The Irish metal scene is a small but fierce contender in the wide world of heavy music, seemingly taking its cues from the country’s fiercely proud history itself. The last time we caught up with one of the main guys making shit happen on that side of the pond, Josh Guyett, was back in 2016 when his band Illenkus streamed a track with us from their EP Hunger. Guyett stays busy keeping Ireland’s heavy music scene alive, and even put on a show I got to talk about a few months ago where certified rockers Bitch Falcon blew my fucking socks off in his hometown of Galway. So when he reached out recently to let me know about a new project going down in Belfast, I knew it would be a high-quality endeavor.
The Live Room Belfast invites touring bands to stop by Start Together Studios to put on a special live performance where they’ll play three to five songs to be filmed by a talented crew, edited, then released on the Live Room YouTube channel for free. This gives bands the chance to reach a worldwide audience in a high quality way at no cost, which in the modern dollar-driven music industry is a fucking saintly effort. The videos are intimate, aesthetically moving and, while the project covers more than metal, a great way for often under-reported heavy bands to get their sound and performances out there in a more meaningful way than fan-filmed footage taken on an iPhone and thrown into someone’s Instagram stories. Some of the bands who’ve graced the space with their noisy presence so far are Belfast locals Slomatics, And So I Watch You From Afar and the Swedish grinding hardcore outfit God Mother.
Studio manager Sophie Arscott answered a few questions I had on the Live Room after checking out some of the performances, which you can read below. Though obviously not a thorough interview, I found her responses thoughtful and generous, much like the Irish so often are in their hospitality. Watching Live Room footage really shed light on the welcoming atmosphere present in the Irish music scene. The folks I’ve met involved who make it all happen are passionate, caring and dedicated to ensuring the survival of a space for metal fans to exist and flourish. It’s easy sometimes to get lost in excessively cool and saturated markets like New York, making a listening and viewing experience like this so meaningful. The Godmother performance was the first I caught, and it feels much like sitting in on a band practice where the members are all perfectly locked in and present. Being a huge fan of channels like KEXP but often disappointed in their lack of coverage in the metal department, the live-but-in-a-small-way feel is extremely my thing.
Scrolling through these performances also re-introduced me to Slomatics, a band I’ve only known thus far for putting out a pure leaden split with Conan way back in 2011. The rumbling riffs and masterful ability of these true-blue doom practitioners shrouded in unearthly green and red light provides more than enough mood-making ambience to let the viewer feel like they are right there in the room with the band. I ended up wandering my way through the videos from other genres along the way and found some decidedly un-metal gems as well like Hawk and Sean X.
Check out the channel for yourself if you’re a person (like me) who is looking to expand your musical horizons while stoned on the couch. They’ve only just begun and will, with proper support, surely continue to impress with their output.
Audio recording/mixing and video editing by in-house Head Engineer Niall Doran: https://www.theliveroombelfast.com/
Can you tell me a little about the metal scene in and around Belfast?
There is a pretty healthy metal scene in and around Belfast, and a very active music culture in this city in general. People have a big focus on supporting each other as there is very little arts funding in a city with no functioning government. There’s rarely a week night without a great gig on if you know the right places! A lot of this comes from the support of independent venues and promoters/bookers, who work tirelessly to support local bands and convince larger acts to cross the water to play Irish shows for their fans. To name a couple; Solid Choice Industries and The Distortion Project/DME Promotions have been very active in supporting the Belfast and Ireland music scene for well over a decade.
There are also some incredible doom and hardcore bands in Belfast such as Unyielding Love (who are soon to go on tour with Full of Hell), Nomadic Rituals and Elder Druid (who just supported Conan and Monolord), Towers and No Great Loss to name a few. We are so grateful that working in the studio gives us some ability to support and promote this local music scene through recordings.
How did this project come to fruition?
The Live Room is a project run by the team at Start Together Studio in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Start Together Studio has been established in Northern Ireland for over ten years, and is passionate in supporting local artists to grow and in welcoming international talent to Belfast as a music destination.
The process began and was helped along by the huge wealth of talent we have based here. We have recorded albums with incredible acts like And So I Watch You From Afar and Slomatics, so they were our first choices for filming live sessions. Since then it has evolved and progressed into a series we are proud to be able to share with the fans of each act.
The recording studio is something of a safe haven for bands to be able to create and be open. I think acts appreciate that we want them to feel comfortable and relaxed in the performances, to be able to record as if the cameras were not there. That feeling and atmosphere is what we want to capture in the videos, like an inside look into the studio bubble.
How do you decide which bands to invite?
We record a huge variety of bands coming through Belfast in our sessions, from blues to country, hip-hop to doom. Predominantly the decisions are made by the team towards bands we are really excited about seeing live, bands we are fans of that we would love to have the opportunity to invite in to record in the studio. We keep an eye out for new acts and work closely with local promoters to see who is coming to town. As a team we are fans of a diverse range of music, so I hope it is refreshing to have a variety in the style of acts we film. We just take a chance and get in touch with them as fans who happen to run a studio and want to create something cool together.
The response has been so positive from bands because it also takes up the waiting time before soundcheck and brings them outside of the venue while visiting a city they may be unfamiliar with. And sometimes we end up showing them some good local pubs along the way!
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