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.

I Fight Bears – Liberosis

Liberosis Album Cover Art

I Fight Bears – Liberosis
Self-Released

Release Date: 24/06/22
Running Time: 20:00

Review by Paul Hutchings
9/10

Currently putting in some stellar performances in the South Wales Metal to The Masses competition, the Metalcore approach of Bridgend’s I Fight Bears has worked remarkably well, with the band gaining lots of new fans and friends. Timing is everything, and the band’s new EP ‘Liberosis’ drops on the weekend of the Semi-Finals, one of which will feature the five piece.

Early traction came in 2018 when the band’s debut album featured in Metal Hammer and Kerrang!, the latter exclusively streaming the release. A hard-working period of live shows honed their live delivery, with support slots to Bleed From Within, The Word Alive, Continents, Perpetua, inVisions, Ghost Iris, Avira and Skies In Motion, and their experience is showing in their phenomenal live shows. 

‘Liberosis’ is a five-track EP, clocking in at around twenty minutes in length. If you’ve not heard the band before, then their sound is best described as a combination of such behemoths as Lamb of God, Parkway Drive and KSE. What sets the band apart from many of their counterparts is the surging melody that courses through their songs. This, combined with the blend of Drew Hamley’s soaring clean vocals and Dan Blackmore’s lead growls brings a fresh approach. There’s plenty of more traditional Metal tucked in the edges of I Fight Bears sound as well, although the Groove laden riffs and powerful breakdowns rightly dominate. 

Latest single ‘Beacon’ is the opener and boy does it get the blood surging. Powerful riffs, crushing bass and drums and Blackmore’s punishing screams hit you like a sledgehammer from the start. It’s relentless, despite the slight shift in tempo as Hamley’s cleans work their magic. ‘Beacon’ is a crushing opener and is destined to be the cause of multiple pit bruises. 

Briefly bringing respite, ‘Believe in Me’ quickly accelerates to attack speed, with a different approach adding different dimensions to the song. The dual guitar work is effective, with Scott Preece’s solid drumming locking everything down neatly. Blackmore drifts into Matt Heafy style at times, something that I’m sure would impress the Trivium main man. The chorus once more allows Hamley to deliver the clean vocals in fine style, alongside some neat guitar work. This is followed by first single ‘Chainbreaker’ which erupts in brutal fashion, the punishing drumming propelling the band forward. It’s an uplifting anthemic brute of a song, with Blackmore’s aggressive roars particularly effective, as he rages over some sterling guitar work. 

Things up a level on ‘Damaged World’, which introduces a barrage of riffs so heavy that the ground shakes. It’s a massive track, the strong production enhancing a blisteringly heavy, groove-sodden track. The EP closes with ‘State’, another pummelling to the face guaranteed as I Fight Bears bring it home. Huge riffs, a high tempo, and clean vocals once more soaring high – it’s a song that has it all. 

This is a giant release. It’s a marker in the sand for those pretenders to the throne. I Fight Bears mean business. This is the EP to bring them forward to the entire world. Don’t be surprised if you see them on the New Blood Stage come August. They won’t be out of place.

‘Beacon’ Official Lyric Video

TRACKLISTING:
01. Beacon
02. Chainbreaker
03. Damaged World
04. State
05. Believe In Me

LINE-UP:
Drew Hamley – Bass & Clean Vocals
Chris Treharne – Lead Guitar
Scott Preece  – Drums
Marc James – Guitar
Dan Blackmore – Lead Vocals

LINKS:

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 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.