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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
South Wales M2TM:
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