And so, here we are again – at the business end of the first ever Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses competition to be held here in Northern Ireland, and, over the course of the past nine weeks, the PlanetMosh team have counted every band in and every band out (to coin an old journalistic phrase). There is no doubt that, from the very beginning, the contest has been tighter than a Ballymena man’s wallet – and this evening’s second semi-final promised to be no different, with a fight of Mayweather-Pacquiao proportions.
Unfortunatel, ProXist had to pull out at the last minute, due to their singer being ill, which reduced the number of competitors from five to four: but, this unforeseen circumstance did nothing to diminish the quality of the combatants entering the crucial final stages of the fray…
The suitably punishing opening riff of ‘The Suffering’ summons the arrival of Altus. Terry McHugh delivers a massive bottom end which matches Mikk Legge’s downtuned guitar work, while new drummer Paul Gallagher belies the fact that he has had only a week’s worth of rehearsals with the band with his tight efficiency. Altus’ only (slight) problem is that, with more line up changes than Father Jack’s dog collar, they cannot seem to quite make up their minds stylistically, veering from out-and-out death metal to crunching groove and back again – often in the same song. Nevertheless, they do weave some dark, dense melodies and Sleeve (pictured right) certainly displays more angst-ridden charisma when untethered from his bass, and the band as a whole display plenty of energy and enthusiasm, with ‘Malignant’ certainly living up to its name, especially with Terry’s punishingly heavy bass line and Paul’s taut double kick work.
Competitions such as this are often decided by how much support the individual bands bring with them – and Rule Of Six are certainly taking no chances, as they have recruited not only their parents but also their grannies to their cause! Feck, the back row of the VIP area looked more like a bingo hall than a metal gig – so much so that I was half-expecting David Cameron to wander in handing out flyers! As the Maiden-esque melody of ‘Apocrypha’ kicks off their set, Rule Of Six show that they certainly have plenty of ambition: the knack of pulling off two to three rhythm guitars and combining them with one and then two leads has to be admired – and they do it in a way which earns that admiration (especially when one of their wireless systems blows up mid-song!). No matter what happens, the six lads are determined to enjoy themselves this evening – as is demonstrated by their mid-set giveaway of T-shirts and ‘Stargate’ DVDs, which also demonstrates their fascination with TV sci-fi shows: however, it also serves to somewhat spoil the momentum of the evening and also results in the band seriously over-running their allotted 30 minutes.
The experience of Sinocence shows through right from the crunching opening riff of ‘Long Way Down’ as the band both command the stage and dominate the room to deliver a performance so incendiary that the fire station across the street is immediately placed on emergency standby. The band aren’t just ‘Making A Monster’ but have created one which doesn’t rest until it has ripped the head off everyone present and sucked every ounce of their being from the tattered remains. There is a raw hunger in Moro’s vocals, and it rubs off on his bandmates, as Anto is in-your-face and punchy, Seymour (pictured right) writhes like a python in a nest of wasps and Cassa is astounding in both his precision and heaviness, resulting in the band delivering one of the angriest sets I’ve ever seen them do. Fuck the New Blood stage: this is a performance which of such passionate intensity that it should be encapsulated as is and moved straight to the main arena, to (to paraphrase ‘Making A Monster’) wake Bloodstock the fuck up.
Candles on top of the amps and the smell of incense wafting through the room heralds the arrival of Overoth: but, these guys are no patchouli-dosed hipsters, as they launch into an opening salvo of brutal blastbeats behind massive melodies and huge rumbling layers of avalanche-inducing denseness to deliver a masterclass in death metal devastation and prove that they are another band who, in their own right, deserve to bypass this competitive process. The only distraction is Jay’s overly clean and high tom sound, which slightly ruins the overall demonic effect, but the quartet – fronted by the sheer dominant force that is the towering Andy – nevertheless rip the roof of the place with their tumultuous riffs combined with awesome atmospherics, and the new material sounds massively impressive, with ‘Sigil Of The Empty Throne’ serving as possibly the most pummelling finale you could have to any set. Sinocence may have blown the Titanic out of the water, but Overoth ram the Lusitania into the wreckage… with the result that the death metal crew do just enough to claim the victors’ crown from the Sins.
And so, the final line-up for the final, and decisive stage of the contest has been decided, with tonight’s qualifiers joining Conjuring Fate and Donum Dei – plus wild cards Cursed Sun, the highest-scoring band from the rest of the competition – in the fight to the death which promises to be the Metal 2 The Masses Northern Ireland final, taking place at Voodoo this coming Friday (May 8). Doors are 8pm and admission is £5.
Photographs by The Dark Queen (c) PlanetMosh 2015