On August 7th, Bloodstock Open Air Festival will open its gates again for three days of pure Metal, in all it’s incarnations. There have plenty of announcements about who’s playing, and on which stage, but up till now the New Blood Stage has been looking pretty bare. That’s about to change, as the regional finals of Metal To The Masses (M2TM) have now begun. For those who don’t know, M2TM provides a platform for unsigned and DIY bands to showcase their music to a wider audience within their native regions, through competition, with the prize being a slot on the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock, and ultimately the possibility of playing at Wacken Open Air.
White Rabbit, Plymouth had the honour of kicking off the finals tour this year, and did it in fine style. The line up was more varied than ever, with Tech, Heavy, Thrash, Groove and Folk Metal all represented! The judges were going to have their work cut out!
Opening up proceedings were CODEX ALIMENTARIUS… and what a start! They fuse so many different styles together seamlessly; it’s impossible to pigeonhole them. At the front, you’ve got the growls of Ray Arrell, at the back, you’ve got the thunder of Frank Dennis, but in the middle there was something very different going on. There we had three guitars, and they weren’t just there to fill the sound out, oh no. When they weren’t bombarding you with a groove that you couldn’t help but involuntarily nod, rock or tap to, they were building beautiful, intricate 3-part harmonies. There’s a surprise at every turn with a Codex Ali song! By the end of the second song, the crowd were theirs. As Simon Hall said at the end of the set, “They’re the first band on, on the first night of this tour. If that’s going to be the standard, well… fuck me!” ‘nuff said. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eYleyZp0i8
Second up were metalcore band, LANE END. These five youngsters from Mevagissey, Cornwall, had a tough act to follow, but even still, they are a band I’d file under ‘potential’. Musically, there were genuine flashes of brilliance. There were plenty of good things going on there, however, on stage, I thought they lacked a little cohesion. For example, when the groove hits, it’s not uncommon for the standing members of the band to rock, headbang, strut… you know the score. However, usually the band does this in unison. Lane End, by contrast, although the groove was solid, chose to move to their own individual rhythms. I found this distracting. Sorry. On the plus side, they have youth on their side, and have a lifetime to nail the stagecraft. https://www.facebook.com/LaneEndBand”
Next up were local heroes, and second-timers, WARCRAB. They’ve built a bit of a reputation for themselves in the last twelve months, or so, taking their ‘no frills’ metal to anyone who will listen… and it’s paying off! Warcrab also have three guitarists, but whereas Codex Ali used them to create intricate harmonies, Warcrab used them to assault you. To punch you in the guts, kick you in the nuts, make sure you stay down and then steal your dinner money! Frontman, Kane Nelson, is the fiercest growler I’ve seen since Katie Price went knickerless! There’s no subtlety here. The guitar solos felt like a part of the song, not a flourish that’s been thrown in. You never got the impression Geoff Holmes was showboating. In the time I’ve known of Warcrab, I’ve seen them become tighter, doomier and more focused. These are all good things, and the crowd loved it! http://www.reverbnation.com/warcrab
Once the bleeding had been stemmed, and we’d all had suitable counseling, it was time for a complete change. It was time for KING CREATURE. King Creature, by their own admission, are not a Heavy Metal band, in the modern sense. They hark back to the days of clean vocals, twin guitar attacks, riffs, chugs and hints of southern groove, with just enough growls and screams to give them that contemporary edge. This pleased me, and judging by the crowd reaction, it pleased them too. One thing to note, both guitarists play Les Pauls. By that, I mean they play with that ‘Les Paul’ feel, sharing lead duties within the same solo break, and with equal ability. An absolute pleasure to witness. I made very few notes during their set, so captivated was I by the song and stagecraft presented. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oKzzowgM-8
KAIDEKA were the most experienced band in the competition tonight, and it showed. From the off they owned the stage, using every inch to prowl, twist, turn and strut. Vocalist Dax Partridge, and guitarist Curt Nash alternately took the lead to work the crowd, whipping them up with their own brand of thrash. Confidence, bordering on arrogance, pouring from the stage with every beat. A band you could easily see holding a crowd on a bigger stage, without doubt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFjsJVABCU0
Last on the bill were Weymouth’s GYMIR, offering yet another twist on what can be done within the genre, this time Folk Metal. Yes, there are costumes, and yes, there are props, but Gymir avoid pastiche and parody, and instead presented a set of songs with mythological themes and melodies inspired from folk without descending into ‘cheese’. To my ears, their sound was a little muddier than others, possibly due to the introduction of keyboard strings being put through a rig used to amplifying crushing guitar sounds. Although the room was less full than earlier in the evening, the crowd were very receptive, indeed Gymir were the only band to get a moshpit going. A fine way to finish, before the unenviable task of picking a winner to go to BOA. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIxYx3lc_bU
After some considerable nail biting, hair pulling, self doubting and deliberation, the winner was declared. Well, actually, yes and no. The winner of the Metal To The Masses South West final was WarCrab. They get the New Blood slot and the other possibilities. However, the competition was so strong, that King Creature were invited to appear at BOA on the Jagermeister stage! A great evening thanks to all the bands, promoters and White Rabbit staff. Congratulations to WarCrab and King Creature. Commiserations to the other bands, but huge respect for making the competition so close.
Check out the Metal To The Masses tour dates and information here: http://www.bloodstock.uk.com/events/boa-2014/masses_venues
BOA tickets are available here: http://bloodstock.seetickets.com/event//bloodstock/catton-park/727717
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