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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.