Posted on by Oran

We can see the finishing line of the 2017 leg of Metal 2 the Masses, as the second of three semi-finals kicks off with 5 more bands past the first hurdle of this merciless contest. Only two bands will go through tonight to the final on May 13th. Overdrive sent Shaun Martin to see who had the guts to talk the talk and walk the walk.

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At the stroke of 8 pm, Crooked Edge from Rush in Dublin, hit the ground running. Soulful and sassy singer Fiona Garvey is the powerhouse behind the engine and she runs rampant on stage, filling her role fully, and comfortably so. The righteous riffage spewn from guitarist Ronan Duff, backed up by Ciaran Hillard and Steven Whearity on bass and drums respectively, only fan the flames. Crooked Edge’s songs are full of anger and rebellion, with titles like ‘Breakout’, ‘Revolution’, and ‘Hurricane’ and the guts to put them into motion are visibly present.

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The judge’s table gets the vibes all the way from the stage and they resonate through the crowd to electrify the audience. I look around and there are several very happy heads moving to the beats, so heartily dished out. The band is seriously riff-laden, and it’s just unfortunate that they are on first. A later time would have suited them better, enabling more people to hear just what this four-piece can do, but they don’t let it deter them one bit. Garvey’s vocal ability, however, is infinitely powerful. It’s almost as loud without the mic (because I heard her shout in the bar a little while later!). The band is on a cruise to popularity and they have the right mix of elements to ensure that happens.

Zhora are another group of battle-hardened M2TM veterans and have particular powers as musicians, one of which is a superpower. This is the ability to grow and develop as a band as they stay together. As frontman Colin Bolger told me last year “Stick with what you’re good at. Why change?”  The second slot is theirs tonight, sounding as proggy and sludgy as ever.

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Imagine a dream sequence entirely fuelled by a Mastodon soundtrack, and you’re on the right track of describing how they sound. Blending subtle notes of the melody, furious vocals and down-tuned guitars, harmonised with well-timed feedback section (which works in perfect synchronisation with their music), Zhora pulls a tapestry of notes together with relative ease and produce a host of quality songs and unrivalled musical aggression. All but bassist Alan Hanlan, get stuck into the vocals, but each is a master of their craft. Off-beat and impeccably timed, their blend is lapped up by the audience who have come to know Zhora quite well over the last number of years, as ‘Jettatura‘ (Italian for ‘Casting of the Evil Eye’), and ‘Server, Seer, Soothsayer’ are belted out. Zhora are hungry tonight….. and they smell blood in the water.

Bringing us to the halfway mark are Tension Head, from Mayo, who were triumphant in the third heat of the M2TM competition. NWOBHM-fuelled, Tension Head light a fire under Fibbers and fan the flames as best as they can. Getting stuck into the meat of the night, Tension Head give it their all and gradually attract the attention of the growing crowd.

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Frontman Neil O’Hora embraces his position as a would-be Bruce Dickinson or Rob Halford in true NWOBHM form but stops short of delivering awesome vocal prowess. It feels as if something is holding him back because you know he has it in him to deliver the goods. Ismael Davy, Sid and Declan all get stuck into the meal as well, but disaster strikes when their final song ‘Soulless’ has to be restarted from the middle. It’s a nasty shock to the system when everything seemed to be going so well. Like a jigsaw, all the pieces have to fit for the picture to be revealed and unfortunately, this just didn’t quite happen for Tension Head tonight.

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Antidotes are a force of nature. Fronted by vocal behemoth Stephen Cannon, they don’t just put their foot on the gas pedal, but they go through the fucking floor! They hit hard and fast, and I mean hard… you might as well have had a baseball bat broken over your head whilst being run over by a 4×4 because Antidotes are in the driving seat tonight.

Make not mistake about that. Canon leads his posse to bash the skulls of Fibber’s inhabitants and takes trophies on the way. The pit action fires up for the first time tonight, and it gets messy pretty quickly. Thunder rolls from the drumkit courtesy of Donal Bowens and the shred is supplied by Rob Gaffney, it is heavy and loud as hell, Cannon’s superb vocals add stage presence (and crowd interaction), leads the audience off a cliff into oblivion.

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Choke Point’ is the highlight for me personally, because I love the riffs and the crushing heaviness of the delivery. Bass player Leigh Walsh looks like he is gonna lose his marbles any time now and his persona on stage is slightly demented, making it a truly enjoyable spectacle. Antidotes are in control of the building (I’m not ripping off Hans Gruber,… I swear).

Catastrophe are the thrash metal injection that every mixed band lineup needs. A titanic performance from Jamie Murphy on vocals ploughs through the ears and a healthy dose of thrash is just what the doctor ordered. Shredders Adam Treacy and Gordo Casey are on point tonight and the hours and hours of practice put into their playing is very, very visible. Catastrophe have their own brand of delivery to which they serve out box-fresh tonight to the sweaty pit in front of the stage.

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Tracks such as ‘Terror Campaign’, ‘Propaganda’ and ‘God is Gone’ rip a new one into the belly of the audience if the pit action is anything to go by, Catastrophe has a boisterous future ahead if them. They create the biggest pit of the night and the dreadnought ploughs onwards til 11.30 pm.

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Our guest judges tonight are Ten Ton Slug guitarist Sean O’Suilleabhain and longtime Overdrive associate Eoin Lawlor. Animator, M2TM winners from 2015 along with Snowblind, make a guest appearance and provide the after-show masterclass in neck-breaking thrash, reminding the audience why they were selected by Simon Hall himself, to represent Ireland with their Big 4 thrash metal attack. Haven’t seen them play for a while, so it was good to kick back and watch them do what they do best. Their recently released EP ‘The Venom Within’ is a perfect example of why Animator are one of the best thrash metal bands in Ireland right now and as the riff-hungry crowd lap up every drop of sonic annihilation courtesy of gifted shredder Ryan Treanor, drummer Darren Bradley, bassist Barry Ryan and vocalist James Doughty.

Animator - The Venom Within

Animator are a colossal live act that continues to astound with each gig. Tonight they prove their weight in gold as to why they are destined for incredible things. Pick up a copy of ‘The Venom Withinhere.



Metal 2 The Masses Ireland Semifinal C Photo Gallery © Down The Barrel Photography 2017.

It takes a while (as always), but eventually, the judges make a decision and the crowd have done half of the work by selecting Antidotes to go through, and the judges select Zhora, by a very, very narrow margin. The next semi-final is this Saturday night, April 29th at 8 pm.  Na Cruithne, The Devil Wants Her Swagger Back, Freemen, Jailbirds, and Xerosun will duke it out to get those last coveted 2 slots in the final. Don’t miss this folk, because the corpses will be stacked high after this one is over. Click the graphic link below for the official event link.

M2TM semifinal C

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Shaun Martin


Dead Label Hammerfest