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