The Belfast Empire conjures images of opera and stage plays, but not now. Tonight, we are to be subjected to an onslaught of heavy rock at the hands of headliners Stormzone and support acts NASA Assassin and Baleful Creed.
Stoner rock act Baleful Creed have been around for some years, consisting of Fin Finlay (vocal and guitar), John Allen (guitar), Davy Greer (vocal and bass) and David Jeffers (drums). They arrive on stage and immediately rip into “Forgiven” from their 2017 album Seismic Shifter, laying the foundation for tonight’s rock fest. The sound is awesome as the band tear into the next few songs, “Devil’s Side”, “Gods Fear” and “Memento Mori”, Fin’s vocals rasping through, complemented by crunching guitar and heart racing drum work.
Supported wholly by a very enthusiastic crowd, Davy takes to the mic for “Lose Religion” a distinctly punk oriented track for which Davy is well known. A couple more songs including the heaviest version of “Illuminati” I have ever heard them play, they finish the blinding set with “Hex” much to the appreciation of the crowd. If you’ve not seen these guys live before, you’ve really missed a treat.
Next up is Nasa Assassin. I honestly have not seen these guys before so didn’t know what to expect. Fronted by an entity known as The Watcher – with Aidy Fudge, Stevie Dog, Jeff Quargle and DJ The World – Nasa Assassin play self-labelled “psychedelic space pronk” and that isn’t far from the truth. Coming onto the stage to the sound of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” wasn’t a giveaway for what was to come. The Watcher appeared in a “mad scientist” outfit to the heavy guitar intro to “Orion”, looking much like a psychotic Ed Sheeran!
The band flow flawlessly from song to song treating the crowd to “One Man Crime Wave”, “Witch Power”, “Razor” and “Monterey” without skipping a beat, with a sound reminiscent of White Zombie, particularly so with a song called “The Seal”. They continued the onslaught with “I Like ‘em Stiff” and a song which I can only describe as a mash of The Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath (if you can imagine that) “Nasa City Rockers”. The set ended with a stupendously heavy punk number “Not Givin’ up Livin’ (To Live)” and left the audience wanting more. As far as not knowing what to expect, well I can say, I didn’t expect that, and I’m hooked.
Headliners Stormzone are a well established Northern Ireland rock/metal act, and they have a lot of fans at home and further afield. They have an impressive catalogue of appearances across Europe including Sonisphere, Bloodstock and HRH to name but a few. Counting six studio albums and tours with top acts including Dragonforce and Kreator, vocalist John ‘Harv’ Harbinson along with Steve Moore (guitar), Jr Afrifa (guitar), Graham McNulty (bass) and Jonathan Miller(drums) are a force to be reckoned with.
They sound like a cross between Iron Maiden, Queensryche and WASP on most of the live songs I heard tonight. Haunting music introduces the band onto the stage, then peels into the first song “Dark Hedges” (the video single from Lucifer’s Factory), much to the delight of the crowd. Hard hitting heavy (oh so heavy) guitar riffs and Dickinson-like vocals carry them into the next songs from the album: “The Heaven You Despair”, “Cushy Glen” (this one particularly Celtic in feel, a real crowd pleaser), and “Albertach”.
A few well-known songs in between such as “Another Rainy Night” from Seven Sins, “Three Kings” and “The Pass Loning” from the Three Kings albums, each one delivered with absolute heart, soul and downright face melting power. It’s a real exotic mix of melodic, heady riffs, and huge drum beats, putting me in mind of early Thin Lizzy tunes such as “Don’t Believe A Word” and “Whiskey in The Jar”, with the Maiden influence I keep mentioning. The title track to the new album, “Lucifer’s Factory”, has the Queensryche/WASP feel I mentioned at the start, only much, much heavier. The finishing song “Death Dealer” is dealt at neck breaking pace and left the crowd baying for more. Stormzone are a band that once you’ve seen once, you want more and more.
I’ll finish the review in a straightforward way: one hell of a night!!
Photos by Agate Photography
Nasa Assassin: facebook