The car park of a country pub in what we in this part of the universe refer to as ‘the arse-end of nowhere’ may seem an unusual location for an extreme metal event, but here we are: in a tent, in the pissing rain, at the back of a pub on the main road between Enniskillen and Sligo for the third instalment of the Monsters Of Rot mini-fest, which brings together a mixture of grindcore, punk, black and death metal bands from all over the island of Ireland – and slightly further afield.
Openers Claim To Blame are already on stage when your reviewer arrives at the scenic location (the concrete car park is far from pretty but the countryside around it is extremely so), and their pleasant, poppy ska punk quickly demonstrates the diversity of the bill – and they’ve obviously brought a few mates with them to help kick start the party in style!
Mayo’s Pilgrimage (http://pilgrimige.bandcamp.com/) are a new name to yours truly, and they impress with their heavy, psyched-out bass-driven stoner doom, which is delivered tightly and not inconsiderable aplomb. In a last minute change to the running order, Subordinate (https://www.facebook.com/subordin4te) deliver hardcore crust d-beat punk, which is edgy, catchy and melodic, delivered confidently and efficiently and sets the scene for the first highlight of the day…
Cavan grindcore gangsters Grinned (https://www.facebook.com/grinnedcore – see what they did there?) are intense and emotive, despite their set nearly coming crashing down around their ears when guitarist Mira breaks a string on his guitar (which already has one missing!): they battle on, with Mira swapping his guitar for a microphone (“I’ve always wanted to be just a singer” he quips) and their hugely enjoyable stint is rewarded with the first mosh pit of the afternoon. The band also win the PM awards for both the festival’s best stage outfit (vocalist Coyler’s stunning leopard-print pyjama bottoms) and the worst (guitarist Jamie’s rather ridiculous ‘football’ shirts!).
Bad Aids provide a suitably entertaining interlude with a set of fast, furious punk covers, drawing in a diverse range of material, from The Wildhearts (a decent if accelerated rendition of ‘Caffeine Bomb’) to Cock Sparrer, ending with a brace of their own songs, “so you know what we really sound like”. The highlight of their set is a riotous ‘Pervert’ – the chorus of which we can’t repeat online, but it relates to a certain famous rock guitarist and his alleged online activities!
It’s ‘back to the grind’, in a more madcap and hardcore style, with zany Glaswegian duo Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair Wheelchair (https://www.facebook.com/wheelchairwheelchairwheelchairwheelchair), who are playing the second of two Irish dates using borrowed equipment to deliver their fun-filled thrashy grind, and almost single-handedly bring the house down early when drummer Stuart Finnie ends the set completely in the buff, with only a blue cloth covering his modesty (and Grinned drummer Kevin in his place on the stool).
Making a rare live appearance, veteran Belfast doomsters Bad Boat (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bad-Boat/204420306235906) are the first real heavyweights on the bill, proceeding to flatten the place with their monstrous riffs and mountain-crumbling melodies: the Boat’s shows are always huge sonic assaults, and although the sun is threatening to poke through the clouds outside they keep proceedings inside the festival marquee suitably dark and menacing (even with vocalist Tom Clarke’s Buckfast-fuelling witty banter), earning the first encore of the day.
As the sun finally gives up the battle and let’s the rain clouds do their worst, things are kept suitably dark with the droning sludge of On Pain Of Death (https://www.facebook.com/onpainofdeath), who are made up of three quarters of Pilgrimage and, in contrast to their earlier performance, are brutally heavy and minimalist as they plough into the loudest set of the afternoon…
Another act whose rare appearances are rarer than an honest politician are the living legends William Christ And The One Man Orgy: fronted by the “sexiest man in black metal”, this is a band who defy all the normal, preconceived generic conventions, forsaking songs about worshiping Satan and burning traditions for a series of pleasant little ditties about romance, and especially the joys of (anal) sex, the measured consumption of beer and the importance of dressing properly, all delivered via beautiful compositions, intricate melodies and thoughtful, philosophical lyricism… yeah, right! this is good honest fun, played with affection, and a highly entertaining diversion before the serious business that is to come in the last third of the evening.
As dusk descends outside, Armagh’s Lucid Nightmare (https://www.facebook.com/lucidnightmareband) are the first act to play under lights, and perform an enjoyable set of decent classic metal-infused death/thrash: despite a few technical problems with the drum kit, they demonstrate a good degree of ability, with a competent set of tunes, and go down very well.
GARGANTUAN (https://www.facebook.com/GARGANTUANBRUTALITY) are very much on home turf (frontman Aidy Reihill actually curated the fest), and are extremely comfortable playing in their own back yard. In line with their name (and the capitalization thereof), the Enniskillen four piece produce a huge sound, centred very firmly on Aidy’s massive bass sound, which is perfectly complemented by Stocky’s precise but powerful drumming: this leaves guitarist Rony Reihill and Chris Duffy to deliver brutal yet melodic riffs while Aidy’s harsh, booming growl suits their pummeling material perfectly.
It’s definitely a special day as far as band’s making rare live appearances are concerned: Rex Shachath (https://www.facebook.com/rexshachath) have only played twice before in their native Northern Ireland, and they are on absolutely destructive form. Frontman Dave has been at the fest all day, supporting every band on the bill, and by late evening he is hungry for action, prowling the floor in front of the tiny stage like an unleashed panther with the smell of its dinner in its nostrils.
The band are tight as fuck, particularly the rhythm section of Eddie and Jay, while guitarists Andrew and Franky unleash chaos incarnate with their ferocious riffs and diabolic solos. They preview several tracks from their forthcoming second EP, ‘Revocation Of The Bloodline’, and on the evidence of these debut performances this is going to be one helluva titanic release!
Headliners Dichotomy (https://www.facebook.com/dichotomy) take to stage almost invisible amidst a wall of green-lit smoke. The Dublin death metallers do not get the same rabid reaction as the acts preceding them although this does change in the second half, as the smoke clears and the last pit of the night opens up – but nevertheless deliver a solid set of technical DM: personally, it’s a bit too clean cut and precise in places, especially in terms of the lead guitar and vocals, but it’s extremely impressive stuff from a band who know their craft and deliver it with aplomb.
All in all, Monsters Of Rot is a great wee festival. It may be a bit awkward to get to, which perhaps explains why it is not better supported, but it was most definitely worth making the trek to the wilds of County Fermanagh to check out this diverse billing of bands, and to meet up with some old friends (and make some new ones). Roll on MOR IV…
Photographs by the author.