Unfortunately, this was the one evening of the entire tournament that I couldn’t make it down early enough to see all the bands. Fret not though! My good pal Dario agreed to go in my stead and send me some copy. Please read on below to see what he thought of the evening.
The following words by Dario Napodano:
Gareth kindly asked me to write a review of last night’s semi-final, and I was more than happy to accept his offer.
Yesterday was a four-band semi-final, after Lowdrive have had to pull out due to an emergency. It was also my first time as one of the judges.
Kicking things off was Sheffield quartet Firegarden.
Firegarden won Heat 8 back in February, and this was my second time seeing them in their current form, with Adele Smith on vocals.
This was a set that showcased different musical styles, with songs ranging from the funky opener “Lilith”, towards alternative rock, hard rock and heavy metal (as well as prog, of course, in the form of instrumental “Pigeons”). The musicianship of the band was great, and all four members beautifully expressed their talent.
Guitarist Jake Mann was also nice in taking his time to thank one of the other band members for lending him his amp.
The second band of the evening was Huddersfield hardcore quintet Exemption.
Exemption came third in Heat 2, and was due to play the quarterfinal that was cancelled due to snow, hence being amongst the bands that advanced to the semi-finals.
During their set, the band showcased their riff-laden melodic hardcore prowess. I was particularly fascinated by how the guitarists were able to bust out some great guitar solos amidst all the breakdowns, something which I haven’t heard much of in the genre. As such, I found them stylistically remarkable, with “Fear Tactics” a favourite of mine from the set. The crowd reacted well to them, with some sweet moshing, head banging and slam dancing throughout.
The King Is Dead
The penultimate band was another quintet in the form of Leeds-based The King Is Dead.
TKID came second in Heat 1 and like Exemption qualified to the semi-final having been drawn in their same quarter-final that was cancelled. Their set was a colourful display of eclecticism, and it was the first time hearing so many different styles of music coming from a single band: I could hear elements of pop punk, garage rock, blues rock, post-hardcore and noise rock throughout. The band was impressive and visibly played their hearts out, but shout-out goes to vocalist Omar, who more than once screamed for prolonged seconds into the mic, and came out of it unscathed, as embodied by standout track “Trust No Witch”. It had me thinking “damn” often while they played.
Their set was entertaining and kept my eyes glued to the stage throughout, and I particularly enjoyed the stage presence of the band. At times it felt like the band were in a music video, both in terms of how well they played and how the vocalist moved about the stage.
Burn Down the District
The final band of the evening was Chesterfield quintet Burn Down the District.
Having won third place in Heat 5 and winning Quarter-Final 3, BDtD were able to once again pull off an excellent, tight performance. Their sound falls somewhere between metalcore and groove metal, with hints of Pantera and Lamb of God prevalent throughout.
The band once again proved to be a wonderfully tight unit. Sound-wise, they are groovy, sonically crushing, and they performed a great set throughout. “This Is Not The End” was a favourite of mine, along with “Burn”. The vocalist was excellent throughout, pulling off a consistent and convincing performance, but the band as a whole was nothing short of impressive.
This semi-final was my first time having to judge a M2TM event. This was a very diverse evening of live music, and as such I was more than happy to have witnessed it.
Exemption were a wonderful surprise to my ears, and delivered a killer set with some catchy hardcore and great moments throughout their set. What I thought most positively about them was that they clearly have developed their own interpretation of the genre (which is not easy to come by with this particular genre) as well as clearly showing an ear for contemporary heavy metal palates, something that they expressed well, and that the crowd reacted to positively.
The King Is Dead however left me genuinely stunned. Not only did they show how well they played different styles of music, but there was not one time during the entirety of their set where I felt that what they played was not cohesive as a whole. In fact, it was how well all the songs from their set came together (along with their intense stage presence, which called back to the wild hard rock bands of the past) that ultimately made me give them the highest score, with Exemption second.
As with all prior semis, the judge vote weighed in at 3/4 against the 1/4 of fan votes.
The King Is Dead won the semi-final, with Exemption coming second in the overall vote. The judges’ votes proved to determine the final outcome of the night.
Well done to all four bands for pulling off what was a wonderful evening of heavy music.
It was announced later in the evening that Psython had won the wildcard and had qualified for the Final as the best second placed band (based on the judges scores).
The Grand Final line-up will therefore consist of Sobriquet, Aonia, This State of Ours, The King Is Dead and Psython. It will be on Friday, May 4th, and will feature the winners of last year’s M2TM Ba’al as guest headliners.
Best of luck to all bands.