And so, here we are, at the fifth and final heat of the first ever Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses competition ever to be held here in Northern Ireland. After all four previous heats had been incredibly close – the last squeakily tight, with just four percentage points between the quartet of contending gladiators of metal – on paper at least this last one seemed to be the most clear cut yet. However, the very nature of such contests means that the obvious is not always so, and so it proves, with the power of the populist vote being the ultimate winner at the end of the evening, as the final result came down to the bands who had managed to muster the biggest proportion of the electorate to their cause.
A massive, punishing tsunami of bass and bottom end guitar heralds the first onslaught of the night – that induced by A Little Bitter – as opener ‘Genghis’ pummels the early comers (many of whom have travelled from the other side of NI to support the trio) into submission with the ferocity and effectiveness of its subject matter. ALB’s sound contains a dark, dense, restrained fury topped off with big beefy riffs which in turn are underpinned by a massive bass tone, while the songs contain the right combination of intensity and melody combined with a growling, grunting groove.
The youngest band on the bill, Shrouded are technically a trio, but this evening are augmented by what looks like one of their dads on bass! Their sound is very Death influenced, and is technically proficient and well-executed – even if the vocalist lets his relative inexperience show through by letting his grunting style slip slightly in the finishing sections of some of the phrasing to allow glimmers of clean singing to slip through. However, this is a glitch now doubt they will iron out the more they play live, and their well-crafted songs and technically tight, if somewhat emotionally detached, performance definitely shows a potential worth monitoring.
Cursed Sun – for many impartial onlookers one of the two surefire qualifiers on the bill – embody anger and aggression in one angst-fuelled ball of fury… and that’s only vocalist Jones! Their powerhouse, Lamb Of God-meets-Pantera-esque riffs are underpinned by beautifully complementary use of light and shade, while the songs – as demonstrated by the new ‘Cataclysmic Decline’ – heave, seethe and broil like a spring tide around the impenetrable basalt of the Giants’ Causeway, and are delivered with an unbridled, passionate intensity, especially by the furniture-climbing frontman, who does a lot to distract from the otherwise mainly static onstage performance of his bandmates, who just concentrate on getting on with the job in hand.
Last up come the band who prove to the wildcards in tonight’s draw: Dead Addiction‘s late 80s/early 90s glam-meets-NWOBHM twin guitar sound, mixed with hard-edged sleazy blues rock, seems somewhat at odds with the heaviness of what has come from the previous triumvirate of acts, but their performance – at least at the start – is energetic, and the five lads are obviously determined to enjoy themselves no matter what! And the band also have a secret weapon in their arsenal: a dozen or so fans who have mysteriously appeared from propping up the bar next door to hang on their every note and word… which is just as well as, despite vocalist Niall Graham having the charisma and passion to carry off the occasion, and a decent line in songs with plenty of gristly grunt to their bottom ends, they are obviously nervous, which results in them being somewhat loose and ragged around the edges, with bum notes and missed cues not going unnoticed by those paying attention. But, they soldier on with smiles on their faces and, even though a broken snare drum totally ruins their momentum one song from the end, even manage to muster what passes for the first and only mosh pit of the evening!
As mentioned above, one of the important factors in a competition of this nature is how the competitors “play” the audience factor: one this occasion, the two acts which brought the most followers showed their canny use of tactical voting – despite which, the result actually ended quite tight. A Little Bitter – whose fanbase, admittedly, were obviously biased but nevertheless remained for all four bands and voted for the other three according to their own judgements – edged the public vote by a mere three percentage points, while Dead Addiction’s last minute flooding of the room with their faithful paid off, as they surprisingly, and controversially, vanquished Cursed Sun by a further single point to earn themselves the coveted second podium position.
And thus the final line up for the semi-finals has now been confirmed. The first will take place at Voodoo, Belfast, this coming Friday (April 24) and will feature A Little Bitter, Conjuring Fate, Dead Addiction, Donum Dei and Sorrowfall. The second semi will take place at Limelight 2 on Saturday May 2 and will feature Altus, Overoth, ProXist, Rule Of Six and Sinocence.
Unlike the heats, the audience vote will count for 30 per cent of the votes, with the judges’ vote counting for 70 per cent.
Two bands from each semi-final will progress to the final, which takes place at Voodoo on Friday May 8.
Photographs by The Dark Queen.