To say that the fourth heat of the Northern Ireland leg of the annual Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses was something of a curate’s egg of an evening is perhaps putting it mildly. Only three bands ended up battling it out for the two places in the next round of the competition; this, combined with a ridiculously early curfew brought about by the arcane and inane licensing laws in this wee part of the world, meant that proceedings were somewhat more contracted than usual… but, right from the off it was obvious that not even Paddy Power would accept bets on the outcome of this particular three-horse race!
Now, one rule I always try to apply as a journalist of 30+ years experience is to offer constructive criticism; but, there are occasions when you have to break even your own rules – and tonight, unfortunately, was one of them. Openers Figurehead were truly awful! With the guitarist suffering massive technical difficulties throughout the first song, and the lighting desk having given up the ghost sometime between soundcheck and doors opening, the Banbridge trio produce what can only be described as a cacophonous racket of clashing rhythms, with no sense of harmony between the constituent parts of either the band or the “song” structures. With more snap on the snare drum than on most of the discarded demos for ‘St Anger’, it’s just discordant noise, with the three members sounding like they’re playing three different songs in three different time signatures, but all at the same time! Even the promoter was shaking his head in bewilderment at what he had unleashed on our poor ear drums.
Mysteriously, a small knot of fans appear at the front of the stage as Acid Age finish their line check: the bus from Lisburn must have been running late! The band’s own use of the term “hyper thrash” is as good a descriptive as any, as they play faster than the Millennium Falcon escaping the Death Star’s gravitational pull, with some particularly frenetic fretwork from both guitarist Jude ‘Milk’ McIlwaine and bassist Jake Martin (who uses his instrument more like a rhythm guitar), while Luke Tolcher’s drumming is tight and cohesive. Frontman Eddie Cross does know how to work a crowd, in his own shambolic style, especially in such an intimate venue – but, it has to be said that two of the evening’s highlights are when jumps off the stage to try and start a moshpit and promptly goes arse over tit (although, fair play, he does manage to carry on singing) and then when he accidentally pulls the lead out of his mic and, having previously discarded his glasses, can’t see to put it back in and has to use Martin’s mic (which has far too much reverb on it) for the rest of the set! A bit shambolic, but entertaining!
As quickly as they had arrived, the majority of the Lisburn fans seem to vanish again (perhaps the last bus home was leaving early), and the crowd has thinned out by the time odds-on favourites Baleful Creed plug in and turn up to 11… The opening dark grunt of ‘God’s Fear’ seems somewhat appropriate as we stand on the cusp of Good Friday and by ‘Forgiven’ they are showing the young bucks who preceded them just how to do it: tight, dense melodies interweaving with even darker rhythms – and not a note out of place. It’s a demonstration of complete and total professionalism: taut and tight yet precise and fluid, especially in Davy Greer’s hypnotic bass strolls. Just as at Blazefest a few days earlier, BC add in a few new songs: of these, ‘Walking Wounded’ is a beautiful, down-tuned behemoth, while ‘Lose Religion’ is a Corrosion Of Conformity-style slice of acidic, bluesy angst. With the always huge ‘Autumn Leaves’ ending a nailled on performance, it is perhaps not surprising that the Creed walk to the most convincing win of M2TM so far, with Acid Age also making it through on their coat-tails.
- The fifth Belfast heat of Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses – featuring Heel Of Achilles, Korvid, Molarbear and Selene – takes place this Saturday (26 April) at Limelight 2, starting at 5pm. The sixth and final heat – featuring Donum Dei, Oracle, Sinocence, The Crawling and Towers – takes place on Friday 8 April at Voodoo, starting at 8pm.
- There will be three semi-finals, on Friday 15 April, Saturday 16 April and Saturday 30 April. The final takes place on Friday 6 May, again at Voodoo.
- Photographs by The Dark Queen. Photograph of Acid Age taken at Poser Holocaust, May 2015. Photograph of Baleful Creed taken at Blazefest VI, March 2016.
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