Gig Review: Bloodstock M2tM Kent Finals – Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend (18th June, 2022)

The Metal 2 The Masses Kent finals was jam-packed with the incredible talent of Kent ranging from melodic and mainstream styles to the extreme and ‘underground’ genres of heavy metal, a mixture of genres built for every metalhead attending the show. The show was held at Leo’s Red Lion in Gravesend hosted by Stuart Jessop and judged by Simon Hall, who we wish a speedy recovery after having to opt out of the show early.

Broken Calling (c) JMJ Visuals

First up to the stage was the powerful Broken Calling hailing from London and Dover who put up a tough fight in these finals for a chance to play at Bloodstock in August. Newly formed in 2019, this band brought a serious energy to the stage with heavy and seemingly effortless vocals. Most of their songs involved heavy screams and a LOT of headbanging, their stage presence was untamed and wild, jumping from one side of the stage to the other. For me, the guitarist Martin Osborne stood out after he jumped from the stage and nearly knocked me over with the head of his guitar (in his defence, I’m tiny and easy to miss) This band really brought the fire to this show and did a fantastic job as the first competing band, it’s never easy to go up first.

The second band on, and our Kent winners, were hard gothic Rock band Fyresky who impressed Simon Hall and the crowd of Leos Red Lion to be able to play the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock! Huge congratulations to the band and a well-deserved win. It was my first time seeing Fyresky live and I was thoroughly impressed by their vocalist (Gabriel Valentine) ability to control his vocal range and the energy of guitarist Nicole Lastauskas and bassist Kris White on stage. Their genre of metal involved a lot of epic and melodramatic vocals from Gabriel and ethereal backing vocals from both the guitarist and bassist. Apart from their obvious talent, from watching the band I could tell all band members Gabriel, Nicole, Kris and drummer Ben ‘Bruce’ Green had a special bond and a way of communicating with each other on stage to enjoy their set; they were relaxed and put on a show for the people rather than worrying about whether or not they would win. Fyresky’s relaxed approach came across brilliantly, the desperation to win a chance to play at Bloodstock didn’t show and they focused on creating a show for the crowd they were playing for. Through their bond on stage, Fyresky showed that they were very much enjoying themselves and their gothic genre of music and as they were announced as the winners of M2TM you could finally sense just how grateful and excited they were for the opportunity to grace the New Blood stage. A very down to earth band with a huge, huge talent; a band made for a festival like Bloodstock.

Dying Vision (c) JMJ Visuals

Next up was the monstrous Dying Vision, a London-based Metal band who play heavy and fast paced riffs with genuine and meaningful lyrics disguised in brutal and raw screams from vocalist Richard Ashton. The band interacted with the crowd well and pulled off one of the heavier sets of the night. Vocalist Ashton was very passionate about his lyrics, producing a guttural sound from his ‘extended throat clearing’ in his throat and it showed in his body language and facial expressions which I caught in my images attached, a photogenic band that any photographer would love to shoot for. The band had raspy and almost satanic vocals, combined with blast beats from drummer ‘SeeKing’ I would say this band leans more towards the Metalcore style with their shouting vocal style and heavy breakdowns.

The next competing band I had the pleasure of watching was Crostpaths, a self-described ‘genre-bending greeobs’ band that I couldn’t agree more with when it came to their style of music. I heard very Nu-Metal inspired sound from the band, combining heavy riffs with rapped lyrics from vocalist Ritchie Murray Jack. Crostpaths opened up with a humorous intro that had everybody laughing, those laughs were soon stopped when they jumped straight into a hard-hitting song. This band definitely deserve a chance at Bloodstock, but this year it wasn’t meant to be. The group of musicians consist of vocalist Ritchie, guitarist Michael Edwards, drummer James Mason and bassist Owain Lewis. Crostpaths put on a show to be remembered, introducing the ‘wall of high fives’ where their vocalist spilt the crowd and encouraged them to high five instead of running straight into each other; a much safer way to make sure nobody left the venue with a broken nose in usual heavy metal fashion. Vocalist Ritchie made a point that this set was for the crowd, the set felt inclusive and very crowd driven, which is what you want for a ’festival band’

Crostpaths (c) JMJ Visuals

Crostpaths were very driven by the crowd and had fun with their set rather than trying to prove a point; although it is a competition, the band were very grateful to be there and thanked all the other bands competing and the crowd for their support during their set. They made the show feel community driven which is what metal is supposed to be, a daring but solid community full of love and protection. If somebody falls, you pick them up which seemed to be the message Crostpaths live by when performing.

The last competing band on were Silen, their music ranged from ballads to heavy metal and made a strong impression on Simon Hall, despite just losing out to Fyresky. At the start of most of Silen’s songs, they focused on building the atmosphere with their drummer and then dropping straight into a heavy flow of progressive metal. Their sound matched the criteria for Bloodstock festival, hence their possible reserved spot if there are any spaces left for the London based band to attend the festival. Their music was aggressive and intense to the ears of the crowd, earning respect as a band and gaining a few more fans in the process.

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Overall, Fyresky were well deserved winners of the Kent Metal 2 The Masses finals and will be heading to Bloodstock to play on the New Blood Stage in August!

As for the rest of the show, Gravesend showcased fantastic bands to finish off the night. The headlining bands included last year’s M2TM winners Struck/Down, Stormborn, Famyne and finished the night off with the mighty Fury who had just played a set at Download the week before; a massive treat for the crowd at Leo’s Red Lion!

Struck/Down (c) JMJ Visuals

The first headlining band on were a favourite of mine, last year’s winners Struck/Down who made a point to thank Stuart Jessop for putting on another fantastic show full of Kent’s wide talent. They delivered a powerful set of vocalist Linden’s deep vocals matched to the thick and quick paced attack on the drums by Tommy. The band consists of vocalist Linden Twyman, drummer Tommy Rogers, lead guitarist Will Mason, rhythm guitarist Ian Spurrett and current stand-in bassist Wayne Ambrose who was brave enough to play with this powerful band. Their performance as always was spot-on and well received by the crowd, indicating why they won last year and performed at Bloodstock. Struck/Down are boundary-defying and exciting, their flamboyant vocalist is always full of an incredible energy on and off stage; it helps that all members are incredibly humble and kind which is what you look for in every band. My favourite song of their set has and will probably always be Death Row, with giant breakdowns and violent riffs from both Ian and Will on their own respective instruments.

The next band on were Stormborn, a slightly heavier band than the previous and just as powerful. They very much interacted with the crowd, earning a lot of shouts of encouragement. Their vocalist’s range was undeniably impressive and the rest of the band sure as hell kept up with him with his fast pace and ability to start with low vocals and jumping right up into a high note within seconds. Vocalist Chris Simmons had some heavenly and melodic vocals powered by the rest of Stormborn’s members which included two guitarists Laurence Armitage and David Viner, bassist Simon ‘Steve’ Ball and drummer Andy Felton. Stormborn won Metal to the Masses in the London edition of the competition and went on to play the New Blood stage in 2012/13.

Next to grace the stage, was Famyne a very well-known and established Kent band that specialize in doom metal; they know who they are and they know which genre of Metal they fit into. Famyne’s members include vocalist Tom Vane, guitarists Alex Tolson ad Martin Emmons, bassist Chris Travers and drummer Michael Ross. Famyne have an impressive set of songs, all melodic, majestic, epic and doom-filled with Tom Vane’s vocals standing out above all else. He is the nicest guy you could ever meet (shared his chips with me and helped me out with my camera, thanks Tom!) but once he is on stage, he transforms into a demonic being who let his vocals echo throughout Leos Red Lion. It was my first time witnessing the band and their immersive display of music. With Tom’s vocals, I felt trapped in a black hole of his voice only to be snapped out of it by the harrowing notes from both guitarists. The bassist Chris definitely picked his moments during the set, his energy and ability to headbang without his head coming off was very impressive. Overall, Famyne is an experience to say the least and very easy to get trapped in the slow tempo but crushing riffs of Doom Metal.

Fury (c) JMJ Visuals

The last band on were Fury, living up to their band name with their furious performance. Fury played a both mesmerising and legendary set, having just played a set at Download festival the week before. Fury brought the entertainment to be the last band of the night to play, keeping the attention of the crowd to stay even later than they were supposed to, that’s how good they were. Fury consists of the soulful voice of Julian Jenkins, inspired by old school Iron Maiden and Metallica. The band were passionate all the way through their set and every member matched each-others energy and skill. Fury also includes bassist Becky Baldwin, Tom Fenn on Drums, Jake Elwell as lead guitarist and newest member Nyah Ifill with backing vocals for the band. They gave me classic rock vibes mixed with the aggressive sound of Thrash metal. Their ability to interact with the crowd and play until they literally couldn’t (which impressed me the most) their stamina and energy stood out second to their sound, a very impressive band to close the Kent Metal 2 The Masses Final.

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Photos by JMJ Visuals

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