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Monsters Of Rot – Letterbreen, Halfway Inn 16/08/2014

Monsters Of Rot poster - updatedFor those not already familiar with the event, Monsters Of Rot – which was sponsored for the first time this year by PlanetMosh – is Northern Ireland’s premier annual showcase for the best that the extreme metal scene on both sides of the Irish border has to offer.  Taking place in the unlikely setting of the car park of a roadside pub, roughly halfway between the town of Enniskillen and the aforementioned border, it has gone from strength to strength, as evidenced by this year presenting us with, er, well, the strongest line up to date – with at least three bands more than capable of claiming headline status.

As the bus bringing a bunch of noisy hallions down from the big smoke of Belfast pulls up outside, The Savage Rabbits (https://www.facebook.com/thesavagerabbits) are just starting their set… Having replaced sludgelords Owlcrusher, the local quartet’s downtuned, groovy sludge-meets- grunge is an early delight, making great use of harmonics, especially in Francis McNally guitar work and Nathan Ternan’s rich and powerful vocals, the latter making the most of the very obviously personal lyrics, especially on the beautifully poignant closer, ‘No 7’.

Pursuit Of Ruin‘s (https://www.facebook.com/PursuitOfRuin) technical death metal, with a darkened groove, has a very Kreator influence to it, especially in the solid rhythms and the precise and effective guitar interplay between Aaron Crawford’s rhythm and Shaun McGonagle’s lead work.  Despite a few technical problems, POR prove themselves to be one of those bands for whom it is as much about what they leave out as what they put in.

The dark and dense black metal sound of Dublin’s Aeternum Vale (https://www.facebook.com/AeternumVale) is rhythmic and melodic.  Vocalist Colin Byrne is supremely confident, with just the right degree of snarling arrogance not to go over the threshold of the latter, while the rest of the band – hidden under their black hoods – match the performance of their frontman with a tight, highly accomplished and committed, with the intensity in the eyes of drummer Dave “Atlas” Mc Carron – whose double-kick work is extremely impressive – epitomizing the overall mood of the band’s set:  this certainly is a band to watch and one who could soon could be giving countrymen like Primordial a hard run for their money.

Dead Aeon (https://www.facebook.com/DeadAeon) play a brand of blackened death metal-thrash crossover that is as aggressive and hard-hitting as it is exuberant, with vocalist Jack Penders especially enthusiastic in getting the late afternoon crowd away from the bar and into the mosh-pit – a move which soon proves an extremely painful one for one punter, who later slips on the concrete floor resulting in two broken wrists – while the rest of the quartet are tight both rhythmically and melodically.

ZhOra (https://www.facebook.com/zhOramusic) are a band this reviewer has been watching from afar for a while, and the first live encounter did not disappoint, as their grindcore-tinged technical progressive metal proved to be as acidic as the fallout around plans for the proposed nearby fracking plant.  Their dark, dank soundscapes pierced by sharp rays of light matched the growing gloom outside the main stage marquee, and showed that the town of Clonmel could soon be known for a lot more than a certain brand of sickly sweet cider!

Setting Off Sirens (https://www.facebook.com/settingoffsirens) could almost be described as MOR’s ‘house’ band, featuring as they do sound engineer John Moffatt on guitar.  Their energetic pop punk, which is given a slightly DM edge with Moffatt’s backing vocals, is delivered with a suitable sense of anarchy and inherent mayhem, and is a pleasant breath of fresh air amid the intensity of what has both gone before and is still to come…

Ceaseless Blight - Zombified - Limelight 2 BelfastWeed Priest‘s (https://www.facebook.com/WeedPriest) dark, grimy stoner doom is in stark contrast to the sun which is trying to make a desperate last-minute return to the sky above.  Their sound is nihilistic and captivating, if somewhat unimaginative and ultimately unfulfilling.  By total contrast, Belfast’s Zombified (https://www.facebook.com/zombifieduk) launch the second half of the day with a typically brutal, eviscerating and invigorating assault which takes no prisoners and is one of their best performances in recent memory.

As night starts to fall, Eternal Helcaraxe‘s (https://www.facebook.com/eternalhelcaraxe) brooding black metal is suitably complementary to the darkening sky.  Unveiling several tracks from their forthcoming second album, ‘In Times of Desperation‘, the Cavan natives opened up the earth below them to draw up a sound born and matured in the very depths of Hell itself.  Tracing their roots back more than 20 years, Putrefy (https://www.facebook.com/pages/PUTREFY/117333211610033) are by far the most experienced band on the bill – and this most definitely shows, as their classically-influenced, supremely technical and precise death metal is delivered with a tightness and practised ease that is also brutality effective in its impact.

It’s hard to put the experience that is Fuckhammer (https://www.facebook.com/f666hammer) into words, except to say that they live up to their name, hammering audiences into submission with their brand of classic metal mixed with grunting grindcore and even a southern boogie vibe:  Baggy cajoles the audience to greater and wilder levels of head flailing shenanigans in front of the stage, while the band are tight and expert in their jobs.

Coldwar Dublin 2014Coldwar (https://www.facebook.com/thisiscoldwar) are used to playing to much bigger crowds than a tent in a car park, but they nevertheless beat down all present with another pummelling performance:  Trevor prowls the stage with the unrepentant hunger of a tiger straining at its leash, delivering a typically bellowing and confrontational performance which is hard-hitting… however, as their set heads to its conclusion, it is clear that there is trouble in the air!

With sets having over-run, the neighbours (all three cows and four sheep!) ganching about the noise and the local constabulary on their way, Overoth (https://www.facebook.com/overothband) are forced to slash their closing set to a laughable 15 minutes – a point towering Andy makes with a regretful viscosity as the band make the best of a bad situation and powerhouse their way through the brevity of their set.

It may have come to a somewhat damp squib of an ending, but overall the fourth incarnation of Monsters Of Rot was, as we say in this part of the world, great craic… see yez next year bais \m/

Zombified photograph, by Paul Verner, taken at Limelight 2, Belfast.

Coldwar photograph, by Steve Dempsey, taken at Voodoo Lounge, Dublin.

About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff