Tonight, however, is far from paradise, as the air is tense, and 5 more bands are ready to suit up and enter the arena to slug it out onstage for the chance to progress to the semi-finals in April. Shaun Martin was on hand to observe another spectacular night of amazing music.
Five more bands are ready to rock and roll, and Dundalk metal devotees Words That Burn are the first band in the race tonight. Fast-paced and very tight indeed, WTB give little warning before vocalist Roni McRuiari opens the initial scream on the first track “Disappear”.
It certainly blows the cobwebs out of the lugs, and immediately, Fibber Magees is wide awake. Their signature sound of Deftones/Killswitch Engage/Bring Me the Horizon shatters the calm moods of even the coolest of cucumbers in the venue, because everyone is on their feet and moving to the heavy, heavy, heavy riffs supplied by Shane Martin on guitar, Ger Murphy on bass, and Jason Christy on drums.
McRuari ferociously growls his way through their 5-song setlist and focuses hard on the sombre melodic pitches that he weaves between parts of his song delivery. It isn’t all rainbows and lollipops here though because no sooner does a quiet part begin and end when a monstrously raucous verse sets up the feral choruses of songs like “Unalive”, “When We’re Forgotten” and “Chalklines”. Murphy adds some extremely funky bass licks to the backline, supporting Martin up front and centre on lead guitar roles (which he handles flawlessly). Christy on drums is the glue that keeps it all together in beast mode. brutal cymbal crashes and trembling breakdown rolls are synced effortlessly from the very start to the very end, and although it was a bit tough opening the night, it sure as hell isn’t as easy closing the setlist. The smell of blood is in the air, and Fibbers want more.
Even before the second band Stone Sea take their setlist to us, bass player Jeremy Burke has the top whipped off, ready to get stuck into the task at hand. I hadn’t heard of Stone Sea before, as they have been fairly quiet on the promotion front, but good God, when these guys started to play, it didn’t matter!
There are a few newcomers tonight, but this will be a band talked about for a while. Stone Sea blend easy-to-play riffs with what can only be described as professional experience (either that or they’re incredibly lucky), and deliver a masterclass of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The licks are just too easy to see and to play but when the sound reaches our earholes, it’s as if Black Sabbath and Silverchair had a baby. They’re a great reminder that you don’t need to be a wizard on the guitar, or the drums, or the bass – all you need is patience and timing, and a lot of practice.
Frontman Elvis Suhadolnik Bonesso is having way too much fun to be taking this seriously, but it’s just their delivery of basic 3 to 4-note riffs that understandably bring them so much joy in their setlist. The heads are banging, the feet are stomping, and the pit swallows a few unfortunates (one lad in front of me has his shirt completely ripped off him… he looks like he was thrown out of a car at high speed!), and there’s not a scream to be heard from the stage. It’s metal, and its heaven.
Drummer Ross McDermott is the real star of this band, however, as the gradual buildup that he employs in every song is a trademark move that only a few have mastered, and when the wave crashes down, it takes everything and everyone with it. Their third song ‘Seeing Red’ has the entire floor in a whirling maelstrom of limbs and bodies, but song 4 (Seeking Time), has everyone singing at the top of their voices. That all goes great, but their last song ‘Peace at Ease’ just falls short of the incredible expectations that they have set themselves up for. It’s just a bit too radio-friendly, and it’s not a patch on the amazing songs that just got played here tonight. Stone Sea will, however, be back on the scene in March with a few gigs lined up so be sure to stay tuned to their Facebook page.
Instrumental prog-metal quartet Aponym settle into the 3rd place slot tonight. With a rock-solid guitar section supplied by Cillian Plummer and Dave Longan, the riffs come fast and heavy. Sample tracks permeate their already blitzing setlist and add to their unbelievably complex circuitry onstage. Aponym have an arsenal of riffs and licks and sure as hell aren’t afraid to use them. Skinman Christopher O’Sullivan is a man possessed here though – keeping time in an off-time sense. Prog metal is notoriously difficult in arrangement and timing, and it takes a lot of concentration and focuses to keep the beats mixed with the relentless change of tempo, pace and duration of song sections.
Each man is 100% focused here and the look of concentration from bass player Dave O’Mahony makes me happy that I’m not in his shoes. Some songs are, however, a little hard to follow. The beats and sections of their tunes like ‘Life is a Wounded Stag’ and ‘Grandstander’ echo some Frank Zappa-like zaniness and can catch you off-guard. It’s experimental prog at its best all the same, though. It enables you to switch off and rock out in your own way and in your own world, and there are few bands that allow you the mental space to do that. Aponym are one such band. No questions asked.
Fourth up tonight is dark horse Infectious, in their first outing in M2TM. Infectious is exactly how they sound – infectious. Their chunky down-tuned riffs are bubbling out some very heavy sounds from the stage (where Mikey O’Riordan on vocals is channelling his inner Randy Blythe and Phil Anselmo: being able to switch between clean and death vocals in a heartbeat). Guitarist Mark Dempsey pushes the limits of his Ibanez S470 in the crush department, having laid down some seriously hard-hitting and hooking groove metal riffs which are getting the crowd behind the band.
Injecting vibrant and notably difficult chord arrangement into their songs, Infectious run riot with songs like ‘Son of Death’, Atrocity’, and ‘Promise’. O’Riordan’s enthusiasm cannot be faulted for a moment here, jumping down off the stage and starting a wall of death on his own by separating the crowd all by himself. It’s this type of self-belief that sets frontman apart: if you want something done, go do it yourself and stop waiting for someone else to do it for you. I think that kind of lesson could apply to many more facets of this competition, and indeed many other facets of people’s lives. Infectious call it a night, and the last band start to get their shit in gear.
Jet Fuel Chemistry is a 5-piece hard rock band from Dublin who have their heart set on getting to the finals in May here in Fibber Magees. They have a healthy following already here tonight (this is where the crowd vote matters folks – bring the people who will vote for you!), and the floor is crammed full of punters for JFC’s blistering set. Looper frontman Dan Cusack looks very at home on the stage and seems to be really getting down with what he’s at behind the mic. JFC’s catchy tunes are catching everyone here tonight, and the audience are really getting stuck into the movement of the music coming from the stage.
Guitarists Lorcan Macken and David O’Grady are going head-to-head igniting more and more adrenaline-fuelled mayhem in the pit that is growing in size (seriously…. people’s drinks are going everywhere and there were also tables knocked over – this is just nuts). It’s an indicator to the monumental effort being put into the setlist by the band, and Cusack seems hell-bent on causing as much damage as possible. JFC are slick in their delivery, pulling on previous experience as a Foo Fighters tribute band so they know how to walk the walk. I learn later that the double bass-monster behind the drumkit (Martin Killeen), is not a double basser, but a single pedal marksman, and I (up to this point), was certain that he had 2 pedals going 90 during the band’s performance. ‘Phantom’, ‘Dust’, and their closing “melter” of a song ‘Raised By Wolves’ upend the venue and they eventually bow out to the cries of ‘One more tune!! One more tune!!’, but the focus is now on the judge’s table, who have another mammoth decision to make.
Stone Sea gets the crowd vote, whilst Jet Fuel Chemistry narrowly gets the judges vote, sending both bands to the semi-finals in August, joining This Place Hell and Crossfire in the first list of bands set up for another shot at the title. The next heat is Heat 3 on February 17th, with Outbreak, RiffLifter, Creep, Arjuna’s Eye and Archaos queuing up to ply their trade for the hungry mob. Admission is free in, so you have no excuse! See you in the pit.
Metal 2 The Masses Ireland Heat 2 27/01/18 gallery.
Words – Shaun Martin
Photos – Down The Barrel Photography © 2018