It’s the second semi final at Metal to the Masses Coventry! Each band getting just 30 minutes to prove why they should be in the prestigious final, all in order to play Bloodstock Open Air. The Arches venue has become a home to many Coventry music lovers and tonight, everybody attended. The room was full from the start, eagerly awaiting the diverse group of bands about to hit the stage.
Taking the first slot were Oily Toys. A dark, slow and doomy atmosphere encompassed the venue as they attempted to enchant the crowd. A mixture of aggressive and mellow riffs droned throughout the set. The guitar was difficult to listen to in a few places due to tuning issues and this took away a lot from what the band have to offer. They have some fantastic ideas and the vocals are incredibly strong, it is unfortunate the execution wasn’t as tight as their performance demanded.
The Oily Toys front man has a brilliant charisma while he snarls down the mic, pacing possessed across the stage. Little time was wasted between songs, that is, pardoning the exception of taking off their Mothers’ Day dresses. They displayed some captivating rhythms during their set and concluded with a big, punchy track that pulled the performance together. Oily Toys don’t just have a great name, they have some amazing ideas that over time, could become monstrous.
Sleaze rock band Slack Alice began with an overly long wartime speech sample that completely misdirected me on what I was about to see. This is the first time I have seen this four-piece and I was left quite impressed. With each member looking like they came out of a different decade, the moment the music began, there was no question of what era they wanted to be in… and for the most part, I wanted to go with them.
The songs were very catchy, if not borderline ‘school of rock’ and each member had their own brand of unique playing. The guitar tone was bright and clear, however the bass almost matched this and lacked the lower end needed to punch in. The bassist moved magnificently to the almost-funk walks he had weaved over the rushed, but fittingly played lead. The vocalist could definitely hold a tune and provided enough showmanship throughout the songs.
Between the groovy tracks, though, the band felt a little lost and it became uncomfortable to hear the guitar being tuned through the PA. Overall, Slack Alice are an accomplished band who with small refinements could be grinding their way to a festival near you.
Make Duo’s Great Again duo Wave brought their mix of humour and hardcore to The Arches for yet another time in Metal to the Masses Coventry. As with the last few times I have been fortunate enough to witness them, Wave were tight together, energetic and entertaining. The guitar tone was a huge improvement from the earlier round where feedback would hit the back of your ear on every stop. This time, the tone was clean cut and precise. The bass effect was still there and the distortions sounded full. The drummer had kept to his promise of wearing corpse paint for the semi finals and it was good to see that eyes full of make up don’t hinder his great rhythm skills.
The audience were treated to not just one, but two new songs. One of which was humorously introduced as a track about the brilliant Stephen King entitled, “Stephen”. Wave were heavy and powerful. Their stage show was involving even during their songs and both members put in 100% the entire way through. They have this strange way of sounding like they must practice all of the time, yet, never actually practice at all. I love it.
Another first time for me was next with Devil’s Playground. This ultra-tight nu-metal band had three times the number of members than the previous band. The vocals stood out in this performance being both precise and emotional. There was not a single moment of something not sounding right or anybody looking out of place. The drummer had huge amounts of enthusiasm and seemed, as well as all of the other members, to be having an incredibly fun time on stage.
The tones were dialled with their role in the band in mind. The bass filled the rhythm and held the drop tuned guitars in place over the snappy snare. The songs were catchy and made you want to scream your lungs out for the choruses. The riffs although simple were solidly played. Some moments were almost crying for a lead line but this never got too overpowering as the clever use of vocal styles gave the melodies variation in often unexpected ways. Their stage show did on occasion seem too put together with the links between songs being noticeably identical to the previous, but this is absolutely nothing that would stop anyone from enjoying their show. It was a shame that the stage was too small for the band but then, I do know of a bigger stage they would suit….
Before the voting took place, special guests of the evening Abhorrent Decimation ripped the stage apart with their insanely fast and technical death metal. The guitar tones were acidic and snapped at you as the blast beats and double kicked moved your insides unwillingly. The band seemed to grow fonder of the shell shocked audience as their set went on. The audience? I don’t think they knew what had hit them. Quite simply one of the heaviest, most melodic and fastest bands to have graced that stage.
After the absurdity of what had just happened (it was seriously amazing) the votes came in. Announced as winners and heading to the final were Devil’s Playground and Wave.
Photos by Topher o’Meagher