One band will be chosen to play at Bloodstock Open Air by Simon Hall, alongside Judas Priest, Doro, Nightwish, Gojira and many others. Shaun Martin shares another rundown of the night’s incredible performances.
Landing the first slot for tonight is Dublin 5-piece Rifflifter. From the initial kick-off, the Balbriggan band live up to their name and the thick, crunchy and chunky riffs are coming in thick and heavy. Guitarists Dave Tynan and Fionntain O’Dubhtaigh DeRis supply a punchy selection of catchy licks from the start to the finish, and their opening song ‘Legion’ throws down the gauntlet for the rest of the evening’s entertainment.
Vocalist Kevin Furlong stands tall and has a commanding appearance as the frontman of the group, whilst bass player Jimmy Joyce and drummer Kane Caswell supply the bones of the sound.
Although they are on first, there is already a healthy interest in them tonight from the growing crowd (this is where it counts – you bring your people to vote for you: it’s a tried and trusted method, folks). Tynan and O’Dubhtaigh DeRis are admirable in partnership and everyone’s attention is on them. The shared responsibility to the guitar solos is made to look easy (and they’re not), and Furlong’s stage presence and persona make him the perfect vehicle for their brand of hard rock/metal infusion.
Rifflifter’s 6-song set contains threads of Iron Maiden, Anthrax, and a little bit of ‘Show No Mercy’–era Slayer, but in a more controlled and compact delivery. All-rounders from a lot of differing heavy music influences, Rifflifter blaze their way through their setlist and leave the ears ringing for the remainder of the night.
The second band on stage is Creep, also from Dublin. This band is on another level altogether! Their following in the room tonight has made much noise, and rightly so. The vocal section supplied by Jason McGuinness can only be described as a shade below professional (they are as yet unsigned).
Throughout his high-octane delivery of soaring vocality in songs like ‘Do or Die’, ‘In a Dream’, and their outstanding closer ‘Breaking Me’, the voice is stable, powerful, and unwavering. But their jewel in their crown on their throne is lead guitarist Liam Noctor.
The guitar work is dizzying – not with speed (although there’s plenty of that), but with absolute full and total control of the instrument. His guitar playing fits 100% with their song structure. The kinds of solos he plays are not the ‘widdly-widdly’widdly’ type, but well thought-out timed and orchestrated in such a way that you could listen to them all night. ‘In a Dream’ has an outro that I would class as on the same level as ‘Purple Rain’, by the late great Prince.
But he’s not alone. Bassist James Kearney looks like he’s about to bust a nut, judging by the smile on his face and the rhythm section from Jake O’Reilly is also rock solid. Drummer Layne McGuinness holds it all together and struts his talent in a fashion that would inspire you to pick up the sticks yourself. The entire band is a perfect blend of the right guys meeting at the right time and doing the right thing, and that’s playing music. Hearing more of the same wouldn’t be a bad way to spend the evening, but there are 3 more bands left to play.
Cork quartet Archaós combine elements of grunge and metal and mix them into a furious blitz of noise and energy to take the third spot on the stage. Leading with an instrumental number ‘Dugga’, Archaós stamp on the throat of Fibbers and ensure that everyone is wide awake to take stock of what’s happening. The breakdown of their songs is seriously heavy and equally impressing. Frontman and guitarist Luke Butler delivers the goods on mic and axe duty, backed up by (who can only be described as maniacal), Alessio Baggatin, who delivers the shred. Drums supplied by Chris Hanlon are very well-partnered with bassist Aaron Kennedy, and both are kicking out the jams big time onstage.
The fourpiece’s setlist comprises a dirty 90’s Seattle-grunge scene sound, and cannonballs into the night’s selection of music, making a big wave as it lands. Maintaining course in a nerve-wracking competition like this isn’t easy, and at times it feels as if Butler is a little shaken in his delivery I can’t say I blame him – this is a huge opportunity for any band, and a single mistake could cost you, dearly. The lads met in music management back in Cork and decided to get together and make some noise. They’re doing that, and they should keep doing it because it sounds good and is definitely a talent that they possess in buckets.
We’ve had our fill of grunge and rock; time for some seriously heavy shit. Cobh upstarts Arjuna’s Eye bodyslam the venue with frontman Sean Frahill’s high impact vocal ability that’s not a million miles away from the likes of Phil Anselmo, Mike Patton, and Maynard James Keenan.
Lead guitarist Conor Nagle holds his own with 2-handed tapping solos and a flurry of intricate triplet pieces that slot into the song structure of Arjuna’s Eye like a well-fit glove. Bassist Aaron Frahill has also got lungs on him, backing up his brother Sean on vocals. Drummer Atreyu Connolly (named after the horse in ‘The Neverending Story’, and not the band), rumbles the floorboards with fast-paced and earth-shattering drums, all the while guitarist Bernard Harrington keeps the rhythm section in check on guitar.
AE are quite bassy; their deep groove metal sound is anchored in the likes of Pantera, Meshuggah and White Zombie, and their novel take on the M2TM audience will most certainly get them a lot of attention. Sean Frahill’s demonic-assuming stage persona is quite remarkable because I spoke to him afterwards and he is quite calm and composed, so I suppose it really IS the quiet ones that you have to look out for. He took over from former vocalist Nagle on their album ‘The Invisible Landscape’, and does a fantastic job of maintaining the original direction. Here’s hoping it stays on course!
Last, onstage tonight are Outbreak, who are insanity personified. After losing out last year to Creep and ZhOra (who went on to win the competition), their fire still burns uncontrollably and they’re back for another crack of the whip.
Whatever was lacking in their performance last year sure as hell isn’t here tonight because the music is tight, the delivery is authentic, and the breakdowns feel like a brick in the face. Frontman Craig Murphy is an animal in his position as the focal delivery point for the band, and the audience loves every second of it. Murphy delivers as if his life depended on it, and the rest of the band isn’t far behind either.
Dylan Ward seems to channel his inner Angus Young, with face-melting solos and an attitude that you can spot a mile away. His guitar counterpart Andrew Kinlay is the perfect partner for Ward, as both men blow the competition out of the water with their ultra-dense riffage and their melodic take on each other’s playing style. Bassist Edgar Abram joins in the fun with some ultra-solid backbone support, and all members and songs are propped up masterfully by drummer Glenn Donoghue. His job isn’t easy – the pace and rhythm changes of the songs is furious, like ‘Nail in the Coffin’, and ‘What’s Done is Done”. The speed of his changes is seriously cool to watch, and I can only imagine the hours and hours of hardcore practice that the lads put in to make their songs work in this way.
As always, there are a lot of shaking heads at the judge’s table, as the pros and cons of each band are weighed up.
Eventually, the judge’s vote goes to Outbreak, and Creep get the crowd vote, making them the 5th and 6th bands to make it to the semi-finals. The next heat is heat 4 on February 24th where Catastrophe, Scathed, Immaculate Deception, Svet Kant and Humanity Check will duke it out to become the 7th and 8th band in the next round. Please visit the official link for Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses 2018 – Heat 4 by clicking this link.
Keep your eyes on the ball here folks – this is getting good!
Tickets for Bloodstock Open Air are on sale NOW via this link.
Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Ireland 2018 – Heat 3
Photography – Down The Barrel Photography © 2018
© www.overdrive.ie 2018
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