I got to the venue well in time for the soundcheck which even from outside drowned out the incessant Christmas music blasting from the cafe and bars next door. This was my first time in the venue (Voodoo on Fountain Street, Belfast) and it kind of reminded me, by its appearance and vibe, of The Viper Room in Hollywood, California, its similar dark, minimalist interior much suited to the forthcoming noise.
Acid Age is: Eddie Cross on vocals, Jude McIlwaine on guitar, Jake Martin on bass and Luke Tolcher on drums.
Acid Age has already claimed the stage (all of its two-and-a-half feet rise from floor level) when I enter and they get straight down to brass tacks with a ferocious burst of energy which I feel in my soul and which gets the head-bangers straight in there, wasting no time! Jude gives it his all and plays some effortless slide guitar adding some cracking melody to the sound. They are a very tight band with a big sound. Track two, “Slave girl” was brutal and a possible response to the “Bomb on a shit farm” tale bassist Jake mysteriously referred to from the previous evening. (The band, unfortunately, didn’t make it to the Dublin show as their car caught fire 20 minutes outside Belfast, Acid Reign’s Howard “H” Smith explained later, apparently, the Dublin crowd booed them in their absence)!
Track three is equally fiery and the crowd are starting to get into it properly now. Nice dirty, funky bass breakdown for the self-described hip hop section of the set. The band are already a sweaty mess despite the coldness of the venue! The closing track, “The Burning of Rome” is an aptly-named, apocalyptic soundtrack to the chaos that must have ensued. All in all – brutal, dark and directly to the point!
Scimitar is: Jonny Gray on vocals, John Thompson on guitars, Chris Baird on bass and Ryan Atkin on drums.
The Belfast four-piece boasts a meaty sound and flying v Gibson frontman starts off by dragging the stragglers forward to the strains of their opener with its “Are you guilty?” refrain. Decidedly shamanic frontman, Jonny really goes for it and, as he throws track two in our faces, he looks like he’s challenging the room to a dirty fight; lots of anger and frustration is evident. No time to even breathe between songs as they launch into “Cursed City” (also lifted from a Thrash Metal compilation album, “Tracking Blood”, this piece delivers what it promises, painful and excessive amounts of thrashing ensues and things are getting darker!
The next number, “Fireborn” from 2018, “Of Blood and Fire” record is inspired by Game of Thrones and consists of a suitably heavy, medieval, metal sound and melody which invokes flames to advance in my mind’s eye – I can almost see the dragons unleashing their unrelenting fury on unsuspecting villagers. Next two songs are from the band’s debut EP, “Act of War”, old-school metal sound, ear-wrenching rage and blistering power emerge and enclose us all. Final track, “Erased from Existence” is based on Back To The Future, ends with a burst of John Williams’s Back To The Future Theme thrown in at the end – 2.21 gigawatts Marty, it CAN be done! 5/5
Acid Reign is: Howard “H” Smith on vocals, Cooky and Paul Chanter on guitar, Pete Dee on bass and Marc Jackson on drums.
The main event! Possibly the tallest drummer I’ve ever seen is making the final adjustments to his kit and the numbers have definitely increased since Scimitar left the stage. There’s a palatable buzz in the venue as the anticipation is building. The next time I see the drummer he’s beating out a rhythm on the wall in front of me in time to the background music. And they’re off, a lively opener kicks off the show as the “C*nt”-tee-shirt-wearing front man trails everyone down the front with a wave of his hands. Much more focussed than the previous acts and clearly been in the game a lot longer (1985-1991 and 2015-). The bass player, with his neon green bass and tinsel/magic tree air freshener hanging off the headstock, is hard to ignore too! Well, it is nearly Christmas after all!
At the start of track two, “Close your mind”, Howard announces he’s feeling a bit under the weather (not that it shows as he doesn’t stand still for a second) and the crowd are more than happy to share the vocal duties. A massively energetic and enthusiastic band and the audience is lapping it up. Howard’s crowd-pleasing antics range from apparently executing ballet leaps in the background, threatening to “fire extinguisher” the crowd and finding a table from somewhere to use an impromptu platform in the middle of the audience.
Track three has well and truly kicked in and sure enough, there’s already a mini pit forming. With a Rap Metal feel more than anything, they work it beautifully, hard-hitting and raw. This band are definitely certifiable and they love it! I look away for a second and Howard is nowhere to be seen as he’s pushed his way through the crowd to who knows where. He’s back on stage a moment later but probably not for long. I’m wrecked just watching him! This band is not what I was expecting at all; nowhere near as downbeat and serious as I was prepared for.
Next track, “The Fear”, an eight-odd-minutes long grind is a lot more in the intense vein you’d expect. After a momentary rest (blink and you’d miss it), Acid Reign launch into their closing tracks of “Hardship” and “Blind Aggression”, two hard-hitting closers followed by a brief encore (after emerging from the black curtains at the sides of the stage as there’s nowhere else to hide) and the madness continues! Overall a fun, class act and I could have watched them all night if real life didn’t get in the way. Fantastic!
Review: Clark Chambers
Photography: Wayne Donaldson // TWKOM Media