It’s Saturday night again at the den of iniquity that is Fibber Magees and the hordes have gathered for the second semi-final of Metal 2 The Masses Ireland. Whether they are here to have their souls saved and their sins purged remains to be seen, but from the buzz in the room it’s clear that there is going to be carnage one way or the other as the air of antici…pation threatens to spill onto the streets.
Drawing the short straw is usually the curse of the evening but due to a double booking of their lead singer, Crooked Edge have offered to kick off the proceedings. Kick things off they do with their groovy swathes of hard rock melodies. There are nods to Clutch and Tool in their songs but with the addition of Fiona Garvey’s spectacular voice, they have that little something special that turns heads. The Rush natives are in good spirits tonight and truly enjoying their M2TM experience. If this strong performance is the end of the road this year I really hope they return next year as Crooked Edge are a breath of fresh air in a genre full of bands imitating rather than innovating.
Tipperary lads zhOra have returned to M2TM with a real sense of vigour. Their heat performance was one of Alan Hanlon’s first performances with the band and tonight rather than shying over to the side he is centre stage. The confidence of the man is brimming in his playing which has come from hard work in the rehearsal room and on the road. Colin is as emotionally pained as always as he manifests his torturous creations backed by the equally intense work from Panch. Animal skulls adorn the front of the stage and I wouldn’t be surprised if zhOra melt the flesh off a few front row faces this evening. This performance is close to that of their final appearance last year and I truly believe that if this quartet make it to the last stage they will be a massive threat to their fellow competitors. One of the best live bands in Ireland right now.
The meat in the schedule sandwich is Mayo’s Tension Head. The guys were a real surprise in their heat when they secured the crowd vote to make it to the semis. All guns blazing, their “heavy metal 101” is once again well received but they struggle to keep large contingents of the audience in the room. There is a nice punk feel to the songs which suits their Ballina boisterousness. I did quibble about Neil’s voice last time around but tonight he is on point and gives it everything from the depths of his soul. I would love the rest of the band to follow his lead and engage those watching a little more. On the night, I think this is as far as their 2017 M2TM adventure will go but I hope they’ve enjoyed the experience.
Penultimate metallians on this April night are the indomitable Antidotes. I’ve a massive hang up with metalcore as without a hint of originality it all tends to be trite and formulaic. THANKFULLY tonight, Antidotes are a fucking revelation. With one band to go they’ve just gone and given me and the Fibbers faithful the kick in the arse we needed. Tight, slick and revelling in the crowd’s enthusiasm, they lay down the best performance of the night bar none. Stephen, Rob and Leigh are like men possessed spending a lot of the time on the edge of the stage connecting with the fans. That being said, there are a few nice moments in the set when the three gather around Donal at the back as they lock in some sumptuous slices of riffage. Confidence and swagger ingratiate their set and give them an edge that bodes well for the future.
How do you follow that? I’ll tell you how; a big chunk of thrash metal slapped right in your kisser from the boys in Catastrophe. The pit is pumping, heads are flying, there’s beer being flung in the air and there’s bodies on the floor. Fronted by the ferocious Jamie O’Connor, he whips the already rabid audience into a berzerker frenzy. I’d love to see a little more variance in their songs but when they are on fire, it’s fast, unrelenting and repentless (thanks Kerry King). Gordo Casey is more animated than I have ever seen him as his frenetic riffs match the pace laid down from Darragh and Connor. All in all, the guys have improved exponentially from when I first saw them play and the gig, gig, gig mentality is really paying off. I have no doubt that although tonight is not their night, they will be back as a major whiplashing force in the 2017 chapter.
2015 winners Animator return for the guest slot tonight as the votes are counted and the judges have a mud wrestle to decide their winner. Unfortunately, the late hour means I can’t stay past the second song ‘In God We Trust’ as I reluctantly drag myself homeward. I’ll see you heathens soon.
On the night the crowd vote went to Antidotes and the judges’ vote went to zhOra. They’ll join Sectile and Call To Arms on the 13th of May. This weekend sees the last semi-final where Freemen, Na Cruithne, Jailbirds, The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back and Xerosun go head to head for the remaining two places. BE THERE.
All photos by Steve Dempsey of Down The Barrel Photography
All bands are encouraged to download and use the photos where needed. Full permission is granted from Steve because that’s what this whole M2TM beast is about. Get them here >> Flickr Page.
Thanks to Overdrive / Jetrocker / EHT for their continued association and support.