The time has come... from the start back in February to today, June 1st, 30 bands have been battling on a weekly basis for the chance to play at Bloodstock Festival. The Metal 2 The Masses competition in Wolverhampton has been the highest quality it’s been in years. Not a single bad band has graced the stage, and all are worthy winners.
Through six heats and three semi finals the 30 bands have been whittled down to six finalists. The game is hotting up now and the pressure is on. One of these six will grace the stages at Bloodstock this August alongside the likes of Sabaton, The Scorpions and Parkway Drive. Tonight, as a special treat we have two special guests. Previous M2TM winners and local heroes Ashen Crown, and one of this year’s main stage bands Evil Scarecrow.
First into battle are Kidderminster growlers Rustlung. Down dirty sludgy stoner rock at its finest. The final will need something special to win it and the boys are more than up for the challenge. They up their game from the semi finals hitting us with out and out aggression from the start. Deep, dark baselines throb as Pete’s guttural growl protrudes forth. They’ve come here tonight to win and on this performance there’s a good chance they will.
Second up are The Black Hounds, probably the band with the most experience and that shows in their stage presentation and overall musicianship. They are a sleek, note perfect outfit presenting the lighter side of the genre, often more hard rock than out and out metal. Ant is the ultimate in rock front men, a commanding figure owning the stage and the crowd with his showman ship. The half hour set, culminating in ‘Call to Arms’ lays their marker in the sand for the final. On par with Rustlung for us, but what will the judges decide later in the evening?
Third band to perform in the final are Eyes of The Raven. It is the bands third appearance in a M2TM final but so far they’ve always been the bridesmaids and never the bride. Is this to be their year? The beer swilling, waistcoat clad stoner rockers put on an outstanding performance, again lifting their game from both the heats and semi-finals. Frontman Dave has found a new level of confidence tonight, crowd banter levels are high as they rip through their allotted time, guitars screaming in unison this is out and out beer metal. Heads bang, first pump and the crowd chant their name. This set surely has put them at the front of the pack so far, but with three bands to go this competition is still up for grabs.
As an interlude to the competition special guests Ashen Crown step up to wow the crowd. They were outright winners two years ago and have already graced the Bloodstock stage. The band have an album due for release later this year and their growing fan base is testament to what winning this competition can do for a young bands career. Kieran growls, the guitars roar as their brutal death metal sound emanates forth. The future of the British death metal scene is in the palm of these boys hands and we can't wait to see what they'll do with it.
After the Ashen Crowd interlude we are thrown back into the scrap for a place at Bloodstock. Atarka are up next, having dominated both their heat and semi final, they were the betting man's favourite to steal the crown prior to the show but now it looks like they have a fight on their hands. However, Atarka have come armed, in the form of pyro and confetti cannons; they are in this to win it. They have brought a big following with them today, and frontman Jamie plays up to it throughout the set. He is a vibrant, energetic front man delivering a pitch perfect performance with youthful aplomb. The bands brand of heavy rock, mixed with metal and elements of hardcore strikes a chord with the crowd. As the confetti cannons fill the sky during their last song (with better delivery than Evil Scarecrow's cannons later in the evening) they must think they have this in the bag. A magical performance, best of the night so far, but it's not over yet. We still have two bands competing for that festival slot.
With Blood Church the theatrics are only just beginning. The Telfordian satanic death metal quartet showed through the previous rounds that they bring much more than just the music to the table. Either side of the stage two pedestals stand, with a mysterious shape on each draped in black. As dry ice pumps out across the stage the band emerge from the shadows, carrying an inverted cross and draped in black cloaks. The pedestals are unsheathed to reveal severed pigs heads dripping blood across the stage, the smell suggests these are very much real. Adorned in corpse paint and spitting blood the band launch into an adrenaline fuelled set of demonic metal wizardry. The bands style has been unique throughout the competition and these guys are the real deal. Brutal riffs and the haunting creams of Chris ring out capturing the essence of the bands ethos. The show is theatrical and filled with props but doesn't rely on the added extras, the music alone stands out and that will makes tonight judging all the more tougher.
To close out the competition are the no frills thrash metal upstarts, Elyrean. We first crossed paths with these young lads at HRH Metal earlier this year and at the time our draws dropped to the floor. They are not a band that jumps around the stage catching your eye with an energetic performance, but what they are is the very best new thrash
band we have seen in a long time. They have no gimmicks, no pyro, no corpse paint, they delivery to the point thrash metal wizardry and it’s their music alone that will blow you away. From the start of the performance the guitars of Will and Dan shred a wall of thrash sound, Will seemingly the reincarnation of James Murphy in style and sound. Asa cries out a scream as they blast through a ferocious thrash assault. The performance no doubt gives the judges a headache… just who will win the festival spot?
Whilst the deliberations take place, Bloodstock festival favourites Evil Scarecrow are tasked with entertaining us. Tonight’s special guest headliners will be playing the main stage at the festival later this year. As the room darkens ‘Rock You like a Hurricane’ rings out through the PA. This is going to be more fun than anyone possibly imagined. The set list is much the same as it always is, although a tad longer than usual. This staple of the Scarecrow show is what draws you in. We are treated to a very much extended Robototron tonight, as usual the whole room dances along, arms waving in synchronisation. The set broken up by the softer, less frenetic ‘Ballard of Brother Pain’ before the fun kicks off again through ‘Dance of the Cyclops’ and of course ‘Crabulon’. Whatever you think of the Scarecrow, live you can never fail to walk away with a big smile on your face.
With the headliners done its down to business, the 400 strong crowd gather and wait in anticipation. Bloodstock’s own Simon Hall talks to the crowd and tells us how hard its been to judge, we have no arguments there. But he has some surprises, first up Eyes of the Raven, who haven’t won outright tonight, have been offered a slot on the smaller Jägermeister stage at the festival. Next up we’re told just how close a call it was, one band, who remain nameless have been put on the festivals stand by list in case a spot opens up, but tonight’s outright winners and bagging themselves a guaranteed slot at the festival are Elyrean!