On Saturday night, Dublin’s metal scene was rocked to its core. With almost 300 fans in attendance, the atmosphere was one full of support, camaraderie and wanton abandon. Vying for the last two places in the Metal 2 The Masses Ireland Final, the 6 bands knew that this semi was the one that was going to be the closest to call and the hardest to judge of the three.
Tipperary sludgsters Zh0ra kick off the evening and are unperturbed by drawing the opening slot as they proceed to pummel with a bulldozing barrage of monstrous riffage. When they hit their groove it is as if every member is in a world of his own, caught in the spell of his own music that slowly seeps over his fellow band members as they craft an aural primordial soup. Their sound is heavy, complex and beyond comparison in Ireland. Zh0ra embrace their chance tonight and prove why they made it this far.
The upstarts in Call To Arms follow Zh0ra with their own cocky and brash brand of metalcore. I was critical of their previous performance and tonight is a step in the right direction. They seem more focused and the crowd interaction (they have a rabid fan base) is fervent. Dean takes most of the attention and offers the mic on countless occasions to the front row to sing along; most notably on their closing anthem, ‘The Core’. Call To Arms improve every time I see them but will have to take it to the next level to succeed at the final.
Jenova are a new band to M2TM this year and the whole showcase is a better place for their presence. Whether it’s the visible passion of guitarist Cormac or the maniacal screams of frontman Brian, they have not failed to impress at every stage. Tonight is no exception and they have the venue hopping with their black/deathcore set. In the aftermath Cormac commented “I give Fibbers crowds a bit of flack for being very rigid at times compared to shows down in the country, but tonight the crowd was absolutely INSANE!” – Kinda sums it up perfectly. Well done lads, this was a hell of a first year, I hope you come back next year.
The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back begin the second half of the evening in a fury. These guys are clued in to how to get people pumped. They are broadcasting their set live on Facebook using phones and go-pro cameras. Being interactive to fans is key to building support and tonight the support for TDWHSB is plain to see. The venue is buzzing, the crowd join in a pogo-ing session that punks in the 70’s would be proud of. Slipknot is the order of the day with the devils, and they do it well. Another blistering performance. Tonight is more than a showcase of talent, it is a statement from the Irish Metal community.
The penultimate band tonight is Soothsayer from the darkened bowels of Cork. Right now in metal worldwide there is not a band with a lead singer as unique as Líam Hughes. Of the 40+ M2TM shows that I have attended, tonight’s performance from Soothsayer is the best 30 minutes I have ever witnessed. From the opening seconds Líam kneels and sways with the music as if possessed. When he rises, the crowd becomes transfixed on his every movement. It is hypnotic, mesmerising and powerful without being overt and ostentatious. The rest of the band lay down a solid wall of doom metal with black metal passages. Their musicianship is fabulous, but all attention returns to the Soothsayer at the front. If anyone reading this article has the opportunity to mention this band to the likes of Lee Dorrian at Rise Above Records; I implore you to do so. Soothsayer, thank you for the chills and the disturbingly beautiful music.
Closing the evening are the wizards from Alpheidae. I’ve said it before, to be a quality frontman in a metal band, you need to be a narcissistic egomaniac and Calvin Singleton’s on stage persona fits the bill perfectly. Tonight, he is wearing a bandage on his wrist but during the set he uses it’s unfurling strands as a prop in his performance; notably as a blindfold as he runs blind through the ‘City Of Knives’. He finishes the show by introducing the band members in turn and proceeds to stand atop the crowd while delivering his final oration to his worshippers. Alpheidae complete a top notch night with a professional set, filled with technical sorcery.
It’s cliché to say all the bands won and that Irish metal was the winner, but it did and it set the bar for the final in a fortnight.
Metal 2 The Masses Finalists, do you accept the challenge laid at your feet?
The crowd vote went to Call To Arms and the judges vote went to Zh0ra.
Photos by Steve Dempsey of Down The Barrel Photography