So after all the preliminary heats, quarter finals and semi finals, the Cheshire region of the Metal 2 The Masses final attracted about three hundred metal heads at the Box in Crewe to watch Skeletal Damage, Headpress, Obey and Synapse battle it out for a place on the bill at the prestigious Bloodstock Open Air Festival held at Catton Park, Walton Upon Trent, Derbyshire from the 6th-9th August. The winning band would be in great company as some of the hundred plus bands playing that weekend include Rob Zombie, Black Label Society, Opeth, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura, Armored Saint and Nuclear Assault.
Until the final, previous winners had been chosen by votes from the audience and a panel of judges including event organiser Sharon Cooke who was thanked from the stage during each set from every band for all her hard work. But there was to be only one judge today and that unenviable task fell to Bloodstock representative Simon Hall who has traveled the length and breadth of the country to judge other regional finals. Speaking to him before and after the event, we both agreed that the amount of talented unsigned bands out there is phenomenal and we need events like Metal 2 The Masses to get them into the public eye.
Another thing that struck me was the camaraderie shown between all the bands as each one name checked the others when they were onstage. Special mention must be given to Synapse who played whilst wearing t shirts of the other bands but as each band went onstage there was no room for niceties and they all played to win. Opening the proceedings was quartet Skeletal Damage with pounding drum work whilst headbanging from Alex Sladen during the long intro for set opener ‘Beneath The Deep’, probably threatening to do skeletal damage! The Scott Ian like precise riffing of guitarist Tom Barnes and Cliff Burton like windmilling of vocalist Martyn Flanagan gave them a formidable start to their set. The buzzsaw riffing during ‘Surgical Strikes’ and the brooding Slayer like passages in ‘Army Of One’ highlighted their tight musicianship. The set marched on with a vintage Exodus like rager called ‘Perfect Animal’ which lead into ‘When Night Turns To Day’ with Martyn asking us if we liked “zombies, ghouls and brains?”. This was their heaviest song of the set propelled along with even faster footwork from Alex. Their alloted time seemed to fly by as closing song ‘Blue On Blue’ hit hard with slow burning Megadeth like technical thrash.
Following their set Simon Hall announced there was a collection being made with said proceeds going to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, a charity set up for the young lady who was brutally killed by five thugs in her hometown of Bacup, Lancashire on August 24th 2007 when she was just 20yrs old just because she and her boyfriend were dressed as goths! Their was also a raffle held during the day with the main prize being a weekend ticket for the Bloodstock Open Air Festival who paid their respects to Sophie a few years ago by naming their second stage The Sophie Lancaster Stage. Simon fronts a heavy metal band called Beholder who released a single called ‘Never Take Us Down’, dedicated to Sophie.
Skeletal Damage set list:-
Beneath The Deep.
Army Of One.
When Night Turns To Day.
Blue On Blue.
Things were now going to get a lot more menacing now as Headpress arrived to deliver a six song set of gut wrenchingly heavy music sung by vocalist/bassist Karl Lawton, the most imposing frontman of the day. They kicked off their set with ‘Watch Like Cowards’ which filled the venue with a wall of Biohazard like hardcore brutality. The doom/thrash crossover of ‘Truth Or Your War’ was full of lengthy Neurosis like churning breakdowns but set highlight for me was ‘This Is The News’, as its machine gun rhythms opened up the first pit of the day. Karl was backed by the twin guitar attack from Martin Allen and Oliver Darlington along with hammer blows from drummer Tim Paling as their set ended with crushers ‘Glass Bottom Life’ and ‘Tied Down’.
Headpress set list :-
Watch Like Cowards.
Truth Or Your War.
Written In Water.
This Is The News.
Glass Bottom Line.
Next band Obey were a completely different animal to what had preceded them. The Stoke based trio could easily be likened to Black Label Society visually with vocalist/guitarist Steve Pickin looking like a younger Zakk Wylde but they have a lot more to their game than the boring biker rock of BLS. Their deafening intro tape with their backs to the crowd throughout lead into the earth moving riffs of set opener ‘Ain’t No Son Of Mine’ followed by a headbang inducing ‘Eroding Through’ bringing to mind a slogan that the Wildhearts once used of “riff after riff after motherfucking riff”. A surprise cover of ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder was given a completely heavy blues makeover bringing to mind Stevie Ray Vaughan. ‘Seven Devils’ steamrollered along on a Rob Zombie like main riff and the bass heavy lines from Chris Poole during ‘All Or Nothing’ threatened to rattle the teeth from your gums. Set closer and personal highlight was ‘Suicide Shifter’,its industrial like main riff broke down midway for Steve to play a note perfect solo from ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles as it shifted up a gear to ease back into the main song to finish their set to rapturous applause. Holding the beat at the back was Matt ‘Mental Midget’ Lane, a good old fashioned tub thumper who kept everything together and certainly lived up to his name during the set as the occasional times he raised his head, his facial expressions reminded me of Animal from The Muppet Show!
Obey set list :-
Ain’t No Son Of Mine.
All Or Nothing.
Last band of the four finalists Synapse certainly delivered the most evil set of the day with lead vocalist Rob Sutton barking his vocals like Dani Filth with eccentric between song banter like Martin Walkier. Their Cradle Of Filth tinged dark metal seemed at odds with a Sunday afternoon but they thrashed and raged through a highly charged 6 song set. Their intro tape seemed to go on for too long considering they only had half an hour but that minor quibble was dispelled when ‘With Intent’ sent shock waves from the stage. The slamming full throttle death metal of ‘Sandstorm’ raised the intensity even higher as pit opening pounder ‘Redemption’ got the front row slamming. ‘Decipher’ was as evil sounding as early Sodom and the vicious hate fuelled rage of set closer ‘Welcome To The End’ got a mini wall of death going.
Synapse set list :-
Welcome To The End.
So that was it, four bands playing their hearts out but there could only be one winner but the result was not given out until we were treated to a full on metal set from previous final winners This Is Turin. When they left, a hush fell as Sharon Cooke and Simon Hall took to the stage as Simon gave a passionate speech about Metal 2 The Masses and how it shakes up the music industry before announcing that Obey had won, prompting their fans at the front to unfurl a large band banner chanting their name over and over. The final and earlier rounds of the competition I had attended should have some of the old guard metal bands looking over their shoulders as the new breed are here and their time has come! Obey will be appearing on the New Blood stage at Bloodstock.
Special thanks to Simon Newbury for the use of his photos.