South Wales Metal to the Masses Final

SW M2TM Grand Final Poster

South Wales Metal to the Masses Final
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff
02/07/2022
Live Review and Photography by Paul Hutchings

Another pulsating afternoon and evening saw the climax of 2022’s road to the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock Open Air. A full house made for a fabulous atmosphere and despite the intense heat in the venue, the ability to nip out to the beer garden between bands provided enough respite for those who had purchased tickets to return for each of the six competing bands plus the two guest headliners.

I’ve written enough about each of the bands in my reviews of the quarter and semi-finals so delivering another blow-by-blow account seems a little bit of overkill. Instead, let’s just say that the South Wales metal community was the big winner. For me, the introduction to bands like I Fight Bears, Torchbearer, NASH and Karmen Field as well as the huge improvements of State of Deceit and Eulogy (probably the most improved band of the entire series for me) was the best bonus of the whole event. 

Kudos to the crowd, who supported each band in turn, pitted hard and fist pumped and sang with a gusto sadly sometimes lacking. It really was a first-class advert for this music we love and there are bands who will be back next year even hungrier. It’s also worth a nod to those who didn’t make it to the final, for there are some fine outfits impatiently waiting for another chance. A big hand to the musicians from Collapse the Void and Excursia who were there in numbers to support their peers. Chwarae teg, that was immense support. 

And of course, huge gratitude to James Millar for his amazing sound desk work and to organisers Alyn Hunter and Tim Hill who made the final run as smoothly as I’ve ever seen. Good work all!

On the night I think it’s reasonable to say that the favourites lived up to their billing with I Fight Bears triumphant. They impressed Bloodstock’s own Simon Hall who overcame a blindingly painful bought of sciatica (possibly with the help of a medicinal glass or two) to announce their victory to a huge roar. 

It would be remiss not to acknowledge two blistering sets from New Blood Alumni Blind Divide and Pearler. The former won the 2019 competition and were robbed of their headline set in 2020 for obvious reasons. They’ve returned looking hungry, angry, and hopefully ready to push on again. 2021’s winners Pearler took a video vote to get to Catton Hall last year. A band well loved in this part of the world; Pearler wowed the audience with another riff fest which was excellent.  Keep an eye out for both these bands. They deserve it. 

With a wildcard slot still very much a possibility, we may yet get to see either Torchbearer or Karmen Field grace the sacred halls. Neither would look out of place. But for now, it’s time to plan for Friday 12th August and I Fight Bears set on the New Blood Stage. Be there. 

Torchbearer

I Fight Bears

Karmen Field 

Eulogy

State of Deceit

N A S H

Blind Divide

Pearler

LINKS:

Fuel Cardiff:

South Wales M2TM:

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.

Bloodstock Metal to the Masses South Wales Quarter Finals  1 & 2

Bloodstock M2TM South Wales Logo

Bloodstock Metal to the Masses South Wales 2022
Quarter Finals  1 & 2
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff 
10 & 11/06/2022
Live Review by Paul Hutchings

South Wales M2TM 2022 Quarter Final 1 Poster

Quarter Final One

It’s been a long journey, but things are hotting up in the South Wales region for this year’s Metal to the Masses.  Although I reported on the first two heats, I’ve not been able to pen reviews of the other rounds. Let’s just say they’ve been interesting, with several bands dropping out, the arrival of the dreaded Ed Sheeran entourage for three nights in the capital causing chaos on the ability of bands to load in, and some other logistical challenges. It’s to the organisers credit that the events have all gone ahead, and the use of a pool of judges has provided respite, fresh eyes and ears, and objectivity. It’s been hell of a ride already and there’s still a way to go. 

Diana Ross was playing across the road at Cardiff Castle as Quarter Final one eased into view, not that the legendary soul diva was likely to cause much of a clash. It was a pleasing turnout, with four bands of differing genres bringing a professional and collegiate approach to the evening. 

Bridgend’s metal core merchants I Fight Bears drew the opening slot. This lot have momentum, with a debut release under their belt, features in the likes of Metal Hammer, and a new EP about to drop (Keep an eye out on Ever Metal for the review in the next couple of weeks). The five-piece brought a solid support, and the band demonstrated their quality with a confident and impressive set. I’m ambivalent about most Metalcore but I Fight Bears add something a little different to their sound, which helps maintain the interest. Visually appealing, with vocalist Dan Blackmore commanding the pit from the start, their blend of growls and cleans (thanks to bassist Drew Hamley) work well. A solid start to the evening and a well appreciated set by those who had made the effort to get in early. 

https://www.facebook.com/ifightbearsband

The heaviness continued with band number two. Torchbearer bring a combination of groove-based riffage in a rich crossover of Every Time I Die and Pantera. The band dropped their debut album ‘Solace’ in January, and they demonstrated why they were worthy quarter finalists with a bruising set that ticked many boxes. Riffs a plenty, thunderous passages that saw the audience snapping a few neck muscles and in vocalist Andy Mansell the band have an excellent focal point. That’s not to demean the other band members, but on a small stage like Fuel you need someone to dominate and Mansell does that well. Drawing deep on their pre-pandemic tour experience, this was another fine set. 

https://www.facebook.com/torchbearerlondon

One of the judging criteria in M2TM is the professionalism that bands are expected to demonstrate. That’s everything from loading in on time to getting set up in that 15-minute changeover slot. Unfortunately, Atlas Theory didn’t grasp that and lost, by my estimations, five to ten minutes of their set as a result. Being on the back foot is hard enough when you are a gnarly old school musician. When you are a relatively newly formed outfit then it increases the pressure. Atlas Theory bring a different sound to most metal bands, locking their sound as a blend of Architects, BMTH, and My Chemical Romance. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and to be fair, this genre does little for me. Their sound chops and changes just a little too much, but the band’s support lapped up their 20-minute set. A definite learning curve, the fact that Atlas Theory got stuck into their set with passion was admirable. Hopefully they can take some positives from the set and learn for future sets. There is definite potential lurking there. 

https://www.facebook.com/ATLAStheory

This left Painted as Monsters to bring the evening to a close. Having secured the fan vote in their heat, the band who are relatively new, provided probably the most accomplished and positive set of the evening. Their combination of hard rock, metal and progressive styles is certainly pleasing on the ear, and there was a lot of concentration going on around the room as those gathered had to engage their thinking caps a bit more. Complex passages and crushing riffs, Painted by Monsters are a band I’m watching with interest. A great end to the evening’s music. 

https://www.facebook.com/paintedasmonsters

As ever, only two bands could proceed to the semi-finals, and it was Torchbearer who stormed the fan vote. Torn between the other bands, the judges’ deliberation concluded with I Fight Bears who moved into the next round, a mere 30 minutes away from the final. Commiserations to Atlas Theory and Painted by Monsters, both of whom I’m sure will be back stronger and better. 

South Wales M2TM 2022 Quarter Final 2 Poster

Quarter Final Two

After a stellar night, Fuel opened its doors to the second quarter final on a balmy night in the Capital. The city was busy, with bars full and the addition of thousands of Wales football fans heading to the Cardiff City Stadium to see our footballing heroes earn a creditable draw with Belgium added to the atmosphere. 

Four more bands were ready to do battle and it was That Which Ate the Moon that drew the opening slot. Having arrived relatively late, the band threw everything into their show. The Newport outfit believe in the riff, especially the BIG riff and their style of stoner thunder works well with me. Plenty of extended instrumental passages might not please everyone,but this is a band whose music works well whether there are vocals or not. When he did sing, bassist Alex proved he could hold his own. This was a thick, heavy start to the evening and one that warmed those that gathered at the front even more than the temperatures outside.

https://www.facebook.com/thatwhichatethemoon

Incursion are probably now classed as veterans of M2TM, having made semi-finals and finals in previous years. Disaster struck just hours before with their drummer falling sick and the band desperately digging out their laptop, teaching it all their drum parts with mere hours to go. Frantic preparations meant that two thirds of the green machine made it to the stage, and they gave it as good a go as they could. Sadly, the reliance on a distant relative of Doktor Avalanche proved a bit of a distraction, meaning the set was a little chaotic and segmented. It was a brave effort and despite the relatively small numbers watching (something picked up by the organisers at the end – support all the bands, not just your favourite FFS!), Incursion will no doubt be back. You can guarantee that. 

https://www.facebook.com/IncursionMetal

If you read the review of the first heats, you’ll have seen that Cardiff quartet Eulogy took the judges vote in their heat with a solid and professional performance. Having picked up a few more gigs along the way since their heat, this was another stellar set with the band ramping up the heaviness even more than in the heat. A combination of tracks from their EP releases sits neatly alongside their newer music and one can only wait with anticipation for their debut album, promised for later this year. Having fun is a requirement with this band and their smiles demonstrated once more that as well as taking this competition seriously, enjoyment is just as key.

https://www.facebook.com/Eulogyrocks

The final band of the night drew the biggest audience, helped by the open-door policy that happens towards the end of the evening. NASH blitzed through their heat taking the judges vote due their sheer energetic performance. Going on last can sap the energy, especially if the bar is a temptation, and the band were slightly below the level of their heat. There was still plenty of energy, with singer Finlay Nash and the relentless Karl John Harrigan (bass) both shirtless by the end of the set. Musically the band sit in the Alt-Metal scene, with Nash’s clean vocals a highlight. By the end the band were spent, and the audience had that difficult two choices to make. 

https://www.facebook.com/FinleyNashUK/

On another night one could have quite easily predicted a different outcome but heading into semi-final two are NASH with the fan vote and Eulogy once more impressing the judges most. Two down, two to go, and those quarter finals are likely to be just as hotly contested.

LINKS:

Fuel, Cardiff:

M2TM South Wales:

Bloodstock Festival:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul hutchings 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.

Bloodstock Metal to the Masses South Wales Heats 1 & 2

South Wales M2TM Heats Poster

Bloodstock Metal to the Masses South Wales Heats 1 & 2
Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff 
01 & 02/04/2022
Live Review by Paul Hutchings

It only seemed like yesterday that I was reporting on a hotly contested competition in the South Wales region for 2019’s Metal to the Masses. The winner that year was Blind Divide, with special guests Fallen Temples. Both bands had their 30 minutes of fame on the New Blood Stage, and both are now regaining momentum, the latter recently playing on the bill at the opening of the new 3500 arena in Swansea. 2021’s winners Pearler qualified via a video vote, which didn’t have the same ring to it but they put in a decent shift when the festival emerged from its slumbers in 2021. It was, however, with great relief that the South Wales promoters opened their doors at Cardiff’s Fuel Rock Club to the 2022 entrants and eager fans. 

Heat 1

The first heat took place on 1st April but there was nothing foolish about the talent on display. An eclectic range of bands brought varied levels of support but there was a good neutral support which rewarded the efforts of all outfits. 

It was only a fortnight since opening act Eulogy had been at the same venue, supporting the impressive Unto Others and Zetra. The Cardiff based four-piece had been putting in the miles to get match fit, and with a newly completed line-up, they wasted little time in shaking the very foundations of the venue. Focal point of the band is bassist and vocalist Neil Thomas, who dominates the centre stage without overpowering. His soaring vocals always get compliments from those who’ve not seen the band before, such is his range and delivery. The band’s solid Hard Rock and Metal approach has been beefed up in recent times by the addition of Brian Perkins who adds a solid rhythm that allows lead guitarist Mile Thomas to shred away. The band also have a new drummer in the shape of Josh Bird and his powerhouse delivery added a solid edge to the band’s music. A thumping set threw the gauntlet down to those that followed. 

https://www.facebook.com/Eulogyrocks/

Second up were newish five-piece Catalysts who brought a different sound completely. Crammed onto the small stage, there wasn’t much room for expressive dancing, but they weren’t to be put off, with plenty of movement and encouragement to a room that had filled excitedly with several their own fans as well as the curious neutrals. Catalysts released a six-track EP in recent times and tracks from “Sparks” gave some the opportunity to sing along. Vibrant, energetic, and entertaining, frontman David Challenger’s impressive vocals caught the ear and whilst the band’s style certainly isn’t my usual listening preference, their sheer attitude ensured most were hooked until the end. A point off for overrunning by a couple of minutes though. 

https://www.facebook.com/CATALYSTS.UK/

One of the joys of M2TM is discovering new bands and Swansea’s Inscape certainly brought a different style to the stage. I understand that these boys are reasonably big in their home city, and another band who played at the Swansea Arena opening. They certainly have a confidence that their hard gigging work has honed, with an assured performance. Their combination of Djent, Electronica and Progressive Metal is certainly an acquired taste, and their multitude of samples and effects at times seemed to overpower the rest of the music. But that’s a minor gripe as they certainly brought some variation and alternative sounds to the heat. A very healthy response from the crowd suggested that they earnt several new fans. 

https://www.facebook.com/Inscapeband/

It was impossible to avoid the volume of Risperidrone T-shirts around the club as we moved to the final band of the night. Some readers might remember JunkDNA who were active several years ago. Risperidone formed from that outfit with a Cardiff / Bath fusion which brought experience. It took a long while for the band to get going, with a longer than necessary intro. When they finally picked it up, their sound wasn’t the best, albeit probably okay for the Doomy music that they focus on. Vocalist Elliot Murphy certainly won the biggest smile from a front man award. His vocals maybe not as stellar. The band have BOA experience from 2016 but this wasn’t to be their night with a performance that just lacked some of the vibrancy of the other bands. 

https://www.facebook.com/Risperidrone

A brief scramble for the voting and the results arrived. Taking the judges vote was Eulogy whilst Catalysts grabbed the fan vote ahead of the other two bands. It was tight but for me the best two bands on the night got through. 

Heat 2

As the plague reared its ugly head again, heat two lost one of the bands in Scrape, who succumbed to a positive test and by the time the pushed back start arrived, both usual promoting team were also home, leaving an expert B-Team to step in with all the grace of an elephant on a bicycle. But somehow, they got it done and that’s what matters right? 

With Cardiff in the Radio 6 Music weekend frenzy, Fuel was as busy as ever and a fair few punters parted with entrance money to catch the three bands. Alt-rockers N A S H drew the first slot of the evening and proceeded to blow the roof off the room with an action-packed set. Singer Finlay Nash possesses a decent set of pipes and his jostling with energetic Karl John Harrigan on bass for centre spot was hugely entertaining. I’ve not seen someone enjoy their art as much as the bassist for a long time and his passion was such that despite two technical faults that saw the band’s finale cruelly curtailed, he still ended up bouncing around the pit. There is a bit of experience in this lot, and they played it well.

https://www.facebook.com/FinleyNashUK

If you wanted an example of the variation on offer in the two heats, then you only had to spend a couple of minutes having your skull caved in by the Hardcore Thrashing Sludge of Kill by Mouth to find it. The three-piece may not have the most diversity in their sound but they bring that pulverising delivery with an intensity that hits like a hammer. Vocalist and guitarist Cessar roared and growled, his heavy riffs backed by the deep rumble of bassist Simon Merrifield and drummer James Langston.  Disappointingly the large number of fans that N A S H had brought with them had departed for the bar, and it was only towards the end of their set that Kill by Mouth got the crowd their efforts deserved. Perhaps their crushing delivery was just too heavy for many.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100027777802799

Bringing the curtain down on Heat two was a newly formed three-piece called Painted by Monsters. The band bring a heavy Muse like sound with far more heft than the stadium headliners. The band contains a Bloodstock veteran in Chris Machin, bassist with Jagermeister stage heroes Cranial Separation back in 2018, alongside the experienced Rhys Evans on vocals and guitar and drummer Matt Jones.  Having formed during lockdown, the band were playing only their second ever gig and it was an assured set that saw a brief glance at previous music as well as plenty of new material. Their Progressive bent went down a storm and they were deservedly the fans choice of the evening. 

https://www.facebook.com/paintedasmonsters

It was N A S H who took the judges vote and commiserations went to Kill by Mouth who on another night could have shaded it. It was that close. So, two down, six to go and the road to BOA has begun in earnest. I’ll be covering every heat I get to, although some silly fool has planned two heats when I’ll be at Manorfest – you can’t have everything. 

LINKS:

Fuel, Cardiff:

South Wales M2TM:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings 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.