Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses Semi-Final 2 – Belfast, Voodoo – 5 May 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Friday, 12 May 2017 04:00

So, here we are again – it’s hard to believe that a month has passed since the first set of gladiators to enter into the final stage of this year’s fight to the heavy metal death had battled for glory in this very arena.  But, lo we are again, with five more sets of bold young warriors preparing to enter the fray in this do-or-die-trying bid to earn a coveted slot on the New Blood stage at the annual Bloodstock bash.  The smell of adrenaline, sweat and spilled beer hung pungently in the air as the baying spectators filed into the cramped room, the judges donned their robes and took up their vantage points and the combatants flexed their muscles before taking to the field of honour…




The running order for the competition is drawn on the evening of each event:  funnily, tonight’s bands came out in exact reverse alphabetical order, meaning that Oracle were the first to whet our metallic appetites.  They deliver big, beefy riffs which are coupled with winding double guitar harmonies and a thick bottom end, characterized by the NOLA-esque vibe on the rhythm work.  They are technical, but not wanker-ly so, and tight as fuck:  they’ve obviously put in a lot of practice, and a fair few road miles, in between their heat and tonight, and they definitely possess plenty of verve and vim in their dark grooves, as they deliver a suitably neck-nodding beginning to the evening’s proceedings.




After a false start with their intro, blackened metallers Neamnhí launch a ferocious aural assault: fuelled by seismic blastbeats and volcanic rhythms, it’s hard to see the guys as they set the pace with their hair-flailing (well, apart from the shaven-headed Stevie M) and threateningly neck breaking collective moshing.  The corpse paint may be (temporarily) gone - due to the sheer heat in the venue – but the intensity level is ratchetted up to 200 per cent proof, with an incendiary aftertaste that will rip every cell from your cranium.  This is another “young” band who are evolving very quickly:  it’s fierce, unrelenting stuff, but at the same time filled with superb technical and an innate sense of their craft.


Elder Druid


It’s a change of pace for Elder Druid, who bring the doom, with huge swathes of dense, bass-driven fuzz topped off with swirling double-guitar melodies, which in turn are underpinned by dark rhythms which pulsate and vibrate around the intimacy of the venue.  After their second song, the guitarist hits major technical problems which see him scurrying back stage for running repairs, but the band have enough nous about them to be able to carry on until he rejoins the fray as if nothing had happened.   It shows the tightness of this well-practised band, whose sound is characterised by deep throaty growls which emanate from the bottom end of the bass through the guitars into the vocals, in a performance as solid as the concrete in the £53 million hotel development around the corner.


Beyond The Beneath


Another slight change in mood, as Beyond The Beneath deliver old school heavy metal with a doomy undercurrent… But, there’s more technical problems – this time of a slightly more serious nature, when, less than a minute into their second song, Badger manages to kick through the skin of the bass drum, bringing the set to an abrupt stop… But, a roll of gaffe tape later, they pick up right where they left off and deliver ‘One Shot From Hell’, with blues-fuelled riffs steeped in a subtle Texas-meets-Nevada vibe mixed with elements of NWOBHM to create a feel that is all their own.  Their energy level may be more subdued than the previous bands, but the passion is obviously there, as is the craftsmanship.  The now repaired drums are snappy in their precision, Davy’s bass growls and grunts and Calum’s guitar soars and sweeps, the melodies mixed with effectively brief riffs, all topped off with suitably acerbic and laconic vocals.




Unfortunately, the crowd has thinned out quite substantially by the time Bäkken take the stage, with most of the fans of other bands having left after the particular acts’ sets – a common problem with this competition, but one which is obviously difficult to get around.  Being based in the north west, Bäkken also suffer from the fact that they have little or no automatic fanbase in Belfast to turn out in same way the other bands have been able to attract loyal local supporters… Nevertheless, they rip into their set with venomous fire, delivering solid old school thrash very much in the mien of a nascent Megadeth.  The recent addition of Selene bassist Thomas Alford to their ranks has undoubtedly added a much-needed depth to their sound, and they are another band who have very much upped their game from the heats, when, to be honest, I thought they were ropey and incoherent.  Tonight, however, they are taut and dynamic, bleeding with the fury and passion of every aspect of their performance and sharper than a wolverine on the scent of a traitor, pulling a show-stealing set out of the fire with a truly humungous performance which leaves this reviewer for one begging for them to make a quick return to this part of the Überverse.


… And so it came to the final reckoning.  Which warriors would be raising their axes high, quaffing a celebratory mead and praising the gods of metal for smiling upon them?  Well, after much abuse of his trusty abacus, promoter James Loveday stepped into the single spotlight and announced that Neamhní had romped home in first place, with a massive 26.4 per cent of the combined audience/judge vote. Worthy runners up, with just under 20 per cent of the vote, were Elder Druid, while Oracle snatched the third and final place in the six-band shootout that is the grand final, which takes place at Voodoo tonight (Friday 12 May).


PHOTO CREDIT: All photos © The Dark Queen/ Über Rock.


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