When the line-up for this, the fourth of the five opening heats in the first ever Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses competition to be held in li’l ol’ Norn Iron was announced, it was generally considered that it would be by far the tightest yet… and so it proves to be as, when the dust settles after a little more than two hours of intense and bloody combat, there is no more than four percentage points between all four contestants.
First into the fray and summoning their supporting warriors forth are thrashers Scimitar, who kick proceedings off with a dark and furious intent. Their sound is characterized by hungry riffs that are as sharp as their names, underpinned by dense bass lines and dynamic double kick work delivered, by and large, at breakneck speed. As layers of dark and shade neatly intermingle, John [Thompson] crosses between rhythm and lead work seemlessly, with Chris’ bass work perfectly complimenting the former and then taking it over during the solo passages. Overall, the quartet are a tight homogenous unit: they have moved away from their (overly) Slayer-infused vibe, although important elements of that still remain, to a more traditional yet progressive straightahead thrash style, which demonstrates the worth of another young band constantly seeking to develop and evolve.
‘House On Haunted Hill’ is one of the best opening tracks imaginable for any live show, and shows that Conjuring Fate are always prepared to grab an audience by the balls and give them a jolly good shaking. As tight and efficient as ever, the renascent quintet play with a revived energy which has characterized their sets since their return to action a little under a year ago. Frontman Tommy Daly is virtually evangelical in his preaching of his particular heavy metal apocrypha, while Steve Legear’s bass is so heavy that glasses are actually moving off the ends of tables! With Phil [Horner] and Karl [Gibson] almost psychic in their interaction and Boggy concentrated and precisely powerful at the back, the band eschew the formalities of the intro to ‘Chasing Shadows’ for example as they place their marker for progression to the next round.
The dedication of seriously committed bands is demonstrated by By Conquest Or Consent: not only is this the first of two gigs they are playing this evening, but it also their first one with an entirely new rhythm section, in the shape of bassist Terry and drummer Jonathan. The duo fit seemlessly into the band’s aggressive yet melodic style, with the former in particular pushing the venue’s system to the limits – so much so that you can feel the hairs in you nether regions vibrating with its intensity. Pete is his usual predatory self up front, alternating between screaming and growling as the band rip through their set of hard crunching, grinding metalcore with an aplomb that belies the onstage changes.
The titanic riff of ‘Long Way Down’ shows that Sinocence have used their experience to draw up their battle plan, with the intense opening dragging us into the depths of Hades with the spirit of dark rejoining in our condemned souls. The bestial ‘Making A Monster’ is a lesson in how to deliver its message of “Wake The Fuck Up” straight through the front of they skull and out the other side with the precision a brain surgeon would envy. Of the songs aired from their new EP, ‘Ascension Code’ is blessed with another live performance which brings out the underlying anger and intensity of the recorded material bubbling to the surface, while ‘My Kymatica’ is acidic in its viciousness. However, the highlight of the set is the deliberate dark intensity of ‘Perfect Denial’, which really gets everyone headbanging and really pulls it out of the bag for the veterans.
As mentioned at the outset, this was the tightest heat yet: in fact, if one vote had gone another way, it could have an entirely different result. As it was, Sinocence do enough to edge Conjuring Fate into second place by the slenderest of margins.
Photographs by The Dark Queen.