Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Round 1, Heat 4

The Story So Far…

Qualified for the Semi-Finals: Arkdown, Sour Tusk, Bleating Apocalypse
Qualified for the Quarter-Finals: The King is Dead, Crimson Tide, Fear Lies, Exemption, Deltanaut, Grave UK
In contention for a wildcard: Clawback the Day, This State of Ours, Black Moon Rising

Round 1, Heat 4

With Starve to Survive withdrawing from the competition, Heat 4 became a four band affair. As before, this meant even the band coming in last position will have a 50:50 chance of progression. 

Gorilla Warfare

Semi-finalists last year, Gorilla Warfare have returned after a sort of hiatus (I believe there is only one original member in this iteration, and all that songs have been written from scratch). 

Fans of their funky bass driven tunes from last year won’t be disappointed. What they have changed is mostly lyrical – gone are the jokes about bananas – with an almost sleaze rock vibe coming through in the compositions.

Tonight, I thought they put on a solid show and one or two of their songs (particularly towards the 2/3 mark in their set) stood out for me.


Hailing from Chesterfield, Thrashsquatch definitely won the battle of the band names before a note was played. These young whippersnappersthrashers were apparently playing their first gig in Sheffield and only their second or third gig ever.

Musically, they were a fun mix that consisted of mixing aspects of crossover thrash with riffs that wouldn’t be out of place in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Whilst a bit rough around the edges, I really dug quite a few songs in their set. The whole band give off an amiable vibe, and they just looked like they were having an absolute blast playing on stage. I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on them. 


Up next were local rockers Lowdrive. Featuring former members of Warrior Soul, Goat Leaf, Flip the Pyramid and Indra, this quartet play a sort of a riff driven hybrid of stoner/desert and hard rock. To me, they sound sort of like if you mixed aspects of Kyuss with Black Spiders.

I’ve seen them once before (supporting All Them Witches at Corporation last year) and thought they were pretty decent then. Now? Flipping heck, they do this well. This was a slick and professional performance – one that would befit any stage. One of the best sets of the tournament to date.


Self-proclaimed bringers of ‘Reyt Metal’, local thrashers Psython brought the evening to a close. Slamming through their half an hour set at breakneck speed, they were impressively tight as hell (particularly the drummer – damn!).

If you’re all for the high octane end of thrash (with a dash of contemporary heavy metal and just a hint of extreme metal) then these guys will float your boat. Frontman Bing has a cracking voice, keeping up with the high tempo when needed, but also afforded the time to open his pipes occasionally to hit some Dio-esque notes.

This was also one of the best sets of the tournament so far.

My Thoughts

For me, it was too close to call between Lowdrive and Psython, but I slightly preferred the former over the latter.

The Result

In the smallest winning margin to date, Lowdrive were victorious, with Psython just a point behind in second place. In a very good, fun heat, Gorilla Warfare weren’t far behind in third, pipping Thrashsquatch by just a couple of points.

This means that Lowdrive head straight to the Semi-Finals, with Psython and Gorilla Warfare making the Quarter Finals. Thrashsquatch will need to wait and see if they are one of the top four 4th placed bands.

Next up is Heat 5 on Sunday 11th February , and contains the likes of Air Drawn Dagger, Aonia, Burn Down the District, Death of Man, Rancidium, and Sinners Sermon. 



Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Round 1, Heat 3

The Story So Far…

Qualified for the Semi-Finals: Arkdown, Sour Tusk
Qualified for the Quarter-Finals: The King is Dead, Crimson Tide, Fear Lies, Exemption
In contention for a wildcard: Clawback the Day, This State of Ours

Round 1, Heat 3

It what was probably the most eclectic night so far, Heat 3 saw five acts competing for spots in the next round(s) of the Metal 2 the Masses Sheffield competition.


Opening proceedings were one of my favourite local bands, the psychedelic space rock supergroup that is Deltanaut. For those unaware, this trio plays long jam-style instrumental heavy tunes that aims to take you on a journey to the stars.

Tonight was one of their sharper performances, with the drumming particularly on point. I did wonder how they would go down with the audience on a bill with such a variety of genres/sub-genres, but it they got a pretty darn good reception.


Le Menhir

This was the debut show for one man band Le Menhir. The project aims to mix international influences such as Mastodon and Insomnium with post metal stylings from the local scene, such as Gilmore Trail and Archelon.

For a debut performance, this was pretty solid. There were obviously a few nerves, but they were overcome in the back half of the set. From my perspective, the songs sounded like a hybridisation of Alcest and Insomnium for the most part – ie melancholy post metal with aspects of melodic doom. There was a slight issue with the vocals (somewhat whispered in delivery) being a bit too low in the mix for my liking, but otherwise I found this an enjoyable experience. With gigs under the belt this could become something pretty special. The last track was a cracker too.


Bleating Apocalypse

The juxtaposition of the randomly drawn running order was brilliant; from the super serious Le Menhir we went straight to the super silly!

Attempting to describe Bleating Apocalypse will probably do them a disservice, but I shall try:  Imagine a band that mixes lounge music jingles with extreme metal (particularly black metal). Now imagine they sang songs about caravans, Countdown and Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. Oh, and one guitarist eschews the usual forearm spiked vambraces associated by black metal in favour of… Christmas lights.

My only real criticism on the night was, from where I was stood near the front of the stage, I couldn’t make out the lead vocals very well. Still, they guys looked like they were having a whale of a time, and they played really well too. Closing number Black Metal Interior Design was a standout.

Grave UK

I’ve mentioned previously that hardcore isn’t my favourite genre. That being said, I actually quite enjoyed this show. Grave UK play a sort of metallica hardcore that gives them this melodic edge over their contemporaries. I was surprised there wasn’t a bit more pitting tonight, as they had some nice riffs and well placed breakdowns. I could see these guys doing quite well.

My only real gripe was that their set was very short – whilst I didn’t strictly count along, it must have been close to twentyish mins tops in a thirty minute slot (they finished five minutes before their allotted end time, and the evening was running something like five minutes late by this point).

Black Moon Rising

Closing out the evening was local heavy metal worshippers Black Moon Rising. Whilst they have been around a little while, this was my first live exposure to them and I quite enjoyed it. Apparently they are usually a four or five piece but were having to perform as a trio on this night. To me, their sound reminded me most of Metallica, with aspects of Trivium, early Bullet For My Valentine and definitely a dollop of Avenged Sevenfold.

They played an interesting Metallica-medley in the middle of their set (Sanitarium was the stand out bit) that seemed to go down pretty well. It was clear that these guys love playing live and were having a cracking time. I was particularly impressed with the shredding lead guitar work on their closing number.

My Thoughts

For me, two bands stood out over everyone else, Deltanaut and Bleating Apocalypse, and I had them ranked in that order. The other three all had very different sounds and styles, and their own unique selling points and flaws.

The Result

In the tightest finish to date, Bleating Apocalypse just pipped Deltanaut to the post. Then, in an almost as close battle, Grave UK just took third spot ahead of Black Moon Rising. In both cases, a handful of votes in another direction would have flipped both pairings.

Next up is Heat 4 on Thursday 8th February, and contains the likes of Gorilla Warfare, Lowdrive, Psython and the brilliantly named Thrashsquatch.


January Playlist

It’s that time of the month again! This was probably the most challenging playlist to date, as I had a shortlist of no less than 35 tracks!

This month seems to have been a mix of stoner, psych and jazz, with a bit of prog/post-metal in there. Oh, and there’s a total curveball one in there too.

As with previous months, some tracks are from this month, some last year and I think one (maybe two) a little earlier.

Have at it!

Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Round 1, Heat 2

The dust had barely settled on Heat 1 before Heat 2 of the Metal 2 the Masses Sheffield competition was upon us!

The Story So Far…

Qualified for the Semi-Finals: Arkdown
Qualified for the Quarter-Finals: The King is Dead, Crimson Tide
In contention for a wildcard: Clawback the Day

Round 1, Heat 2

Unlike in Heat 1, we had a full complement of bands performing last night.  

Bleeding Tooth

Kicking things off we had a local avante-garde duo (bass/effects/vocals and drums). I have caught these guys once before, and they are super interesting and have a heap of potential. Describing themselves as ‘Alternative Metal / Lounge Noise’, I have a feeling they might be a little too ‘out there’ for a the casual punter, but that shouldn’t take away from just how original they are and how tight they perform. A solid start to the evening for me.

This State of Ours

Second on was alternative rock / metal outfit, This State of Ours. They cite a lot of varied influences on their FB page, and it certainly comes through in their sound. One track was sort of like a very melodic take on Killswitch Engage, whilst another was very Deftones. At times, the guitarwork reminded me of Machine Head, and at others they sounded closer to grunge. Frontwoman Kirsty has a cracking voice too, which helped to bridge/merge the songs styles into a coherent set. They impressively fit this all together well and it didn’t feel as patchwork as reading that description back might sound. As for their performance, my only bugbear was that the high notes on one of the guitars early on got drowned out in the overall mix. This was rectified within a song or so.

Broken Down

Next up is one a local beatdown/hardcore quintet. I’ll be honest, this particular avenue of music isn’t really my bag. Objectively, I can say that they were pretty decent, and they got a pretty good reaction from the live crowd, including some pitting.

Sour Tusk

Another duo this time, though quite different from our openers! Sour Tusk are a brash and noisy band that plays like a hybrid of Motorhead and Clutch (I believe I dubbed them Mini-Clutch after catching them at a show last year).

A verbose couple of chaps (particularly drummer ‘Nic), I imagine they will divide opinion with their crowd interactions. Personally, I really dig them – they are light hearted, silly and honest. They just want to play some rock and roll and get hammered.

From where I was stood, their sound mix was a little off in the first half of the set – both sets of vocals were too quiet for me – but they put on a heck of a performance, and i think they have a couple of winning singles in Rolling with the Punches and Drinking Man.

Fear Lies

Continuing the trend of this being the most diverse lineup so far, our penultimate band were anthemic rockers Fear Lies. This quartet have been making waves in Sheffield recently, and their recent album launch show at Corporation drew quite a decent crowd, so I was expecting something a little special. They certainly delivered; this was as slick a performance as you are likely to see on a local show, with a tight performance of well carved radio-friendly / anthemic / stadium rock tunes. Fans of Foo Fighters, Trucker Diablo and Monster Truck should definitely get along with these chaps.


Completing tonight’s bill were Exemption, an unsigned quintet from Huddersfield. Like Broken Down earlier in the evening, they play a style of music that I struggle with. However, I did enjoy these guys a bit more. They were a bit more of a heavy metal vibe to their sound, which I found a bit more appealing. The crowd was a little divided, but those closer to the stage definitely really dug them and they got a strong reaction there.

My Thoughts

This was a much tougher call for me than Heat 1. I think Sour Tusk edged it for me; I enjoyed everything they played quite a lot, and they had the best on stage banter (I do understand that, for some, they will be the exact opposite in that regard). I had Fear Lies second, This State of Ours third and Bleeding Tooth fourth.

The Result

In a ridiculously tight finish, Sour Tusk won the heat (to a huge reaction), and move straight into the Semi-Finals. Fear Lies and Exemption came 2nd and 3rd respectively, booking themselves spots in the Quarter-Finals. This State of Ours narrowly missed out on the 3rd spot, so will now wait to see if they are one of the four highest scoring 4th placed bands.

Next up is Heat 3 this Thursday, featuring: Black Moon Rising (Heavy Metal), Bleating Apocalypse (Comedy Metal), Deltanaut (Psychedelic Stoner Rock / Space Rock), Grave UK (Beatdown / Hardcore / Metallic Hardcore), and Le Menhir (Post Metal).

The Three Listketeers: Our 2017

In the back-end of 2017, I started creating monthly playlists of tunes that caught my attention that particular month. My pal Joe has been doing this for quite a while, and I finally caved and joined in around August. In turn, we convinced our mate Paul to join us on our monthly musical adventures.

As lovers of all things lists, we have come together to create a 36 song playlist that represents a combined snapshot of our year. We each supplied a song to represent each month, and they are grouped together in chronological order (ie, the first three tracks are what caught our ear in January, the next three for February and so on).

The songs themselves don’t have to be new at the time, but they were often new to us.

Please see below for the final result.  It is effectively a sort of musical diary of our 2017, and one we hope you enjoy.


Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Round 1, Heat 1

The Metal 2 the Masses tournament is back for 2018, and the Mulberry Bar & Venue is once again hosting the Sheffield leg of the competition. Like last year, I will be blogging my thoughts along the way. I will attempt to make every night, but there are a lot more evenings this year, so we shall see!

Just before I get to Heat 1, it probably would make sense to go over the tournament format, as it is a little different from last year.

Tournament Layout

First Round

There are eight first round heats, initially comprising of either five or six bands. The eight overall winners of these heats goes straight into the Semi-Finals. The sixteen bands that come 2nd and 3rd progress to the Quarter-Finals.

The final four spots in the Quarter-Finals will be decided at the end of the final heat. Going entirely on the judges’ technical scoring, the four highest scoring 4th placed bands will be offered a wildcard spot in the Quarter-Finals.

Fan voting makes up 50% of the final score in Round 1.

Quarter Finals

There will be four Quarter-Finals, with five bands playing on each night. The top two bands from each Quarter-Final progress to the Semi-Finals.

Fan voting makes up 33% of the final score in the Quarter-Finals.

Semi Finals

There will be four Semi-Finals, with four bands competing on each night. The overall winner from each Semi-Final progresses to the Grand Final. The best 2nd place band  (again, solely on judges’ technical scoring) will also join them.

All four Semi-Final evenings will have special guest headliners.

Fan voting makes up 25% of the final score in the Semi-Finals.

Grand Final

Five bands will compete in the Grand Final on Friday 4th May. A representative from Bloodstock will be on hand to pick the winner.

Last year’s winners Ba’al are confirmed as the Special Guest Headliners for the Grand Final.

Round 1, Heat 1

Unfortunately, due to illness, A Joker Among Thieves had to withdraw, so this became a four band heat (meaning that all bands have an opportunity to progress after tonight). Still, there was plenty to play for, including a bye into the Semi-Finals.

Clawback the Day

Up first was Chesterfield five piece Clawback the Day. They list bands like Lamb of God, Black Label Society, Killswitch Engage and Down amongst their influences, and that comes through well in their general contemporary heavy metal sound.

Whilst no one song stood out above the rest for me, I did really dig the general sound and enjoyed the whole set from start to finish. There was a slight issue with the kick drum (massively loud at points), so it was probably good that their drummer was pretty darn good.

Crimson Tide

Next up was an alternative rock / metal quintet from the Steel City. Whilst they cite Slash, Alter Bridge and Tremoni amongst their influences, I would say that their overall sound is a little more ‘alt’ and a little less stadium rock-y than that implies, but it was certainly something that I really enjoyed.

With how the stage was set up, it was a little cramped for the five of them – I did think frontwoman Beth was going to get KO’d by the guitarist a couple of times, but thankfully not! As for the performance, I actually really dug it.  At times they didn’t look quite fully relaxed, but that will come with experience and time. When things did go their way, it did so in a big way; I didn’t catch the name of the song, but there was an absolutely cracking power ballad towards the back end of their set. Finally, a shout out to their drummer Luke, who was probably the most impressive musician on display last night.

The King is Dead

The penultimate band of the evening was, for me, the most divisive. Their sound straddled the boundaries of punk rock and garage rock, with a little something else thrown in. As you would expect from such a description, the pace was frenetic at times, and a certain amount of chaos ensued.

Musically, I quite liked TKID – particularly some of the shreddier guitar work. However, their frontman (who looked a little worse for wear), took me out of it a bit. Sure, it was humorous to see him fall over a few times when down in with the audience, but it took me out of the songs. That’s just me though, and I know for a fact that the band went down well / others didn’t think this was much of an issue.


A strong finalist last year, Sheffield’s Arkdown have been mentioned as a pre-tournament favourite amongst punters, and will be looking to go one step further than last year.

For those that didn’t catch them last year, these chaps play a sort of hybrid consisting of metalcore and contemporary heavy metal, with splashes of deathcore thrown in.

Last night they put on the best performance I have seen them do to date. It was the same heavy sound from last year, but everything was just turned that notch up. The whole band were tighter than I have heard them before, and the sound was absolutely massive (props to the sound guy on that one too). They had multiple pits going, and even had an Amon Amarth style heavy metal rowing section!

My Thoughts

Arkdown were hands down the best band on the night, and that’s no insult to the other three. How they are still unsigned is beyond me. As for the others, it was a tough call between the next two, but I prefered Crimson Tide by a whisker over Clawback the Day.

The Result

Arkdown comfortably won, and deservedly so. Their set would have won most heats from last year. The King is Dead came 2nd (I told you they were divisive!) and Crimson Tide came 3rd. It was close between 2nd, 3rd and 4th, particularly between Crimson Tide and Clawback the Day, with pretty much only a couple or so votes deciding it.

Arkdown move straight into the Semi-Finals, TKID and Crimson Tide qualify for the Quarter-Finals, and Clawback the Day wait to see if they are one of the top four 4th place bands (I hope they are!).

Next Time… 

Next up is Heat 2, this coming Sunday. It’s our first six band heat of the year, featuring everything from stadium rock to beatdown/hardcore. I’m looking forward to seeing who will progress from: Bleeding Tooth, Broken Down, Exemption, Fear Lies, Sour Tusk and This State of Ours.

My Top 10 Albums of 2017

I have heard here-and-there that 2017 was supposedly a ‘down’ year for music. Honestly, I cannot disagree more. Sure, we had a disappoint entry or two from the ‘big boys’  (I was really disappointed with QOTSA’s latest release), but if you take a few minutes to dig just a little beneath the surface, I think you will find that 2017 was a flipping brilliant year for new music.

I could have listed twenty, maybe thirty, albums below, but I’ve (painstakingly!) kept it to just ten.  They are listed in alphabetical order.


Ba’al – In Gallows By Mass (EP) 

Ba'al In Gallows

There’s already been many words written about the fantastic year these chaps have had, so I will keep this short. They are one of the best bands to come out of the Sheffield music scene in recent years, and In Gallows By Mass is a fantastic post-metal EP, expertly juxtaposing dark and light to produce a rather profound piece of heavy melancholy.

Favourite track: One Under the Sun

Battle Beast – Bringer of Pain

Battle Beast Bringer

I really dig how Battle Beast flavour their brand of power metal with anthemic hard rock  licks and choruses. Some will find it too cheesy, but I can tell you right now that this band and these tunes were absolutely perfect as Thursday night headliners at the last Bloodstock.

Favourite track: Bastard Son of Odin

Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper

Bell Witch Mirror.jpg

I can’t say that I have ever hugely been into funeral doom, but this 83-minute single track from Bell Witch is nothing short of a masterpiece. Whilst heavy in places, it retains a sombre melodic melancholy that reflects the real life creation of the song (one of the band members sadly passed away, and they used some of his pre-recorded vocals on the song). Haunting and beautiful.

Favourite track: Mirror Reaper

Fen – Winter

Fen Winter.jpg

Outside of the odd band, I have not more than dabbled post-black metal to this point, and I had been yet to check out Fen. Winter instantly impressed me, and I’ll definitely be checking out the rest of their discography.

Favourite track:  I (Pathway)

Greta van Fleet – From the Fires

Greta van Fleet From the Fires.jpg

Veering off into more classic rock territory now. Michigan’s Greta van Fleet at times remind me of Led Zeppelin and others of Lynynrd Skynynrd. Hard rock seems to be about ready for its latest resurgence and I could easily see these guys leading the way after a release as strong as this.

Favourite track:  Safari Song

Orden Ogan – Gunmen

Orden Ogan Gunmen.jpg

Despite them recently touring Europe with Rhapsody of Fire as one of their supports, I’d never heard of German power metallers Orden Ogan until this year. Apparently they have been on the go since 1996 and this is their sixth album! To compare them to their contemporaries, I’d say they lean towards the Blind Guardian end of the power metal spectrum (maybe with a hint of Powerwolf). Gunman itself is a belter of a melodic metal album and one fans of the genre should regard as a must buy.

Favourite track: Come With Me To The Other Side (featuring Liv Kristine)

Pallbearer – Heartless

Pallbearer Heartless.jpg

As the list has so far shown, my album preference seems to veer between cheesy uplifting metal and sorrow drenched melancholy. Pallbearer very certainly fall into the latter category. Is it prog? Is it doom? Who cares, it’s soul breakingly sad and beautiful.

Favourite track: I Saw The End 

Septicflesh – Codex Omega

Septicflesh Codex.jpg

Another band that I have never really paid much attention to until now, but that will certainly change. Their symphonic death metal sound on this album reminds me a little of Dimmu Borgir, except with a fuller sound and stronger instrumental composition. This became evident to me on the instrumental bonus tracks – unlike other metal bands, where such tracks could seem like throwaway fads, these sound like legitimate pieces of (dark, moody) classical music.

Favourite track:  Enemy of Truth

Voyager – Ghost Mile

Voyager Ghost mile.jpg

If I was forced to pick an actually favourite album of the year, Voyager’s Ghost Mile would likely be the victor. A perfect example of melodic power prog, these Aussies totally blew me away with their musicianship and vocal work. Simply, one of the best albums I have heard for years.

Favourite track:  Ascension

Walpyrgus – Walpyrgus Nights

Walpyrgus Walpyrgus Nights.jpg

I first heard of Walpyrgus through following one of my favourite bands, While Heaven Wept. With WHW looking like it is wound up (at least for the time being, possibly for good), I decided to check out what other bands the members were in. Walpyrgus features WHW bassist Jim Hunter, as well as members of Twisted Tower Dire, Beard of Antlers and Daylight Dies. What they have created is a delightful mix that ends up coming across as a (possibly cheesy) horror themed classic / 80s metal sound.

Favourite track:  The Dead of Night