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Tuesday 20 June 2017

A View From The Back Of The Room: Metal 2 The Masses Final 2017

Metal 2 The Masses South Wales Final 2017, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

In case you live under a rock and don't know what it is the Metal 2 The Masses is UK wide battle of the bands competition for unsigned acts. In each region a certain number of acts enter and are whittled down by audience votes until four bands reach the final. In the final the votes are cast by Bloodstock's Simon Hall and the winner is given a chance to perform on BOA's New Blood Stage among other things. Because of the nature of the event I think it would be unfair for me to give a score for each of the bands as Simon has probably got more experience doing this than I have, so with that in mind I'll just give my opinion on the bands and give a blow-by-blow of this great evening

The hot sun beat down on what was a glorious day in Cardiff, the majority of the crowd and indeed the bands were installed outside the venue with refreshments in hand, the venue itself was pressure cooker, many of us with a larger disposition roasting like a rack of lamb, but we dutifully filed into the performance area for the first of four unsigned, underground bands for the local scene.

The lots were drawn at random so it was Rhondda 3 piece Incursion that took to the stage first. Their combination of death/thrash metal was ideal to start the evening, having brought a large rambunctious crowd with them to the evening from the get-go frontman/guitarist Johnny called for pits with the crowd duly obliged and even got involved for a pretty good wall of death, the between song banter revealed that the band don't take themselves seriously and their hard hitting metal has the wall-of-noise heaviness of SYL and the groove of Devildriver, as you'd expect the band picked a set that displayed their strongest elements and at the climax the wall were sweating such was the action down the front. The gauntlet was laid down now it was up to the other three bands to equal or better it.    

Next up were Revival the Blackwood band are no strangers to these pages and the youngsters once again put on mature masterclass of classic groove driven metal, opening with the tried and tested trio of Madness, Season Of The Wizard and Captain's Quarters Finley, Luke, Alex and Dafydd play like a band twice their age and with the crowd building throughout they through everything at the show, hooking you in with their grooves, fluid soloing and excellent vocals, their stage presence is also super Dafydd smashes away, Alex prowls his side of the stage like a predator, Luke has a reserved otherworldly coolness about him and Finley just moshes like no one is watching. Revival are a refreshing band to watch playing old style music but with a youthful exuberance, they also received a great response at the end of their set, consider the gauntlet met.

Between the bands, most of the time was spent outside with fluid replenished and faces towelled off discussing the previous bands, it was great to see so many people involved int he event and actively discussing and debating about music and also supporting the local scene.

Back inside and it was time for melodic death metal from Cwmbran...yes Cwmbran, as Democratus took to the stage ready and raring to go with their politically inspired aggressive death metal that fuses dual guitar riffage and clean/harsh vocals. Those vocals come from Steve Jenkins a friend of the blog since his days with Counterhold and while Counterhold were good, Democratus are marginally different beast, their songs are more aggressive and complicated with Is This Fear and Deity pulled out to really incite the crowd to go nuts. Steve's imposing presence and experience as a frontman are the benefit to this band, he knows how to control a crowd and his voice is excellent moving from guttural roars to powerful cleans as the band behind play some top drawer melo-death full of harmonic guitars and grunt. Again the crowd went nuts with action in the pit growing until the end of the set.

Three reasonably aggressive metal bands down and one more band to go, everyone was revving up for the end and it came with the most unique band of the night, Cardiff band Malum Sky are a progressive metal act that draw on distorted riffs, soaring harmonics, odd time signatures, ambient textures and a varied melting pot approach to song writing. Drummer Joe Wilkes and bassist Saki Patsiouras drive the songs along with their dynamic rhythm section, they are in charge of the time and pace changes while Jon Evans and Michael Després bewitch with some incredible guitar prowess that rapidly shifts tone from clean ethereal notes to a metal crunch, as all of this is going on instrumentally frontman Ben Honebone conducts himself in the best way, getting down and dirty with the punters as he unleashes the clearest vocal phrasing of the night, however his vocals are used as and instrument in their own right never outdoing anything else. The music is well crafted and well received but stood out due the sheer difference of what proceeded it.

As the set came to an end there was a swathe of appreciation not only for Malum Sky but all the bands that appeared and then it was a time to compose ourselves and wait for the results. Happily we didn't need to wait in silence as what has now become customary at these events is that the previous year's winners headline the night. Last year's winners were the black metal madness of Agrona, who have gone on to bigger and better things since then and do seem to be adding members every time I watch them play, having witness their black ritual a mere seven days previous to this event I can confirm that they once again filled Fuel with riffs as sharp as a switchblade, more smoke than Stars In Their Eyes and heaving load of Satanic blackened metal to really destroy the venue properly after a night of quality metal. Very little I can say really as they were on the same form as they were the weekend before, they all perform so well it's hard to tear yourself away, things got tasty down the front leaving the venue very very moist.

With all the music due to be played having been played and the raffle drawn it was time for the decision, the tension was palpable but the announcement came and the winners were Malum Sky who will now play the New Blood Stage. Well done to them and to all the bands, it was a hard decision as all four bands played their hearts out and left it all on stage. What made it all the better for me though was the camaraderie between the bands, yes it was a competition but the mutual respect that existed between the bands was admirable and the high turnout to showed that despite predictions to the contrary live music and the underground scene in Wales at least is pretty good at least. Big thanks to Simon and the team at Bloodstock for tirelessly doing these competitions all over the UK to highlight how strong the British independent metal scene is.  

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