If there is ever something which can be honestly described as an institution on the Belfast metal scene, then it truly is RocKD. Started up almost a decade and a half ago by James ‘The Nicest Man In Metal’ Loveday as a Saturday afternoon showcase for the best in local acts, it has helped built aforesaid gentleman’s Distortion Project into THE metal promotion in this part of the world… Over the years of its existence, through good times and bad, RocKD has stood as a bastion, hampered only by early curfews, but nonetheless helping to serve as a nursery for many damn fine young bands who have gone on to bigger and better things.
There can be no better example of this approach than tonight’s openers, new black metal knights on the block, Ceaseless Blight, who make what can only be described as a hugely impressive debut, not only in front of the RocKD audience but in the live arena as a whole. Their old school approach is as refreshing as its brutal, and they have all the right ingredients in place – from Andy’s blistering battering ram of ballistic blastbeats to the melodic interplay to the pure evil of frontman Rob’s voice. My only criticism is that there was no communication with the audience, but they let their music do their talking from them and this was a hugely positive start for this extremely promising combo.
With bassist Bryn pulling double duties this evening, his ‘other band’ Cursed Sun – one of the hardest working bands on the Norn Iron scene – hit hard and right between the eyes with opener ‘Demon Caller’ and keep the intensity going for their allotted half hour. I’ve always thought the Sun to be a great live band, and tonight they really are at the top of their game, especially frontman Jones, who is usual charismatic and energetic self, leaping on and off the stage, railings with gay abandon: his enthusiasm is matched by the rest of the band, and especially guitarist Ciaran, who seems to be the happiest man in the room if his constant grin is anything to go by!
Red Six are another act who always put on a powerful live show and tonight – the first time I have seen them in several months – is no exception. R proves once again that he his one of the best drummers around, and a helluva show-off to boot, while bassist Robert and guitarist Laura anchor the rhythm side of things stage left, while lead man Steve pummels out the riffs and seers his solos while lending suitably aggressive backing vocal support to frontman Gerard, who towers over the stage, interacts brilliantly with the crowd and delivers yet another great performance from a band who just love to, as they say in the online biog, “provide a service” to the heavy metal community.
If openers Ceaseless Blight are looking for a throne to which to become the young pretenders then it is most definitely that of Zombified, the leaders of Northern Ireland’s small but loud-as-fuck death metal community, and this evening proved once again why they are more than deserving of that accolade with another powerful performance, which even had the PM team heading into the moshpit to exercise the old neck muscles (you think we’d know better at our age!) – thanks to the cajoling of frontman Pete, who almost hypnotically seemed to draw the audience forward and into his dark embrace. Zombified’s death metal is old school, very much in the mould of Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation, and they do it extremely well, with guitarists Adrien and Jamie building layers of melody over the pummeling rhythms of bassist Chris and drummer Gary. The band previewed a couple of new tracks, taken from a forthcoming split EP, and these showed that their sound is progressing and the band are developing a distinctive sound of their own.
One final note about this evening’s proceedings: I’ve recently been extremely vociferous about the lack of support for metal gigs here in Belfast. If this show is anything to go by, the trend seems to be reversing, for the good, and it was extremely gratifying to see so many people turning out on an cold early February evening to show their support for four great acts. Long may this continue.