Last night was the second of our four Semi-Finals.
Just before we were about to start, disaster struck – the sound desk failed and wouldn’t reconnect to the WiFi. This led to a number of us dashing about to source a replacement, including a jaunt down the Dove & Rainbow.
In the end, a replacement was sourced and we managed to kick things off. All in all, the delay was around an hour and quarter to an hour and a half. To balance things out, bands were asked to shave 5 minutes each of their sets. All the bands were really understanding of the situation, and it helped make a difficult situation move a lot more smoothly that it could have done.
Before we get into my thoughts on the sets, I want to give a specific shout out to Bleating Apocalypse. They offered (and did perform) re-worked acoustic versions of their material for a large part of the time the replacement soundboard was being sought out. It was very much appreciated, and the crowd really dug it.
Kicking us off a little after eight (instead of a quarter to seven!), the blackened lounge music quintet Bleating Apocalypse started their proper set.
By the very nature of their style / image / content, they are going to be a bit of a marmite band. Thankfully, they are actually a really tight outfit and they played really damned well last night. The sound mix was better for them here than in the first round show, so I could actually make out the vocals much better this time out.
I doubt that you’ll see many other metal sets featuring a 1982 Casio DG-10 Synth Guitar, nor an otamatone – nor songs told from the perspective of billboard! Haha. This was loads of fun, as it was meant to be.
Next up were serial vloggers and all round ‘reyt metal’ enthusiasts Psython.
In their first two performances they put in performances that were never less than solid, with flourishes of excellence. Last night felt like the culmination and evolution from theses shows, with them playing the tightest set I have seen them play.
Singling out any one of them ou too much would be as bit unfair, as they all brought their ‘A’ game and left it all out there on the stage, but I do want to just throw their drummer a little love – he was flat out phenomenal last night!
A cracking, high octane set.
Next up were Rancidium, a band who had one of the best crowd’s reactions of the tournament in their quarter-final.
Whilst the crowd reaction didn’t reach the heady heights of that earlier show, the band themselves did play their tightest set so far in the competition. The lads still need to work a little on their between song banter / smoothness of changeover between songs, but I was heartened by the improvement in their actual playing. Also, frontman Damon has a very unique (and good!) vocal sound that I think could be a genuine unique selling point that they could build their songs / set around.
A returning finalist from last year, Aonia were our penultimate competition band last night.
I have seen the seven-piece operatic metallers a few times over the past few years, and this was certainly the best they have sounded in the Mulberry. With so many components / layers to their sound, I imagine they are a trickier band to get the levels spot on for, but sound guy Alex absolutely nailed it.
Performance wise, they were excellent. This was a confident, professional show that wouldn’t have been out of place on a full academy-sized tour or larger. I did like some of the extra touches they put into their aesthetic too – their own backdrops, stereo smoke jet machines, etc. Some may see it as a little gimmicky, but I see it as a band going the extra miles to make themselves memorable / giving the audience a more rounded package. This was top class stuff.
Zero Point Zero
Finishing off the evening were Chesterfield’s Zero Point Zero.
Their first round performance was marred with technical issues, so I was glad to see them get another shot that was relatively issue-free.
Whilst the crowd had thinned down from its peak, due to the late running of the show, those that stayed were treat to a very enjoyable 25 minutes. Musically, they are sort of like if you took a metalcore band (towards the melodic end of the spectrum), and added in flourishes and licks that wouldn’t sound out of place in standard heavy metal (or even hard rock), you would be in the ballpark. This makes for a very accessible sounded, aided by an amiable and engaging frontman who knows how to work a crowd.
I enjoyed this set much more than their first round show, and I’d love to see them back in Sheff soon.
Special Guest Headliner:
Another Chesterfield band were our guest headliners last night. Forgotten Remains are a death / thrash hybrid band with a really good live reputation. Unfortunately for me, I was stuck in the box office counting all the votes with Joe. However, through the door it sounded pretty sweet, and the crowd seemed to be into it. I did manage to catch a bit of a cracking Iron Maiden cover towards the end.
Personally, I thought it was very close between Aonia, Psython and Bleating Apocalypse, with the other two not a long way behind. I was a judge again last night, and those three were my top three.
Congratulations to Aonia, who were fairly comfortably the winners on the night.
Psython narrowly pipped Bleating Apocalypse to second place and so, now wait with Arkdown to see if they are the best ranked second place side.
Thanks go out to all five bands, not just for the quality of their sets but for their patience and understanding with all the issues that went off at the beginning of the night.
Next up is SEMI FINAL 3 on Friday 13th. It features Coyote Mad Seeds, Soul Shredder, Sour Tusk and This State of Ours. Guest headliner is the hilarious comedy grindcore act Raised By Owls.