Come crawling faster! … obey your master : Metallica at Slane review

A thrilling Metallica performance lit up on 20ft screens for the masses. Photo by Geneva Pattison (author)

Last week an estimated 75,000 headbangers swarmed to Slane Castle to see San fran legends Metallica and I was one of them. Waiting for us at the 3arena collection point was a myriad of buses and coaches lining the walls of the old point depot.  The trip up was pretty quick and thankfully we had a chance to see the first act, a trio of Dublin rockers called Fangclub, these guys played hard and loud, knocking out heavy, grungey tunes (think Nirvana meets Biffy Clyro). Fangclub were followed by another bunch of punks called Bokassa from Norway, their hardcore anthems kept the energy high among the hordes of fans.

Belfast punk icons Stiff Little Fingers were third on the bill. They played a few new songs, but the crowd really got fired up for the classics. As soon as the opening bars of Suspect Device started, it felt like you were transported back to 1978, when punk had truly captured the imagination of many. Their closing track was another definitive punk rock anthem, Alternative Ulster. The song that took on the troubles from the perspective of 1970’s youth culture in the North. Fast, blunt and full of fiery truths.

The honour of being the final opener to Metallica fell on the shoulders of the Swedish melodic metal band Ghost. Clad in wonderfully nefarious looking ghoul masks, these musicians took to the stage in front of a huge stained glass backdrop, fronted by singer Cardinal Copia.

The band have crafted lore surrounding their origins, blending humour with dark pseudo-satanic imagery and previously fronted by “anti-popes” (Papa Emeritus 1, 2 and 3) before Copia. Theatre and hard rock, it’s a winning formula, ask Alice Cooper. They played their newest arena style belters, Rats and Dance Macabre with the crowd reciprocating their call and response act. Being a long-time fan of the band myself, it was an experience of a lifetime. Hearing them play their crowd favourite Year Zero, while the tween standing in front of me cringed as I yelled out lyrics was undoubtedly worth it (She was with her obviously very cool and devoted mum who deserves a shout out). Ghost call their gigs “Rituals” but as one fellow fan said to me “We won’t get into heaven after this gig!” No worries, it’ll be grand sure.

There was a bit of a delay in disassembling the Ghost stage props, but Metallica was set up by around 9pm. There was an air of anticipation in the thick of the crowd, my fellow drowned rats and I, as Ennio Morricone’s Ecstasy of Gold played on stage. Then, like cowboys gearing up for a gunfight the main men took to the stage, launching their attack on an ever willing crowd. The 20 foot screens behind the stage were lit up with animated album imagery and of course, James, Lars, Kirk and Robert, for those of us not lucky enough to be in the golden circle.

By the time Ride the Lightning came blasting over the speakers the crowd were firing on all cylinders. Arm in arm they even managed to hold up their fallen comrades, the victims of too many pints. They also played Whiskey in the Jar and it was a resoundingly unifying experience. Young and old, veteran fans and part-time rockers joining in for the chorus.

 The fans seemed to know when to make a beeline for the toilets, usually during the newer material like Hardwired and Halo on Fire. The practical effects on stage were nothing short of spectacular, with a bonfire being dragged from side to side of the stage, an intricate light show and most impressive of all, immense pillars of fire being shot into the sky from the top of the stage rig. Other firm favourites on the setlist included, The Unforgiven, Master of Puppets, For Whom the Bell Tolls and their closing song the monumental anthem Enter Sandman. These goliaths of metal put on an unforgettable, immersive show in the best possible venue, overlooked by a moonlit Slane castle.  

By Geneva Pattison