The dawning of August can mean only one thing in these parts – the annual celebration of all that is best about the Irish metal scene (and, on this occasion, that from slightly further afield) that is the latest instalment of the Monsters Of Rot one-day festival of madness, mayhem and good-natured general drunken shenanigans. And so it is that the PM team once again is up at an unearthly hour to catch a specially chartered beer bus from the relative safety of Belfast city centre to the wilds of the Fermanagh countryside: and to say that the trip is adventurous is something of an understatement, involving as it does broken windscreen wipers, band parades, tractors, horrendous traffic jams and overflowing bladders!
The epic nature of this year’s road trip means that the Belfast crew miss the opening band, local pop punks Attack The Day, and arrive just minutes before Altus (7) are due to take the stage: the band are having their own on-road problems, as guitarist Dara Monaghan arrives late and has no time to prepare – although, similarly, nothing can prepare both the PM team and many of the other earlycomers for the sight of vocalist Steve ‘Sleeve’ Reynolds looking like an emissary from some Satanic monastery! The band deliver their technical death metal with tight musicianship and an intense passion, especially from Sleeve and guitarist Mikk Legge (pictured left) and set the bar for the rest of the day.
It’s a challenge to which Axecatcher (5) fail to rise. Their screamo hardcore punk is passionate enough, but there is just something missing in terms of intensity; but, they nevertheless get heads nodding and a decent reception from the still nascent crowd. JobSeekers (6) play enjoyably noisy and catchy punk, delivered with energy and enthusiasm, and they get those at the front bouncing along in time; but, it all sounds a bit samey and the second half of the set drags, sending many in the direction of the bar and hot food concession. The mood changes significantly with 100Forests (6) and their mix of psyched-out trance-like prog, which produces crescendoes of sound mixed with the densest of despairing beats which bring an early darkness to the damp-tinged late afternoon.
Okus (9) provide the first of the day’s highlight sets, with their tight, aggressive, neck-snapping blackened death metal-tinged crust grind. Seconds into their first song, frontman Greg (pictured right) breaks a string but carries on with running repairs in between his guttural vocal delivery and the quartet go on to deliver a hugely impressive and crushing set. Having been drafted in at a few day’s notice, following the last minute withdrawals of first Hollow Truth and then Guttrench, Dublin’s Xerosun (10) proceed to rip the heads off everyone present, especially with Martyna’s incredible range, which varies from the darkest, most brutal of death metal growls to the butterfly harmony of her upper range. The band themselves deliver their melodic and precise death metal with passion and accuracy.
Gourd‘s (8) dark doom-laden sludge perfectly complements the ever darkening sky outside the marquee and re-introduces a dense, psyched-out feel to proceedings and provides a suitably atmospheric appetizer for the three co-headlining acts, the first of whom are the highly anticipated Austrian goregrinders VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxCx (6). After what appears to be no fewer than five false starts, their computerized blastbeat-fuelled industrial disco grind proves weirdly infectious, its Vengaboys-style electronics merging seemlessly with the more brutal aspects of the genre and turning this most metal of festivals briefly into something more resembling a rave (complete with flying blow-up dolls!).
Normal service is reserved with a simply stunning set from Abaddon Incarnate (10): their technical DM-edged grindcore combines precise, accurate riffs with hard-hitting rhythms and impressive melodies, which prove captivating, atmospheric and hugely enjoyable, providing one of the sets of the day. For some reason, the normally impressive Xerath (8) seem to struggle to follow the penultimate act: their crunching, progressive death metal is delivered with grit and determination, but there is just something missing, and the slower nature of their fore-shortened set is an anticlimax to the day.
- Photographs by Jason Gallagher
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Xerath play the Ronnie James Dio stage at Bloodstock on Saturday (August 8).