Playing at Bloodstock festival is but a distant dream for many UK metal bands; however, with the Metal 2 the Masses competition, that dream can actually become a reality. In Belfast, the second year of M2TM started back in late January: six heats and three semi finals later, we arrived at the final on Friday night in Voodoo. As usual there was only one judge this time, Bloodstock’s Simon Hall, who made his second jaunt over from England to check out exactly what the Northern Ireland music scene has to offer his hallowed festival.
First off the blocks were rockers Sinocence, who, after a long and atmospheric intro, launched into their set of punchy, metal-edged rock. Right from the start they gave their absolute all before the packed venue, from opening track ‘Long Way Down’ to final number (“one of our favourites”, according to frontman Moro) ‘Metal Box’. Even a sudden issue with the bass amp does little to dampen their enthusiasm – they’re the perfect band to open up proceedings.
Old school thrashers Scimitar are next: after handing out plastic swords (alright, they’re cutlasses, but it’s the thought that counts) they blow everybody’s hair back with their proper thrashy goodness. The crowd immediately responds with their own delighted thrashing, fist pumping and headbanging gleefully. From ‘Scimitar’ to ‘The Act of War’ they are taut and muscular, and demonstrate exactly how much they’ve grown in ability and onstage confidence in the last few years. Top notch.
A dark and smoky stage signifies the arrival of death metallers The Crawling. From their use of light and shade and creepy backing tracks featuring sounds such as buzzing flies and Latin chanting, they are as theatrical as they are talented. They skilfully intertwine segments of catchy, racing melodies into their pounding and relentless death metal, resulting in hair flailing in every direction. It’s not all po-faced seriousness though, with frontman Andy Clarke referencing the band’s chances by quipping “because without hope we cannot experience true misery”. Quite…
Channelling everyone’s inner Cradle of Filth is next band Drakonis, who present themselves in brief silence, all corpsepainted faces and visually arresting stage gear (vocalist ‘Cass’ Cassidy is wearing a chain mail vest) before creating an immediate and vast wall of sound. Mixing blackened metal screams, death metal heft and even traces of almost tribal grooves with dark themes (they have songs like ‘Bone Grinder’, ‘Fear of the Wretched’ and new single ‘All Is Still’), they possess charisma and talent by the bucketload.
Speaking of visuals…it’s time to get down and dirty with some sluts! Belfast’s So Long Until the Seance/SLUTS also favour painted faces and striking clothing, but that’s where the similarity ends. After a delightfully silly intro where their backing track is briefly interrupted by Starship’s ‘Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us Now’, they fire up with ‘Dead Boys’ and drag the packed room along for a demented, sleazy and breathlessly entertaining ride. Straddling the borders of horror punk, rock and metal (genre-benders, you could say), they are simply a blast to watch, particularly when they finish their set with a giant plastic penis that turns into a confetti cannon. Brilliant.
Following that was always going to be tough, but nu metal-flavoured metallers Cursed Sunare more than up to the challenge. As Faith No More’s ‘Epic’ fades out they leap in, all guns blazing, and mightily impress the crowd with their pulsating, unhinged set. Singer Andrew ‘Jones’ Cassidy is the perfect personification of their music: intense, mesmerising and just slightly bonkers, he roars, croons and barks his way through their set from both on and off the stage. Like a roundhouse kick to the head followed by a jaunty two-step, Cursed Sun are the perfect band to wrap up the evening’s festivities.
After the raffle is drawn (giving away a ticket to Bloodstock), tonight’s main man Simon Hall takes a few minutes to wholeheartedly compliment the NI music scene before letting the crowd in on a little secret: all of this year’s M2TM winners are in with a chance of a record contract with a subsidiary of Sony – wow! Following a bit of good natured banter with people at the front, the announcement comes: the Belfast Metal 2 the Masses winners for 2016 are:The Crawling. The crowd duly goes nuts, the band scramble onstage for photos and it’s all over bar the celebrating. See you all next year…
Review by Melanie Black
Reproduced courtesy of JACE MEDIA