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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Final 2018 (Live Review By Paul H )

Metal To The Masses – South Wales Final, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

What a night. What an incredible night. There was tension, there was drama, there was tears and there was laughter but most of all there was the fabulous sight of a rammed, and I mean rammed Fuel Rock Club supporting the South Wales Metal Scene in the most passionate way I’ve ever seen. An incredible turnout meant that Fuel was pushing capacity by mid-way through the evening and when the announcement of the winners hit after Malum Sky’s set it was hard to get through the door.

Rob Bannister from Bloodstock was on judging duty, and impartiality was assured. Most of you will know Rob from his stage announcements on the RJD stage at BOA, and a nicer and more highly qualified guy you couldn’t meet. He was straight talking and knows his metal inside out. With the bands loaded in, the draw was made and the running order for the evening saw Blind Divide take the opening slot, followed by Incursion, then Cranial Separation and Democratus closing out the competition before Malum Sky delivered their guest slot.

Backed by the most vociferous and lively support of the evening, Blind Divide (8) hit the stage with similar power and drive to their semi-final when they were streets ahead of their rivals. The band’s Lamb of god style groove metal combined with the screaming vocals of James Birkett impressed me in the semi-final and did so again. Tight, competent and full of passion, the band went full bore from the off, with tracks from their debut EP including the thunderous Scourge Of Humanity inciting ferocity in the pit. The band has been around from some time, but in recent months has really upped its game, focusing more on the polishing of songs which usually hit all the right spots. Overcoming an early problem with the bass pedal on the drums the band worked hard through their set. If there was one criticism from their show, it would be that a couple of the tracks failed to really hit the jugular, and with their style focused on one area, this could improve.

Saying that, the rabid crowd was howling their approval and you couldn’t fault the band for real effort and determination. A hugely impressive start to the evening and Blind Divide will go from strength to strength. They support Sodomised Cadaver on 14th July and if you are not throwing dad shapes with Danny Bowes and Thunder at Caerphilly Castle you should really be in Womanby Street to catch a band that has masses of potential.

A breathless start and the pace was maintained by the hard thrashing trio who form Incursion (7). The Rhondda boys had battled hard to reach a place in the final, and with their effort levels set to destroy, Jonny, Adam and Robbie set about their set with intent. Huge thrashing tracks got the place moving, with Jonny and Adam constantly shifting and urging a response. The audience which was now crammed into the room roared their approval. However, and I’ve said this before, a couple of negatives slightly took the gloss off an overall solid performance. We noted in the past that Jonny’s clean vocals don’t work, in comparison to his rasping guttural delivery and once again, during the clean passages the tone was off. There was also a couple of loose sections which detracted from the overall performance and maybe with nerves putting pressure on Jonny’s delivery the early favourites were clearly Blind Divide.

In the semi-final we struggled before putting Cranial Separation (9) through, with the lads just edging out And The Sky Darkened on the night. Tonight, the death metal trio were just astonishing. On their game from the opening riff, the band powered through their set with an intensity that even the headliners at Eradication Festival failed to display. The ever-crazy antics of guitarist and vocalist Ray Packer captivate, his indecipherable guttural delivery perfect alongside Chris Machin’s wild bass lines and drummer Sam Heffernan’s bludgeoning full throttle drumming. 

With improvised ZZ Top style choreography adding to the chaos, the band’s humour was infectious but take nothing away from these guys, their power and delivery nothing other than professional. The piece de resistance was the distribution of some penis shaped water pistols which provided several moments of deep enjoyment in the pit during the love song Fucked By A JackHammer. An awesome set, and one that set up a dramatic conclusion to the evening.

What can you say about Democratus? (8) This band just get better and better. Their tunes are well crafted, they change style mixing up their delivery and learn from every show. Once again Joey Watkins defied the pain barrier to deliver an assured and confident performance, Zac Skane’s assured drumming anchoring everything and allowing frontman and main focal point Steve Jenkins to do what he does best; command the front of stage. I couldn’t think of anyone who wanted the victory more than Steve and he put in hell of a shift in his attempts to keep the crowd moving and engaged. 

Hell, he even survived an attempt by bassist Stu ‘Spoon’ Rake to embed his bass in Steve’s head. With a much-changed set list freshening up their set list (top marks for mixing it up), and maintaining interest, it was a performance that caught the eye and ear once again (although the Semi-Final show was even tighter). A few stage props made things visually interesting, although the already been done party popper segment before the killer closer Life For A Life was a bit flat and needs to be dropped. Like all the bands on the bill, Democratus received a huge audience response and it was over to Rob to think through the options and choices.

After Malum Sky had delivered their set, it was over to Rob to announce the winners. First, a few well deserved rounds of applause were afforded to Tim and Alyn who organised the whole competition, Tim on the sound who maintained a stunning level of sound in the room throughout and to Fuel for hosting the competition. A packed room demonstrated that the South Wales scene is vibrant and there was much to celebrate. However, the announcements were what everyone was waiting for and first up, the surprise announcement that there was a second spot on the Jagermeister Stage. This was deservedly awarded to Cranial Separation who were stunned. The boys will cause a sensation on the small stage close to the main stage in August and it was a just reward for a performance that on the night was probably the best out of the four. Make sure you don’t miss them. Yeah Man! 

The final announcement was for the coveted place on the New Blood Stage; having missed out to Malum Sky last year, there was unbridled joy when this was awarded to Democratus. The tears flowed, both from joy and upset; much disappointment for Blind Divide and Incursion. In some ways, the disappointment was reassuring, as both bands have the potential to return stronger and fitter and their understandable upset only demonstrated how much these guys want to win. Whilst music, heavy metal music was the winner, it was totally understandable how gutting it was for them. Metal To The Masses – South Wales was a huge success and it will return in 2019 bigger, stronger and even more competitive. I can’t wait.

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