Metal 2 The Masses Stoke-On-Trent Final
Mufunta, Warlock A.D., Mercia, Headpress, Leave No Witness, Hellfekted
The Underground, Stoke-On-Trent
Live Review by Rob Sutton
It’s been almost a year since I last ventured to the Underground in Stoke-On-Trent and previously it was a bit of a dive, however the toilets while not amazing are better and more usable than before. Also, I will point out that soft drinks are extremely cheap here, which is fantastic considering I’ve driven and didn’t fancy taking out a mortgage for a pint of lemonade – which I have had to do at other venues.
So the M2TM final, the first one I’ve been to in Stoke and there is a monster 6 bands competing with no guest. First up was Mufunta – a band I have never listened to prior to this show. They bring a Sludgy Groove Metal vibe to the proceedings and I must say the riffs are fantastic; there is certainly a Pantera feel to their sound. Sadly, the guitars are barely audible throughout their set, meaning the crowd are unable to fully appreciate just how good these riffs are. Having said that the bass is bloody brilliant and manages to drive the songs enough to get the crowds heads bobbing. Sadly, all they seemed to get from the crowd was some cheers and a little head-bobbing, despite the vocalist trying to pump the audience. For me while the slower songs did have plenty of punch, after the first three songs I did begin to get a little bored of the set, so began to consider a cheeky smoke, this was until they upped the pace towards the end of the set. This is where Mufunta came alive for me. Picking the pace up completely changed the dynamic of their set and suddenly I found myself really enjoying them. So, I think that pretty much sums Mufunta up; solid riffs and engagement but had they mixed the faster and slower songs up a little more it would have worked better for me.
Warlock A.D. next and these guys bring something very different to the table – medieval / Power Metal. Straight off, their stage set up is impressive – with the fantasy style get up and the flags adorning the stage (mainly covering where a drummer would be) and there lies my first problem. They all look fantasy / medieval on stage and then there is a pirate?! Maybe this is from some nerdy shit I don’t understand, but he stood out like a sore thumb! Well until he had a swift costume change to a king which fitted better, it was strange but hey, moving on.
Being without a drummer is a difficult task as it requires the full band to be in time and play to a backing track throughout, which they do for the most part of their set. Only the first song sounded really messy where nothing seemed to be as audible as it should be, but this I will put down to the sound mix. Musically these guys play Power Metal brilliantly – the voice is tremendous, the guitars and bass fit the genre perfectly and their interaction and crowd participation are professional and well choreographed. I honestly cannot fault their music at all but…
Here is what really pissed me off. I love the whole fantasy / medieval style, but we get comments throughout the set such as ‘don’t leave me, I’ll buy you a maccies’ and ‘a dragon filled with candy and condoms’ what part of this theme would mention fast food or condoms? Are they trying to be funny, because if so, it really wasn’t. In fact, it was cringy beyond what Power Metal usually is. It’s actually completely unnecessary and against everything the songs and stage show had set up. These comments were something Footprints in the Custard would make, not a fantasy themed Power Metal band. This isn’t the first time I have written a review where a bloody good set was ruined by really stupid comments. Ahhh!
So, onto some more themed Metal and this time from Mercia. There is a big difference between Mercia and Warlock A.D., and that is that Mercia have kept the theme to a minimum, a splash of face paint and away they go. Now, I will give you a few reasons as to why you shouldn’t like these guys, but then tell you that for all these reasons you will still actually love these guys! Firstly, they are more on the rockier side of Metal (that’s no bad thing), which means the solos and vocals are front and centre. The solos are played in such a way it makes you envious of them, not to mention they cut through the sound absolutely perfectly.
Vocally, well I’m a vocalist and I cannot sing, if I could then I would want this voice. They also play looking arrogant, like they know they are good at what they do and also a tad cheeky, judging by the way the vocalist looks at the crowd. So, for all those reasons you should hate them because of jealousy and well looking like they are up their own arses, but in seriousness the whole arrogance and cheeky image they portray just fits perfectly with the way they play, the vocals are simply stunning and send shivers down your spine, just like the guitars! I really am trying to find some fault with this set, but I’m struggling. Perhaps some would say ‘it isn’t Bloodstock’ but dya know what? I’d watch this at Bloodstock! I was left in awe of this set, Mercia absolutely blew me away!
From here the night seemed to take a heavier turn. Headpress, a band I used to play with many years ago, have remerged onto the scene and with a point to prove! When we were against them in the Crewe M2TM final, these boys absolutely smashed it and really should have won. Now this meant that I was expecting great things from the now three piece band. They did not disappoint!
Firstly the banners on stage worked well and the odd few samples used to fill the set worked an absolute treat. As for the music side, well not much has changed. Headpress are still the same Hatebreed-style Hardcore and there is nothing wrong with that. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t much new or different here, but just good old Hardcore how it should be. One note which did stand out was the fact that all three members joined in on the vocal duties and while this is difficult to pull off, they were perfectly in sync with each other. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch when this is pulled off to this level, I guess that’s where Headpress excelled tonight – they are unbelievably tight and don’t try anything to extravagant. Though the constant calls for pits did seem to fall on deaf ears until the fourth time of asking… three no’s and a yes still means yes (it was a good pit as well). And there were some slight spats of silence between songs but for the most part, the energy these guys brought to the stage was unrivalled so far tonight! More of these please!
New boys Leave no Witness on the block next, with some Metalcore to add to the proceedings. Now straight off, I am a huge Metalcore fan and find a lot of bands fail to hit the mark, especially with the over used backing tracks. Leave no Witness do away with the backing tracks and instead go down the Parkway Drive style of Metalcore, which is refreshing as not many bands seem to opt for this. Leave no Witness have actually only done three gigs, two of which being the M2TM and one of which being with yours truly, so I was expecting parts to look a little amateur or unrefined, but I was wrong, as this was a pretty damn solid set!
Guitar wise the solos mix between sweeping and tapping fantastically and are split well between both guitarists. Vocally while the growls are on point, some of the cleans don’t quite hit the correct notes and it does kind of kill a few of the songs. Nevertheless, they make up for this by absolutely commanding the crowd and are rewarded by constant pits throughout, plus a serious number of head bangers. Leave no Witness had by far the best reception of the night, which again is impressive considering their lack of experience. Honestly this was solid and sets these guys up for many good things going forward, the only thing is, it does sound very similar to a lot of other bands. Aside from that if there was a vote for a band to go through, wearing a Thrashatouille T-shirt certainly a way to get my vote… And avoid a roast! I joke, I’m much cheaper to bribe than a £12 T-shirt!
One band to go!
Hellfekted have a massive following behind them and beforehand I saw these guys as the band to beat, but seeing the competition so far, they needed everything they had… Boy did these guys bring it though, their intense Speed / Thrash / Death hybrid was a marvel to listen to and also watch as each member played with such ferocity it was incredible! I am amazed the drummer manages to head bang playing that bloody fast, not to mention the three others in front of him!
Much like before it seems the crowd are now in the mood for pits, for Hellfeked, they ask and they get. Circle pits? Check! Wall of Death? Check! This was a master class in commanding a crowd and is so slick it’s almost planned without seeming planned. The voice is something very different as it is very high pitched and at first, I didn’t think it fitted with the style, but the more the set went on, the more I began to see exactly the sound they were going for and it slotted in place just like everything else during this performance. What more can I say? I had very high hopes for Hellfekted they delivered above and beyond what I had expected from them. This set was simply incredible!
So six bands, one winner… or is there? In fact two would progress tonight and one would go onto the reserve list. First off Warlock A.D. got through to the Jagermiester Stage. I’m not sure I agreed with this, as I feel another year to find their true calling may have been better for them, but their music was solid enough alone to make them a worthy kind of winner. Headpress went through to play the New Blood Stage. This was well deserved, as their whole show was stunning and will work fantastically on that stage. Hellfekted have been added to the reserve list but I really feel like these guys should have got a slot as well, they seemed to tick all the boxes for me. As for Mercia, Mufunta and Leave No Witness they all also played brilliantly and would have also been a fitting winner so I am hoping I will see each one again.
This was a long gig… Lucky I don’t have one the next day… oh wait… !
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rob Sutton and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.