Monsters of Rot V Festival
August 1st, 2015
The Halfway Inn, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
Ah, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland…home of some pretty lakes, the Marble Arch caves, Enniskillen Castle…and the bruising Monsters of Rot Festival, a one day event created with the singular purpose of bashing your face in and leaving you bleeding on the ground. Metaphorically, of course…
This year’s Monsters of Rot festival, now in its fifth year, was again held at the Halfway Inn in Letterbreen, Enniskillen, under a handily weatherproof marquee.
Local youngsters Attack the Day start proceedings off with a crash and a bang, unleashing their grungy punky brand of alt-metal on the fledgling crowd. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and the effort they pour into their performance is obvious, with vocalist Daithi Murphy having to take a wee lie down for a minute! A brash and suitably noisy intro.
Belfast modern metallers Altus are next, with vocalist Steve ‘Sleeve’ Reynolds clad in a sort of hood…thing, and a…is that a skirt? Ok…with his white-painted face and ‘interesting’ clothing, it’s clear that Altus are a ‘freaks and proud of it’ band. With a bloodcurdling scream they slam into their set, intent of sonically beating everyone’s brains in. Malice and evil intent spill from the stage as the band stomp through their electrifying set. It has to be said that when Altus are firing on all cylinders like this, it is a thing of (unnerving) beauty to watch.
Derry bai’s Axecatcher are up next. This lot have been through a bit of change of late, with a newish singer (the group became a quartet between 2013’s Sparks and Spears EP and 2014’s We Watch the Sun Burn) and a more honed hardcore sound. Vocalist Karson Browne spends perhaps a quarter of their set onstage, preferring to bound into the crowd restricted only by his mike cord. He’s a ball of energy, especially once he puts said mike down and gambols about like an excited puppy. The band have seemingly abandoned their earlier metal-tinged sound, resulting in a blistering set of explosive and frenetic hardcore which culminates in their first release as a four piece ‘Cinders’.
From hardcore to a sort of skate punk/metal crossover: up next, Jobseekers. They fire up in a whirling frenzy of chaos, seeming a tad inexperienced (possibly due to their new-ish lineup) but keenly enthusiastic. They are clearly having a whale of a time and it shows. Hopefully this lineup will stay put and they will be able to grow into their obvious potential.
The jangly prog rock of 100Forests follows; talk about from one end of the heavy music spectrum to the other! Their alt/prog is a bit avant garde, with some pleasing bluesy touches here and there, but their lack of interaction with, well, anyone, means that the crowd struggle to connect with them. Just say the odd ‘hi’ here and there guys, yeah?
The growly, doomy-y stylings of Okus hit the stage next. Nothing complicated, just pure metal. An unfortunate momentum-interrupting broken guitar string aside, the band are heavy, dirty and visceral – and bloody fantastic, frankly. Darkly cacophanous metal and a band who are clearly no-bullshit grafters equals a very happy crowd.
Last minute additions Xerosun (who replaced Guttrench) immediately hit the crowd with vocalist Martyna Halas-Yeates’ extraordinary voice, much to their delight. Their entire set is a master class in metal, from the band’s heavy chugging grooves and Halas-Yeates’ bogglingly versatile vocals. She prowls the stage crooning and growling like a lioness and proceeds to simply blow everyone away. They wrap up their set with ‘Repent, Rewind, Reset’ and leave the stage having undoubtedly recruited several new fans.
From the sublime to…the doom metal grunt of trippy duo GOURD, complete with creepy slideshow and (finally!) moody darkness. Theirs is a ‘stream of consciousness’ type of metal; no song structure or rhythm as such, just guitars, drums and vocals. The soundtrack to a heavy metal dream, if you will. It’s rather bleak and strange but thoroughly enjoyable.
And now for something completely different…it’s time for VxPxOxAxAxWxAxMxCx (Google it and grimace). The slideshow changes to some seriously gory horror movie scenes, the area in front of the stage buzzes with anticipation, the drums are abandoned in favour of a laptop…and it begins. Describing ‘it’ is, frankly, a tad difficult. Imagine if you will, Rammstein crossed with Andrew WK with added happy hardcore. They are as oddball as their moniker suggests, but they come on at precisely the right time for maximum drunken enjoyment. A sort of dance-y moshpit breaks out, much to their stern delight, and as a reward they play a high-octane goregrind version of ‘What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor’, then leave the stage as mysteriously as they arrived. Fun. Surreal. Eye-popping. Next!
Oh look, it’s Dublin grindcore legends Abaddon Incarnate (phew!), who take the previous act’s somewhat bizarre joy and crush it under their punishingly heavy sound. Vocalist Steve Maher is in possession of a fine grindcore/metal style growly snarl which he uses to great effect, at times supported vocally by bassist Steve Finnerty (who will sadly be leaving the band after this gig). The entire set is a welcome blast of proper heavy music, animated and putrid. Top job!
As can often happen at one day festivals, the bands have run over, so it’s 12.30am by the time the headliners hit the stage. This means that the crowd has thinned somewhat as people are picked up and so on, but Xerath don’t care – they play their orchestral brand of groove metal like it’s a full house.
Theirs is an interesting sound, with touches of System of a Down’s quirkiness, Lamb of God’s heaviness and even Faith No More’s theatricality. The result is quite brawny and powerful (particularly due to vocalist Richard Thompson’s scream) with a sort of thrashy undertone, yet is thoroughly modern. It’s all rather impressive and enjoyable but the heavy addition of backing tracks takes the spontaneity away somewhat compared to, say Abaddon Incarnate. It’s certainly an entertaining set, anyway.
By 1.15am it’s all over for another year bar the drunken late night shenanigans. We at Metal Rules were most impressed by the organisation and hospitality of Henchman Promotions and the really quite astonishing variety of bands on the bill. We’ll certainly be hoping Monsters of Rot crawls ‘out of the bog’ in 2016 and gives us another reason to visit the darkest recesses of County Fermanagh.