Tonight was one of the craziest and most brutal nights that have happened in the Dublin sector of this competition, and Shaun Martin was front and centre to record it all.
Kicking off the night in top gear is Dublin thrash metal ensemble Catastrophe, and they take off like a bat out of hell. Their unabashed and passionate approach to their setlist is absolutely pivotal, and bigger bands can take a lesson from them.
Enthusiasm is the name of the game, and Catastrophe doesn’t waste a single second on the stage, as they hold Fibbers by the throat from start to finish. Frontman Jamie Murphy embodies raw feral aggression in his delivery of their original tunes like “Impaled onto the Cross”, “Fallout”, and their signature “The Eyes of Crion”, which always demolishes the venue.
Supplying the shred as always is Adam Treacy, who menacingly growls his way through the setlist with a fair bit of ease. He maintains his poise as a steadfast pillar of reliability for every song, and never falters once. At this stage of the competition, you cannot afford to be complacent, or you’re 100% going home.
Some of the riffs and strumming speeds are hard to keep track of; pure thrash at its finest. Drummer Connor Middleton and bassist Darragh O’Connor hold the mayhem together like pros, and as a band, their delivery is well-tight and well-timed. Momentum is lost slightly during their intro for “Blood on My Hands”, as the first two openers have already cracked heads. However, things take a fast-paced turn again and we’re back in business after a few minutes. As it is the opening slot, it’s very hard to start the rumble, but Catastrophe has their setlist nailed, and are a serious force to be reckoned with.
Next up is battle-hardened M2TM veterans This Place Hell. The expectations of this band are high, because there has never been a TPH gig (formerly “The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back”), that has disappointed. As a group, they have lost zero momentum with their name change. Frontman Stephen Cannon is the epitome of a lead vocalist of an amateur band trying to break the mould of the music business. He is charismatic, invested, and gives 100% to his stage performance (he’s a quiet and shy guy off the stage), and at this stage of the competition, that’s exactly what you need.
Bass-playing mentalist Dylan Scully is similarly invested in his performance. So much so, he takes to crowd surfing in the middle of one song but still manages to pull off the well-oiled and well-rehearsed number.
Drummer Ryan Cummins is losing his shit behind the drumkit and being able to keep that breakneck pace is admirable. But the stars of this setlist are guitarists Mick Hynes and Damien Regan. Duelling between both men has always been a centre stage piece of this band’s performance and in the Semi-Finals, this is exactly where you need the rabbit in the hat. It seems that tonight, however, TPH isn’t getting the buzz that they ALWAYS get.
I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something missing from their set. Be it volume, rage, mind control… I don’t know: perhaps it’s nerves. They have done nothing different in any of their shows, and it just feels different tonight. The fire just isn’t there. That’s not to say that the crowd doesn’t eventually get shit mixed, because the pit eventually spreads across the width of the floor as their set comes to a close. It is another top performance from TPH tonight, but not their best (that I’ve seen anyway).
Following on from the fire that was set under Fibbers by This Place Hell, is prog metal upstarts Sectile. The first thing that you notice when they start playing is the level of expert musicianship that each man possesses.
As the first song “Subside” begins, this is as plain as the nose on your face, but then the singer (Gabriel Gaba), gets involved. Game-changer, if ever there was one. Gaba’s voice is immensely powerful. He would remind you of a less shouty version of Myles Kennedy, and can certainly hold a note for extended periods of time.
Mark O’Reilly and Michael Sheridan on guitars have the unenviable job of keeping the timing melodically in the off-time and fast-paced drum section held by Zachary Newman, and I can tell it isn’t easy. Some of the fills are matched in tempo and tone by bassist Cormac Hennigan, with a fretting method that would fit in nicely with any lead guitarist role.
Sectile’s slightly softer approach to M2TM tonight (in comparison to their competition anyway – there’s nothing soft about their music!), brings a different scent of blood to the fight. It’s not bad, it’s just different but still, metal as fuck.
Drum monster Newman is working double-time to keep the beats fast and furious, and I tip my cap to his work effort because it CAN’T be easy. Gaba’s voice, however, is a different animal. It slots in perfectly with the proggy/classic/ power approach to modern metal but still pays homage to the old alternative and prog greats like Tool and Deftones.
This is present in waves in their second-to-last track “Invisible Threads”. There is no shortage of pit action here either, as the crowd get more and more into Sectile’s signature sound. So far tonight, we’ve seen three out of five bands, and already the bar is not just out of reach, it’s out of sight.
Metalcore trailblazers Outbreak are ready to kill someone by the time their slot arrives. Pumped to the gills with fervour and waiting on that sweet, sweet release of aggression that is the stage at Fibber Magees, vocalist Craig Murphy snarls into the mic from the first note to the last in a manner that belongs on the international metal circuit.
Dropping the hammer on the head of everyone here with a brand new song “Part of Me”, Outbreak seems to have brought half of Dublin city with them. The focus of attention is squarely on Murphy, but the real focus should be on the guitar section manned by Andrew Kinlay and Dylan Ward. The riffs supplied by these two are monstrously heavy, and as the setlist progresses; this is enforced and reinforced repeatedly.
Their third song “Prison” keeps their already out-of-control momentum in full swing, as I can see the circle pit grow until there is no more room in the venue: it starts at one wall and ends at the other. Like I said at the start of this article; this was a brutal night.
Outbreak’s southern groove-metal infused lunacy is just what the doctor ordered and is showing no signs of stopping. Drummer Glenn O’Donoghue mans the cannons providing that thick layer of tom-beats and double-bass drum brutality, as bass player Edgar Abram fits into the background like a jigsaw piece tying everything together into one full-on aural assault that you just can’t help but bang your head to.
“Nail in the Coffin” is a lesson in violence because all I can see are bodies flying everywhere. Their final song (and ironically, it’s their first song they ever wrote together as a band), “Whats Done is Done”, delivers the killing blow to Fibbers tonight that almost causes a riot. EVERYONE is getting stuck into the pit, and all I can do is watch the chaos unfurl. Outbreak has caused mayhem here tonight, but we’re not done yet. Not by a long shot.
The last slot of the night goes to another M2TM heavy-hitter Antidotes. Led by Stephen Cannon (who fronted This Place Hell a few hours ago), the dice has unfortunately not landed in their favour.
I have seen Antidotes play a few times, and I know what they’re capable of. But the powers-that-be just don’t want to play ball tonight. Speaker malfunctions, guitar lead problems, and sound-engineering emergencies (saved by resident sound desk wizard and all-around hero JC) dampen the running start that Antidotes are more than fully capable of creating. It takes a few minutes for it all to be sorted out, but it gets sorted nonetheless, and Antidotes get stuck in without letting anything get to them.
Consummate professionals as always, Antidotes have the cure for all ills, and that’s ball-busting heavy metal. Cannon is also on axe duty and shares some lovely harmonic fills with fellow guitarist Rob Gaffney in their second offering “We Are”, and they blend perfectly together. Both “Choke Point” and “Stand Your Ground” (always a crowd pleaser), have the punters screaming at the top of their lungs, as Antidotes are hot on the heels of Cannon’s former performance with This Place Hell.
Cannon’s stage persona takes over, igniting the fun element of the performance as he repeatedly encourages the crowd to get more and more engaged in the night’s action. Bassist Leigh Walsh also plays a part in egging the crowd on to commit to more chaos and craziness as the pit moves left and right across the floor. Drumming as if his life depended on it, Donal Bowers takes the mantle of the supporting structure of the setlist, as the rolls coming from the skins coupled with ringing cymbal crashes carry the weight of most of the songs here tonight. Antidotes sail through their setlist as usual with minimal difficulty (other than the issues at the start which was not down to the band) and close out the night’s action.
This was the point of the night where things got weird.
Mancunian metal oddballs Footprints in the Custard are tonight’s guest band, making their Irish debut. They’re as mad as a bag of spiders, and absolute gents off the stage.
When the lights turn on them in their performance, they take on different personalities that are… different. Party/comedy metal enthusiasts, FitC waste no time getting the laughs going, as they open up with “Thomas the Tank Engine” – it’s not a cover; it’s the actual recording from the old TV show. That leads straight into an orchestral intro called “Year of the Weasel”, which allows the band to get into gear and start the show with “Wank Claw”.
FitC is a comedy metal act, but they are metal: unabashed, salivating and brutally metal. Although their song titles are questionable (“Willies are for Weeing”, Gail Platter”, “Hanging with David Carradine” to name a few, their song structure is not.
Brutally heavy guitarist slots led by Whitty on lead (who’s a beast on the fretboard), backed up by Ross and the kilted nutjob Ian, the 3 men take their roles quite seriously but have fun doing it. And fun is the name of the game. They’re quite clearly enjoying themselves and give zero fucks about it. They give a shout out to all of the younger bands who doubt themselves and their work ethic, by proudly stating “Enter Metal 2 The Masses! It worked wonders for us! If we can fucking do it, and look at the state of us, so can you!”.
It’s at this point that i should mention that halfway through their setlist, just before “Bouncy Bouncy”, Ross has stripped off completely, and is now sporting a luminous green mankini and nothing else (that’s an image I could have done without seeing), which glows in the blacklight in Fibber Magees, and is so bright, you could land a space shuttle on it.
Charismatically insane frontman Russ is now sporting a green tutu and stripey tights, and the band get stuck into the rest of their setlist. Their manic appearance masks their talent: Russ has a growling, raspy voice that has serious volume, and it never lets up. His ferocity hits you in the face like a sack of hammers. As stated earlier, Whitty’s fretting skills are a true professional hallmark of someone who wanted to do something and went out to do it on his own terms.
Drummer Sladen also bears that hallmark, and isn’t shy about flashing the skill, especially during “Merlin in Berlin”. I had a quick chat with them before the gig and they said they played that song in Germany a few days beforehand. The song is about Merlin going forward in time and killing Hitler.
Let’s just say it didn’t go down well at all. But this is their gimmick: they play on their own terms and to hell with naysayers. To top it off, as a closing number, they bust out a death metal cover of the Weathergirls “It’s Raining Men” (and I see a lot of puzzled faces stop moving for a second to think and go ‘hang on… that sounds like – IT IS!! That’s Raining Men!!’). Russ also creates a Wall of Death, but renames it “Wall of Humping” and encourages the partygoers to hump on the dancefloor after running into each other.
After this mind-blowing odd, yet incredibly heavy setlist, the band takes a bow. This is the point where Sladen, who has been hidden behind the drumkit after all this time, stands up and reveals he has been wearing a black pair of leather hotpants for the entire night.
After this rollercoaster of a night, it’s decision time. This Place Hell got the crowd vote, and Sectile getting the judges vote overall. This is another instance of how brutal this competition can be. Only one band can be chosen, and there will always be someone’s nose out of joint over it because everyone likes something else.
But that’s the risks that you have to take. Good things in life that are worth fighting for don’t come easy but you have to see it through and finish the fight to get what you want.
The next night is Semi Final C on Saturday, April 28th at 8 pm. This will be your last chance to affect the outcome of the competition, as Bloodstock supremo Simon Hall will be jetting in specifically for one band to be chosen to play the festival. Admission is €5.00 which includes your official voting card and automatic entry to 2 separate raffles.
See you in the pit!
Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Ireland Semi Final B 21/04/18 – Gallery © Down The Barrel Photography 2018
Words by Shaun Martin
Photos – Down The Barrel Photography 2018