Full Metal Racket
Decayor, For Ruin, Airgead Lamh, Thurisaz, Sinnocence, Sorrowfall, Cletic Legacy, Scald, Steve Grimmet/Grim Reaper, Rotting Christ, Paradise Lost.
The Full Metal Racket crew have made a brave and bold move this year in expanding their operations to a major all day event in the Mandella Hall. This is only the third year of FMR, and how quickly things have progressed from 2006's all-dayer in Laverys, with solely homegrown bands, to this line-up boasting major international Metal names like British pioneers Paradise Lost and Greece's much revered Rotting Christ. It represents both a step up in professionalism and an even bigger platform for what FMR is built upon - homegrown Irish metallic talent.
Donegal's young pups Decayor open the festivities in convincing style, a doom laden and textured approach for their newer material evident despite the short set, with the cold roar of vocalist Pauric Gallagher being a particular highlight. Cork band For Ruin may have been a bit quiet lately, but a characteristically smooth set of melodic and engrossing Metal is assured as the band flex their considerable talent with a flawless execution that could serve as a fine template for their contemporaries. The first of the Greek bands of the night, Airgead Lamh, swing things into a more epic and sweeping mood with keyboards and soaring vocals ahoy, but are hampered by an anaemic guitar tone and some distractingly foppish and strange theatrics from the singer. Occasionally they hit a tone and mood that's on the button, but more often than not attention is left wandering as the songs flop about.
Belgium's Thurisaz are up next, and draw a warm response from the assembled crowd with a progressive hybrid of styles, all deep growls mixing with a profusion of warm and organic riffing. The group's two guitarists are particularly animated, giving what for and getting it back, with a floor full of nodding heads and banging fists serving as a firm seal of approval. N.I. stalwarts Sinnocence make a later than scheduled appearance in the day, and deliver a somewhat derivative but well-received mix of chugging heaviness with faster thrash sections to a decent response. One of the country's brightest younger bands, Sorrowfall's take on blackened sounding, melodic Metal goes down well as usual, despite a cover of Bathory's 'A Fine Day to Day' sounding somewhat rushed and off kilter. Underlining the easy atmosphere of the day, an elusive festival organiser even appears briefly onstage with axe in hand for a quick bash at one of their older numbers.
Dublin veterans Celtic Legacy are unfortunately missed due to the pressing need to eat, but trustworthy reports indicate a fine set of riddled with galloping Maiden-esque riffs, melodic leads and the usual soaring vocals. Scald are a unique organism in Irish Metal, and tonight they present a typically hammering display of crust-ridden filth, culled mainly from their latest EP, the parasite obsessed 'Fluke'. It's an uncompromising and angular attack that disperses the majority of the crowd, but leaves a hardened core of misanthropists baying for more down the front.
Resembling a jolly old maniac let loose on a stage, ,b>Steve Grimmet/Grim Reaper produce a tight and effective sound steeped in the power of the old vocalist's singing - with the obvious set highlight of 'See You in Hell' delivering the required dose of 80s Heavy Metal glory. It's a funny sight watching the grey haired, overweight singer demand with good natured ire that people descend from the bar balcony in return for sweeties, but he can still crank out the tunes.
So to the first of the main headliners, and Rotting Christ hit the ground running with a glut of numbers from their latest return to form, 'Theogonia'. It's with this album that the band have regained the powerful riffing and striking melody that typifies their best work, and frontman Sakis exhorts the swelling crowd like a pro, leaping from monitors and spitting the vocal lines with venom. Set standard 'King of a Stellar War' is an obvious highlight, but things lead up to a natural high with the slow burning magic of the title track from 1994's 'Non Serviam'. It's eaten up, garnering the best crowd reaction of the night.
Paradise Lost, scene forefathers in their own right, purvey a very different type of sound, but command equal respect. This is instant evoked when they choose to open with 'Hallowed Land' from their classic 'Draconian Times' release. Continued returns to DT material is a feature of set, inciting prolonged singalongs, as the wounded yet powerful vocals of Nick Holmes are complimented by the sound desk delivering a crushingly heavy guitar tone. Sound gremlins are hard at work onstage though, Holmes' famously dour demeanor being brought to the fore with regular stops for techincal hiccups. Despite this, the pure quality of the group's songwriting wins over, with the likes of golden oldie 'Ember's Fire', 'As I Die' and even that relic from their ill fated electro-pop era, 'Erased' having enough power to reduce everyone in the vicinity to grinning goons. The crowd is tired out at this stage, and when encore of 'The Last Time' falls apart due to yet another technical glitch, the group call it a night and retire. An oddly sudden end to proceedings, but there's a firm sense of day's success in the air as the crowd troops out into the night.
Words: Lorcan Archer
Pic: Simon Ward