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Arnocorps, Scimitar @ The Speakeasy, Belfast


“GET TO THE CHOPPA!”, an excitable fan bellows outside Queen’s Students Union as I’m getting out of a taxi.

At least, I can only assume he’s a fan. Not only is his hollered missive straight out of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 classic muscles-n-monster movie, Predator, but it is delivered in a faux Austrian accent with a decidedly South Belfast twang. Oh, that and the fact that he is dressed from head to toe in military style tactical gear, his side-arm swapped out for a Nerf Maverick revolver. And he has a squadron of similarly attired comrades backing up his six. At any other event, people might do well to duck and cover at the sight of such a fearsome gaggle, but this isn’t any other event. This is Arnocorps.

Inside, things are crazier still. There is nary a person in the Speakeasy bar who isn’t wearing at the very least a hefty dollop of brown-green face-paint, and the ones that aren’t are invariably in the process of borrowing some off their friends. The air is filled with the electricity of a barracks before a military engagement, and the bathroom sinks are filled with camo-smeared cotton wool.


Before the main event, local insurgents Scimitar take to the stage to deliver a solid set of largely old-school inspired thrash metal. It’s a frenetic performance and the band appear to be as excited to be there as the audience, with vocalist Jonny Gray playing to the crowd and growling references to ‘stogies’ – a nod to Schwarzenegger’s (and Arnocorps’) love of cigars. Incorporating schizophrenic tinges of hardcore and melodic death metal it can be hard to tell exactly what Scimitar want to be, but it’s loud, it’s fun and – for tonight anyway – that’s enough.

As the sound of whirring helicopter blades rumbles out of the monitors and a recording of Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ starts up, decorated veterans of Arnocorps gigs (of which there are many, this is the fourth Belfast concert to date) know the score. Not only is this an homage to the opening scenes of the-previously-mentioned-Predator, but it is a call to arms. Beside me a fully decked out soldier (he must be roasting, it’s 26 degrees outside) frantically – and inexplicably – loads plastic replica 7.62mm bullets into a bandolier before tossing it on stage as tribute to the self-proclaimed ‘Greatest Band In The World’.


Arnocorps burst out of a cloud of smoke (whether it’s from a monster Cohiba, a rogue .50 cal or a dry ice machine is uncertain), accompanied by recorded gun-fire and a seriously heavy galloping riff. Singer and young-Arnold-look-a-like Holzfeuer launches himself head first into the crowd, waving a huge Arnocorps flag, sporting Terminator-style shades and setting a precedent for the evening.

What follows for the next two hours really has to be seen (and heard) to be believed, and amounts to a three-pronged attack on the Speakeasy bar. First up, there’s the music – it’s an intense fusion of hardcore punk and heavy metal, and it is solely based upon the life and works of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or at least, that’s how it appears to us – the band will tell you that these are Austrian folk tales which have been bastardised by Hollywood. Of course. With subject matter ranging from the Governator’s finest movies (see Total Recall homage ‘Get Your Ass To Mars’) to his inspirational outlook on life (‘I’m Ballsy’), it’s almost surprising that the musicianship is of such a high calibre, pun not intended. Furthermore, new songs such as ‘Crom (Strong On His Mountain)’ add a certain frisson to proceedings, taking a degree of inspiration from battle metal legends Manowar, with all the heroic sensibility of a Frank Frazetta painting.


The second prong in Arnocorps’ trident is their on-stage antics. Or more accurately their on-and-off-stage antics. There are few songs which don’t feature at least two or more of the band members throwing themselves into the crowd to be graciously passed above the heads of revellers. Continuing to play with such unbridled enthusiasm – and, frankly, military precision – while crowd-surfing on their instruments’ flight cases is genuinely impressive.

Rounding off the trifecta is perhaps the most important ingredient in this boot-polish adorned cake – unparalleled audience interaction. Arnocorps are clearly here to have a good time but it’s all for the sake of the crowd. The mosh-pit spans practically the entire venue and features a sea of bodies continually crowdsurfing onto the stage – rather than being ushered off, they are welcomed with open arms by the band. On more than one occasion there are 40+ people on the diminutive stage with Arnocorps – tonight there is a seventh member of the group, and it is the Belfast audience. Even push-up competitions and a good-spirited body-building display take place, during which the band pimp out their (actually quite good) fitness app, Wheel Of Pain.


All of this amounts to a show which is an insane amount of fun, especially considering that Arnocorps never drop character. This only adds to the incredibly satisfying dadaist absurdity of songs such as ‘You Lack Discipline’ (which references Arnold’s best known family-friendly-flick, Kindergarten Cop) being bellowed out with all the force of an RPG to a missile silo.

Yes, it’s a brutal gig, but as the band state themselves, they are ‘a rescue team, not assassins’. Their dedication to showing the crowd a good time is absolutely unparalleled, further evidenced by the fact that they stick around after for literally hours posing for photographs and signing autographs.

Whether or not Arnocorps truly are the ‘greatest band in the world’ is up for question, but there is certainly nobody else like them. And for anybody wondering if this review will end with a ‘let’s hope they’ll BE BACK’ quip, it won’t. But I can’t wait until they are. Peter McCaughan

Check out Shaun Neary’s full photo set from the show below.