[Editor’s apology – Topher had this submitted to us ages ago because he’s awesome and punctual, I just lost it in the emails – Mosh]
It’s been a fantastic journey for this year’s Metal to the Masses Coventry! Being the first date of the finals across the country, the atmosphere at The Empire was electric. After 4 heats and 2 semi finals the 4 bands competing for the coveted spot on the New Blood Stage at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air Festival were ready!
We’ve been seeing posts from all of the bands in their last few days of preparation and it is clear how much being in this competition means to each and every one of them. Djinova, Desolation, Black Water Fiend and Callous Hands were there to prove something to themselves and the rest of the local unsigned scene and that was to show that they can tear up a stage with the best of them. And oh wow, didn’t they just!
To take to the stage as the first band of the night always comes with an acute touch of nerves but Callous Hands went out and confidently showcased, in parts, a wonderful display of progressive death metal. Although I found the vocals lacking in variation, the riffs were choppy, tight and melodic. Every band member was visibly pushing their performance and allowed the audience for the first time to see what they can do on a much larger stage. Where the variation lacked however, the frontman during instrumentals would be egging on the rest of the members, running back to the drums, swerving across to the sides and forcing himself onto the wide eyed (and eared) audience. This is only something silly, like their 4th ever gig and they certainly give seasoned pro’s a run for their money. Great stage presence and decent song writing, Callous Hands could very well be one of the next explosive acts on the underground scene.
Next up were Desolation. The band with the hardest snare hitting drummer I think I’ve seen. Overall, their performance wasn’t as tight as I had previously seen in the other heats but their stage show skyrocketed for the final. Soaring clean vocals were met with deep, gnarly snarls and the joy of being on stage was infectious. This band has a huge amount of potential and their frontman is simply fantastic during the songs. More crowd interaction and the musicians being less static would have boosted what was a solid death metal performance.
The band following Desolation was my personal favourite find during Metal To The Masses. Black Water Fiend are a combination of alternative rock from all eras. They lean to the subdued, tame side of rock keeping class and elegance woven into their art. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have explosive, catchy choruses and instrumental sections. Like the previous band, Black Water Fiend have a huge amount of potential for being such a young band. I’m not convinced however that currently they can fill such a big stage. The 3 piece have the songs, in fact, some great songs. They have the stage presence. It’s just unfortunately the sound didn’t feel full. They sit in a unique section of the alternative rock movement where they are fortunate enough to be able to benefit and modernise, playing with backing tracks or look to other methods of creating a bigger soundscape. It could be as simple as using duel cabs on stages. I kind of hope they go for the backing track route because the atmosphere Black Water Fiend could create would blow every other band out of the (black) water. The Fiends.
After an awkward start of the intro not working (what was I just saying about backing tracks?), Djinova took to the stage as the last band to compete. This is their 4th time competing in Metal To The Masses and each year they’ve encountered line up changes, but amazingly, to their strength. They have certainly become more professional and tighter as a band over the years. The new line up is solid. Great frontman, decent drums and utter ridiculousness on the stringed instruments. I’m personally not a fan of the over distorted vocal effect. It does sound cool in the songs but it’s not needed, and then between songs the illusion of awesome metal vocals is taken away. There were a couple of moments where some of the band looked a little lost in the sections, but overall Djinova displayed a solid performance full of movement. When they are on form there is no doubt that this band are one of the best death metal bands around.
As minds were being made up on who will go on to play Bloodstock Open Air, last year’s winners Pelugion went out and showed exactly why they got to go and play on the New Blood Stage. Their mix of metal and rock pounded across the venue in a tuneful, slightly angry, melodic wave. It felt like a bit more of a serious performance by frontman Andy to how I’ve seen them many, many times before. And you know what? I loved it. Pelugion are an adaptable, diverse and entertaining band. I dare you to see them without having being reeled in by at least one of their numerous hooks.
Ending the night in a fast, blurry, trash blast, Xentrix hammered home one of the best sets we’ve seen in a long time in Coventry. Playing a mix of material from their superb catalogue of music, the audience were able to witness a masterclass in thrash. The not-so-new frontman Jay Walsh sells every lyric and every riff with precision, charisma and he is militant in the pursuit of ripping off faces (with music, of course). Long live thrash. Long live Xentrix.
It was time to announce the winners of Metal To The Masses Coventry 2019. After a terrible, terrible rendition of a lip-sync battle, Djinova were crowned champions. It was a tough night for all of the bands competing and I cannot wait to see what the next instalment of Coventry’s best battle of the bands completion has to offer.
Photos by Watchmaker Studios