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.
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 3 & 4 Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff 17 & 18/06/2022 Live Review by Paul Hutchings
Quarter Final Three
If the previous week had shown the more challenging side of this competition, Quarter Final three proved that the Metal community in South Wales can do it properly. This was a night to savour, with big, enthusiastic crowds who supported all the bands from start to finish. The bands themselves stuck out the searing heat in the venue on the hottest day of the year, resisting the urge to get some cool air on perspiring skin. Despite what some may have seen as a counter attraction with the Stereophonics and Tom Jones playing across the road to a sea of pink cowboy hats and fruity ciders, all the bands competing had pulled their support along with them, thanks to some concerted efforts on their social media accounts. One thing the judges do consider is the promotion ahead of the event, and in this QF all boxes had been ticked in that area.
Taking the judges vote in their heat, newcomers on the scene Zac and the New Men are rapidly making a name for themselves in the South Wales scene. It’s not hard to see why. This performance took things up a couple of notches from their heat, and it was another confident, assured and energetic performance that got everyone moving early in the evening. Gloriously decked in their psychedelic shirts, they once more belied their youthful ages and cranked up their splendid blend of Hard Rock with a classic twist. Their energy was enough to make an old man weep, their ability to bounce in unison on their last song and then emerge without a sweat mark anywhere merely provoked incredulity. These guys are the real deal and I’ll buy you a pint if they are not playing Steelhouse Festival by 2024.
Having seen off the permafrost challenge of Cardiff’s Black Metallers Black Pyre in their heat with a solid fan vote, Karmen Field were back and in boisterous mood. Backed by the biggest numbers of the night, the four-piece were on fire from the start, demonstrating a determination and experience that their six-years together has brought them. “We’re Karmen Field, and we want to play at Bloodstock” roared vocalist Molly McBreen. They certainly played as if they were on that New Blood stage, with their combination of 90’s Grunge, Progressive passages and bone crunching riffing launching temperatures still higher. Fiercely active on stage, the band are also blessed with some fabulous musicians to support McBreen. It all added up to a fine performance for another band who are rightly creating waves. Another fine set.
Catalysts had taken the fan vote in their heat and having spent the first ninety minutes of the evening stoically sweating amongst the crowd, proceeded to shed even more liquid with a competent and vibrant performance. Five musicians on Fuel’s stage aren’t ideal but as happened in the heat, Catalysts grabbed the event by the balls and simply swung it around their collective heads. Their music isn’t something I’d usually select by choice, but when this band get into full flow, genres don’t get a look in. Engaging with the audience at a level that not even Karmen Field had managed, front man David Challenger’s clean vocals impressed once more whilst his interaction with the crowd was typically Welsh. It’s impossible not to smile when Catalysts play, such is their sheer enthusiasm. Another band to keep an eye on.
The warmest people in the venue must have been State of Deceit, whose dedication to watching their fellow competitors didn’t go unnoticed. With the doors open to let air into the room, several non-voting punters slipped in to watch possibly the most explosive set of the competition. State of Deceit were fully charged, bringing a light box and smoke machine, earning extra marks from the judges. Frontman Pete Scammell is always an entertaining watch and this bear of a man prowls the front of the stage, inciting the first real pits of the evening, which at times were ferocious with at least one casualty later claiming a bit of rib damage (been there brother – hope you’ve escaped too much damage). This was the first time I’d seen the band as a five-piece, with Davide Santini on bass bringing a new dimension to the band. These guys could fill the space on that New Blood stage with ease, and their Groove-based pummelling saw the walls shake, such was the power they delivered.
Breaking to vote, the dance floor area resembled a swimming pool, such was the sweat being shed. A brief pause in the proceedings was concluded with the results. It was a massive shame that these four bands couldn’t all go through, for this would have been a semi-final to be proud of. Unfortunately, only two could progress and it was Karmen Field who gained a gargantuan fan vote, whilst State of Deceit’s professionalism and increased effort impressed the judges the most. It’s a cliché of mammoth proportions, but the real winner on this night was heavy music and even writing this the morning after leaves a warm glow.
Quarter Final Four
This event is proving to be the mother of all challenges. We’ve had just about everything thrown at it. After the heat of QF4, the weather gods decided it was time to cool things down with an evening of heavy rain. With the Stereophonics in the Stadium for the second night, it was unsurprising that the attendance was smaller than might be expected. And we still had drama to come later!
With Sons of Thunder sadly having to pull out due to injury, a three-band quarter final saw Sounds of Insane Music draw the opening slot. For those that don’t know, SOIM is a solo project of Elliot Cadmore, a massively talented musician. SOIM’s show consists of backing music with Elliot shredding his nuts off. Highly technical and impressive, the challenge for any solo artist is to capture the audience’s attention and hold it. Despite a few timing issues, nerves, and material which at times is inaccessible to many, SOIM made a real fist of it, with the small but enthusiastic crowd giving huge support. After his set, Elliot announced a hiatus from solo live shows to focus on new material and forming a true band. We wish him well and look forward with anticipation to the next stages of his musical journey.
Following SOIM, the Groove-core of Collapse the Void produced a solid crowd reaction with some small but perfectly formed pits kicking into action. The Newport quintet make a fine noise, with bearded frontman Eli possessing a huge bear-like roar. The band’s sound is aggressive but refined with some sweet dual guitar work giving their songs a unique flavour. My one minor criticism is that the band use Eli and both guitarists Mike and Joel for vocals, which at times can be a little overpowering. Apart from that, there was little to dislike as Collapse the Void produced the set of the evening for me. Considering they only formed just before lockdown, this is a band that could seriously go places in the coming years.
It was left to Excursia to give the fans and the judges a headache as the final band. The band are veterans of the competition, having entered twice before and making the final of the Bristol competition in the past. A few line-up changes have seen the band change their sound from the earlier Thrash-based style to a more Extreme and varied format. Full of energy and pumped up as always, Excurisa launched into their set with a frantic pace, which went down well with their support at the front of the stage. As the heat increased, frontman A’Dan Shide shed his shirt and switched from rhythm guitar to focus on his angry, raging vocal delivery. The band have come a long way since their formation in 2016 and are now showing real signs of progression.
Alas, two thirds of the way into their set, the sound was pulled as it was revealed that a medical emergency was happening in the main room. Confusion set in, which was quickly addressed by the organisers with clear announcements providing enough information to ensure everyone behaved. Thankfully the ill customer was well enough to leave the venue with assistance sometime later. A sensible decision saw the voting take place whilst there was a lull, with Collapse the Void grabbing the fan vote and Excursia securing the second spot via the judges’ decision.
Another bizarre evening in this weird and wonderful journey to BOA 2022 concluded. We return for the semi-finals on 24th & 25th June. Who knows what will happen then! Whatever happens, we’ll bring it to you here at Ever Metal.
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.