Tonight is the first of three nights celebrating the best of the Irish metal scene and beyond, The Cruiscín Lán also being a fine selection of venue to host the event.
As I had arrived a little early I decided to call an early pint and grab a seat down the back. At this stage, the soundchecks were still ongoing. Looking around
the venue I can’t help but feel somewhat intimidated by the amount of tattoos, beards and really, really long hair. With not much success, I do my best to make out band names on surrounding t-shirts, the only legible one being tonight’s headliners Triptykon (the middle ‘t’ acting as an inverted cross). I can’t help but be drawn to a conversation to my left.
Two Dublin heads are discussing their trip down to Cork by comparing playlists. I have to take note of the bands and move seats for fear of a half chuckle. Satan’s Arse, Blood of the Black Owl, Rotting Christ (Sundays Headliners) and Drugzilla. Sounds like a nice Sunday drive (maybe even to mass and back) alright.
What made it even more surreal is the dude who walked in with a dog that I can only describe as looking like a white wolf. Suddenly all thoughts of sacrifice were cast aside as the dog was inundated with a barrage of cutesy compliments.
Opening the festivities just before 8pm were Cork-based Íweriú. Covering only two songs over their 30 minute set, the band certainly know a thing or two about setting the vibe for the night. Opener ‘Ghost in the Machine’ is like nothing we hear for the remainder of the night. It’s filthy, sludgy, and doomy. There are elements of hardcore towards the end of the 17 minute climax
as the band take you on a journey to hell and back. A friend commented “that song should be the soundtrack to the 2012 budget“. I reckon he hit the nail on the head. The second of their two song set ‘When the Planets Align…’ can only be described as some dark fucking shit. As the smoke machine is working overtime on stage, the Íweriú frontman is on the floor sounding like he’s casting an exorcism. The guitars sound filthy but great, the sampled screaming voices fill up the venue and have the crowd intrigued, the progressions are creepy, while once again the song builds to a head banging finish. Met with looks
of confusion but approval, Íweriú prove that they operate on their own terms.
Dublin three piece Zom are up next, a side project of the much hyped (and deservedly so) Wizards of Firetop Mountain. This time
around the WOFM guitarist doubles as a stickman. Zom have caused quite a stir on the metal scene. Copies of their demo have sold like hot cakes and with the release in question (simply called ‘demo’) now on its third pressing I am curious to find out why.
Although labelled as black metal, I can hear a real punk influence with Zom. There are strong elements of American hardcore over the
30 minute set, The Misfits, Cro-Mags and Voivoid, for example. To say Zom are energetic would be an understatement. The drums are frantic, the death metal screams are vicious and the guitar shredding is a hundred miles a minute. ‘Infernal Lord of
Deepest Black’ goes down a treat with the ever increasing crowd while ‘Cosmic Winds’ literally blows through the venue.
There are some members of the audience who don’t seem impressed by Zom as a visual. They stand with their arms folded refusing to clap. In a way you can almost
imagine their thought process. Zom’s drummer looks like he walked off a beach in Home & Away, sitting topless behind the kit in a pair of bermuda shorts, the surfer hair dripping with sweat. The frontman looks like he should be sposored by Instagram while the bass player remains more perspex than metal. Still, when did looking metal ever matter. Zom prove that you don’t (nor ever did) need long hair, dress head to toe in black and look like you’re off to sacrifice a few goats to pay tribute and enjoy. It’s only music after all.
Afer grabbing a pint and and a few smokes outside, I’m genuinely blown away by the camraderie tonight. I met a couple from Finland who had travelled all the way over to see tonight’s headliners Triptykon. I met a nice chap from Spain who didn’t know one band on the bill but still payed €30 on the door to come in. I met a few local heads who were very welcoming and full of wit, as well as a nice lady whom I assumed was from Finland with the strong accent but who was by all accounts from Kerry. Spirits were high, nothing was too messy and I have to admit that although I am new to this scene I felt very much at home.
Mourning Beloveth bring us into the second half of day one and with 20 years in the biz it’s easy to see why the seasoned five piece are met with
rapturous applause as they take stage. Everything great about metal is here. There’s melody but plenty of heaviness, there is the death style vocal (Darren Moore)
fantastically complemented by the vocal acrobatics of guitarist-vocalist (Frank Brennan). High octave screams that bring to mind the best of Noisy Mothers.
It’s obvious that Morning Beloveth are a finely tuned band who are no stranger to the stage. The 20+ years experience, tours of Europe and the States, as well as an impressive back catalogue of releases, are nothing short of inspirational to the younger bands here tonight. They might look like their age but they certainly don’t sound it or show it. You can see that they love what they do and they’re in no rush to stop the metal (in this case) just yet. A serious \m/ has to be handed to them.
After another few pints and what seems like an hour or so of chat outside I wander back in to find my spot for tonight’s headliners Triptykon. I should probably reiterate that I am pretty excited about seeing them as the entire smoking area has played it’s part in creating some serious hype. Earlier in the night, I was standing in the smoking area when a minibus pulled into the alleyway. As a hush fell over the area, a large member of security jumped out of the van building a gate between the vans door and the back of the venue. A figure with long grey hair, sporting a black woolly hat, with a menacing look was ushered inside in prompt fashion. The smoking area became hushed as all eyes were fixed on who I’ve been informed (more than a few times at this stage) is somewhat of a god in metal circles, Mr. Tom G Warrior.
At 49, Tom is adored by Metal fans worldwide for his earlier ventures Hellhammer and more notably Celtic Frost. He has been the subject of some serious stalkers and has come under fire
for his alleged ties with Satanism (although Warrior claims they have never followed any man-made religion) – “We are very critical of any religion, be it Satanic or Christian or whatever“.
As I take a stroll to find my spot inside it seems most people have had the same idea. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that I have to manoeuvre my way from the top heavy half of the crowd down towards a space free area. I wonder again if it’s a camraderie thing or if everybody is lost in the zone with anticipation. 20 minutes later and the two Triptykon techs are doing a fine job of prick teasing the crowd. Just when you think the bass couldn’t sound better, the tech is out again strumming the open E string (although it sounds like it’s tuned towards hell more so).
The smoke machine flutters smoke every 3 or 4 minutes while a quick glance around the venue is met with smiles and nods of expectation.
Finally, after what seems like a lifetime, Triptykon take stage. Being the last of the four to walk on, Tom G Warrior is greated by a huge roar. Not a word is said as the band launch into the vicious ‘Procreation (For the Wicked)’. The sound is absolutely perfect. It would seem the slower the band play the more the crowd get into it. The word sludge was invented for bands like this. Heads nod, back and forth like a sick metronome. The rhythm section of bassist Vanja Slajh and drummer Norman Lonhard are mindblowing. The rhythms go from sludge to full on 150 beats per minute black metal with such precision that the head nods don’t speed up or slow down.
It’s easy to get immersed in what Triptykon do as they do it so well and with such ease. The 11 minute masterpiece ‘Goetia’ is nothing short of phenomenal. That they remember the sheer volume of great riffs is beyond belief. By the time we get to ‘Crucifixus’, I am getting an insight into the mind of Tom G Warrior. This is some dark shit. Although not a Satantist (as mentioned above) it is clear that Warrior has something he wants to get off his chest. At times the intensity level is so high that I find myself looking up pictures of dolphins playing ball on my phone just to pull my jacket out of the gates of hell.
I can see how people relate to Warriors music as it’s extremely easy to suspend disbelief watching these guys live. To my left there is a man dressed in a suit, looking like he just stepped out from behind the mortgage advice desk down in AIB. Every now and again I catch him nodding his head from left to right in disbelief. You can hear him think aloud. So transfixed are his eyes on Warrior’s every move that the nods are his reply to Warrior’s cry. He is feeling whatever pain created these pieces of music, be it an instrumental piece, a grinding doom/sludge riff with a chant like vocal, whatever Warrior is trying to get accross, the man in the suit is feeling every inch of it, he along with myself and many others are witnessing something quite unique.
On stage the band remain in charchter. No one smiles, cheek bones disgruntle as progressions get heavier and the crowd are loving every minute of it. Heavier song parts are introduced by an “ooomph” from Warrior into his mic. Some delivered in sync with the crowd and one in particular getting a rare mention from Warrior in his Swiss accent, “I couldn’t have put it better“.
As the set progresses we see the human side of the band. During ‘Abyss Within My Soul’, Warrior accidently knocks the mic off the stand while playing a complicated (to say the least) riff. One of the techs runs to the rescue and is met by a playful two handed, boxer like stance from Warrior. He flashes the first smile of the set,
while to his left bassist Vanja Slajh lifts her head from cleaning the stage with her hair to flash the second.
Live, Triptykon are phenomenal. I was genuinely blown away from start to finish by the intricate arrangements, the vast amount of fantastically crafted riffs, not to mention the sheer brilliance of Drummer Norman Lonhard. Hands down one of the best dummers I’ve ever seen in the flesh. Warrior acknowledges his first visit to Ireland by stating “Ireland, it was worth the wait” before launching into the set’s encore. Tonight the compliment can surely be returned.
Triptykon were certainly worth the wait and have awoken my inner Metal soul. Since the weekend I have become somewhat fascinated by Warrior and co. I want to know the history and, beyond suspending disbelief for an hour or so, the men (and women in this case) behind the mask.
The Burning Oak Festival was a fantastic experience. I would recommend it to anyone who can look beyond genres and cliches. Although many associate Metal with Satan and so on so forth, it’s almost laughable in a way. What you really have here is true music fans, respectful of each other, respectful enough to shut up and listen when a band (liked or not) are playing and respectful enough to always, no matter what, fly the flag for all that is Metal.