LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!! It’s 7pm and the hordes of metal maniacs are queuing up outside Fibbers to get a front row seat to see the last hurdle that 6 brave hopeful bands have to leap to get the Holy Land in Catton Park – to share the bill with Gojira, Slayer, Anthrax, Mastodon, Twisted Sister, Fear Factory among dozens of others at the Bloodstock Open Air Festival in August.We at Overdrive can’t thank the BOA team enough for their dedication to M2TM and the work that they put in all year around to ensure that the future of Metal is evolving all the while being nurtured by all 28 Metal 2 The Masses regions. That alone is a major achievement and should never be forgotten.
So tonight, BOA HQ have sent their head-honcho, Mr. Simon Hall to pick one band for the Irish counterpart of the New Blood Stage and I really am glad I don’t have to make this decision. We all are… as this is the stuff that keeps you awake at night. Selecting one band to fly the Irish flag is no small matter, and we have been there at the start of the journey, and for one band, there’s a bigger journey that starts tonight.
Kicking us into high gear is AeSect. Frontman Mark Lennon’s vocals are core-rattling, axemen Dave Kennedy and Aidan O’Halloran are on top form as drummer Luke Peters and bassist Aidan ‘Willow’ Williams provide the backbone of the rhythmic battering that the band is responsible for. Kennedy assumes a vacant persona onstage, gazing into the distance maniacally while strumming to a seemingly endless palm-muted thumping section of their opening tune ‘Baal’.
The room is filling up even more as Aesect make the opening gash into the midriff of Fibbers. The velocity of the headbanging is a story worthy of telling on its own. There is no regard for neck welfare here, as bodies big and small ricochet off each other in a mauling pit. There are also members of bands who didn’t make it this far showing support as well, proving that there is a camaraderie among the metal scene in Dublin where they all are out for the music, not for glory (although that’s nice too). Some of the Aesect lads appear to have rubber necks as they headbang their way through “Mortal Coil’, skewering all in sound range with a vicious unpredictable blitz on the ear canals. Their EP title track ‘Devour the Earth’ is a heavy hitter and the band did a lot of promotion for the release, with Down The Barrel Photography on site at the shoot. This will be some night folks, because based on this performance, the bar has not only been set high, it’s in fucking orbit.
Next up is Zhora, progressive metal maniacs one and all. Even before the band start, the punters are screaming. They begin their set gently and slowly, teasing us and building the anticipation with the intro to their opening number ‘Voynich’, before belting us over the head with a ferocious wall of sound. Zhora are on fire tonight, with their trademark erratic (but highly talented), off-beat tempos and ball-busting breakdowns. ‘Jettatura’ (Italian for “Casting of an evil eye’), smothers the audience in a fog of glittering mastery of both guitars and drum sections, proving why Zhora are in the final.
Heavyweight contenders for the title from the start of the competition, they have jaw-breaking potential, despite not being as fast as other bands on the bill. But good things don’t always happen fast. I caught up with them after the show and asked why they felt they shouldn’t change their set-list. Frontman Colin Bolger said that ‘you should stick with what you know that works. Why change? Those four songs were good enough to get us to the final, so you should play what you know sounds good’. Never a truer word spoken, because they sounded fucking amazing.
Bringing us to the halfway point is Minus Ten Thousand Hours. Starting their set with a slow, finger picking guitar intro, MTTH change gear and toss Fibbers into a cauldron of malevolent fury. Granted, the crowd had started to thin a little, as both Aesect and Zhora kicked them ‘round the place, but 30 seconds into ‘Preach Commitment’, and the room is full again. Bouncing on the stage like it’s a trampoline, all but the drummer is running from one end of the stage to the next for the full time allowed on stage. Bass player Dylan Scully is the man of the moment as you’re left wondering is he the full shilling… how can you move so much and pull that kind of performance off? Sporting a kilt, DJ (singer/guitarist) holds the entire crowd in the palm of his hand.
The night is full of breathtaking talent as they keep the steady pace of the night’s excitement on the edge of the seat and alive with “Tidal Wave’ and ‘Gruesome Jerusalem’. MTTH are a little old-school, a little prog, a little punk, but all metal and they are definitely BOA worthy. They’ve got moxie in buckets and this is none more apparent than in their closing opus ‘I Cut the Gas Line’. Their outro to that song would rattle the dead and it is a fitting end to a monumental performance.
Call to Arms have been waiting for this night since the day they got wind of the competition. Their luck entering the competition hadn’t always gone smoothly, but they dusted away the competition of 29 other bands to get here and for such a young band, their name will be in lights soon. No other band have I seen pushing their participation more than Call To Arms. It is inspiring, admirable and commendable. Dean Donnelly leads the charge, from their Intro to ‘Vultures’, and their masterpiece “Imprisoned Darkness’. Drummer Ronan Murphy unleashes hell onto the skins and beats them with enough fervour to rival anyone in this competition. Cannoning into the crash cymbal seems to be second nature to him along with the mastery of his counterparts on guitar Dan Tyrell and Niall Ennis, and bassist Alex Caffrey.
Donnelly is a different man tonight however. His behaviour is slightly changed than what I’ve seen him like before. Given that he’s like the fucking Energizer Bunny (keeps going and going and going), his aim is not to change the minds of 100 or so people any more, it’s to change one. That’s Simon Hall, observing every single movement made by everyone. With the calibre of the performances that they’re up against, it’s no wonder that the game plan has changed a bit. This is the NATIONAL FINAL. You don’t get here by accident. Crowd favourite ‘The Core’ gets the punters taking turns on the mic and after which, Donnelly and co. bow out to make way for dark horses, Two Tales of Woe.
TToW waste zero time going for the throat. Charisma-soaked frontman Carl King immerses himself in his role as the controller of the night’s ruckus. The man is born for the stage, and is a natural musical leader. It’s as if his entire life had been created for this one purpose. The talent that he has for enticing the audience to move to the groove is as good as any I’ve seen before on the professional stage.
They are serious contenders for the BOA New Blood stage and with the relatively short space of time that they’ve been around, it is a wonder how they haven’t been picked up by a record label yet. Their new song (‘Burning Lands’), the first in 3 years, is their absolute pinnacle of their stage time, which is applauded by everyone in the venue, including Mr Hall himself (not that he hasn’t been banging his head all night like everyone else). The shredding ability of Dan Walsh and Justin Maloney serve as the tour de force of TToW and nothing pleases me more to hear it. The dark Black Sabbath infused with Clutch, vibe suits them perfectly yet their originality is obvious. Their vocal harmonies are also plentiful and it works very well with their sound. They could have easily been picked to close out ay small metal festival anywhere in Ireland or the UK, such is the stage presence they command.
Finally, we reach the final band to play at M2TM 2016, and the duty to close the competition in style falls on Ten Ton Slug. It’s a fitting name, because TTS act like they’ve been shot out of a ten ton magnum! It’ll smash you in half, and as I had missed both of their previous gigs due to other commitments, when I heard these guys play, holy shit! To state that they are heavy would be an understatement. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t even heard of these guys before the competition began. TTS gallop through the ear-holes of the Fibbers inhabitants and bring the heads off shoulders with their calamitous, gut punching, depth-driven insanity.
I cannot state how well this works, it just does. The combined efforts of Messrs Micheal Sullivan, Sean Sullivan, Eoghan Wynne, Adomas Trakumas, and Ronan O ‘hArrachtain make you stand up and take stock of just how novel and original sludge metal can be in Ireland. Influenced by the likes of Weed Priest, everybody in the audience has completely lost the plot when TTS lay the room to waste. There are no more heats, no more semi-finals, there is only the carnage that the 6 bands have brought tonight, and this year has been the most incredible to date.
This is also the hardest decision to make. All 6 bands are worthy of playing BOA, but only one can. Hall takes a second because admittedly, one could get emotional having to turn away so many incredibly worthy bands, himself being a member of Beholder, and knows how hard it is to make the big time. After what seemed like an eternal wait, he declares Ten Ton Slug victorious, and will fly the Irish flag at Bloodstock’s New Blood Stage.
But Hall isn’t done there… he wants Two Tales of Woe on the Jager Stage too! Once again, two Irish bands make it through the battlefield, following the footsteps of Animator and Snowblind for 2015’s competition. Call to Arms win an Electronic Press kit courtesy of Overdrive, once again winning the crowd vote to further their career in this business, and further it will go. Mark my words. The other remaining band members of Aesect, Zhora and Minus Ten Thousand Hours join in the festivities afterwards, as we clock out of M2TM 2016 and get on with our Saturday night out!
So once again, we reach the end of another thrilling season of Irish metal. I am truly impressed at what talent is out there in the Irish metal underground, lurking in the shadows and circling the spotlight on the stage like a wolf hunting a deer in the night. It’s been another hell of a ride, with my personal thanks to Oran O’Beirne at Overdrive, Kevin Kirwan at Jetrocker, Steve Dempsey from Down the Barrel Photography, Robbie Mcabe at EHT Promotions, all the staff at Fibber Magees, every single member of very single band in this competition that caused me to pick my jaw up off the floor on more than a few occasions, and to you the Overdrivers out there who keep this shit going. See you all in 2017, when we’re gonna do it all over again. Long live Irish metal!
See you next year…….
Photography – Down The Barrel Photography
© OVERDRIVE 2016
BLOODSTOCK METAL 2 THE MASSES – IRELAND FINAL GALLERY
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