Almost a year to the date since the epic Dublin Metal 2 The Masses final of 2014, we were back in Fibber Magees for the climax of the 2015 instalment. 36 hopefuls were whittled down to the sumptuous sextet of Nautilus, The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back, Snowblind, Theories Divide, Vile Regression and Animator. With Bloodstock stalwart Simon Hall presiding for the evening; who was the victor and was it another event of legend? Read on to find out.
There’s a buzz in the air tonight as we await the first band to take to the stage. All the musicians and fans are in the venue early and nervous tension is palpable from many. That’s testament to what this means to the guys and to what opportunities the prize of a slot at Bloodstock Open Air offers. From the beginning of the competition, the shows have been well supported and tonight is no exception. Up first is Nautilus who secured the crowd vote in their semi final. The first note after the intro piece could curdle cream. Opening with 2 quality brand new (as yet unnamed) songs, these guys are heavier than a pair of concrete boots on Jupiter and their worship at the altar of southern sludge is cemented by the bellowing vocal of Cathal. Playing two new songs (written since the semi final) may be a risk, but when the groove is a solid as this, it doesn’t matter. Cloaky on guitar is a beast of a man, matched only by the size of the riffs that he smelts. Alan on bass and Connor on drums rumble the bottom end of the rhythm as they complement the aforementioned groove. The opening slot is always the hardest one and Nautilus have not let it faze them as they aurally bludgeon the audience and lay the filthy gauntlet at the feet of their combatants.
The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back ascend to their throne for the night and proceed to lambast the crowd with a barrage of aggression. New to this year’s competition, they have really made an impression and it is no surprise to see them playing their hearts out tonight in the final. Their music reeks of a hunger; they want to take their blood, sweat and tears to the UK. A great bunch of guys, all of them have a massive stage presence, like an unmasked slipknot, where you don’t know who to be watching: Dylan, with his low slung bass and eye gouging dreads; Mick, with his guitar wielding histrionics, Ryan with his #DrumFace or Stephen, who is on the edge of the stage in the audience’s face at every opportunity. TDWHSB are a band that bring intensity unlike many others and are well worth keeping an eye on for the future. Shout out to the guys from Within Without who were there to support and provide stage assistance!!
Snowblind complete the first half of the evening with what can only be described as their most mesmerizing performance to date. They should just rename themselves Spellbinding!!! Being the bastard children of Opeth, Budgie and Rush, their progressive leanings are magnificent. Jake, Ian and Sean take the crowd on a musical journey, full of twists and hidden turns that are labyrinthine in magnitude. Just as they settle into a groove that has heads nodding with metronomic approval, they offer a curveball that challenges and reinvents the passage. The instrumental ‘Voices’ sums up their performance; captivating virtuosity that blends in an enthralling mix. Snowblind, take a bow, this is how to take the talent you have and make an impression.
Theories Divide are returning finalists. Talking to Garreth Quinn before the show, he told me “Last year I was nervous and it affected my performance. This year we are ready to bring it”. Bring it, they most certainly do. My favourite track, ‘Reborn’ just sends the pit into rapturous abandon and for the 30 minutes of the show, we are treated to multiple crowd surfing, circle pits and a kick ass wall of death. Up to this point, they receive the best response of the night and the joy is visible on all their faces. Theories Divide embrace their loyal fan base with a warm blanket of brutality and leave many in the front section looking deliriously exhausted at the death. An image that will remain with me will be Garreth, on one knee, thanking the crowd with his hands clasped in praise. This gig has to be one of the highlights of their voyage on the sea of heavy metal.
Before Vile Regression kick off their set, singer Padraig Croke is squat on his hunkers stage centre with a steely glare, shrouded in an unsettling calm. This is definitely the calm before the storm. Vile Regression are the epitome of focus and their passion for the music is as relentless as their delivery tonight. Barry and Brian trade licks and riffs that would impress at the highest echelons of the music industry. Bassist Kenn props his bass aloft and cajoles those in the front row to meet them face first with equal fury. With the level of technicality on show, I have no idea how these guys can perform with such bombast and showmanship. They are stunning and the crowd reaction is amazing. Near the end of their set, Padraig hurls himself atop the ocean of hands while screaming his lungs out. Vile Regression’s professionalism shines through this evening as they thank everyone involved in the Bloodstock Family, before promptly reminding us to “Fuck shit up”. This is one of the performances of the night I cannot wait to hear the new material they are writing.
Closing the evening with dose of thrash, force fed with a water cannon is Animator, whose opening salvo is akin to being run over by a herd of buffalo. The furious pace hammers home the fact that they are here to do the business. Barry’s chugging basslines more than compensate for the lack of a second guitar. Ryan Treanor is the most gifted thrash guitarist in the country, his riffs are very old school yet thankfully original. Coupled with Darren’s pummeling percussion and James’ incisive vocal, they play thrash as it is meant to be. The pits respond with aplomb and the smiles on everyone’s faces are infectious as the crowd sings along with the equally infectious choruses. Tonight is the most… animated I have ever seen James on stage and the band really feed off his energy. At one stage they all gather around Darren’s kit with their backs to the crowd and lay down a ball busting tirade that would slay a dragon. They roll the crowd over and finish them off with ‘In God We Trust’ but I doubt there are many here tonight who with disagree with the sentiment: In Animator We Trust.
Tonight is everything that is great about Irish metal. Six bands of very different sub-genres playing their asses off, supporting each other with respect and friendship, and ultimately helping Ireland make a name for itself on the Heavy Metal map of the world.
Simon Hall had the task of choosing one of the bands to play the new blood stage at Bloodstock and on the night he was so blown away by the talent on show that he announced that a second band would play on the Jagermeister Stage. This was an unexpected honour and a real nod to the bands in our scene. Snowblind were awarded the Jagermeister slot and the overall winners of Metal 2 The Masses Ireland 2015 are Animator.
Massive congratulations from myself to all the bands for making it a night that will remain in the memory for a long long time. We’ll see Animator and Snowblind at Bloodstock in August where they’ll join other Irish acts Dead Label, Overoth and Xerath (Connor McGouran) in flying our banner higher than all.
Bands to note from the earlier stages of the competition that made an impression on me are. Corr Mhona, Black Svan, Lace Weeper, Soothsayer, Raum Kingdom, Words That Burn and Here We Stand.