Words: Alan Daly
Pics: (C) Olga Kuzmenko Photography
Fans of The Faceless may have been justifiably nervous about making travel arrangements to Dublin city for tonight’s debut Irish live performance by the Los Angeles based prog metal outfit. Tales of stolen equipment, technical sound setup issues, missed flights, fallings out with management/promoters and cancelled tours are impossible to ignore in recent reports. However, a few reassuring social media posts and cheery in-flight selfies are enough to allay any fears of non-committal to this much-anticipated headline appearance. Maybe coincidence, or maybe insurance, but tonight’s gig hosted by DME Promotions features not one, but three support acts, making the €20 cover charge great value for money.
The first band are Tipperary-based zhOra, current reigning Bloodstock Metal 2 the Masses champions, who can be found on the cover CD of this month’s Metal Hammer magazine (if there are any copies left at this stage). Judging by the respectable turnout for the early 7:30pm start, the progressive Irish sludge quartet have already amassed a loyal local fanbase, riding high on recent successes and releases. Performing tracks from their sophomore album Ethos, Pathos, Logos, the band perform in a near-trance like state, barely opening their eyes and immersing themselves totally in their intricate sound. The guttural growls of frontman Colin Bolger a perfect match for the gritty grooves provided by his barbaric bandmates. They wrap up a 25 minute non-stop set with ‘Riverchrist’, which can be heard on the afore-mentioned Metal Hammer CD or accompanied by their brand new official animated video on YouTube.
Next up are Dublin-based AeSect, a modern metal five-piece who have been active on the local heavy music scene for most of this decade. They explode onto the stage with ‘Baal’ from their 2013 EP Buried in the Undergrowth, their thundering tempo quickly jolting everyone from their zhOra-enduced trances. Unfortunately, Mark Lennon’s ordinarily powerful screamed vocals are somewhat lost in the mix of the otherwise crushing set, at least from my position near the stage. The remainder of their six track setlist is a mix of numbers from their most recent EP release Devour the Earth, and a couple of as-yet unreleased tracks. AeSect are certainly overdue a European Summer festival appearance or big band tour support slot, and fans of the likes of Lamb of God would lap them up, given the opportunity.
Joining The Faceless throughout this European tour (and under the same band management) are British brutal deathcore quintet Osiah who formed little over five years ago, and are also on their first visit to Ireland. From the moment they take to the stage in matching branded sleeveless t-shirts, there is no doubting their dedication and commitment to a brutal delivery of heaviness. Vocalist Ricky Lee Roper and dual guitarists Chris Keepin and Rownan Tennet stand intimidatingly tall on a raised podium stretching the full width of the stage, which is frankly overkill in the intimate Voodoo Lounge venue. The audience has swelled to a very respectable number for a Tuesday night, and Osiah clearly have fans in their midst, singing along to tracks like ‘Street Justice’ and ‘Hellbound’ from their 2016 album Terror Firma, and banging enthusiastically to a couple of new tracks from a forthcoming release. For me, Osiah were the unexpected surprise of the night, putting on a highly energetic and focussed performance deserving of their own headline show and a bigger venue.
Last, but not least, The Faceless finally make their long-awaited Irish debut. The setlist kicks off with a 1-2-3 of the opening tracks from their 2012 album Autotheism; ‘Create’, ‘Emancipate’ and ‘Deconsecrate’. And surprisingly, despite this tour ostensibly promoting their December 2017 album In Becoming a Ghost, they play just two tracks from the release in total; ‘The Spiraling Void’ and ‘ Cup of Mephistopheles’, which current frontman Ken Bergeron tells us is the first time it has ever been played live, or indeed at all, by them as a group. We assume the last comment is a joke, but with a string of acrimonious line-up changes over the years, it doesn’t defy belief. Despite the flux in bandmates, sole remaining founding member and guitarist Michael Keene seems to have pulled together a tight formation for now and the performance is solid, aside from a few technical sound issues with dodgy microphones and monitor feedback. The nine track setlist passes all too quickly, and the curfew is reached, but the crowd appear satiated with their lot. Four top-class bands on a Tuesday night? Not too shabby, if you ask me.