On the fifth of January, The Unicorn hosted the 5th Heat round of Metal To The Masses (M2tM for short). Many of you are, probably, familiar with what M2tM is, and the process of it. But, for those who don’t know, M2tM is an annual competition held by Bloodstock, which celebrates its own 20th birthday this year. Bloodstock are looking for metal bands who are new to the scene, trying to find the best from each of the 28 regions the competition runs in. The winners are chosen through Heat rounds, where four bands play on stage, battling it out for the chance to go through the next round. Eventually, one band from each region is chosen and given the opportunity to play on the New Blood stage at Bloodstock in August.
In London, the Heats are held weekly at The Unicorn. Situated in Camden, The Unicorn is a privately owned pub that plays live music six days a week. A hotspot for London’s subcultures, it is famous amongst the capital’s metalheads.
The first band playing in Heat 5, Trevor’s Head, took to the stage just after 7pm. They formed in Surrey in 2010, and initially started with a bluesy, hard rock sound, but began to incorporate different genres as the years went on. Now, their music has elements of punk, grunge, progressive, and psychedelic rock. It would be most accurate to describe their current sound as “stoner rock”, but it’s clear they are no stranger to changing it up and developing who they are as a band.
Their music reflects this. They played songs that surpassed genres. They had two main vocalists, and they passed the spotlight between each other during the songs. Their vocals were strong, and they belted the lyrics effortlessly – each note, however powerful, looked easy for them. Their music was very guitar heavy, many of their songs focussed on following the riffs; but the drums still came through clearly, pounding strongly in the background of each song. Throughout their set, the members seem to have a friendly aura around them. It was clear to anyone watching that they were genuinely two close friends, which brings the audience in more. After their set, they encouraged us to “Enjoy the rest of the bands,” before descending from the stage. Trevor’s Head have multiple albums out, so I encourage you to check those out!
Enterfire came on next. The first thing I noticed as they started playing was that their music was clearly heavier than Trevor’s Head’s had been (the second thing I noticed was the vocalist’s long hair, which made my inner photographer jump out). The band was formed by the vocalist/ lead guitarist in London. Their music is influenced by thrash metal, but also aims to incorporate elements of progressive and melodic metal. As they got on stage, the crowd seemed to fill up more, the small space becoming tighter.
The vocals switch easily from hard and punchy to smooth and melodic – powerful riffs would cut through the thundering drums, giving the music a layered feel. Throughout the set, the vocalist dominated the stage, drawing out every bit of energy the crowd had. The charismatic performance pulled the crowd forward, and his interactions made us part of the show. He split the crowd in half, prompting an Enterfire chant from us. He got us to chant, sing, and started a frenzy at the end with the promise of a t-shirt and a free CD. Throwing the t-shirt in the crowd, he held onto the CD for a while longer – a woman tried to grab it, but he threw it over her head, and people ran to it. Enterfire have one album out, Slave of Time, and will be supporting Bullet for My Valentine in Bucharest, Romania!
The third band, A Higher Demise, are a five-piece metal band from London. Naming While She Sleeps and Architects among their influencers, their music is best described as being melodic metalcore. Their brutal riffs, melodic guitars, and screamed lyrics give their music an emotional edge. The main vocalist was paired with a female member, and the two tones made their music tangible – you could feel it as you heard it.
While the small stage struggled to fit all five members, the vocalist used the space he had, and created some himself. The majority of their performance had him at the front, one foot propped up on the speakers as he screamed the songs, using all his ability to create the intense atmosphere. The crowd responded to that, mosh pits opening up throughout the room, people rushing to get to the front of the stage. A Higher Demise have two EPs out, so make sure to have a look at those.
Finally, as the night came to a close, the fourth band came on: Stelae Stone. Formed just over a year ago, they made their debut performance in The Unicorn in 2018. Made up of four members, their music breaks genre bounds by incorporating almost every type of metal or hard rock there is. Despite always having a heavier sound, all of their songs are different. They bring their initial influences from thrash metal, but you can also hear melodic riffs and undertones from the guitarist.
The guitarist played these riffs so effortlessly, and yet they perfectly sliced through the lower sounds. It’s also clear that they are very politically charged in their lyrics – they reference Brexit and war in their songs, bringing light to current events. The members range across from different ages and levels of experience, and you can see their different personalities on stage. The vocalist clearly has a passion for the music and the genre, as he spoke about the power of metal, and how it can free those who listen to it. All three members had a presence on the stage, and the vocalist would leave the stage to give the bassist and guitarist freedom to move, to take over the stage. Despite it being the last show of the night, the crowd were still reacting, still involved, and the last set ended on a high note.
Then comes the waiting. This is a competition, where two winners go through to the next round. The winners are decided by a vote. When entering The Unicorn, you’re given a voting slip, and on that slip, you want write down the name of two bands. The winners are decided by two parties: 50% of the vote is decided by the judges, and the other 50% by the audience. There is a half hour wait between the last set and revealing the winners, and this time feels tense. The bands are spread around the pub, celebrating their sets, having a drink, but mostly just waiting. Waiting to know if they will go through to the next round.
After those thirty minutes were up, Mick the owner took the mic. He discussed the new Dracula show, The Witcher, and a small competition was held. A question was asked, and the person who won was given a 50% voucher off of any tattoo (up to the value of £200) at a tattoo parlour owned by one of the judges! After this, the two winners were announced… congratulations Stelae Stone and A Higher Demise! Good luck for the next round, and good luck to Enterfire and Trevor’s Head in their futures!
Photos by Abi Rose Photography