After the preceding eight nights of music, consisting of seven heats and one Wildcard Night, this is where the competition gets interesting. Well ok… maybe not just interesting: cut-throat is a better description. The pressure is on, the blood is in the water, and the sharks are circling the survivors.
A Night in the Snow kick it off tonight, and from the very start, the pressure of the night may as well be a fart in a hurricane for them. Vocalist Ewen Kun reprises his role as the maniacal frontman we saw back in Heat 4.
Lead guitarist Andy Reilly lifts the lid early on the shredding on the ’Wrong Side of Paradise’, and the breakdown of the drums provided by Jason Fleming leaves the early low mood in tatters.
The brutality of their metalcore sound is not something that we’re unfamiliar with here, but it is by far one of the most novel-sounding bands in the semi-finals. They got the judges vote for a reason back in February, and they’ve built on that experience superlatively.
Bass player Ciaran Hilliard is playing a game of ‘the floor is made of lava’, and isn’t the only participant as he is joined by rhythm guitarist Liam ‘Junior’ White who also mixes it up with solid crunching riffs that lead guitarist Reily capitalises on.
The audience interaction is frenzied, led by Kun. His enthusiasm is feverish and captivates the attendees from the very start. It’s seriously impressive for an opening slot and only goes to prove that the talent really is there in spades in Ireland’s underground metal scene.
Atmospheric hard-rock six piece Old Season progressed from Heat 3 with the judge’s vote. Talismanic singer John Bonham stands tall and proud with his soaring vocal ability that never falters, not even once, regardless of pitch, duration, or timing.
We also see the bass player Dave Courtney maintain a fanboy poise in the background where his role has been self-determined, with his fun-loving head-banging being the most animated of all musicians in this band besides the singer.
Guitarists Jimmy Blanchfield and Jimmy Kiernan both have the look of concentration akin to someone performing brain surgery, and since the intricacy of their playing is absolutely a sight to behold, the disposition is warranted. Drummer Anto Walsh holds the line with impeccable timing brought together with the help of the rhythm and lead guitarist respectively. Keyboard wizard Dermod Smith conducts the atmosphere tone masterfully, supporting the eerie and orchestral tones that aligns all 5 instrumentalists is such a way that it defines their very genre.
This band has the effect of a meteor impact on the Irish metal scene, as there are not too many groups in their league that are on the go at the moment. One thing that really works in their favour is the ability to hold tone on their songs and keep the crowd engaged. Devil horns, headbang, and fist-pumping perforate the audience interactions, and the singing conducted from the stage is worthy of a much larger stage, and I really hope they get it.
One of the more well-known bands in this competition, Creep is rearing to go. However, due to the necessity of a replacement drum stool, their kick-off is very slightly delayed. When they do kick-off, the grunge/metal powerhouse smash in the front door. The charisma oozing from frontman Jason McGuinness has never settled for second best.
His infectious and catchy blues-filled vocal orchestrations are setting the floor alive amidst the screams of Creep! Creep! Creep! Guitarist Liam Noctor really does have the moxie to be a guiding hand for pulling this band skywards along with the vocals of McGuinness. But their song structure has never needed improvement or change at any stage of the competition.
Grunge metal infusions have been their niche since day one, and they have nailed it. As their setlist kicks off with ‘Aurora’ (which is the title of their new EP which is to be released in the next couple of weeks), the crowd already knows the words and sing along.
In their third song ‘In a Dream,’ the outro solo belongs in a Prince song – read about last year’s review here. It’s complex, harmonious, and the tempo and sheer badassery of Noctor’s playing really is Creep’s secret weapon.
Drummer Layne McGuinness and bass player Paul Wallace have the very difficult job of keeping the pace with the songs and their counterparts but pull it together in such a way that it seems conspicuously easy, akin to waking up from a good night’s sleep. The audience simply love Creep’s raw energy that seems to have got louder as the night has progressed. It’s fitting that the last song ‘Breaking Me’ describes what they’ve just done: they’ve just broken Fibbers.
Band number four is Vendetta Love, a four-piece grunge outfit from Portlaoise, that made it through Heat Six with the judge’s vote. These guys are warhorses of Metal 2 The Masses and know how to bring the goods. Frontman Shawn Mullen has that gruff, gravelly voice that embodies the perfect persona of a grunge band frontman. Rhythm guitarist Chris Craig also has the dual responsibility of holding the rhythm support section, and the backing vocals and bass duties fall to Neil McEvoy who is definitely one of the more animated and enthusiastic members of the band on stage tonight.
The drumming beast that is Darren Flynn pounds the skins and keeps the timing as effortlessly as we have come to expect after all these years. ‘What’s in the Blood’ is their most outstanding song followed by ‘On and On’ and ‘Chains and All’. The audience throws themselves into the music despite Mullen having serious microphone issues.
It keeps slipping downwards, and it gets kind of comical watching him bend over further as each song progresses until the song stops and he fixes the mic again. Mullan never lets this get in his way despite the obvious difficulties that this may produce. The riffs never stop coming and the pit action is getting more and more intense. McEvoy looks as though his head is about the fly off his shoulders and a makes for more fuel for the already raging fire.
Song after song kicks Fibbers in the gut left and right, and Vendetta Love are looking at this and smiling, and adds to their ferocity on stage. As their setlist ends, the raucous noise culminates in the song ‘Lost’ which has one of the most outrageous outros so far, but we still have one more band left.
Polish Extreme metal stalwarts My Soul Divine from Dublin were the first band to perform in Metal 2 The Masses 2019, and progress with judge’s vote. As with their Heat One gig-smasher, they’re fire and fury hasn’t waned 1 iota. Led by vocalist and guitarist Martin Menes Molenda, this is the most brutal band on stage tonight in this competition.
Thick black and chunky metal riffs exude from MSD unreal setlist and has rendered Fibbers a sardine tin. It’s impossible to move anywhere and the uncomfortable environment of people squeezing in to see this band in such a small venue is growing. Eventually, it eases slightly and by that stage, they have done the damage.
Lead guitarist Greg Zielinski leads the pack in furiosity unabashed and unwavering. Drummer Paul Budzynski ties the monstrous bass lines provided from Paul Piszewski together, and the end result is the gaping maw of hell opened wide.
The windmilling from the audience is downright dangerous, especially in songs like ‘State of Mind’ and ‘Blinded by Light’. As they hail from Poland, the Polish community in Dublin has turned up in droves to support their boys. The votes are piling for the band ( as they have for every other band), and we are the judge’s table know that this is going to be a tough decision to make at the end of the night. Whilst the judges make their decision, there is a very special guest band to fill the void.
Belfast brutal death metal quartet Strangle Wire is the guest band for tonight. The lineup is compiled of vocalist Pete Clarke, guitarist Ross Duffy, bass player Greg Diffin, and drummer John Curlett, and Overdrive brought them down especially to close out on this magical night.
Strangle Wire rope into a relatively quiet crowd shaped by the ending of the first semi-final of Metal 2 The Masses but by the time the first song is done, the stage area is full again. Clarke has he absolutely sickening guttural vocals and the frontman ability that is in the same league as George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher, Chris Barnes, and Glenn Benton.
The personal touches of brutality that he embodies issue a deadly serious statement that this is a serious undertaking for him and that his personal investment is not a joke, nor is it a hobby. He means business.
As one after another of Strangle Wire’s visceral and very technical breakdowns pour from the stage, the attending audience (or rather, those still left alive after the first five bands tonight), are getting a second wind that is allowing them to get seriously behind the band and the music.
The riffs doled out by Duffy have some serious contention, and any dead in-between spaces of songs are drowned out by an industrial droning overtone that keeps the brutal theme alive. Not that it mattered much because as the band setlist progresses, the pit action evolves into a furore of whipping head and fists in the air.
The setlist is just 30 mins, but it does have enough more than enough to stoke the embers of the dying flames of tonight’s event. Curlett nails the rolls on all songs like ‘Heavily Medicated’, ‘The Failure Exhibit’ and my personal favourite of their setlist ‘Learned Wretchedness’. In tandem with Diffen and Duffy, this clarifies that the scene of brutal death metal is well and truly undead and kicking.
Strange Wire Setlist:
Through a Black Lens
Learned Wretchedness (new track)
The Failure Exhibit
The Games They Play
So back to business. The judge’s decision for the first band to go to the 2019 Grand Final on May 18th is Old Season there was a neck and neck race for the crowd vote, with Creep progressing by one vote alone to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for the crowd vote.
Next weekend will see Semi Final B playout with performances from another slab of quality homegrown Irish Metal. Click here for details.
Check out the full photo gallery courtesy of Down The Barrel Photography below;
Words – Shaun Martin
Photos – Down The Barrel Photography © 2019
Strangle Wire photos – Exposing Shadows Photography © 2019