Hornets w/ Apartments & Unyielding Love @ Catalyst Art Centre, Belfast


Saturday March 12 2016. A hidden location in Belfast’s city centre. No, not a meeting of some clandestine secret society, but a fundraising gig for Belfast hardcore rockers Hornets. As they’ve previously done (to raise money for a tour) the band chose a tiny studio location, holding a maximum of eighty people, to have ‘a bit of a do’, including an art gallery, a raffle, and a couple of up and coming young bands as support.

First of these bands was Unyielding Love, who describe themselves as grind/noise. They gather ‘onstage’ (the end of the room) and begin their set with a hearty screech of feedback, followed by a long, pregnant pause. Eventually their vocalist gets into gear and begins to… hit a metal sheet with a chain, while the rest of the band play rather droney, aimless noise. He then reaches for an angle grinder (no, really) and after a protracted length of time he stands up and finally begins singing. The band’s music turns out to be fairly standard grindcore (or possibly really loud ambient) with all but indecipherable vocals (made worse by a criminally inaudible microphone) as well as unstructured songs that wander about with the attention span of a hyped up toddler. There are pretty much no gaps during songs for applause, or chat, or anything, really – indeed, it may very well be one continuous, half hour song that they play. The occasional bursts of melody are shortlived and unpredictable but definitely noticeable; there is definitely something here, but unfortunately it is so seldom that the crowd find it difficult to connect with the music.


Follow up act Apartments are certainly not out to shock or confuse: the emo punk duo simply want to play their tunes. Their rather summery intro soon segues into firecracker punk rock, all jagged edges and screamed vocals (again suffering from being frustratingly too quiet). That almost grungy quiet/loud/quiet pattern continues on throughout their set, as they cleverly combine almost dreamy emo pop sections with impressively face-shredding punk rock. It’s exuberant and playful, with a poppy shimmer, but definitely at the heavier end of pop punk. Although one can’t help thinking that the addition of the low end of a bass guitar would really round out their sound, it’s an enjoyable and energetic set nonetheless.


By the time tonight’s headliners finally assemble the tiny room is packed with impatient punters and a heavy air of anticipation. The Pantera soundtrack shuts off abruptly and they’re off, teasing the crowd with the slow burn intro of ‘Harvest’. Packed with riffs that gleefully whip you across the face, it charges into full flight without warning, leading the audience into a set absolutely dripping with muscle, danger and sweat.

The microphone issue is still present, which unfortunately robs vocalist Rich of some of his power; however he more than makes up for it with sheer energy and intensity, pacing like a caged lion and occasionally launching himself into the unsuspecting crowd.

Hornets straddle the line between hardcore and heavy rock/metal, but they are most definitely not metalcore. The songs are fairly unstructured but devastatingly effective, utilising both nimble time signature changes and distortion and feedback as simply another instrument. However you care to describe them, they put on a mesmerising performance, finally loosening up the reticent crowd.


There’s little respite for us or the band (who must feel like they’ve run a marathon after every gig), with the frontman cutting a rather unhinged and menacing figure throughout, covering the entire stage area in seconds, running back and forth, singing sprawled on the floor and always seeming poised to attack. The one brief pause comes when they draw several raffle prizes with the help of 7.5 Tonnes of Beard’s Micky Higgins, who obligingly remains onstage to help the band belt out the battering ram that is ‘Hollow Bones’.

They wrap up a set bursting with new music with another new one, ‘Rituals’, and leave the stage to undoubtedly go and have a wee lie down. Eviscerating, incendiary, chaotic. Funds were raised; fun was had. Tonight was proof, if it was required, that the ‘secret’ underbelly of Belfast’s heavy music is in ear-splittingly good health. Melanie Brehaut

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is the co-editor / photo editor. She also contributes photos and illustrations to The Thin Air print magazine.