Live gig review by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Black Friday offers Dubliners not one, but two metal events to choose from; the Redemption Fest headlined by local heroes Primordial in the Academy, and Protest the Hero headlining a show in the Voodoo lounge. Although the two are from disparate realms of the metal genre, it undoubtedly left some crossover fans with a conundrum. Evidently, scores of progressive metal and mathcore fans have seized the opportunity to catch the Canadians in action. Or perhaps opponents ofthe recent water-charge debacle saw the word “Protest” on the posters and jumped on the proverbial bandwagon. Whateverthe impetus, the patrons are warmed up by support acts Palm Reader, The Contortionist and The Safety Fire.
London-based four-piece The Safety Fire take to the stage at 8pm sharp for their Irish debut, and accelerate from 0 to 100 in mere seconds with their quick-fire intricate guitar riffs and irregular drumbeats typical of the mathcore style. Joaquin Ardiles holds his lime green guitar high on his chest whilst focussing intently on the complicated fretwork. Only vocalist Sean McWeeney pays heed to the crowd, occasionally making eye contact with individual fans. He comments that this is a particularly special show for them because a lot of friends and family have come to see them perform. Their eight song set is drawn almost entirely from their 2013 album Mouth of Swords, save for one track; ‘Huge Hammers’ from their first full-length album Grind the Ocean. At first, the audience are timid; nodding along cautiously; but by the end of the set, their heads are banging hard in synchronisation with the music and their cheers are encouraging. The finale of ‘The Ghosts that Wait for Spring’ sees them clapping along enthusiastically and with satisfied faces all around after a well-received first visit to Dublin.
The Safety Fire
Of course, Protest the Hero have attracted the lion’s share of fans to tonight’s show, and do not keep them waiting long; starting earlier than advertised at five past nine. A pre-recorded public-service-announcement type of audio sample leads into their opening track ‘Sequoia Throne’ from their sophomore 2008 album Fortress which has the crowd singing along loudly from the outset. The bird head logo seen on the artwork for their most recent album Volition features prominently on the wall behind the drumkit and amps; almost too big for the tiny stage in the Voodoo Lounge – a venue obviously much smaller than they are accustomed.
All five members of the band seem much more relaxed in their stage presence than the previous act, and all pay close attention to their fans as well as each other. This might be expected from a band that know no other life than recording, playing and touring together, having started their musical careers in 1999 at the impressionable age of just 12. Between tracks, banter between frontman Rody Walker and his cohorts regularly descends into cringe-worthy in-jokes and self-deprecating imitations of the clichéd Canadian accent straight out of South Park. But that’s not to say they don’t get some laughs, and their joviality quickly spreads offstage with plenty of witty retorts from the audience. Their fans seem to be similar in age to the band themselves, or maybe slightly younger, and it’s not long before the venue is hot and sweaty thanks to the youthful energy expended in turbulent mosh pits and stage diving.
Protest The Hero
By the fourth song, ‘Drumhead Trial’ from Volition, the physical effects of playing the intricate riffs can be seen in thecramping hands of the guitarists. Unlike some bands of the genre, their fast paced guitar licks are complemented by some catchy bass grooves, making the tracks easier to connect with for those not already familiar with them. The sound at tonight’s show is better than most, it has to be said, and credit must be due in equal measures to the technicians and the band themselves, combined with a light show brighter and more colourful than the usual dark atmosphere of metal gigs.
With a dozen or so tracks in their setlist, Protest the Hero keep their set within an hour, and inform the audience well in advance that they will not be leaving the stage before an encore; “because an encore in this venue would just be really fucking awkward”. Instead, they promise to play one extra track, and even let the crowd choose between ‘Mist’ from the new album or ‘Bloodmeat’ from Fortress. The vote is overwhelmingly in favour of the latter, and the track, reminiscent of theDillinger Escape Plan, triggers one final epic mosh pit and a steady flow of stage divers and crowd-surfers, making for a memorable climax to the night. None more so than the poor soul seen leaving with blood dripping from his ear. At least he looked happy; as did the rest of the exhausted crowd apparently.