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.


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 8

The Story So Far…

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

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

Round 1, Heat 8

So, this is it; the final first round heat!

InFall and Strange Bru both withdrew on the day, reducing the heat to a four band affair. Whilst this meant no one was going to be eliminated, it did give the evening an extra laid back and relaxed feel. The four bands knew that they were now just vying for the first place spot, which is rewarded with a bye into the Semi-Finals.


Kicking off the evening were a self-proclaimed ‘self-depreciating thrash metal’ act, all the way from the frozen north (well, erm, Barnsley). The quartet rocketed through their 30 minute set at a rate of knots, their old school thrash sound woven into each track. Whilst I don’t think anyone will ever call this the tightest of performances, it was actually something more important than that – it was fun. I’d happily watch these guys again.


Second on the bill was our other thrash band, a Sheffield/Chesterfield collective known as Dissension. Their story is quite interesting – when they entered the competition (back in November ish?) they didn’t have a drummer or a second guitar. They also only had one song written. Between then and now they have recruited those positions, written half a dozen tracks and practised enough to play them to a damned tight level. That’s some great going! I really enjoyed this set. They had a fun thrashy cover of Exploited’s Fuck the USA, and their own material was really good too. Whilst a thrash band, musically they adopted elements of black metal at times (drums, some guitarwork), and at other times tunes felt almost crossover/thrash punk. A diverse setlist.


The penultimate band of the evening was Sheffield melodic heavy metal outfit Epitaph. These guys are resilient bunch, and have been around in one form or another for at least six or so years (I remember seeing them win a Battle of the Bands at Corp back in the day, as well as them reaching the final of the 2014 M2TM tournament at South Sea live). I must admit, I lost track of them some time around 2015ish. Since then, they have had a singer or two. Their latest singer Sam is quite unique and charismatic. Visually making me think of a sort of punk Maynard James Keenan, Sam’s voice is like a mix of Dave Mustaine, Alice Cooper and Blackie Lawless. Very rock and roll. Musically, Epitaph are accomplished, very slick, and could give any band a run for their money.


Closing out the evening were the veterans of the heat. Firegarden were formed in 1996, and I have been following them myself for something like ten years, on and off (for the record, The River off Walking on Saffron is still my favourite tune of theirs!). Last year saw the departure of talented keyboardist Andy Gotteri. The band have taken the change as an opportunity to re-invent their particular flavour of prog’n’roll, eschewing the use of keys. They’ve also added an additional vocalist in the talented Adele.

Performance wise, this was one of the tightest performances of the competition to date. The vocals were great, the electric stand-up fretless six string bass had a lovely sound, and there were some tasty proggy meanderings throughout. A brilliant set.

My Thoughts

This competition has been fantastic… at giving me headaches on voting, haha. I had Firegarden a smidge ahead of Dissension and Epitaph.

The Result

Firegarden pipped the others to the post in a heat that probably saw the tightest spread of scores across the bands that make up the entirety of the show. The progsters move straight to the Semi-Finals, whilst the other three all progress to the Quarter-Finals.

That completes the first round! The first Quarter-Final takes place on Thursday 15th March.


Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Round 1, Heat 7

A Small Update

Due to scheduling conflicts, anthemic rockers Fear Lies and melodic metallers Steal the City have withdrawn from the competition.

Combining this with the respective availabilities of the bands that have finished 4th so far, this meant that Rancidium, Zero Point Zero and Thrashsquatch have all qualified for the Quarter-Finals. Additionally, in the two remaining heats, the bands that come 4th will definitely qualify for the Quarter-Finals.

The Story So Far…

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

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

Round 1, Heat 7

The penultimate heat in the First Round saw five bands battle it out for one Semi-Final and three Quarter-Final spots.


Kicking things off were young upstarts Kxntinuum. Of all the genres we have had represented so far this year, deathcore is probably one that appeals to me the least. Saying that, these guys did okay and those down the front partook in some rhythmic headbanging in time to the downtempo chuggy riffs. I only had a couple of issues with the set – namely that Charles’ guitar was too quiet in the overall mix (some of the technicality was lost) and the other being that they weren’t the tightest unit around. Both of these things can be resolved with experience.


Next up was Chesterfield/Sheffield quintet Empusa. Those that read my blog last year will know that I was impressed with Crucifixiation frontman Danny. Well, this is where he is now, and, man, has this enabled him to show off his skillset more! His low death grunts are excellent (with good diction!), and he can transition to high end metalcore/black metal shrieks at the drop of a hat. Musically, the band are sort of death metal / melodeath, with smatterings of metalcore here and there. The set was excellent and I was blown away by some of the riffs/tunes.


Next up was the latest out-of-town band to enter the competition, Huddersfield’s Discordian. These guys were quite interesting – musically, they were dancing the borderline between modern heavy metal and metalcore. However, the musicality and melodious tones of the clean vocals from frontman Will would not have sounded out of place on a 30 Seconds to Mars track. Additionally, there were times when he had a more shouty delivery usually found in acts such as Rise Against. To me, this made them more of an intriguing prospect than a lot of run-of-the-mill metalcore bands around at the moment.

Coyote Mad Seeds

Trio Coyote Mad Seeds were the penultimate band of the evening, and their brand of southern / hard rock brought a definite stylistic change on what had come so far. They remind me of quite a few bands I’ve seen over recent years – a dash of Trucker Diablo, a pinch of Scorpion Child, a handful of The Treatment – though not quite like any of them either, and with their own flavour too.

I had managed to check out a couple of tracks from an EP of theirs that’s available on Spotify currently (apparently they played the whole thing tonight, plus a new one) and I recognised and enjoyed hearing them live (particularly Get Outta My Way).

Live, these guys are tight. Definitely one of the tightest bands we have seen so far this year.


One of returning finalists from last year, Sobriquet drew the closing slot for the evening.

For those that haven’t seen them before, Sobriquet are a high energy band that mixes aspects of Incubus, Placebo and Tool with a general post-hardcore sound. Its uptempo and brash, but not without plenty of melody. It’s infectious.

As with any of the returning bands, I was looking forward to seeing how they had improved since then. A small criticism I had of theirs at times last year was (like Heat 1’s Arkdown) that they could be a little tighter live. Well, (again, like Arkdown) they certainly showed me! I had heard that they had tighten up greatly by the time their EP launch happened last year, and that certainly played out last night. This was a really strong set, easily matching their best from last year’s tournament.

My Thoughts

For me personally, it was very close between Empusa, Coyote Mad Seeds and Sobriquet. In the end, Danny’s vocal range and delivery sufficiently blew me away for me to give them the nod. I genuinely can’t remember who I voted second, but it was one of the the other two, followed by the other.

The Result

In what turned out to be a close heat, Sobriquet won and advanced to the Semi-Finals. Empusa were second, narrowly ahead of Coyote Mad Seeds and a little more ahead of Discordian. Those three will all progress to the Quarter-Finals.

The eighth and final First Round Heat takes place on Sunday 25th February. It features: Dislocator, Dissenssion, Epitaph, Firegarden, InFall and Strange Bru.


Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Round 1, Heat 6

The Story So Far…

Qualified for the Semi-Finals: Arkdown, Sour Tusk, Bleating Apocalypse, Lowdrive, Aonia

Qualified for the Quarter-Finals: The King is Dead, Crimson Tide, Fear Lies, Exemption, Deltanaut, Grave UK, Psython, Gorilla Warfare, Air Drawn Dagger, Burn Down the District

In contention for a wildcard: Clawback the Day, This State of Ours, Black Moon Rising, Thrashsquatch, Rancidium

Round 1, Heat 6

After the late-ish withdrawal of Them Sardines, last night’s fifth heat was a four band affair. Despite the reduction in bands, this was still a pretty well attended event (45-50ish at a guess).

At the start of the night, it was announced that This State of Ours had qualified for the Quarter-Finals as the highest ranking 4th place band. Well deserved, in my opinion.

Zero Point Zero

First up was Chesterfield quintet, Zero Point Zero. They play a sort of contemporary heavy metal / metalcore hybrid (if you start with Killswitch Engage, add in a little Lamb of God and a touch of Arch Enemy then you would be in the ballpark).

A couple of technical gremlins meant a delayed start, plus a further delay between their penultimate and final songs (the in the case of a latter, an amp suddenly died – fair play to the chaps from Spiteful Embrace, who were very quick to offer theirs as a replacement).

Set wise, I thought ZPZ were decent. An interesting choice of cover (Backstreet’s Back) was followed by their best songs of the evening (I didn’t recall the names, but I think the best one was called My Life in Grey).

Steal the City

Next up were popular Sheffield quartet Steal the City. More technical issues (relating to the bass this time) meant a small delay, thought nothing overly serious.

STC reminded me of a number of bands that you would associate with pro-wrestling – the likes of Papa Roach, Nickelback, Alter Bridge and Rev Theory all sprung to mind. This was an enjoyable, well-played set of anthemic hard rock and melodic heavy metal numbers that wouldn’t feel out of place on the radio.

STC certainly got the best crowd reaction on the evening too, and their set had a ‘big show’ feel to them. I’d never seen them before tonight, but I could imagine them and Fear Lies would work wonderfully well together.

Soul Shredder

Last year, Soul Shredder qualified for the semi-finals, but agonisingly were unavailable for any of the dates. Pleasingly they have returned to give it another go this year.

For anyone new to the band, their sound is sort of what you’d get if you took Iron Maiden, added a dash of Megadeth, a sprinkling of guitar virtuoso (Malmsteen etc) and a touch of someone more contemporary, like Iced Earth. Layered over the top are melodious, and occasionally soulful, female vocals. I heard one first timer last night describe them as ‘symphonic thrash’ – whilst I’m not sure that’s bang on, it’s probably not a million miles away either.

The band have been around the Sheffield scene for around a decade now, and you can tell – this is one flipping tight unit. Frontwoman Marina only joined in 2017, but she already looks like she fits in nicely with the band.

Regarding their performance, I really really enjoyed it. They have the best lead guitarist we have seen in the competition, and Marina has brought a fresh take to some of their songs. I don’t really have a criticism to make – my only bit of feedback would be to wonder if the singer has inner ear monitors, as it seems like she shied away from a couple of notes (she hit some belters at times though).

Great set; I have a feeling they will do well.

Spiteful Embrace

Finally, we had Spiteful Embrace. This bruising five piece journey all the way over from Hull to have a go at the competition.

Musically,  they definitely come from the Pantera / Throwdown side of the heavy / groove metal tracks. They are loud, brash and in-your-face (to paraphrase one punter – the angriest band ever).

Performance wise, they were excellent! They were one of the tighter bands in the competition and their set flew by in no time at all. I was surprised to discover that they only formed last year – these guys act and sound like a well oiled unit that have years under their belts. If the dominoes fall their way, they could be huge.

My Thoughts

I had it a close call between Spiteful Embrace and Soul Shredder, with the former just nicking it. I had STC third, though I did enjoy ZPZ’z set.

The Result

Soul Shredder won by around four points, meaning they repeat last year’s success by qualifying for the Semi-Finals. Spiteful Embrace came 2nd and Steal the City came third.

Next up is Heat 7 on Thursday 22nd February, and contains the likes of Coyote Mad Seeds, Discordian, Empusa, Kxntinuum and one of last year’s finalists in Sobriquet.


Sheffield Metal 2 the Masses 2018: Round 1, Heat 5

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

Round 1, Heat 5

Last night’s fifth heat was a six band affair. Despite it snowing, and being on a Sunday, this was a pretty well attended event, with attendance numbers somewhere in the high 40s/low 50s range.


First up was the very youthful quartet, Rancidium. The chaps have been around in one form or another for getting on for four years now, and I’ve heard they have modified their sound a bit over that time. To me, they sounded like a blackened Trivium, with a hint of Carcass.

Performance wise they put on a solid show. Musically they were fairly tight, and the tunes were enjoyable. They went down really well with the crowd too.


Anyone who read my blog on last year’s tournament should know Aonia, who were worthy finalists in the 2017 competition. For those who didn’t, they are a seven member band that mixes operatic vocals with a mixture of Power, Prog and New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

I’ve seen Aonia probably five or six times over the last 18 months or so and they have come on leaps and bounds in my eyes. Whilst last night wasn’t quite to the heights of the set I saw last year (when they supporting Xandria at Corporation) this was still a flipping good show. There was an ever so slight issue in the opening track where the keyboards were very low in the mix, but that was mostly rectified in that song. Despite this, it was still one of the strongest sets in the competition so far.

Burn Down the District

Next up were a very interesting band. As I’ve mentioned in write ups for earlier heats, hardcore doesn’t do much for me (and metalcore is very hit-and-miss). What makes these guys interesting to me is that, whilst they describe themselves as metalcore, it wasn’t of a style that I would have automatically thought of (to me, metalcore conjures up images of bands like Killswitch Engage, 36Crazyfits, etc). To my ears, Burn Down the District sounded a lot closer to groove metal (think the most up tempo Pantera and Machine Head) with added hardcore vocals. It was… refreshing!

Performance wise, they were really tight and they seemed to be having a blast on stage. They seemed to win over the crowd too, on a night of very different genres being represented.

Death of Man

This Barnsley-based trio were a late addition to the bill, giving us an ever more diverse lineup than there already was.

Stylistically, they mostly seem like a doom / heavy metal hybrid, though their opening number was almost death’n’roll. I enjoyed the old school simplicity of the tunes – just heavy as all hell doom.

Air Drawn Dagger

Talk about a change of pace and style, next up were the up-tempo pop punk / alternative rock musings of Sheffield quartet Air Drawn Dagger.

In a genre with little scope for originality, bands stand and fall on their live performance. Air Drawn Dagger are damned good at what they do. They have an engaging frontwoman, and they play a fun, tight live set. They are certainly the first band to have a crowd surfing lead singer this year too. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Sinners Sermon

Last up was Sheffield trio Sinners Sermon. I’d seen them once before (opening for Cybernetic Witch Cult), and this set was more of the same. They play a groovy type of heavy metal, with nods to sludge and doom along the way.

Performance wise, they weren’t bad (though having to follow Air Drawn Dagger’s excellent showing was a little unfortunate, but that’s how random drawing goes). It was a struggle to hear the vocals at times, but otherwise an enjoyable performance, worthy of the tournament.

My Thoughts

Aonia were the standouts for me. The other five bands were relatively quite close together, with Burn Down the District just edging ahead of Air Drawn Dagger and Death of Man. A cracking collection of bands from top-to-bottom to be honest.

The Result

Aonia were victorious, and head straight to the Semi-Finals. Air Drawn Dagger and Burn Down the District were second and third respectively, so quality for the Quarter-Finals. Rancidium finished in 4th place, so now await to see if they finish in the top half of the 4th place bands.

Next up is Heat 6 on Thursday 15th February , and contains the likes of Soul Shredder, Spiteful Embrace, Steal the City, Them Sardines and Zero Point Zero.



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.