Review and photos by Tony Gaskin
If you’re going to make a statement of intent, then booking a 1000 capacity venue to hold a Metal 2 The Masses final is certainly a bold move. But the man beind Resin Events, Simon Yarwood, along with Matt Kirk of Firebug in Leicester decided that a big statement was needed to announce to everyone that Leicester does have a vibrant metal scene, and with just a few days to go before the big day the news filtered down that pre ticket sales had reached 850 so well done guys for taking such a bold step.
Of course the all day event wasn’t just about the M2TM final, the promoters had managed to attract some big names to play thus ensuring those valuable extra ticket sales, but first and foremost was the imortant task of choosing which local band would get that coverted slot on the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock.
The draw was made and first up was the bludgeoning maelstrom that is Garganjua. The iconic DMH trembled as the Doom pedallers threatened to level the regal old building, and fantastic to see so many early revellers in the hall to show support to these unsigned bands.
The aural assault continued with a blistering display of heavy thrash influenced Death metal from local guys Blood Oath. Inflatable swords suddenly appeared as if by magic from the heavens above and a full scale mosh pit battle ensued with the ferocious onslaught of Blood Oath as the musical score!
So two excellent sets down already and Bloodstock impresario and the man who had to choose todays winner, Simon Hall, must have already been in a quandry. And to give him even more of a headache were Rugby based Conjurer with their sludgy doom riffs and passionate display. A particular favourite of mine and the band I was gunning for. They will no doubt be a big name to watch despite what happens here today.
There is a mis-conception these days amongst those that don’t really have a clue that Bloodstock and M2TM is all about extreme metal, but the Festival and the quest to find the new acts is much more. Check out previous M2TM winners such as Resin and Sumer, along with special invited guests like Dakesis and Winter Storm. If you’re good enough and work hard at promoting your band then there’s no reason why M2TM and Bloodstock are beyond your band’s dreams. So it’s no surprise to find a grunge inspired local band gracing todays final.
Final Coil bring a serenity to the proceedings. A more melodic heaviness to grab your attention. They play a groovy set with aplomb, showing that this sort of grunge inspired progressive rock can quite easily sit alongside the more extreme genres, and I for one would love to see them grace the Jagermeister stage.
So last band up were local favourites and from what I was hearing many peoples tip to get through tonight. Hard rocking Temple of Lies get the crowd pumped up with their brand of groove metal. Catchy riffs and plenty of humour make this band a very popular draw locally and the early evening crowd which by now was quite significant, lapped it up.
But there could only be one winner, and Simon Halls choice for Leicester M2TM winners 2016 was Conjurer! But as has happened on many occasions before, Simon also offered a special invitation to Garganjua to play at Bloodstock this year, so congratulations to both those bands.
So, with the M2TM done and dusted the stage was set for an evening of top notch metal, and kicking it off were the popular local lads Internal Conflict. The quietly spoken and, lets be honest, diminutive Adam Kyle explodes onto stage had his persona flips over to a raging bull of a front man. The music is hard, fast and heavy, but manages to capture a melodic sound that smooths the edginess out. My companion is a veritable metal novice but she absolutely loved it. They certainly look the part up there on that huge stage, playing to probably their biggest audience to date and loving every second of it.
Inbetween bands on the main stage there were two other stages in the smaller bars either side of the main room, one with acoustic sets and burlesque dancers, and the other for some more intimate heaviness. On this stage I managed to catch Morass of Molasses, Aghast and Swamp Delta, whilst on the acoustic stage I was able to witness The Midnight Dogs and a stunning set from Resin.
But back to main stage where Mr Hall had removed his judges hat and replaced it with his front man of Beholder one. Yes it was time for the Midlands behemoths to grace the stage and with a new album still fresh in everyone’s minds, they raised the bar another notch. The new tunes have a much more progressive feel to them, and if I’m honest the current line-up is probably the best yet and the album has been one of the underground scenes best releases this year. Simon Hall is a consummate front man and between the songs and banter I don’t think he stopped smiling. Beholder are on a high at the moment and this is a great opportunity to see one of the best live metal bands at the top of their game, can’t wait to catch them at Bloodstock!
Uprising was all about showcasing the best local metal talent and then showing what can be achieved with some top notch bands from a wide variety of genres, so as Doom has played such a big part in the local M2TM competition it was fitting that the country’s premier Doom meisters, Conan, should be here today. Hot off the back of a successful European tour, the trio rocked the DMH to its foundations. The grand old girl has played host to many a legendary gig but I bet she’s never had to withstand an onslaught such as this. With the bass reverberating through the floor, up your legs and turning your back bone to jelly, you know Conan have arrived. The slow, hypnotic tunes wash over the packed room, heads nod in an almost metronomic synchronicity and after the blistering pace from earlier we’re almost induced into a state of catatonia, but we’re kept from going over the edge by the occasional change in tempo, just enough to keep us aware.
And awake enough to be mesmerized and blown away by the next act, Hell. The Derby based theatrical metal outfit brought their full stage show to Leicester and Uprising was extremely lucky to be able to put on the spectacular event. With erupting gargoyles and flame spouting tridents it’s easy to forget that there is a very good accomplished set of musicians here. Frontman Dave Bowers is on full evangelical mode, preaching to the masses and we lap it up. The highlight is when he strides out in full diablo mode, goats legs, horns and that flame throwing trident. A superb example of how to mix metal with eye popping theatrics, definitely the highlight of the evening.
I managed to catch my breath and head over to a packed acoustic stage where local heroes Resin put on a beautifully crafted set of covers and originals that well and truly put them back in the limelight. They’ve come a hell of a long way since I first saw the re-vamped line-up just over 12 months ago.
Unfortunately for me the evening ended up on a bit of a damp squib. The day overall had been fantastic. Great bands, great organisation and a great setting but last act of the night didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Motorhead legend Phil Campbell came out with his “All-Stars” to play out the evening but for me it was a rather lack lustre performance and basically a rock and roll karaoke leaving me to depart early, but to head off back to my hotel satisfied that the day had been a great success that has definitely put Leicester back on the metal map.
So an ambitious idea came to fruition in spectacular fashion and I for one hope that it will become a regular event.