Burning Oak Festival | Live Review
Burning Oak’s lineup looked not unlike a beacon in the midst of a damp and dismal Irish Summer.
A really enticing, three day line-up in the Irish Metal calendar, right in the middle of the year. You’ve got both a glut of the best of new Irish stuff, plus at least three big headliners in the form of Triptykon, Primordial and Rotting Christ. Attendance was a must.
Since the Day of Darkness festival went the way of the dodo back in 2008, this is the sort of event that’s been sorely lacking from the metal calendar of the country.
Those who attended the rough and tumble days of the Day of Darkness weekends throughout the 2000s will remember the level of craic and enjoyment that went along with it.
Despite the less than metropolitan location in rural Laois, poor weather, a frankly ramshackle venue and punishing overheads that finally put paid to the whole venture, it was always a weekend that showcased the finest of upcoming Irish metal.
With some international star power amongst the headliners and dedication from the organisers, great nights were had. Burning Oak’s attempt to take that spirit, in the midst of an everlasting recession, and plant it in downtown Cork was an admirable move which took some guts to put on.
With the various cohorts making their way down from Dublin and elsewhere, Brú’s hostel on MacCurtain street was taken over as the cut-price accommodation of choice.
A fine and late-opening bar attached to it made it an even more suitable choice, and with a few pre-beers and a lazy sun setting over the Lee, tracks were made to the scene of the crime for the weekend – An Cruscín Lán on Douglas Street.
Due to touristic dawdling, a mistaken turn and trudge up the steepest street in Ireland (the unforgiving Nicholas Street), the venue itself is only reached as local openers Iweriu are finishing up their set.
First thing to impact is the punishing tone the group have on offer. A step up from their performance several months ago which was caught at The Pint in Dublin, the group have a genuinely nasty guitar sound and some lumbering movements that grab attention they are so unpleasant.
With numerous members, including a laptop-toting evil scientist, a somewhat displaced mix makes for a striking sound. Not afraid in the least to drone and inject pure noise into the mix, this final composition itself stretches on for several minutes.
Still sounding somewhat disjointed, they nevertheless make an unholy mess of the mix, with disturbed soundscapes roaring from the monitors. The overall impression is wholly of something a bit bloated but undeniably demented.
Up next is Dubliners ZOM, who have had plenty of attention attached to their recent tape release and subsequent reissues of it. The group are an intense outfit, with a hammering, simplistic take on frayed, raw Death Metal.
Bathed in red light, there’s a primitive ferocity in their performance that’s audible from the tracks that they spit out.
Atonal, echoed vocals are backed up by spindly, frantic riffing and the trio proceed to project an energetic set.
In truth, there’s not a whole lot of variation from the group, but the use of some background samples and a reliance on velocity and the pounding riffwork works well.
There’s an ear for a harsh hook in there that Tom G would warm to, would that he was in the building at that stage. The crowd, which is now swelling and attacking the bar offers with gusto, are initially a little standoffish, but slowly warm to the group.
There’s the slight impression that some might be waiting for something truly spectacular, and are a bit hesitant about a bunch of youngsters pumping out ugly riffs and barking out vocals might not be what was expected. Still, a few errors aside, the group’s violent power is clearly evident.
Mourning Beloveth are the first band who seem to be having really persistent troubles with the mix. The guitar in the soundcheck occasionally feedbacks to deafening levels for about a half a second, and when the group do get going, it’s to a somewhat hesitant start.
Still, a group of this calibre and standing know how to lock down a set even with technical difficulties plaguing them. It’s not long before they’ve settled into the usual doomed tempo, with a short but sweet set of about five numbers making up their set.
Frontman Moore is in fine form as usual, with the tortured response to ‘The Apocalypse Machine’ getting the heads banging as usual. There’s now a suitably drunken crowd taking it in, and some good natured abuse is being hurled at the band, which is happily accepted and lashed back.
The group’s power, especially when it comes to the excellent lead guitar sections, is as evident as ever when they get into the swing of things. There’s a reason they’ve persevered as one of the best and longest running metal bands in the country and are renowned in their field.
While they never get to the level of mastery oppression that they do at their best, it’s nonetheless an enjoyable slice of doom from the group. One gets the impression they didn’t really manage to get into the swing of things thanks to the sound issues, and that they were happy to have completed the set.
The anticipation for Triptykon keeps building and building. It’s odd really, expecting to see the band and the man that fronted Celtic Frost for so many years turn up in a sweaty club in the middle of Cork.
Somehow it seems vaguely surreal, yet also exciting that such an intimate show is on the cards.
Indeed, rumors are circulating that the band might have found the environs slightly cramped, having inhabited arenas and open air shows for the last few years. A tortuously long sound check compounds things, as an oppressive heat arises from the crowd of chatting punters.
Finally after what felt like forty minutes of irritated gesturing at the sound desk, the accursed sound techs leave the stage and with a flash of grey hair, Mr Warror and co. are suddenly onstage and pounding away into the slowed-down, primal assault of ‘Procreation of the Wicked’.
It’s a song that needs no introduction and they don’t bother to give it one. Slow and with all the power of a landslide, it buries the first three rows. Warrior has been playing the Celtic Frost classics like this slowed-down now for years and it’s easy to see why, with the impact actually improved.
When the time comes for the first ‘Ooogh’ of the evening, the crowd rises to the occasion. The sound itself it still muffled, but moving around the venue (there’s still space to do so), and it gets a lot better up the side of the stage.
There’s a weight and power to these songs are are beyond question. When ‘Goetia’ from the band’s debut is wheeled out, the thump of ”Lord Have Mercy Upon Me…” must be audible from a few streets away.
The crowd are in good form now, responding with good banter when Warrior finally expressed his obvious satisfaction at finally getting to play Ireland after all these years.
Whatever was spoken about the group finding the show somehow below them doesn’t seem to be evident onstage, with the man and his much younger group not putting a foot wrong and delivering a show that defined professional.
It’s back to the claw and shouting-along when ‘Necromantical Screams’ are emanated. You can practically see the water molecules in the air shaking such is the weight of tone being brought to bear.
It’s an intense performance – so much so that part of the crowd simply can’t hack it anymore and move off into the smoking area as the group finish up, needful of a smoke and a breath of cold air.
Triptykon have brought a palpable impact to the first night of the festival. As the crowd circles about for another drink before things close up, there’s a proper buzz in the air, with uniform praise for the performance audible.
It’s a good start to things. The night is only just begun really, and the crowd seem more than willing to keep the pace up for the weekend. We can expect little mercy over the next few days but tonight’s headliners have set the bar particularly high. [LA]
Friday’s event is rocked into action by Dublin’s Wizards of Firetop Mountain, who in their relatively short existence have garnered a solid name for themselves as one of the most vibrant rock/metal bands on the live circuit in the country.
Their take on Sabbath-esque classic rock is one which goes down very well time and time again, particularly in their base in Dublin.
Those in attendance in the Crúiscín who have seen the band regularly will by now be familiar with most of the songs which make up the set tonight – unofficial hits ‘Sonic War’ & “the slow one” ‘Onwards Towards the Sun’ being highlights.
The band’s aforementioned reputation may not quite have spread to the People’s Republic just yet, as a relatively low turnout has made it to the venue in time for them – the unfortunate “first band of the evening” syndrome, perhaps, but no doubt they will have won over a few new Corkonian fans tonight as well as a few more from further afield. A great rockin’ way to get things started for Friday night.
Celtachor are another Dublin unit who have steadily been consolidating their presence on the Irish metal scene this past year or two.
One might have thought that the introduction of yet another Celtic-themed pagan/folk metal band to the Irish scene, with old-timers Cruachan, Mael Mórdha, Waylander et al having already pretty much sewn up this niche market, might be viewed as overkill.
However, if the audience’s reaction tonight is anything to go by, there is still plenty of appetite around for such fair – if it is done well – and Celtachor most certainly do.
If their Burning Oak performance tonight is anything to go by, bigger things are on their way for these lads and lassie.
With each member of the 5 piece donning medieval Gaelic dress, frontman Stiofán de Róiste passionately acting out (think David Bower of Hell) his delivery of not only the vocals – but the story behind the lyrics of tracks such as ‘Conn of the Hundred Battles’ and ‘Rider of the Fomor’, one can’t help but get somewhat engrossed in the experience – always a good indicator of a band having a little bit more to them.
Nothing to do with the volume of local stout consumed by the reviewer at this juncture, of course. [MoF]
Primordial’s headline set tonight is their first on Irish soil since last year’s 20-year anniversary show in Dublin’s Academy (a show which had a genuine air of something just a little bit extra special about it).
While tonight’s show does not quite soar to those spellbinding heights, Primordial are in absolutely vital form from the get go, opening with a rousing rendition of ‘Gods to the Godless’.
Over the next hour and a half or so the audience laps up a gratifying mixture of old and new – with the set-list weighted heavily towards the last two albums – ‘No Grave Deep Enough’, ‘Lain With The Wolf’, ‘The Mouth of Judas’ and ‘Bloodied Yet Unbowed’ featuring from ‘Redemption…’ and ‘Gallows Hymn’, ‘As Rome Burns’, ‘Heathen Tribes’ and set closer ‘Empire Falls’ (could this be Primordial’s Enter Sandman?) from its predecessor ‘To The Nameless Dead’, complete with mandatory audience chorus sing-alongs.
Alan ‘Neamhtheanga’ Averill’s voice is in top form tonight and his trademark fervent frontmanship does its job in stirring the crowd to passionate engagement with the performance. The Fighting Men draw Friday night’s Burning Oak to a rapturous conclusion.
‘Hello Jackie’. Hello. Jackie. It’s just an atrocious name for a band really, isn’t it?
In fairness, the music is not quite as dreadful as the name would suggest, but it does hint at a general misguidedness – or, dare I say it, lack of taste, or just “not getting it” on the part of those involved in the band. Despite the individual band members being evidently good players on their instruments (guitar, bass, keys, drums are all individually well played), there just seems to be a lack of direction to the overall sound of Hello Jackie.
A host of late nineties bands come to mind – those of us long enough in the teeth to remember that era will remember with some discomfort how it all of a sudden became most uncool to just be a straight up metal band circa 1997-2000 and how countless bands experimented with adding various elements to their sound to make it “more interesting”.
In Hello Jackie’s case in 2012, chuggy nu-metal riffs are interspersed with more traditional metal riffs, with the occasional flurry of impressive lead guitar, a bouncy bass accompaniment, screaming/roaring vocals, punctuated with interjections of keys/synths etc.
They give an enthused performance, despite the music doing absolutely nothing for this reviewer. There may well be an audience for this style of metal, but something tells me they are not in attendance here with Triptykon, Primordial and Rotting Christ as respective headliners of each day of the festival. So Hello Jackie, nice to have made your acquaintance, and Goodbye Jackie.
Syphor lead guitarist and band founder Daragh Brennan is one of the country’s most technically proficient axemen without a doubt, and is a pleasure to watch as he tears up the fretboard. He’s clearly and old school six-stringer – straight out of the Randy Rhoades school of shredding.
A great lead guitarist does not a band make, however, and one can’t help but feel that Syphor are just hitching a lift with their lead guitarist for the next 35 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, there’s cool riffs about the place, the other guys can play fine and all, but… it’s just that, it’s fine.
Death metal is, depending on which particular school of it you subcribe to, supposed to be many things – evil, dark, morbid, Satanic, chaotic, barberous, eery, the list goes on… None of these fit squarely with Syphor’s brand of DM, and while as previously mentioned, they are an entertaining band to watch for the lead solos and a few cool riffs, they just seem, judging by this performance at least, to be a few key ingredients short of being a band that stand out from the rest.
Speaking of technically proficient musicians, Limerick’s Shardborne are up next (“proficient” doesn’t in actual fact even come close!). Their sticksman Ben Wanders having recently won the Zildjian Drummer Love Ireland contest, the 4-piece take us through 35 minutes of virtuoso instrumental prog metal, giving us a masterclass in how to both show off and write fantastic engaging tunes to boot.
One or two new and as yet unreleased songs are aired and well received, along with several numbers from their acclaimed 2011 Aeonian Sequence EP. Not even the cheesy choreographed high five exchange between the Culhane brothers (the band’s guitar duo) mid guitar lick takes away in the slightest from the sheer class on display here.
If anything, it’s a lesson in how to make a small dose of cheese a perfectly healthy component of even the most high-brow music show. Top quality stuff. Here’s to plenty more of it. [MoF]
I caught the first few Aeternum Vale songs before heading out to watch the Dublin hurlers being pasted by Clare. I think the band is primarily made up of former members of A Distant Sun and I should have stayed because they were impressive.
I’m not a big fan of their style of black metal but the songs I heard were very good. A little more stage movement wouldn’t go amiss but I’ll certainly try and catch them live again and I look forward to listening to the free demo that I picked up at the gig.
The forgettable hurling match meant that I missed all of Signs of Darkness and all but the last few Wound Upon Wound songs. I can’t profess to being a fan of the Wound Upon Wound vocal style but the last song (no idea what it was called) had a more doomy feel to it and was a really good way to finish off.
Coldwar hit the stage just after 9 and delivered the usual heavy as fuck and crushing set that you would expect of them.
With Trevor menacingly stalking the stage as usual they opened with something I didn’t recognise, possibly a new one, and it sounded great. Then it’s into a few songs from their most recent release ‘Christus Deathshead’ starting with the excellent ‘Babylon The Star Spangled Whore’ and running through ‘Omega Symphony’, ‘In Rapture’ and ‘Enslaved’.
‘Preaching to the Perverted’ and ‘Death of Birt’h from ‘Bloodfire Sunset’ get an airing – but For me the highlight of the set is ‘Dirty Protest’, such a great song and one I hadn’t heard live for a long while.
Coldwar are a really tight band live and the dual backing vocals add a lot of punch to the performance. They finish with another I didn’t recognise, maybe another new one. I’m certainly looking forward to the new release whenever it appears.
It was going to be difficult to follow Coldwar so who better to have up next but Northern Ireland’s finest, Overoth.
It’s been a while since I’d seen them but as usual they didn’t disappoint. You know what you’re going to get with Overoth – in your face DM. Other than a short stoppage due to some technical difficulties it was wham bam thank you mam opening with ‘The Forbidden Realm’ and blitzing through a 45 minute set with likes of ‘Death Personified’, ‘Upon The Altar’, ‘Oath of Flesh’ and ‘I Am One I Am All’.
They really have some cracking tunes and definitely succeeded in getting the heads banging in the Cruiscin.
After the double dose of Coldwar and Overoth it was time to calm things down a little with Rotting Christ who finally made it to Cork after cancelling last November’s planned gig due to “serious esoterical matters”.
It’s great to see that the venue had fill up nicely by the time they come on. After opening with ‘Feast of the Grant Whore’ and ‘Old Coffin Spirit’ it looked promising that we’d be treated to the “old school” set promised last year.
OK, it doesn’t quite pan out like that, but in fairness the back catalogue is fairly well represented and ‘Non Serviam’ and ‘In Domine Sathana’ are particular highlights. ‘Theogonia’ and the comparatively disappointing ‘Aealo’ albums get a good airing particularly towards the end of the set.
Sakis and co seem to be really enjoying themselves on stage and certainly succeed in getting a good reaction from the crowd.
Not surprisingly Nemtheanga joins them on stage at encore time for a great version of ‘The Sign of Evil Existence’ before the band finish off with another couple of oldies in ‘The Forest of N’Gai’ and ‘Gloria De Domino Inferni’.
Despite hearing some negative comments about the sound and the performance I thought the sound was fine and I enjoyed the setlist which to be fair was never going to please everyone. So overall for me this was a great Rotting Christ performance and luckily there were no serious esoterical matters to contend with this time around.
All in all a fitting way to end 3 days of metal and booze in Cork. Hats off to Jim for making it happen and here’s looking forward to Burning Oak 2013. [DW]
- Review by Lorcan Archer, Muiris Ó Fiannachta and Dave Walsh ::: 09/08/12
- Photos by Opolus and Arkadi