Metal 2 The Masses (The Road to Bloodstock) is back with heat 10 at The Big Red. Tonight, four bands enter the stage and two go through victorious, and as usual, the results are 50/50. 50% panel and 50% the people in attendance. If this were a boxing match, “Sweet Caroline” would be played to inform us it’s about to start. But it’s not, so, erm, it’s not heard. Anyway.
Starting this evening’s festivities are Hertfordshire/London based metal outfit Suffer No Fools. They explode on stage as Jamie Newdeck smashes out riffs like it’s a bank holiday tomorrow, which it sadly isn’t. The band don’t look fazed being the first on stage, as they open with “Egypt” from their latest EP. The four guys fire through this energetic set for the slow filling crowd as all begin enjoying every decibel of the band, and Mike Taylor’s drums with Alex Bain’s bassline keeping the flow together. The end is nigh with “Prey”, a tune full of melody as Ali Khan’s vocals mould with collective riffs. I’d like to see a guitar battle between Ali and Jamie, but tonight they don’t. Maybe another time.
Smoke’s flowing under a drum kit, and five guys in black walk on stage to the sound of atmospheric doom. A pause, a drum beat, the throat roar, the guitar riff, this is Seven Main Sins from the graveyards of Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. This is full-on hardcore death power, even amidst the opening sound issues the Big Red attendees are witnessing a six-string bassist play his instrument behind his head. Is he a bassist or a contortionist? Seven Main Sins’ style of black metal shows the diversity this competition is about.
Coming on stage, two musicians looking like members of Adam Ant’s band, but they’re not, they’re London based Italian stoner/doom trio of a death metal grain, The Black Evil Blood. Their third member is Lucy, the mannequin on drums, who isn’t doing much, to be honest. The flamboyant metal lead singer/guitarist strolls around the stage playing riffs from Hell. He flashes the horn sign to the crowd; his tongue protrudes out. He crosses the coolness of an Italian Romeo and the presence of a Japanese professional wrestler. His bassist partner wears leather a-splendour, and she takes on the vocals with ferocity. During the final tune, “Out of Control” our Italian Rembrandt walks guitar in hand from the stage flexing his solo, his horn signs and tongue. He borrows a pint glass from one of the patrons, caresses the chords using this pint glass… one question, is this alcohol abuse? The Black Evil Blood offer another form of rock tonight, two members and a limbless mannequin have definitely been enjoyable to watch.
Final competitors are groove metallers, Empire Warning, who straight away take it up a notch with powerful riffs, Elsio’s scream and clean vocals from “Will I Ever” and “Stuck”, firing through to “Out to War”, “Verge of Insanity” and “Heil to The Rat King”. The crunching guitar riffs are rather exceptional as is the weighty bass. This band isn’t just Austin Powers groovy, they’re full-on southern trendkill. Jordan on drums plays for the first time as Empire Warning brethren, yet he’s showing no sign of fear or nerves, keeping the pace hi-tempo. The odd technical issue doesn’t dampen the headbanging cultivating in-front of me, nor the air guitar performers riffing to these West of London brood. I now wear earplugs due to age and sensitivity. Don’t try this at home but I removed these to check if their sound is blistering. It is and my eardrums did indeed split, but the good thing is that I have selective hearing and that’s thanks to bands like Empire Warning.
So once again, this brings us to the end of the night. Votes are in, counted by trustworthy counters, no postal vote needed… will we remain or leave? Sorry too soon?
The winners are: Seven Main Sins and Empire Warning.
Photos by Katie Frost Photography