Everyone has brought everyone else to see who will be sent through to the hallowed ground at Catton Park, and Sectile are the first to strike at the heart of Fibbers.
As with every band that is playing here tonight, Sectile narrowly got here in their semi-final and they have brought the big guns to play with. Vocalist Gabriel Gaba has an unwavering frontman persona that withstands repeated barrages of required ability for soaring vocals and high-energy notes that are continuously sustained.
In comparison, it’s like asking a dog to bark: it is of zero trouble to him. It is an elite skill and, coupled with the musical skill of his counterparts, puts them in a league of their own. Guitarists Mark O’Reilly and Michael Sheridan do a fine job of chucking out gloriously heavy riffs that are both elongated and compact, but extremely hard-hitting (case in point: their fourth song ‘A Fool’s Reward). Bassist Cormac Hennigan and drummer Zachary Newman bring up the rear to keep the tunes flowing at a perfect pace, whilst the pit action starts. Being honest, it started halfway through their second tune ‘Dissection’, and it’s been going non-stop. Granted, it’s a little small, but it’s only 8.15pm. We have a long night to go. Sectile throw the kitchen sink at Fibbers, and this is one of the best performances to date. They play an amazing opening slot, and the heads are well and truly in the game as the finishing line is in sight.
Creep are next to throw down, with their grunge/metal fusion and filthy riffage. Armed to the teeth with moxie, attitude and talent, it’s like standing in front of a dragon with a sword and lunging at it, knowing full well that you stand every chance of being burned to a crisp. Creep lunges forth, fearless and ready to fight. Pumping out a riff-fest like a seasoned professional band, the 5-piece unleashes their secret weapon: lead guitarist Liam Noctor.
His guitar playing is truly remarkable; by far one of THE BEST in this contest. It has a classical feel to it, and at the same time, brutally heavy. Like a veteran of the 80’s virtuoso era (Malmsteen, Vai, Satriani et al), Noctor is simply a class unto himself. Frontman Jason McGuinness fires across the field in a true grunge styling, laced with Layne Staley/Kurt Cobain/Eddie Vedder confidence that supports the music coming from the amps of rhythm guitarist Jake O’Reilly and bassist James Kearney. Layne McGuiness mans the cannon-drums and pounds them as if in a battlefield of music. ‘Do or Die’ starts their admirers’ neck and arms action, as the moshing starts after a short breather from Sectiles outstanding setlist.
McGuinness passes the spotlight to Noctor at the right times (seriously guys, you HAVE to check this band out), and everyone stops what they’re at when he goes into full shred mode on ‘Breaking Me’ and ‘Black Box’. This was another monstrous set from the dark horse of underground Dublin grunge metal, and this is but a blip on their radar because this band is going big places.
Next to crack the whip is death metal trio, Black Dawn Rising. The ante is well and truly upped with this performance because the heavy is getting heavier as the night goes on. Spewing death-growls, machine-gun drumming and tons of shred, the cauldron of death metal gets mixed as BDR go straight for the throat.
Frontman and bass player Colin Rossiter’s feral voice rebounds off of every solid surface, followed by guitarist Damo Nolan and drummer Ronan Nolan. There is a steady sea of windmills between the judge’s table and the stage, and it’s obscuring the view of the performance. I look to my right-hand side and I can see Simon Hall’s head start to bang a little more intensively.
Rossiter can see all of the chaos unfolding in front of him and he’s loving it. Damo pumps his fist in the air as he revels in what can only be described as the most electrified performance night of the underground metal calendar. This is shaping up to be quite the night.
We’ve reached the balance point of the final, as three bands have played and three more remain before our guest band plays and the judges retire to make their decision. Metalcore upstarts Rouen make their way to the stage to swing the hammers and light the fuses under Fibbers because it’s clearly not going mental enough for them. They soon sort that out!
Grizzled frontman Andy Fitzpatrick evolves into an uncultivated maniac as soon as the beat drops on their first song “Borrowed”, unleashing the full brute force of the fury he has behind his teeth. Guitarist Dan Cullen is stirring the pot unmercifully with the ultra-heavy riffs and chunky palm0muted fills, especially evident when played in tandem with bassist Alex Sherry’s equally impressive thick and slick bass lines.
Providing the smash is drummer Morgan Beausang, and smash it he does. True to form, Fibbers doesn’t know what’s hit it. The floor divides into a large round space, and the audience runs into each other at pace. There’s a conglomerate somewhere rubbing their hands together at the prospect at signing this band, and rightly so.
The crowd is promptly jumping up and down and THROUGH each other, as Rouen get into the meat of the night. Their killer setlist is full of bruisers like “Void” and “Breed” (which you can find on Spotify/Youtube). The headbanging is quickly getting out of control, however, as one poor guy goes a bit overboard and ends up rattling his head off the stage.
He gets carried to safety by his mates but is back at the front again 10 minutes later. Fitzpatrick stops for a second to ask if he’s ok, and gives props to the bands that played before them. Everyone here is showing the maximum amount of love for each other (except the step that nearly knocked out the bloke I mentioned earlier). All the bands know that nobody deliberately wants anyone to fail, and Rouen pays tribute to their compadres before allowing This Place Hell to lay waste to the venue.
This band has been around for quite a while, but have never quite landed the knockout blow to claim the prize. That claim is now in doubt because the show that was put on tonight was mind-blowing. I have seen TPH a few times, and this is the best performance I’ve ever seen them put on! They empty the tanks and leave nothing behind because they were in the exact same place last year and lost out to the mighty Zhora and Na Cruithne at the last moment.
Stephen Cannon, with his guttural and dominant vocal ability, simply annihilates any doubt that the group wouldn’t be back here again, as the audience erupts into a frenzy of flailing limbs, torsos and pints. Dylan Scully on the bass guitar has taken his aggression with him and directs it into his instrument and it’s clear as day.
Fearless and proud, both men make their way over and back across the stage in time with their well-known smashers like “Pummel”, “Pox”, and “End Game”. Damien Regan and Mick Hynes dig in and prise out the lacking notes of tonight and provide them for the audience, as they are going insane. Simon Hall is also nodding admirably (if you consider violently headbutting the air “admirable”), but the focus is on the stage.
Drummer Ryan Cummins also has the animated intricacies to reinforce the sheer heaviness f this band who are one of the hardest working groups out there. TPH are just tearing Fibber Magees apart and it’s going to take something spectacular to stop them in their tracks.
Last to run the gauntlet is Dublin hard rock 5-piece Element X. They have always been a fan favourite at M2TM and always bring the crowd in large numbers. EX are the heavy side of hard rock with some serious riffage thrown in for good measure. Singer Dave Cullen possesses a stage persona seen in only some of the greats of the rock trade (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Dee Snider, Freddie Mercury to name a few), and he means business.
Onstage, he is physically imposing and commands the crowd with the enthusiasm of a man who knows what his job is. Rhythm guitarist Ian Kenna sets up the fretboard scaffolding and lead monster Franco Buonocore flitters his way through it like a jet fighter. He’s fast. Very fast indeed… and can meld both lead and rhythm sections together quite effortlessly. But the real magic (other than Cullen), lies with bassist Hugo Hernandes and drummer Rodrigo Alonso.
The strength of these two heavy hitters shakes the floor, and the audience bounces accordingly with headbanging synchronicity found in “Stained Crown”, “Reaper Fire” and “Temptations”. Cullen’s superfluous delivery is unmatched in both bravado and composure, and the fight has well and truly been taken to the rest of the acts here tonight.
The music is killer; its compositions are perfect for BOA and I seriously doubt Simon Hall can pick a band at this point in time. But as Element X sign off and allow us to rest for a few moments before the guest band arrives, they give their admiration to their predecessors and show particular affection for Creep.
So the final decision must be made, so the judges retire to hear Simon’s verdict. In the meantime, everyone else out here away from the decision-making will be entertained by 2015 M2TM winners Animator.
Thrash metal at its finest, the band are old hats at this event and know exactly what to play to keep the blood pumping. “The Venom Within” is a fan favourite and is belted out followed by “Sticks and Stones”. Singer James Doughtry is comfy being back in his old stomping ground, and so is drummer Darren Bradley, so is bassist Barry Ryan and so is guitarist Ryan Treanor.
Holding on to the remnants of nostalgia regarding BOA, Doughtry reminisces when his band were in the same position as each band tonight. They were one of the first bands that went through to BOA when Overdrive and Jetrocker took over the running of the competition, along with Snowblind the same year.
Animator lay down the thick chunky 80’s thrash attack. Treanor also plays impressively clean picking notes (in that they’re not muffled by sped or intricacy), and they sound amazing. The fans are lapping it up as it’s a cool-down from the insanity brought on by the 6 bands who threw grenade after grenade and have walked away to let the smoke clear to see the devastation.
Simon Hall returns, with Oran O’Beirne from Overdrive and Kevin Kirwan from Jetrocker in tow. The audience holds its breath (after a bit of tomfoolery with some balloons), and Hall announces that the winner of Metal 2 The Masses 2018 is This Place Hell! He also brings back his “Bag of Holdings”, where 2 bands are placed on hold and may be used. This goes to Sectile and Creep.
Black Dawn Rising get the crowd vote and win an EPK from Overdrive, and the night is finally over. The 2018 contest has ended for another year, and I have to find something else to do with my weekends now.
It is always a pleasure to talk to the bands new and old, and the amazing staff of Fibber Magees does an outstanding job of hosting the competition. Big thanks to Oran from Overdrive, Kev from Jetrocker, Robbie from EHT Promotions, Steve from Down the Barrel Photography, JC for the sound engineering and slagging matches, Simon Hall from BOA for his presentation skills advice, and all of you Overdrivers who keep this show on the road with your constant support.
See you next year!!!
Check out the full Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Ireland Grand Final gallery courtesy of Down The Barrel Photography below. Keep an eye out for This Place Hell’s exclusive winners photo shoot with Down The Barrel Photography in the coming weeks.
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