Bloodstock M2TM 2020 – North Wales, Heat 1
Mcleans, Pentre 29/02/2020
Review & Pictures by Beth Jones
I need a serious chat with whoever controls time, because somehow M2TM 2019 was a whole year ago and here we are, at the 2020 heat stages already!
Whilst time may have disappeared, what hasn’t is the amount of new, young talent that is popping up all over the underground scene at the moment, and it’s events like this that gives the cream of those bands the opportunity to make it to the hallowed stages of the larger grassroots festivals. This year’s North Wales heats are shaping up to be an eclectic mix of styles, and I get the feeling that choosing the eventual winner is going to be tougher than ever, given the talent on offer.
With that in mind, we got our big coats out to battle yet another oncoming storm, and headed over to our now ‘local’, Mclean’s pub in Pentre, for Heat 1. Only three bands were set to play, two of which would be going through to the semi-final stage. With the crowd assembled, drinks (or in my case, cameras) in hand, and after a quick recap of the rules from our master of ceremony Ian ‘Beany’ North, we were all set for the first performance.
Cry For Mercy
These guys were one of our hot favourites in last year’s competition, narrowly missing out on a place in the final, and if you’ve read any of our recent live reviews on Ever Metal, you’ll know that we really rather like them! Sadly, the band’s drummer, Steven Taylor, was unable to play after having surgery on his wrist earlier in the week. But they had a stand in on hand, in the shape of Bassist/vocalist Kev Plant’s son, Aled. This however did not detract from their performance. They were, as ever, tight and well-rehearsed, with Aled’s drumming carrying the groove perfectly – he’s an awesome little drummer, and really should consider getting in a band himself! Whilst they’re not ‘Metal’ as such, they’re extremely talented guys who deliver a crunchy, groove based heavy rock sound, and they do it with ease, which makes them very endearing. They’re also incredibly humble, with nothing they do on stage being an ‘act’. What you see is what you get, and that is bloody good, solid hard rock, with this performance being a perfect example.
We were taken from the ‘sublime to the Cor Blimey’ next, with another firm favourite of ours, Mad Spanner. There are no words that adequately describe the sheer lunacy involved in a Mad Spanner performance. The best I can do is this; imagine the chase scenes from old silent movies, only with more hair, more pulling of silly faces, punk/thrash rhythms and zany observational comedy lyrics, complimented by insanely fast and loud guitar and bass. If a tornado was musical, it would be like this. In fact, I’d like to pigeonhole Mad Spanner in a whole new genre, just for them – Tornado Metal! Bassist and front man, Michael Randall, is mad as a box of frogs, and spent the entire performance with a maniacal look of a man possessed flashing in his eyes. He flew around the stage like a runaway balloon, and how he managed to survive unharmed is a mystery. Coupled with the crazy guitar of Dan Ashley, and the metronomic drums of Ben Codd, it made for a highly entertaining performance. How Ben doesn’t end up with repetitive strain is beyond me, but at least the drum kit does provide some protection from Michael’s craziness! Dan, however, is always in the firing line – a brave choice! They performed their debut album in its entirety here, as it has a running time that slotted nicely into the 30 minutes allowed set time. Crazy, fun, and again very, very good!
Our final band of the evening were White Mammoth. We’d seen them a couple of years ago in Chester for the Mammothfest ‘battle of the bands’ competition, and if I’m honest, they hadn’t really grabbed me then, but I was interested to see them again, to find out if they’d made progress. The answer to that question is, in a word, YES!! Continuing the showcase of ‘completely different genres’ theme, these guys deliver a huge hit of modern progressive metal, and they now do that very well indeed. Littered with cross rhythms and complicated bass and guitar riffs, they took us through a very intense and involved set, culminating with what is, in my opinion, and absolute masterpiece of a tune, during which I went into some sort of trance, completely fixated on the skills of each member of the band. The song was called ‘Naivety of Perception’ and is going to be released soon as a single, so look out for it if you like heavy prog! They embellished their music with a selection of samples, which I felt worked really well, giving their sound extra depth. My only criticism of them is, due to all the insane musicality they have going on, the vocals have a tendency to get lost in the mix and could do with a bit of a boost. The vocalist has an unusual tone, and it is a shame that it can’t always be heard as well as it should be – his screams came through, but some of the quieter stuff didn’t.
And that, as they say, was that! With all three performances done, it was time to vote. One band would be picked by the audience vote, and one by our judges – John Matthews from Phoenix Rising, Dani Maguire from Powerzone, and Beany. I have to say I found my audience vote a very difficult decision, as I enjoyed all three performances equally. Eventually I went with my gut, voting for the band that I not only found most improved, but also that really reached into my musical soul – White Mammoth (sorry Cry For Mercy and Mad Spanner – I still love you, but I’m a sucker for prog!).
After a short break for the judges to deliberate, it was results time! The gathered crowed, which was a good size given the location, and the horrendous weather, collected by the stage in readiness for Beany’s announcement. After the preamble we have become accustomed with Beany, he gave us the result of the audience vote – Cry For Mercy! The Look of shock and amazement on the face of Kev Plant told the story of the night, and just how tough the competition was, but what makes Cry For Mercy so endearing to us had obviously been felt by the entire crowd. They’re very worthy winners of their place in the Semi-Finals. The second successful act, as voted for by the judges, based not only on musicality and talent, but also on their stage performance and presence, was Mad Spanner. This was met with a lot of jumping about and cheering, not least from Michael Randall!
With that, the first heat was over. A massive congratulations to Cry For Mercy and Mad Spanner – both well deserved. But huge commiserations to White Mammoth, who managed the even bigger feat of leaving me speechless for a good few minutes! What I’d say to them is get that vocal mix sorted in the next month! Ian ‘Fozzy’ Forrester, the legend and head honcho at NEW Metal Productions, gets to pick two ‘wildcard’ entries from the bands that get knocked out in the heats, and I would say, with that little tweak made, White Mammoth should be up for consideration, based on their performance.
A huge thank you again to Ian ‘Beany’ North and Ian ‘Fozzy’ Forrester for their tireless efforts and hard work bringing us spectacular gigs all year round. The scene round here would be dead without them. A massive thanks to all the bands, fans, judges and to the venue too, as without you, music on the whole would be dead. Next up – Heat 2! Bring it on!
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