Interview by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since Simon Hall came to Dublin and chose not one, but two Irish bands to play at the same festival, on the same day, as Rob Zombie. Runner’s up were Snowblind, who got to play on the Jagermeister stage, and overall winners Animator, who got to play on the New Blood Stage (see our interview with Animator here and review of both bands’ performances at the festival here).
This year, the Bloodstock Open Air Festival features massive bands including Slayer, Anthrax, Mastodon, Gojira, Twisted Sister, Behemoth and Venom. And tonight, in Fibber Magee’s Rock Bar, six of the best up-and-coming metal bands in Ireland are competing for a chance to add their name to the lineup posters. The Metal 2 The Masses competition has been running since January with the 35 first-round acts whittled down to the cream of the crop via crowd votes, guest judges and the M2TM panel.
Once again, the unenviable task of choosing a winner falls on the shoulders of Bloodstock’s own (and Beholder frontman) Simon Hall. Preparing to blow him away are AeSect, zhOra, Minus Ten Thousand Hours, Call To Arms, Two Tales of Woe and Ten Ton Slug.
Before the final, we asked each of the bands to describe their genre and influences, and here’s what they told us:
AeSect: We usually don’t like to put genre tags on ourselves as we think its more up to the listener to decide. We’ve been associated with many genres by various reviewers and journalists including Death Metal, Modern Metal, Deathcore, and occasionally Thrash metal. We’re influenced by any band with an energetic and engaging live performance, that’s something we always work hard at and are proud of as a band.
zhOra: We try to steer clear of genres, labels and trends. Our music is not limited to any one scene. It is an amalgamation of all of our entire life experiences. We write with brutal honesty. The world around us and the world of our internal minds is our main influence. We have individually stretched the bounds of our own perceptions these past years and we do our best to translate that through our music. Others have lumped us in with Doom, Sludge, Progressive metal. Take your pick really. We like to cover ALL the ground.
Minus Ten Thousand Hours: We’ve been asked this countless times and we still don’t know how to explain it. The best one we’ve heard is “iPod Shuffle” or sometimes we just call ourselves a schizophrenic band
Call To Arms: We just call it metal because we have a bit of everything for everyone. As far as influences go we listen to a variety of music and not just metal, our first EP Invictus had some hardcore influences for example. We are inspired by bands such as Gojira, Lamb Of God & Machine Head to name a few, but again, we like to keep an open mind. That helps with the writing process especially when someone has what would seem like an extreme idea, but we try to make it work as best we can.
Two Tales Of Woe: We have our very own genre – sloom! It’s a mixture of sludge and doom which I think describes our style very well. We all have varying tastes which brings a lot of influences to the table, from the twin guitar breaks of Thin Lizzy to the crunchy cement mixer riffs of Crowbar, we believe there’s something for everyone!
Ten Ton Slug: We play sludge/groove metal; it’s heavy and groovy with guttural vocals accompanied harmoniously by Ronan’s demented shrieks. We’re influenced by the likes of Crowbar, Sabbath, Sepultura, Electric Wizard, Pantera, etc.
Perhaps the best praise can come from your peers, and on that thought, we asked each of the bands to tell us about their fellow semi-finalist qualifiers for the final:
AeSect: Minus Ten Thousand Hours caught us very much off guard in the semi finals, they bring a really impressive energy to the stage and definitely have a unique sound, very much worth checking out!
zhOra: Call To Arms have a real youthful exuberance. I think the word I’m looking for is gumption. My first time seeing them was in the semi final heat and they were going hell for leather. The singer has buckets of energy and they all look like they love what they do and really immerse themselves in every song. I’m sure they will bring a lot of energy to the final.
Minus Ten Thousand Hours: AeSect are ridiculously talented and outstanding performers, one of the tightest and most technically gifted bands to come from Ireland in a long time.
Call To Arms: zhOra took on the difficult task of opening the Semi Final and they stepped up to the challenge. We are honoured to play with them and what we would call some of the best bands in Ireland in the final of M2TM.
Two Tales Of Woe: Ten Ton Slug played the semi-final with us and we were blown away by their ferocious riffs and intimidating stage presence. These guys own any stage they’ve taken to and they are a sound bunch of lads to boot. We were (almost) more excited to hear their name called out than ours! That night we instantly planned an Irish tour with them and Nautilus so keep your ears open for that.
Ten Ton Slug: Two Tales Of Woe are good mates and a savage band. They’re definitely our closest brethren musically in the competition. They’d be extremely deserving of a slot at Bloodstock.
All of the bands in the final have names that beg questioning, so we asked them to tell us where the names came from and whether they are as relevant as when they coined them.
AeSect: The name came about from the guys liking the name “Sect”. They thought it needed something extra though to make it a little more distinct and individual; hence the “Ae” was added to the front of it! We think the name is quite unique and memorable, and hopefully will stick in peoples heads more so than lots of the generic band names everyone sees out there.
zhOra: Coining a name for ones band is a terribly difficult process. Every good idea you come up with seems to be taken or used to death. One faithful night while my mind was being enraptured by Ridley Scott’s sci-fi odyssey “Bladerunner” I was completely blown away by a particular scene in which a replicant named “zhOra” was annihilated by Harrison Ford’s character. As she crashed through multiple panes of glass in slow motion I knew that her name would be perfect to describe the effect we as a band wish to have upon the world. Of course the underlying themes in said movie have influenced us as people and inevitably our sound. We are currently putting the finishing touches to our second album which is a full on conceptual sci-fi odyssey in it own right. A sprawling tale of a bloodthirsty despot, his feral minions, alien visitation and the illusion of choice. It’s titled “Ethos, Pathos, Logos” and it will blow your fucking mind!
Minus Ten Thousand Hours: Our name comes from the idea that it takes ten thousand hours to master something. We’re on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, but hey who wants to know everything about anything?
Call To Arms: We went through a number of names before we decided on Call To Arms. Our singer, Dean Donnelly, took a page out of Avenged Sevenfold’s book and looked through the bible and saw it there and everyone liked the sound of it. As far as meaning goes, not everything has to have a specific meaning; it is the music that matters here, not a name or an image.
Two Tales Of Woe: Our name came about when this band was initially intended as a side project and we were only going to produce two recordings then disband. But we then became a full time project, and the name stuck. I think our name still has relevance around the local metal scene (I hope!). We considered changing our name but thankfully decided against it!
Ten Ton Slug: The slug chose us!
A night of ear-melting metal and manic moshing ensued, with each band getting thirty minutes to show their wares. It has to be said that the quality of the finalists in this competition has improved every year, and this year we are treated to six incredibly talented performances. The crowd in the tiny venue are a mix of fellow M2TM bands, their loyal fans, and those who know that this is the place to see the next generation of Irish bands who will soon be touring Europe and the World. The camaraderie and support shown by all the bands has been exemplary and it’s great to see such team spirit.
When it finally comes time for Simon Hall to make that all-important announcement, it’s plain to see that he is not happy to have to single out just one band to bring to Bloodstock with him. Before letting the cat out of the bag, he pulls a raffle ticket for the customary free ticket to the festival which also comes with a camping pass and a crate of Hobgoblin ale delivered to the lucky winner’s tent by none other than Simon Hall himself. Some guy called David wins the ticket, but that’s the last thing on the collective minds of the bustling crowd gathered at the foot of the stage.
A massive cheer erupts when Simon informs us that he was unable to choose just one winner, and once again he is bringing TWO Irish bands to Bloodstock. The band who will have a slot on the Jagermeister stage are Two Tales Of Woe, and the overall victors who will play on the New Blood stage are Ten Ton Slug. A crowd-voted runner-up prize of a Press Kit sponsored by event organisers Overdrive.ie goes to Call To Arms. Needless to say, there are no hard feelings among any of the bands who won’t get to play at Bloodstock this year, and there are group hugs all round. Ten Ton Slug look genuinely dazed by the announcement, but they accept their reward humbly and graciously. We’re sure they’ll represent Irish metal proudly in Derby in August.
We asked both of the chosen bands to tell us which of their own original songs they enjoy playing live the most, and if there is significance or meaning to the songs lyrically or otherwise.
Two Tales Of Woe: I think the one we all love playing live is ‘Not Ready to Die’ which is a song about an elderly person not giving in to death, still willing to fight ’til the very end. Not a very metal subject for a song I know, but it’s quite a powerful song in every way.
Ten Ton Slug: ‘Slug Grinder’ is one of them; it’s heavy and groovy and there’s a great buzz playing it, or ‘Unit’, which we’ll be releasing very soon on an EP. They both tell the tale of the brutal gluttonous beast. [The Ten Ton Slug]
We also asked them what band, scheduled to plat ay bloodstock 2016, would they most like to jam with, and what song would they jam on?
Two Tales Of Woe: I think we would all say a different band, but one band the five of us definitely agree on is Mastodon. These guys are making really interesting, compelling music in a genre where a lot of modern bands are just treading water. Would love to jam with these boys; we could compare facial hair grooming tips!
Ten Ton Slug: Corrosion of Conformity would be brilliant to jam with, on ‘Albatross’ or ‘Clean my Wounds’ as they’re just great tunes. Those or Mastodon – ‘Blood and Thunder’.
Two Tales Of Woe (based in Dublin) are:
Carl King – Vocals
Kelvin Dorian – Drums
Dave Butter – Bass
Dan Walsh – Guitars
Ten Ton Slug (based in Galway) are:
Micheal Sullivan – Drums
Sean Sullivan – Guitar
Adomas Trakumas – Guitar
Eoghain Wynne – Bass
Ronán Ó ‘hArrachtáin – Vocals