. “How the Mighty Fall” had drummer Gordy Gray displaying some really great thunderous drumming at the start. This guy can seriously play. This song also had a kind of funk and rhythm within its heavy groove, much to the credit of tight bass man Richard Wilson. The now trademark song “Ties That Bind” followed, slowing it down just a little. With its infectious chorus, the crowd were really lapping up Warcrux and slowly more and more people were starting to arrive into the venue. Every time I see this band they sound tighter and tighter. All the gigs they have chalked up really have made a difference. They constantly keep improving and are slowly maturing. Warcrux finish with new song “Lark Descends”. This was the highlight of their set for me. Starting off slow it creates a kind of dreamy atmosphere and the most melodic of the night. This really was a song that was epic sounding in all proportions, and would certainly be a huge song for any band to pull something like this off. Fantastic stuff. Thanks Warcrux!

Warcrux Setlist
1. A Triumph Of Fools
2. Leave Me To Crawl
3. Instrumental Part III
4. How The Mighty Fall
5. Ties That Bind
6. A New Light
7. Lark Descends

Visit Warcrux at:
www.facebook.com/warcrux
www.twitter.com/WarcruxOfficial
www.reverbnation.com/warcrux

Triggerman
Triggerman

By now there must have been near a 200 strong crowd in the venue to see the band with the least amount of hair on their head on the night!, Triggerman take the stage. I have never seen Triggerman live and I have not heard much of their material before tonight’s performance. I have heard a lot of great things about them so I was looking forward to seeing these guys. Opening with “Rage of the Goddess” I could hear Triggerman had a clean hard rocking sound and were very tight. “I Got the Lurgy” mixed a bit of nice funky grooves into its hard chunking riffs. These were heavy grooves that had your head and ass shaking. Before “Hail To the River Gods” front man Bap advertised their album having just been released on vinyl and the floor in front of the stage was beginning to fill up more with a several moving along to the music. “Valhalla” was equally impressive with a nice heavy groove and had people singing along. What impressed me about Triggerman was how well their riffs were structured, and how heavily everything grooved along nicely. Their sounds were tight with Rory on drums and Dixie on bass, with some great riffage and sounds coming from the guitar work of Niall and Bap. Before “Brand New DayBap thanks just about everyone involved with the set up of Helfast. Thanking the Organisers, promoters and the bands involved. Even ex Skid Row front man Sebastian Bach gets a thankyou! Needless to say, given this was a festival based in Belfast and with Stormzone headlining, this was greeted with a heavy round of boos as expected, followed by a hint of laughter as Bap ironically reminds us of Stormzone’s history supporting Seb almost a year ago.

Triggerman
Triggerman

More people were beginning to arrive for Stormzone and the song “Th’on Strange Brew” had a wonderful groove and some chugga chugga riffs. The crowd really got going for the song “Horns” in which Bap encouraged crowd participation shouting “Hey, Hey, Hey”, before the groove slowed ever so slightly for some great dirty Rock and Roll with a heavy slant to it in the song “The Flower of Life”. “Rise of the Woodsmen” was a highlight for me. This was another heavy number and I could see how diverse Niall was on guitar. Mixing heavy riffs and again some nice melody came creeping in. Triggerman ended their set with hard rocking “Son of Solomon” and a few were head banging at the front for this final number. Again we had another top band tonight in Triggerman who know how to write some really great catchy hard ballsy riffs. Rifftastic! (Ed. You are not a 70’s radio DJ. rifftastic!)

Triggerman Setlist
1. Rage Of The Goddess
2. I Got The Lurgy
3. The Riff Holds Sway
4. Hail To The River Gods
5. Valhalla
6. Voices
7. Brand New Day
8. Th’on Strange Brew
9. Horns
10. The Flower Of Life
11. Rise Of The Woodsmen
12. Worms
13. Son Of Solomon

Visit Triggerman at:
www.triggerman.co.uk/
www.facebook.com/triggermanrocks
www.reverbnation.com/triggermanrocks

Stormzone
Stormzone

And now it’s the time for Headliners Stormzone to come on. Just prior to the band going on stage I was invited to join them for a pre-gig toast in their dressing room, which you can see in my video interview with the band linked on this page below. There I could see the camaraderie Stormzone have. There is a closeness and understanding they all have, with a huge sense of fun and professionalism as witnessed in my interview with the band.

The opening intro of their “Zero To Rage” album plays through the sound system and they let rip into the opening song from the same album “Where We Belong”. There really is no better opening song they could have done. It was a ripping opener. The last time I saw Stormzone was 25th August 2012. Guitarist David Sheild’s first time out with the band and pretty soon tonight I could see how settled he looked in the band, and how confident he looked. David also complimented Steve Moore with guitar duties between them both. With “The Immortals” I thought that this is as tight I have ever seen the band as vocalist John ‘Harv’ Harbinson gees up the crowd. As ever Stormzone are dressed mainly in a lot of Black or dark clothing and Harv introduces the next song “For those of you who have tattoos of keys that open the Secret Gateway” This is one of my favourite live songs of theirs and while watching this I was thinking how much Stormzone have developed into a headline act, and should be starting their own headline tours in Ireland and the UK ASAP.

Steve Moore - Stormzone
Steve Moore – Stormzone

Harv explains to the crowd that due to the strict 9pm time all the music has to stop by, he will be doing less talking during the set and introduces the next song as “probably where one of my sisters is staying tonight” and we get treated to an electrifying version of “Fear Hotel”. Man this is so tight. Harv had the crowd chanting and raising fists. The band members were enjoying themselves. They have a great relationship and mutual understanding with their fans and it was a beautiful sight to see as I was watching from the side further back from the main floor area. After this Harv humours the crowd by pointing out “That in the case of an emergency the emergency exit is to the right and the runway lights will come on. The only emergency will be if Graham (McNulty) decides to buy a round”. Harv’s voice has by now warmed up and he really shows this off during “The Memory Never Dies”. At one point Harv has to hold a note for a long time and this was faultless. Again this was a highlight for me, and this performed tonight was awesome. Stormzone were on fire. What did help was the superb job the sound engineer had done for this event, which sounded fantastic from an audience perspective, from all the bands that performed tonight.

Harv promotes new album “Three Kings” which will be released in July, and that they won’t be doing too much from the album tonight as they will be playing new songs at The Diamond Rock Club on 27th July. The band however gives us a wee sneak preview with the song “The Night of the Storm”. To me this sounded like 80’s Power Metal at its best. Great riffs and classic sounding metal lyrics with the chorus “When the lightning strikes, So begins the night of the storm. When the Thunder bites, You’ll remember why your born”.

Stormzone
Stormzone

Looking forward to hearing this album, which you will read about within the pages of PlanetMosh in the not too distant future! Harv dedicated the song “Hail The Brave” to the memory his late brother, and again the sound was fantastic for this one. There were a couple of surprise inclusions tonight, one being “The Final Journey”, which Harv says is one they don’t do that often. Then another one of my own personal favourites “Wasted Lives” is performed and we get to hear Bassist Graham McNulty open up with his fantastic bass sounds. Graham and drummer Davy Bates hold everything together in the rhythm section and tonight it was tight. I could even see Bap from Triggerman really getting into this one.

Tonight’s other surprise is a song Harv said Stormzone haven’t performed for around two and a half years. Off of Stormzone’s first album “Caught In The Act” the band perform “Tuggin’ At My Heartstrings”. It looked and sounded polished and very tight. A little something different for the night in which the crowd seemed to enjoy and lap up. Again a highlight of the night for me to see something from their first album performed live. David Shields really went to town on the solo here, playing out of his skin. Harv tells the story of the last time they played in the Limelight2, standing outside someone who had his brother with him, who was big, said aggressively to him “I should be in your band”. Harv replied “Maybe if things change I will give you a shout”. “And here he is standing to my right, Mr. David Shields on guitar”. Harv introduces the band and then lets rip into crowd pleaser “Death Dealer”. This was an amazing version and Harv had those on the floor cheering during the instrumental section. Everyone was thanked at the end of “Culchulann’s Story” and Stormzone finish their set with “The Legend Carries On”. People are clapping along to the opening slow section. and cheering “Hey”. This was a wonderful finale and while watching I got the feeling that Stormzone are becoming bigger than the venues they are currently playing in at this moment of time. David Shields has brought something special to the band and looks like he has been in there a while now, really fits in nicely. There is a great balance with the band and he seems to work well with Super Steve Moore. They have moved forward since the last time I saw them and need to get the right tour going. Everyone is going nuts at the end and a rousing round of applause greets the band as Harv finishes his final extended vocal note!

Stormzone Setlist
1. Where We Belong
2. The Immortals
3. Secret Gateway
4. Fear Hotel
5. The Memory Never Dies
6. Night Of The Storm
7. The Greatest Sacrifice
8. Hail The Brave
9. The Final Journey
10. Wasted Lives
11. Tuggin’ At My Heartstrings
12. Death Dealer
13. Culchullan’s Story
14. The Legend Carries On

Visit Stormzone at:
www.facebook.com/stormzoneuk
www.reverbnation.com/stormzone

Watch PlanetMosh interviewing Stormzone at Helfast 2013 here

To sum up, I believe all bands performed really well tonight and to me the inaugural Helfast was a huge success. The schedule for the main seemed to run smoothly without too many noticeable hitches to this reviewer. The audience seemed to enjoy the day and night immensely and getting involved with the atmosphere at various times. All bands fitted in nicely and were ideal acts to be involved with the festival. There was a sense of togetherness and high spirits throughout and of course Stormzone themselves. Well, to me it was their best performance I have seen to date and it can only get better for them. They deserve to be recognised and noticed to a much larger and wider audience and from the evidence tonight and the preview from their new forthcoming album, I believe something big is about to happen. In the year 2013 there’s a Storm that’s about to be brewing. A special mention has to go out to the sound engineer for the event. I didn’t catch his name but he did one hell of a job! I have been to many gigs over the years and I can honestly say I think the sound at Helfast and The Limelight2 was easily the best I have heard in any venue. All bands sounded good on the night and I have never heard Stormzone technically sound better live. Top man. He deserves a medal. For the future I hope we will see an even bigger Helfast next year with maybe a larger venue and even more bands. We will have to wait and see……

All photos by Paul Verner for PlanetMosh

Series NavigationHelfast ’13 Gallery >>

About Del Preston

So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o'clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn't go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head 'round the door, and mentions there's a little sweet shop on the edge of town. So - we go. And - it's closed. So there's me and Keith Moon and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweet shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they've got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shop owner and his son, that's a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business really. But sure enough, I got the M&Ms and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.