Sheffield Metal to the Masses 2018: Semi-Final 2

 


Semi-Final 2

 

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.


Bleating Apocalypse
https://www.facebook.com/BleatingApocalypse/

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.

Psython
https://www.facebook.com/psythonofficial/

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.

 

Rancidium
https://www.facebook.com/Rancidium/

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.

Aonia
https://www.facebook.com/aoniauk/

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
https://www.facebook.com/zeropointzerouk/

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:

Forgotten Remains
https://www.facebook.com/forgottenremainsband/

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.


My Thoughts

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.


The Result

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.


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Sheffield Metal to the Masses 2018: Semi-Final 1


It’s getting towards the business end of the competition now, with the first Semi-Final being held last night.

Unfortunately, due to cancelled flights, Regulus’ drummers was stranded in Spain, so there was no guest headliner last night. Still, this was a remarkably well attended show, with the eventual vote count reaching a staggering 74!

As usual, the bands drew random slots to kick things off.


Empusa
https://www.facebook.com/EmpusaUK/

Opening the event were Chesterfield/Sheffield heavy as hell quintet, Empusa.

They had impressed me greatly with second place finishes in both their First Round and Quarter-Final appearances.

Just like in the Quarter-Finals, drawing the opening slot didn’t seem to phase them on iota, and, armed with their array of death metal / metalcore / melodeth hybrid tunes, they bulldozed their way through their half an hour. Once again, frontman Danny’s vocals were a standout – his command of a variety of a styles is always impressive.

As for the set, I enjoyed it, and I thought it was a step up on their Quarter-Final performance.

Deltanaut
https://www.facebook.com/deltanautband/

Next on were local space rock heroes Deltanaut.

Their route to the final was an interesting one (finishing second by a single point to Bleating Apocalypse in Round 1, then being a part of the snowed off third Quarter-Final), and I was looking forward to seeing what they conjured up.

As for their set, whilst they didn’t perform the 30 minute improvised jam Niall had threatened to do after their First Round heat, they did break out a couple of excellent examples of from their back catalogue. Their opening track was a tasty 12-ish minute piece, followed by an epic rendition of The Sorceress to close.

My only issue with the set was that I found the bass to be too low in the mix for my liking. You could hear it, but I felt it should have been clearer. On the flipside, Luke’s guitar sounded gorgeous.

Arkdown
https://www.facebook.com/ArkdownOfficial/

Two of the finalists from 2017 were playing in last night’s Semi-Final. The first of them was Metalcore / Contemporary Heavy Metallers Arkdown.

It’s seems an absolute age since I last saw these guys (they won Heat 1 in the First Round and have been waiting patiently for the Semis ever since). One thing I noted last time out was how much tighter their performance was this year in comparison to their run to the final last year. I was asking myself if they could match / top that opening round performance – the short answer was “yes”.

There was plenty of crowd action as they slammed their way through their 30 minutes. This was as professional and tight as a show gets, and was definitely going to be a tough one to beat.

Sobriquet
https://www.facebook.com/sobriquetband/

The penultimate band of the evening was our other 2017 finalist that was performing last night, Post-Hardcore / Alternative Metal five piece Sobriquet.

Whilst not musically the same, for me there are some similarities between these guys and Arkdown. They have buckets of potential and, on their night, can absolutely decimate an audience.  They are also both bands that I had the same minor criticism of last year – they could be tighter.

Well, the comparisons continue here because, like Arkdown, Sobriquet have evidently busting their arses to rectify that (as shown by their First Round performance).

Tonight they followed it up with an absolutely raucous show, including one of the largest pits we have seen in the tournament to date. Everything was on point – they absolutely nailed it. One of the many highlights of the set was their cracking rendition of single Auto-De-Fe.

Spiteful Embrace
https://www.facebook.com/spitefulembrace/

Hull finest groovesters were back and, once again, were closing out the evening for us.

These talented chaps narrowly missed out on winning their first round heat, before returning to win their Quarter-Final outright with an exemplary show.

Last night was another strong performance that fused aspects of Killswitch Engage and Pantera, with add dashes of standard heavy metal thrown in for good measure.

Their half an hour flew by in no time at all (always a good sign), with a number of standout tunes (particularly Shallow and Journey Backwards).

I had no idea where this set would place on the night, but it would have been certainly good enough to win a number of the previous evenings in the tournament. This was a damned tight show, where everyone brought it.


My Thoughts

Damn! When the line-ups were set for the Semi-Finals, a number of people remarked how this could have been the final – such was a the quality and reputation of the bands.

I was on judging duty last night, and I think this is legitimately one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. Without getting too far into the nitty gritty, there are six categories that are scored out of ten (so a max of 60 points). Last night, on my final tallies, only 7 points separated 1st and 5th.

I had Sobriquet first, one point ahead of Deltanaut, one point ahead of Arkdown.


The Result

Sobriquet won, finishing first on all three judge scorecards, as well as narrowly winning the fan vote. They become the first band in the 2018 final.

Arkdown came second, which means they still have a chance of making the final. At the end of the four Semi-Finals, the four second placed bands will have their total judge scores compared. The band with the best overall score will progress to the final as a wildcard entrant.

That was an absolutely amazing show. I think it says something that, after the result was read out, members of all five bands just congratulated the winners and all remarked how stunning the quality level was. It was a really good vibe to end the night on.


Next up, Semi-Final 2 which is TONIGHT!

Doors are 6.30pm. First band on at 6.45pm. Competing bands: Aonia, Bleating Apocalypse, Psython, Rancidium and Zero Point Zero. We also have a guest headliner in Forgotten Remains.


 

March Playlist

For anyone unawares, some good friends and I put together monthly playlists where highlight ten songs that have caught our ear-ttention over the previous four-ish weeks.

There are only a couple of rules – the playlist is to be exactly ten songs long, and only one track per artist (excluding obvious ‘intro’ tracks).

It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time to publish the March playlist!

I seemed to have less spare time in March than in February, meaning I only had to cull around half the tracks from the final playlist.

Genre wise, it’s a mix of, mainly melodic extreme metal and stoner / psych, though with a few curveballs in there too. Most of the tracks are from the past 6 months or so, though the 20 minute closer is from 2014.

Have at it!

Sheffield Metal to the Masses 2018: Quarter-Final 4


Quarter-Final 4

Last night saw the last of the Quarter-Finals take place. Unfortunately, Discordian had to withdraw from the competition, making this a four band affair. On the plus side, the sound was generally a fair bit better than on Quarter-Final 3.


Epitaph
https://www.facebook.com/Epitaph2011/
Qualified from: Heat 8

Kicking things off were talented quintet, Epitaph.

The guys kicked things off with a couple of solid tracks before disaster struck – the skin on the bass drum broke! For anyone aware of Epitaph’s history, this news could conjure up memories of their appearance in the 2014 final (at the South Sea) where exactly the same thing happened.

After a short delay, a replacement drum was sourced. It was made clear to the band that they’d be able to play the remainder of their set as it was planned and everyone else would just move back a little (it would be grossly unfair to penalise a band in such circumstances). No tears to shed, though there was a little blood as the sound tech shredded his thumb switching out the drums. Talk about an eventful ten minutes or so!

The delay seemed to galvanise both the band and the crowd, and they rattled off their remaining songs in a confident manner, and to a good response.

Air Drawn Dagger
https://www.facebook.com/airdrawndaggerband/
Qualified from: Heat 5

Next up were the self-styled purveyors of ‘Sasscore’, Air Drawn Dagger.

I’m not sure if it was the mix or by design, but their usual brand of pop-punk-meets-alt.-rock seemed a little heavier on the night, with a less polished sound than the one used in the previous round. It was an interesting take, and certainly kept it interesting for anyone that had seen them previously.

Personally, I thought they looked a little tired, and I gather they had a gig the night before elsewhere in the country that may have taken it out them. Saying that, this was still a rock solid performance, which is a testament to their quality and resolve.

Rancidium
https://www.facebook.com/Rancidium/
Qualified from: Heat 5

Our penultimate band last night were the youngsters in Rancidium.

These chaps qualified as one of the highest scoring 4th placed bands from the First Round, so it was going to be interesting to see how they fared. Could they follow in This State of Ours’ footsteps and be another ‘First Round 4th Placer’ to make it to the Semi-Finals?

This was an interesting set. Whilst I don’t think anyone will ever accuse them of being the tightest band around, these lads have plenty of going for them – their boundless energy, catchy riffs and engaging, popular sound was like the aural equivalent of a bull in a china shop – and the crowd loved it!

Raised fists, raised horns, moshpits and even a wall of death – this was surely the best received set in the tournament to date.

Spiteful Embrace
https://www.facebook.com/spitefulembrace/
Qualified from: Heat 6

Last, but by no means least, was the return to the Mulberry of Hull’s finest groovesters, Spiteful Embrace.

These guys had been one of the pleasant surprises in the First Round, totally knocking me for six and only very narrowly not outright winning their heat. That being said, whilst I was excited for their performance, I did wonder how much of my opinion was based on that rush you get from finding a band you like out-of-the-blue, and whether it would hold up to scrutiny second time around.

I was quickly made to feel daft.

Somehow they pulled out an even better, even tighter show! Frontman’s Tom’s masterful, powerful, spittle-filled growls would put Anselmo to shame (and surely are amongst the bst in the tournament), and was backed by a riff-laden masterclass of groove. If you like your metal and angry as Pantera or Machine Head and as driven as Killswitch, but with a hint of early-to-mid era Metallica melody, then this is the band for you. Performance of the night – and maybe the round – for me.


My Thoughts

Personally, Spiteful Embrace took it for me. I couldn’t tell you a single fault with the set. I found it very difficult to choose between Epitaph and Rancidium for 2nd, based on entirely different factors. In the end, the former just nicked it for me, but I could see the argument to go the other way.


The Result

Spiteful Embrace won, finishing first on all three judge’s score cards. The other three bands finished very close together, with Rancidium pipping Epitaph to 2nd place by around ten points (in this context, a small handful of votes).

Spiteful Embrace will play in Semi-Final 1, alongside Arkdown, Sobriquet, Deltanaut and Empusa. Rancidium are playing Semi-Final 2, alongside Aonia, Bleating Apocalypse, Psython and Zero Point Zero.

So, congratulations Spiteful Embrace and Rancidium, and commiserations to Epitaph and Air Drawn Dagger. I really hope those two enter again next year!

That’s the Quarter-Finals wrapped up – our next destination is Semi-Final 1 on Friday 6th April!


 

Sheffield Metal to the Masses 2018: Quarter-Final 3


Quarter-Final 3

With the weekend long ice age engulfing last weekend (and taking Quarter-Final 2 with it), Metal 2 the Masses returned to the Mulberry last night with the third Quarter-Final.


Empusa
https://www.facebook.com/EmpusaUK/
Qualified from: Heat 7

Opening things up were one of the bands that impressed me the most in the first round, Chesterfield/Sheffield melodeath/death metal/metalcore quintet Empusa.

Being first on can be a little daunting, but the guys showed no nerves as they shredded their way through their half hour slot. Whilst not quite hitting the heady heights of their previous round performance (in my opinion) I was still very impressed with the set, in particular the ridiculously tight drumming from Tom.

Despite the sound levels being off (the drums were way too high / the guitars way too low in the mix), this was still a more-than-solid showing from a band with heaps of potential. Very enjoyable.

Dislocator
https://www.facebook.com/wearedislocator/
Qualified from: Heat 8

Venturing forth once more from the most northern realms of South Yorkshire (er, Barnsley), second on were self-depreciating thrashers Dislocator.

The amiable quartet were put in a tricky spot, not just having to follow Empusa, but having to battle with a… less-than-ideal sound mix (at times I literally couldn’t hear any guitars). Despite this, and a song aborted due to some kind of miscommunication, I actually really enjoyed their set. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Andy is an engaging and endearing frontman, and – aforementioned blip aside – this was a tighter performance than their first round heat. I really dug their closing song too (I don’t recall its name, unfortunately!).

Thrashsquatch!
https://www.facebook.com/ThrashsquatchBand/
Qualified from: Heat 4

Third up were the riotous and lovable rogues in Thrashsquatch!

In an evening that seemed somewhat sonically cursed, the Chesterfield quintet’s particular burden was an entirely dead guitar pedal leading their guitarist to proclaim that ‘this will sound shit’. After a short delay, the band forged on with their set.

Despite their issues, I actually thought they were tighter than in their first round heat and I really enjoyed their twenty-ish minute set (though noticeably different, the guitar didn’t sound that bad), particularly the crying-out-for-a-singalong Thrash Til Death.

Burn Down the District
https://www.facebook.com/burndownthedistrict/
Qualified from: Heat 5

The penultimate band on last night was another Chesterfield based band (seriously, since when did Chezzy have a metal scene!? haha), in Burn Down the District.

The sound mix was finally somewhat respectable at this point, which helped BDtD to showcase their almost unbelievably tight riffery. As mentioned in my write up of them from the first round, they describe themselves as metalcore, hardcore and metal. On second viewing / listening, I’m sticking with my initial analysis that their sound is almost groove metal, with harsh vocals and occasional breakdowns. And it’s damned good.

For those keeping track of technical difficulties at home, two out of the three stage mics died during this set. Thankfully, the third held up and the effects were minimal.

For me, this was the set of the night so far, and one of the better ones in the tournament to date.

Crimson Tide
https://www.facebook.com/CrimsonTideOfficial/
Qualified from: Heat 1

It seems like an age since we last saw Crimson Tide, who qualified from the very first heat of the tournament, way back in January.

The alternative rock / metallers were closing out the evening with one of the better sound mixes, though not without some technical gremlins popping up in the middle. Thankfully, it seemed to be resolved quickly and didn’t break up the momentum too much.

In their first round heat I remarked that, at times, they didn’t look fully relaxed. This was not the case last night, and they sped through a top quality set with confidence. Everyone stepped up, with vocalist Beth’s performance notably stronger this time around.

This was going to be close.


My Thoughts

I was a stand-in judge last night. It was a very close thing, but on my scorecard I had Burn Down the District 1 point ahead of Crimson Tide, who were 1 point ahead of Empusa. Talk about close!


The Result

Burn Down the District won overall, coming first one both the judge and fan votes. In a very close battle for second place, Empusa just nudged ahead of Crimson Tide.

From what I can gather, Empusa will be playing on Semi-Final 1 alongside Arkdown, Sobriquet and Deltanaut. Burn Down the District will be playing Semi-Final 4 alongside Firegarden, Lowdrive, Exemption and The King is Dead

So, congratulations again to Burn Down the District and Empusa. Commiserations to Crimson Tide, Thrashsquatch and Dislocator.

The final Quarter-Final is this Sunday and features: Air Drawn Dagger, Epitaph, Rancidium and Spiteful Embrace. There are two spots remaining in the Semi-Finals, come and see who gets through!


 

Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Quarter-Final 1

Quarter-Final 1

After what seemed like a small ice age, Metal 2 the Masses returned to the Mulberry last night. It’s Quarter Final time! Fan vote is worth ⅓ of the total band score in this round.

Whilst the round was designed for five bands, logistics meant that Gorilla Warfare sadly had to withdraw, making this a four band evening.


Psython
https://www.facebook.com/psythonofficial/
Qualified from: Heat 4

Having only missed out on winning their heat by a single point, I had high hopes for Rotherham’s purveyors of #ReytMetal.

The opening slot is sometimes seen as difficult one, particularly in a competition where fan vote makes up a portion of the final scores. However, the Psython lads looked totally unfazed by this andrattled through their set in no time at all.

Performance wise, this was never less than solid, and just as fun as their First Round Heat. One thing I do like about their set is that, whilst they are rooted in thrash metal, they aren’t constrained by it – one track in the middle was pretty much a mid tempo stoner rock / sludge tune that would expect more out of Down than a thrash band.

Dissension
https://www.facebook.com/UnholyThrashingDissension/
Qualified from: Heat 8

A surprise package from the first round (the band only formed late last year, only achieved its full complement of members a couple of months back, and the heat was only their 2nd ever gig!), Sheffield/Chesterfield thrashers Dissension were up next.

The quintet wasted no time in crashing through their half hour set. Mixing up the setlist a little from last time (no Exploited cover this time), their uptempo style got the crowd going (particularly in the last couple of songs). The mix wasn’t as clean for them this time around, the vocals and lead guitar both a little low. Still, it was a solid show.


This State of Ours
https://www.facebook.com/thisstateofours/
Qualified from: Heat 2

It feels like quite some time has passed since I saw these guys in Heat 2, and I was wondering how they would sound second time around. These guys were a bit of a dark horse pick for me in this Quarter Final – whilst they (narrowly) finished fourth in their heat, they did qualify with the highest judge score of fourth place acts.

One thing I immediately noticed from their set is that everyone seems a lot more relaxed last time out. I didn’t make mention of it before, but they had looked a little tense at times in their heat, but none of that was evident here.

This leads me onto my next observation, This State of Ours were the first band of the evening to play better than in their previous round. Their brand of alternative metal (mixing a number of influences, including Killswitch Engage and Deftones amongst others) was catchy enough last time around – this time out they also happened to be really sodding tight too, and I found myself headbanging along to every groovy riff. Great Stuff.

Grave UK
https://www.facebook.com/graveuk/
Qualified from: Heat 3

Closing out the evening were local beatdown artists, Grave (UK).

I quite enjoyed these chaps in the previous round and thought they might be in contention for  Semi-Final spot. Their brand of metallic hardcore / beatdown is infectiously headbangable, and they threw everything they had into their performance. One of the tighter bands on the evening.

As with their heat, they played quite a short set (around 17/18 minutes), which almost caught me off guard (I was compere for the evening)! Haha.


My Thoughts

A fun evening, with every band putting on (at least) a solid show. Personally, I thought that – whilst every band was at least ‘solid’ – only one band had everything come together for them on the evening, and that was This State of Ours.


The Result

This State of Ours won the Quarter-Final, coming first on both the fan and judge votes. It was an absolute dog fight for second place, with Psython triumphing by a handful of points.

Based on band availability, we already know which Semi-Finals these guys will be performing in: Psython join Bleating Apocalypse and Aonia in Semi Final 2, and This State of Ours join Sour Tusk and Soul Shredder in Semi Final 3.

So, congratulations again to This State of Ours and Psython, and commiserations to Dissension and Grave. Quarter-Final 2 is up next, on Sunday 18th!


February Playlist

For anyone unawares, some good friends and I put together monthly playlists where highlight ten songs that have caught our ear-ttention over the previous four-ish weeks.

There are only a couple of rules – the playlist is to be exactly ten songs long, and only one track per artist (excluding obvious ‘intro’ tracks).

It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time to publish the February playlist!

This one had the toughest selection of songs to choose from, with my longlist heading into today standing at 40! Whilst it was easy enough to cut down to 27, and then 14, once I got to 11 it became a real pain in the arse. Unfortunately ‘Angles’ by King Capisce was the song to miss out.

Genre wise, it’s still guitar-band heavy, though there’s a lot more instrumental work than has gone before (I think 5 or 6 songs are instrumentals or near-instrumentals).

As with previous months, some tracks are from this month, some last year and a couple a little earlier.

Have at it!

p.s. A special shout out to my pal Dario, who is entirely responsible for #3 making this playlist.