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.


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.

Spiteful Embrace

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.



Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Quarter-Final and Semi-Final Line-ups


The Story So Far…

Qualified for the Semi-Finals: Arkdown, Sour Tusk, Bleating Apocalypse, Lowdrive, Aonia, Soul Shredder, Sobriquet, Firegarden

Qualified for the Quarter-Finals: The King is Dead, Crimson Tide, Exemption, Deltanaut, Grave UK, Psython, Gorilla Warfare, Air Drawn Dagger, Burn Down the District, Spiteful Embrace, This State of Ours, Rancidium, Zero Point Zero, Thrashsquatch, Empusa, Discordian, Coyote Mad Seeds, Dissension, Epitaph, Dislocator

With the first round now in the books, it is time to turn our attention to the later rounds of the competition.


A reminder of the format:

The eight First Round winners have progressed directly to the Semi-Finals. They have been split across the four evenings set aside for that round. Each Semi-Final will contain four bands. The two remaining slots in each Semi-Final will be decided by the Quarter-Finals.

The Quarter-Finals are four nights, with five bands per night. Pending availability, bands have been kept as separate as possible from those that qualified from the same First Round heats.

As previously communicated, the weight of the fan vote decreases by the round. In the Quarter-Finals is it ⅓ fan to ⅔ judge. For the Semis it is ¼ fan to ¾ judge.

Now for the exciting bit – finding out who is in which QF / SF! Please see below for the answers:

Thursday 15th March 
Gorilla Warfare*
Grave UK
This State of Ours

* Gorilla Warfare have withdrawn due to logistic issues. This will be a four band Quarter-Final.

Sunday 18th March
Coyote Mad Seeds
The King is Dead
Zero Point Zero

Thursday 22nd March
Burn Down the District
Crimson Tide

Sunday 25th March
Air Drawn Dagger
Spiteful Embrace

Friday 6th April
+2 Quarter Finalists

+ Special Guest Headliner set from: Regulus


Saturday 7th April
Bleating Apocalypse
+2 Quarter Finalists

+Special Guest Headliner set from: Forgotten Remains


Friday 13th April
Soul Shredder
Sour Tusk
+2 Quarter Finalists

+ Special Guest Headliner set from: Raised by Owls


Saturday 14th April
+2 Quarter Finalists

+Special Guest Headliner set from: hoofKnuckle



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.

Metal 2 the Masses Sheffied | The Grand Final

After six first round heats and three semi-finals, last night was The Grand Final of the Sheffield branch of the Metal 2 the Masses competition at the Mulberry Tavern.

It had been a fantastic tournament up to this point, and the final did not disappoint.

Symphonic / Power / Operatic Metal
Winners of Heat 1
Runner-up in Semi-Final 3

Being first on can be a bit of a curse, but the extended sound check allowed for the septet to have their strongest sounding performance in the competition. It was nice to see uniformity in the stage apparel across the band too, and the light up corsets were a neat touch. This was a great start to the evening, from a band that’s now pretty much the complete package.

Winners of Heat 3
Winners of Semi-Final 2

I’ve seen these guys a number of times in the past eighteen months or so and they rarely disappoint. Whilst tonight they don’t quite reach the heady heights of their earlier round performances, this phenomenally talented trio still impress on-lookers with their funky brand of rock’n’roll.

Alternative Metal
Winners of Heat 2
Runners-up in Semi-Final 1

It’s worth remembering that this entertaining alt. metal outfit were a last minute stand-in in the second week of the comptition. They took the opportunity by the horns and rode it all the way to the final. Performance wise, after a bit of a shaky start they nailed the last three tracks and put on a very enjoyable, energetic show. I can’t wait to see how these guys progress from here.

Post-Metal / Sludge / Doom
Runner-up in Heat 5
Winners of Semi-Final 3

Archelon were the first part of a sludgey hypnotic double header of doom. These guys have been consistently one of the better bands in the tournament, and they continued that trend with a monstrously heavy set. Their consistency is all the more impressive to say they were performing without their bass player!

Post-Metal / Sludge / Doom
Winners of Heat 6
Runners-up in Semi-Final 2

Ba’al had a tough act to follow, but they saved their best performance of the tournament for the final. Their mid-tempo brand of sludgey doom got many heads banging, including my own, as they knocked it out of the ballpark.

Metalcore / Contemporary Metal
Winners of Heat 5
Winners of Semi-Final 1

One of the most popular bands of the tournament, these energetic contemporary metallers drew the closing slot of the evening. Unphased by the excellent bands playing immediately before them, they proceed to slam through their pitworthy setlist with great confidence.

Guest Headliner:
Stoner Rock / Hard Rock / Heavy Psych
Winner of Metal 2 the Masses Lincolnshire 2016

It’s always a pleasure to watch one of the more talented bands from our area, and they were a perfect choice for guest headliner. If you’ve not seen them live, you’re truly missing out on a cracking stoner rock act.

The Result

I thought it was a tough choice for the judge to make, but I agree with the decision to name Ba’al the winners. They saved their best performance for the final, and were the best band on the night. Congratulations chaps!

For the record, I had it being between them and Archelon, but there could have been argument made for other bands too.

It was also noted that two other bands on the evening (not named) are being put forward as potential acts to fulfill other slots on the Bloodstock bill.

A Few Final Words

Thank you to everyone that’s been reading and sharing my blogs on the tournament. It’s been a pleasure doing them, and I’m sure I’ll do the same again next year. Before I sign off, I just wanted to congratulations Jake, Craig and the Mulberry staff for putting on a very enjoyable, fair, and diverse tournament.

A quick shout out to all the finalists: Aonia, Delirium, Sobriquet, Archelon, Ba’al, Arkdown. You guys all put on a heck of a evening and I wish you all the best.

There were also some cracking bands that didn’t quite make it all the way, and I just wanna give a quick shout out to a few that I was particularly impressed with:

Probably the band with the most pure talent in the tournament. They were ever so unlucky to not make the final (lost a tie-breaker to Ba’al for second place in the semi-final – oh how different the final would have been!). I’m glad they got as far as they did and I really hope they enter again next year.

Gorilla Warfare
One of the most fun bands of the tournament. I had the pleasure of seeing their last show of their current incarnation recently, and I look forward to seeing what arises from their ashes.

Sour Tusk
Loud, brash and talented two piece stoner rockers that were unfortunate to have been drawn in what was probably the toughest opening heat. I hope they try again next year, as I’m fairly sure they’d have made the semi-finals had they been in a different heat.

I also think NormaliserElecorn, Grandmother Suplex and The Mechanist have loads of potential, and I hope they’ll all consider entering again next year.

Whilst we’re doing awards/lists, I may as well list my favourite sets of the whole tournament – because who doesn’t love a good list?

My favourite sets of the tournament – in no particular order:
Delirium – Heat 3
Bovidae – Semi-Final 2
Ba’al – Final
Archelon – Semi-Final 3
Aonia – Semi-Final 3

There’s been some quality performances / shows, and credit where it’s due, Jake, Craig and that gang have put on a great tournament.  I hear plans are already underway for next year’s offering!

Speaking of next year, I can’t wait to see which bands enter. Selfishly speaking, I hope some of the other kick arse bands from our region – such as Skyligers, Deltanaut, Firegarden and Deadblondestars – put themselves forward for it.

And that’s about it, I think. Congratulations once more to Ba’al, and thanks to everyone for entertaining me for the past couple of months! Cheers!