Words – Brendan O’Mahony
Pictures – Olga Kuzmenko
From 35 bands at the outset, the culmination of 9 months of work for the organisers and near 5 months of heats for the bands involved, Saturday night gives us the opportunity to see 6 of the best unsigned metal acts in Ireland right now battle it out for a coveted slot in the Bloodstock 2019 festival held this coming August in Catton Hall, Derby, England. A night of grunge, thrash, death and more is promised with the surely unenviable decision left in the hands of one man, Simon Hall, the booking agent responsible for bringing Sabaton, Anthrax, Scorpions et al to this year’s line-up.
Before the climactic finale, we asked each of the bands to tell us which of their own songs is their favourite to perform and why, and we asked them to tell us about their fellow semi-final winning band:
AeSect: Currently our favourite track to perform live has got to be ‘Martyr’. From the syncopated guitar parts to the heavy mid section. Lyrically the themes revolve around cults and mass suicides.
Black Shuck put on a great show closing out the semi final. They have a great sound and a great energy. They are big competition in the final as every band is and it’s something we’ve come to expect over the years. There are great things happening in Irish metal and Black Shuck are definitely a part of that.
Black Shuck: Our current favourite is either ‘Counterfeit Throne’ or ‘Red’. They are both so much fun to play! ‘Red’ for example, starts out fast and thrashy, but ends with a slow crushing, groovy breakdown, without feeling like its forced or jarring.
AeSect are tight as fuck heavy as all hell and a sound bunch of lad’s. What more could you want?
Creep: For me (Jason McGuinness) it would be “mind temple”. It’s a bit different than what we have written before. It’s basically about being trapped inside your own mind and screaming to get out.
We got to see Old Season at our semi final and they are very good! Individually they are all extremely talented and have a real chance of winning.
Old Season: For me (John Bonham), and I know the guys are similar in this, my favourite track would be ‘Nevermore’, just because it’s such a huge song where nothing is wasted, and is a strong statement of where the band is now. If I were to pick a favourite song from before I joined the band, without a doubt it’s ‘At The Hollow’.
Creep are a really good band. Obviously they have that grunge element which sets them apart from ourselves, as well as the other bands in the final. I think diversity in styles to showcase the metal scene really helps these competitions.
Fornoth: If it came to a vote, we’d probably say our favourite is ‘Passage’. It starts out fast, and the crowd usually sets the mood from there, so there’s always great energy when we play it. Beyond that, Daire’s lyrics really tap into the endless march of time and how anything physical, spiritual or emotional can’t endure that. That sort of natural decay, and the place of ourselves within that decay, is a core theme of ours so between the music, the crowd and the meaning it’s a huge song for us.
We had a lot of fun watching Organ Blender in the semi-final. They’ve some really intelligent brutality and it’s always great to see bands mix heavy and clever. Possibly the best name in the competition as well.
Organ Blender: Our favourite is ‘Blending’. It’s got loads of different parts but above all else its yet another song about blenders!
Seeing Fornoth for the first time in Semi-final C was intense! Great frontman and musicians delivering bone-shattering metal. Fucking legends!
Kicking off the night are Old Season, self-described as Epic/Melodic Heavy Metal, bringing influences of Judas Priest, Dio and Iron Maiden to the table. Having advanced through the competition by the votes of the judges a lot is expected from this set and they certainly look up to the task. The bands secret weapon is most definitely John Bonham on vocals making the vaults through the registry appear seamless. With tracks such as Scavenger, the 9-minute opus Nevermore and At The Hollow Old Season fly through their slot with ease and set an extremely high-bar.
Black Shuck, a 3-piece from Galway, are the second act of the night. A band that are difficult to pin down in terms of style, they’ve got a Pantera groove mixed with a bit of Sepultura, they too came through with the judges votes in previous rounds. Tracks such as Counterfeit Throne, Hound and Forbidden Fruit are filled with pummelling riffs driven by bassist Thomas Doherty, formerly of Bloodstock veteran’s Na Cruithne, and drummer Ian Doherty alongside new singer/guitarist Brendan Murphy. This is a seriously accomplished set from the individually experienced, yet relatively new band, which also gives rise to the first crowd walk of the evening as Murphy and Doherty get up close and personal to the attendees.
The third band to grace the stage tonight are the wildcard winners Organ Blender, playing in what is only their 5th ever gig. An Extreme Metal band obsessed with all things blended they have a drummer covered in blood and an intestine wrapped around the mic stand giving all the visual cues if the name alone wasn’t enough. A truly enjoyable set filled with songs such as Suction Chamber and Welcome To The Blender, drawing inspiration from Cattle Decapitation and Strapping Young Lad, which all bodes well for the future of this extreme trio.
The second half of the final starts with the grunge tinged Creep. A quartet from Dublin, they have been going for nearly a decade now and they have a big following in the crowd as is evident with the chants after each song. They came through both previous shows with the crowd vote but only one man matters this evening for the Bloodstock slot so they set to work with some cracking tracks in Mind Temple and Burn The Bridge. Only time will tell if it’s enough to sway Simon Hall.
Metal 2 The Masses veterans AeSect, in the final for the 4th time, are next in line to entertain the heaving, sweaty crowd. Assimilating Death with Thrash and Hardcore, they too progressed due to crowd votes from their previous two outings this year. AeSect have the crowd in the palm of their hands from the get-go. New vocalist Tony Carberry, looming over the crowd while hanging from the roof, with the twin guitars of Aidan O’Halloran and Dave Kennedy combined with the rhythm section of Luke Peters and Aidan Williams are a sight to behold. The technical ability is backed up by the stage presence from every member with Sky Burial and Blind Faith standing as testament to this.
After 5 blistering sets the 6th and final act are Fornoth bringing some Blackened Folk Death Metal to the proceedings. Yet another group who had come through on the votes from the crowd in their previous two rounds of competition, they have a substantial following in attendance tonight as well. Taking inspiration from Mael Mordha and Lamb of God, with intense stares and lyrics detailing the unending march of time and the decay of all things, Fornoth are an engaging band and a most encouraging snapshot of where Death Metal is in Ireland at this moment in time.
With all 6 acts now finished Simon Hall requires some time for consideration so the special guests for the evening are Ten Ton Slug, former Metal 2 The Masses competitors and soon-to-be performers at this year’s Bloodstock festival. A short but brilliant set that even included glowing toxic green slime on stage for Matriarch of Slime they just get better every time I see them and are definitely not to be missed at the festival. With best wishes for all bands involved Simon Hall is invited up on stage for the results announcement. Such was the calibre of all the sets, not 1 but 2 slots have been made available to the bands on show. The winners for the Jägermeister Stage slot are Black Shuck while the overall winners for a slot on the New Blood Stage are a most thoroughly deserving AeSect. With the quality on show tonight it is evident that the Irish Metal scene is in rude health and it is with a most heartfelt thanks to all at the Bloodstock Festival for their continued support.
We asked the two Bloodstock-bound bands to tell us their thoughts on the Festival and the Metal 2 the Masses competition, and here’s what they had to say [before tonight’s final]:
AeSect: A couple of us have been to Bloodstock before. It’s a smaller scale festival compared to other metal and rock festivals around Europe which we really like. It’s an incredibly well run festival and the lineup each year is always excellent. The fact that there is a stage dedicated to unsigned bands is pretty amazing.
This is our fourth time competing. Some of the best shows we’ve ever played have been Metal 2 The Masses shows. That’s due to crowds that come out to every round and getting to play with the best bands in our scene. The only thing that could make it better is if we won! [Editor’s note: I guess M2TM officially can’t get any better now!]
Black Shuck: Unfortunately we have not all been to Bloodstock (Fingers crossed this year!) but our bassist Thomas Doherty has played it with his previous band (Na Cruithne). The best story has to be almost being knocked down by the guitarist of King 810 and then drinking a bunch of Jagermeister with them!
This has been the best year of M2TM so far. We have played before in other bands, but this is only the second year for Black Shuck. The crowds are bigger, the hype is bigger and it has giving us a platform to get our name out, and we have had the chance to make contacts with other bands and make new fans that may not have been exposed to us. I would like to see more locations where the heats may take place. I feel like that would be a great boost to local metal scenes around the country.
Tony Carberry (vocals)
Dave Kennedy (guitar)
Aidan O’Halloran (guitar)
Luke Peters (drums)
Aidan Williams (bass)
Black Shuck are:
Brendan Murphy (guitar/vocals)
Thomas Doherty (bass/vocals)
Ian Doherty (drums)