Metal to the Masses South Wales – Semi Final 1 and 2
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff
24 – 25/06/2022
Live Review and Photos by Paul Hutchings
And so, it came to pass. After many heats, calamities, and more challenges than any event organisers should have to face in one hit, we arrived at the business end of the South Wales M2TM 2022 competition with the first semi-final. Four bands, bristling with energy and passion and a real determination to progress to the grand final a week later.
It’s fair to say this event had enough quality to have been the final. A wide range of genres, some sublime musicianship and after all those heats and quarter finals, reassurance that the metal scene in South Wales is as vibrant and healthy as it was prior to the pandemic.
Torchbearer took the opening slot this time around. Requiring a stand-in guitarist who learnt everything within the past week or so, you’d never have guessed that the band were playing with a temporary member, for he nailed everything superbly. The early slot always suffers from a smaller crowd but those that gathered at the front saw their ranks quickly swelled by other fans as Torchbearer’s solid Groove Metal caught them in its gravitational pull. Thick, vicious riffs, pummelling rhythm and aggressive yet compelling vocals, it’s all part of the package that Torchbearer bring, and having managed to set the bar high a couple of weeks earlier, they succeeded in elevating the target a couple of rungs higher. It was a ferociously intoxicating set that was going to be hard to beat.
Karmen Field have consistently brought the largest support to every round they have participated in. This was no different as their army of fans pushed forward, danced, moshed, head banged and generally threw their all in support of their favourite band. The band’s progressive and soulful metal brings a new dynamic, which is refreshing as well as confident and assured. With variation in their songs, switching atmosphere and tempo in a well-balanced set, there is real clarity in their songs, with each one bringing something different to the table. Good humoured and thoroughly entertaining, Karmen Field were ever so slightly off the pace in comparison to their quarter-final mind stomp, with a little of the overall driving energy that was so evident in their run absent. They still brought a huge effort.
In their quarter-final, Excursia had been forced to halt their set midpoint due the medical emergency in the main room. No such distractions tonight as the Thrash quartet ripped a new hole in Fuel’s roof, with a controlled yet explosive 30 minutes of Extreme metal. One of my few complaints with Excurisa is that their sound can become muddied and merged, making it difficult to establish the switches and subtleties that they possess on record. My only other criticism is the overly aggressive engagement with the crowd. Inserting swear words into every sentence may be “so metal” but it does become a bit tedious after the fourth time of asking the crowd “are you fucking enjoying yourself?” The use of swear words in every sentence doesn’t enhance your performance and suggests a challenge with wider vocabulary. A point to address for future shows. Minor niggles aside, this was a fine performance from Excursia, and the intensity of the pits confirmed as much. The sight of sweaty torsos throwing each other around in a boiling hot room was something that seemed alien only six months or so ago, so kudos to Excursia for bringing their A game.
On the day that their fine EP ‘Liberosis’ dropped, what better way to mark its arrival than by sucking out the final drops of energy from the assembled throng in front of them? This was another bruising performance from I Fight Bears, whose muscular approach simply bulldozed its way through their allotted half hour. This band has been the most consistent in the competition for me, and their sheer desire to progress screamed out in a controlled yet still wild show. I’ve said before that their brand of Metalcore stands out as one of the few in the genre that ticks my boxes, but even if you don’t like the music that much, the sheer velocity of the performance was outstanding.
Who’d be a judge on nights like these? A huge fan vote helped but ultimately the judges of the competition have the final decisions on which three bands progressed to the final. Before that, guest headliners Mother Vulture decided that we’d not had enough and proceeded to deliver another high octane, vibrant and crazy show. Having seen these guys several times, I can attest for the effort that they put into each show, regardless of size. Thankfully, Fuel responded with a wild crowd who lapped up every second of the West Country outfit’s antics. It’s highly likely these guys will be huge in the very near future. They are at numerous festivals this summer including Steelhouse and Bloodstock and if you get a chance, check ‘em out. You won’t regret it.
The moment arrived and the organisers Alyn and Tim climbed the stage to make the announcements. These guys are the beating heart of the whole M2TM event in Cardiff, and they deserved a round of applause. With anticipation high, the three finalists were revealed. Torchbearer, I Fight Bears and Karmen Field took the vote but there was no disgrace in defeat for Excursia this time round.
A total change in the weather brought torrential thunderstorms in the hours before the second semi-final. It may have dampened the temperature on the streets but with four more bands vying for the three coveted final places, there was no shortage of heat in Fuel as the evening unfolded.
Collapse the Void have been mightily impressive throughout the competition. Having formed during lockdown, this was only their 10th gig as a unit, and they are showing strong signs of becoming a formidable outfit. Having drawn the opening slot, they suffered from a rather hesitant crowd, with the room relatively slow to fill up. Kudos to all the other bands though, for they were present throughout, bolstering the support and demonstrating the true meaning of M2TM. This support provided the impetus that Collapse the Void needed, and they improved throughout their set after a subdued opening. My only complaint was the lack of movement from most of the band, with frontman Eli the exception. Whilst there isn’t a huge amount of room on the Fuel stage, N A S H would later show how to exploit all the space in a way that was beyond Collapse the Void on this occasion. There is plenty to come from the Newport based outfit.
Fired up by a huge showing in the quarter-finals, State of Deceit roared into gear quickly, fired up their smoke machine and delivered another piledriver of a set, which saw more than a few neck muscles being given a workout. SoD truly bring the noise, but also have the craft and guile to push their sound into other areas, letting the groove lead, but not dominate. Their set was impressive, with lights and smoke machines adding to the atmosphere. Working hard, planning cleverly, this was a slightly inferior showing to their quarter-final, nerves and tension probably contributing. But there was much to enjoy and the band’s relentless devotion to the battering aural assault continues to impress.
If Karmen Field bring the biggest numbers of supporters, N A S H are very close behind. Roared on by a solid number of fans, this was an absorbing performance, bold, confident without the arrogance that can change viewpoints quickly. Full of vibrant movement, N A S H grabbed their opportunity with both hands and refused to let go. Full of smiles, the band looked like they were having more fun than the audience at times and it’s hard to fail to be impressed by them. Another band whose performances have caught the eye over the past few months.
No band has upped their game more in this competition that Eulogy. The Cardiff outfit have ticked every box on the judges’ cards, from their professionalism when loading and line checking through to their relentless use of socials to encourage support. They have also have hugely impressed with their sound, massively beefing up the riff quota and bringing the thunder with heaviness in their songs which works so well live. They certainly tick my boxes, for I do like some straight-up heads down Heavy Metal, which they do so well. Buoyed by a decent support, Eulogy hit the ground running and proceeded to turn in an assured performance which earned much praise. Like other bands on the night, the tension eked into their show slightly, but their finishing song, together with a demand that everyone moved forward blew any nerves into next week.
The pressure built but before the results were announced, the guest headliners Thuum took to the stage for 40 minutes of pulsating Metal which drained the evening of all remaining riffs. The Bournemouth-based outfit have only recently reformed, but on this showing, they’d be welcome in Cardiff again. Huge, thunderously sludgy riffs rained down, the band demonstrating their quality and splitting the sky with the sheer weight of their sound. If you’ve not checked them out, do so immediately. They sustained a bit of percussion damage when a drum leg collapsed. Step forward the superhero, Sean, bassist with Collapse the Void who spent around 25 minutes standing in for said damaged leg. A stellar job Sean, and the day was saved.
Another tightly run evening with the judges once more having to apply every ounce of reasoning to make their decisions. Ultimately, it was Collapse the Void who just missed out on the final, but I reckon these guys will be knocking on the door in a year’s time. So, down to the final six. The final kicks off in Fuel on 2nd July with tickets available in advance. It would be folly to miss an evening that promises not only the best metal in South Wales, but also headline sets from 2019 and 2021 Bloodstock Alumni Bind Divide and Pearler.
M2TM South Wales:
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. Photography by Paul Hutchings. 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.