It’s testament to not only the hardiness, but also the sense of adventure of Belfast’s metal community that a healthy crowd braved a truly awful winter’s night to check out a veritable plethora of international, symphonic metal-style bands on Saturday (10th February) in the Limelight. It’s also gratifying to see four acts which have never been to the city, proving that the scene here is thriving.
Due to the tightness of the schedule, New Jersey’s Midnight Eternal began their set as the room was still filling up. After a dramatic intro they hit the ground running with an immediate brisk pace, which front woman Raine Hilai’s soaring, powerful vocals matched perfectly. With a higher pitch than is usually found in the symphonic genre, and a black-clad, glamorous look, Hilai soon had the crowd hooked. Musically, the band are a tightly cohesive unit, with some terrific group harmonies, tasty guitar licks and enough double kicks to vibrate glasses off tables. And while Raine’s voice admittedly starts to grate after a while, the band played a lively and entertaining set.
Equally as visually striking, but for entirely different reasons were Null Positiv. Even before singer Elli Berlin stepped on stage, the other band members were an arresting prospect, with their black metal-style face paint and wild hair. With Berlin’s arrival however, jaws were seen to drop, in equal parts astonishment and delight. Of Amazonian proportions, and with breath taking charisma, she also possesses one of the finest, most versatile voices this reviewer has ever heard. From black metal screams and death metal growls, to a clean singing voice she is a powerful, mesmerising presence that enchanted and beguiled the audience. The band’s sound is further proof that metal is evolving and becoming less rigid genre-wise, as they gleefully combine the aforementioned elements with industrial and even nu metal. If there is any justice in the world, this band will be huge.
With six members crammed on the modest Limelight stage, Russia’s Imperial Age followed, and though they struggled for space, they filled the room with their epic and dramatic pagan metal sounds. Featuring seriously impressive vocals from the obviously classically Alexander ‘Aor’ Osimov, Jane ‘Corn’ Odintsova and Anna ‘Kiara’ Moiseeva, when the trio sang together it was simply divine. Removing Alexander from the mix on occasion, with just the two women, the sound was almost celestial. A rousing set that could warm the Russian winter.
And so to the night's headliners. Starting off as a death metal band, under the steady hand of front man Christofer Johnsson, Therion have evolved to an ever more melodic beast. As if to hammer home their progression, their just-released their rock opera 'The Beloved Antichrist', features a mind boggling three hour running time, and almost thirty vocalists. They didn't play all of it of course, but regardless, Therion's show is an exercise in proper symphonic metal, with all the frills. With their hour and forty-five minute long set spanning their career, the crowd’s enthusiasm never wavered, right through to traditional set closer ‘To Mega Therion’ from back when it all started. The band perfectly capture that tricky combination of beauty and brawn that good symphonic metal simply must master.
Suitably melodramatic, theatrical, with moments of immensely satisfying heaviness that set heads nodding everywhere interspersed with touches of delicate beauty, and with just the tiniest hint of (entirely expected) cheese, the quartet of bands ensured that Belfast’s hardiest enjoyed a gloriously varied night of metal. And really, who’d want to be doing anything else on a night like that?
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