M2TM Manchester 2023 – Heat 4
Review by Rob Sutton
OK, so last weeks heat was not to my taste so much and this weeks one seemed to have been cursed with 2 bands pulling out in the run up with only one of those slots being replaced by a competing band and the other with a guest. I will say hats off to the 0161 for managing to get 2 bands in on such short notice!
First up for the night was thrash 4 piece Viral Strain who have entered before and I had seen on a few occasions. They start off well with some good riffs on display as well as instantly hyping the crowd. So far this is looking pretty good. We have a unique style of vocals which is quite squealy compared to some thrash but strangely fits these guys well. In fact these guys fit the thrash genre very well as I mentioned the riffs are pretty tasty, the group vocals thrown in work fantastically and the bass lines are pretty fucking sweet. Throw that with a few cheeky effects pedals and yeah, its good. For me though the drums were sometimes a bit minimalist and I felt that there could have been a few more technical patterns or fills used to spice the riffs up further and make things a little more interesting but again they did fit so it was OK. I guess that’s what I can say about Viral Strain, it does exactly what it says on the tin… its Thrash, I guess it didn’t excite me as much as I would have liked but it was a good performance.
A new band for me was Apparitia, now these guys (and girl) are more of a rocky style band but certainly have a following and the energy to warrant a place on the bill. The first song was a little slow to get started but once the second song hit then we start to see what these guys are about. There is an awful lot of bouncing on stage, mostly from the bassist which is good to see and the whole band do look like they are enjoying themselves which in turn the crowd do the same even ending up with a full crowd sway, a first for me at one of these events. I also love the guitar work from the riffs to the breakdowns and the tapping to the soloing. These guitarists have some serious talent and personally, I love it! There were a few things however which I did pick up on. Firstly the bassist didn’t seem to know the set list and could be heard asking ‘is it this one’ the band all looked a little confused so if this was a joke it didn’t really work but if not then perhaps write him a set list out. Secondly (I feel like I’m picking on the bassist a bit here, sorry) but while playing his picking was fantastic and worked really well but when he started fingering, the technique was just a bit wrong and didn’t sound right. (Nothing worse than sloppy fingering -Ed) It was like he was very tense and thus left him not able to utilise the sound which fingering would give. I really can’t believe how that has come out there but oh well I’m leaving it in. Finally the vocal range wasn’t great until the last song. For the majority of the set there was very little change in pitch or range and it ended up sounding like talking singing which got a bit boring. Now I know she can sing well as she proved that with her actually doing all of the above in the final song so why not do it throughout the set? I’ve picked a bit at these guys but really this was a solid show and did have the biggest crowd engagement and participation out of the 3 competing bands. Again it was a solid set.
Finally another returning competitor in Asylum City Zoo and these guys don’t lack experience and it shows with probably the tightest set of the competing bands and their presence on stage, there is no lack of confidence here. Now they bring a bit of an odd mix of genres but I liked their term of Dad Metal so we will use that. The solos are pretty good cutting through nicely with again some lovely riffs to get the heads nodding along with some incredible double kick work, this really caught my attention and I think the drums are an absolute highlight of these guys. ACZ did exactly what I expected of them, were tight, engaging and full of character Although there were a few awkward pauses but nothing alarming. Yes some of the singing wasn’t the best but compared to where they were last year, they have massively improved and they were enjoyable to watch although this didn’t blow me away like I would have hoped for, I guess I was just wanting a bit more from them. Still though another solid set.
3 Competition bands done so onto our guest headliners in the shape of Akkadian from Cambridge. Straight off the bat these guys prove why they have been given this slot, an epic intro leads into an absolute barrage of riffs, heavy ass drums and thumping bass. The musical talent here is next level! Their mix of Gojira and Lamb of God for me is brilliant. I actually have my head banging! More solid solos and ambient sounding guitars are used throughout and perfectly break the songs up but my god this drummer is a machine! I know their triggers but the speed is just immense and I love it. These guys really were in a different league compared to the other bands tonight, their level of tightness, professionalism and stage show were on point. This however doesn’t mean there weren’t faults, vocally while a good tone and range lacked power, seriously lacked power. To the point where sometimes he wasn’t heard at all, especially during the spoken bits and on the moments he put power in he cupped the mic meaning it either fed back or became overly loud. For me there needs to be a fair bit of work on projection here as even during the last 15 minutes when the sound guy had clearly boosted him up there were some very strange and not a good strange sounds coming from him. Aside from this, a brutal, pit inducing 40 minutes left the crowd begging for more and that’s what a guest headliner is all about.
So after last week this was a step up in terms of the competition, I didn’t hate any of the bands though nothing blew me away. Apparitia went through on crowd and Asylum City Zoo on judges and I actually agree with this. Onwards to heat 5!
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