Tonight is a special one. We are here to celebrate 18 years of The Distortion Project, a well known and loved gig event organiser in Belfast, owned and operated by the amazing James Loveday. The venue is as synonymous with DP as it is with the rock and metal scene here in NI, and a favourite of mine – none other than The Limelight. There are five incredible local bands here and one very special guest band in the shape of Diamond Head.
First to hit the stage are Ironborne. This three-piece local band are making their debut live performance here in The Limelight and with their mixed power metal and NWOBHM sound, I think they are going to be around for quite a while. The vocals are gritty, the guitars are hugely melodic and what can I say about the drums? Serious bone shattering, floor vibrating solidness.
Next are Bad Boat, a slight change of pace and direction, more doom laden, with a pit deep, dark and evil feel that blasts your brain like a small atomic bomb. I thoroughly enjoyed this band and their style, huge riffs and vocals that entered your ears like a velvet drill.
Divides Unfold take to the stage, and I’m sure if you closed your eyes you would swear Myles Kennedy was on stage. Vocalist Mark Penney is incredible, the band are equally… well, incredible. They sound like a smorgasbord of Alter Bridge and any of the grunge feel bands – Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, you choose. I don’t feel the band were given the respect they deserve as most of the crowd were elsewhere during this set. They didn’t hang about after as they had a headline gig at another venue down the road. Well worth a listen and I’m sure they’ll be a firm favourite in my list.
Satan infused Zlatanera are next on, and oh wow do they perform. New vocalist Aaron Orr letting rip with guttural force, making his mark on the band. Also new is Aran Howe on drums. The overall sound of the band is the same as the fans know and love. Riffs, beats and lyrics aplenty in this heavy sludge doom set, sounding like it’s straight from the bowels of hell itself. Damn, these guys are good. Always a favourite and they never fail to entertain.
Back to the sound of NWOBHM in the form of Rabid Bitch of the North. These guys are the epitome of the genre, as poignant as the legendary Iron Maiden on these shores and indeed beyond. Foot banging, head tapping ferociousness, with hearty metal riffs, gnarly tub thumping and vocals that make your ears want to bleed, these guys are brilliant at what they do and they do it in huge spades. A real joy to listen to, tonight didn’t disappoint.
A big crowd at the front now for our headline act Diamond Head,coming in with “Imperial March” as a forerunner to “Borrowed Time”. From this start I can only wish for the rest to be laden with classics. I tell you now that neither myself nor the crowd here are let down.
The next track, “Sweet and Innocent”, secures my wish. The hits come thick and fast, always reminding us (as if we need it) that this band are one of the greats. As big hits such as “Shoot Out the Lights” assault our ears, there isn’t a single person still in the crowd who isn’t head banging and stomping about. The final song is the legendary “Am I Evil”, and what a tune. This played to perfection and immaculate timing, singer Rasmus and guitarist Brian in absolute rapture, ending the set so, so well. To see a band of this calibre up close and personal was an absolute treat for me.
Thank you to James Loveday of the Distortion Project for his hard work and dedication to the field. Without him none of this would have been possible. The afternoon/evening was one to remember for a long time to come. 18 years? Pah, let’s make it another 80!
Pictures by Pete Agate