Gig Review: Metal 2 The Masses Oxford Quarter Final 1 – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford (8th May 2023)

If you have read the title or any of my earlier reviews… you know where I am. Same bar, same staff, and the same faces after making my way upstairs. However, this time it felt completely different, and I could not put my finger on the reason. The ambiance had a bit of suspense to it, despite the bar being busier than previous weeks. Was this down to the competition heating up? Or merely the fact that it happened to be set on the same day as the coronation of King Charles III? Whatever the reason it, certainly did not put me off my expectations for this quarter final. Tonight, was going to easily be the toughest round with extraordinarily strong bands competing against each other. Compounds have made a return back this evening after Lest We Forget had to withdraw for reasons unknown to myself, and I have a new band to listen to that I had unfortunately missed in heat four but more on them later. Plus, the return of Stone Soup and Second Hour which really got me excited due to liking both at previous nights. To make things worse this time round though, only two bands can progress on to the semi-finals.

So, to start the evening off I headed straight to the facilities. Not the greatest start to this evening, made even more disappointing with the fact that I was not drinking due to having to drive from the day job. This was by no means the one and only trip, but I will let you add when and the number of times I needed to go there (It was loads). Opening the night was the extremely impressive Stone Soup and the way they opened was spectacular. Their sound is so unique, yet somehow, they made it feel even more powerful this evening. How their lead singer is able to belt out such strong vocals for being such a small bloke is beyond me, but he manages to do so effortlessly, yet still managing to really enjoy himself. The band have really impressed me, and I cannot wait for their latest song to be released at the end of this month. Now in my person opinion the way that they performed seriously puts them in contention to make it all the way to the final, and I would not be disappointed if they got all the way there as it means I get to enjoy them again two more times. Everything just worked for them this evening and it certainly showed. The more the crowd cheered the more it spurred them on, and the more entertaining they were to watch. I do not think I have seen such a crowd for just one band throughout this competition so far, but they managed to perform so well that the mass of bodies in front of them stayed throughout. Also, their merch stand was one of the best I have seen in any gig/festival I have been to. They had tins of soup labelled up as “Stone Soup” and even a book titled “Stone Soup,” but I have my doubts if this has any relativity to the band themselves. An outstanding performance for these guys and I can not wait to see what they bring if they progress further.

Second act up and it was none other than Compounds. Back with their melodic hardcore punk sound, it was clear that the stage seriously wasn’t big enough for them. Straight from the off their lead singer was amongst the crowd playing right in front of their eyes. He must have given the sound technician a heart attack as he full stretched out the cord of the microphone, to the point where it appeared to pull him back towards the stage. Maybe a small suggestion for this band is to invest in wireless microphones, just so that the sound technician can remain at the controls rather than scrambling around after the cord, as to not cause a trip hazard for anyone attending. Their performance seemed to be lacking something this evening compared to their initial heat, the crowd was not as lively as before even with their lead trying to get them going by grabbing members of the audience. Probably not a good idea to grab someone by the arm whilst they are holding their drink, I would have been devastated at the loss of a good pint. Yet again we were hit with another unfortunate sound issue with a high pitch scream, piercing so loud that I could actually feel the sound waves ripping through my ear drum. I thought we were doing so well with the technical faults, but it does seem to be a theme in this competition, let’s just hope that’s the last one of the night. All in all, it was a good set by these guys, but I felt as if they had more to bring, but I do not feel that they were strong enough to go through at this point.

Up for their second set in this competition was Second Hour, which if you read my review on heat five you will know that I really loved these guys. And yet again they brought their style of old heavy rock back to the stage. Their performance was yet again outstanding, hitting us with more songs inspired by Iron Maiden and Stone Sour. I have been speaking to their lead singer Steve Kessell, and it seems that their band are so humble to not just the crowd, but to all the bands that they have competed against so far. It seems that they are fully dedicating themselves to get all the way to Bloodstock and also to get themselves know within the metal community. Their set was faultless from start to finish and really was good to watch. Nothing had changed from their heat in regard to their stage presence and they really seem to love performing. Heads were banging to which mine is included, and it was a joy to see them again. This round really is shaping up to be a tough decision for both the crowd and the judges, which I am more than happy to not be making that call for the judges vote. I do feel as though they seriously need a bigger stage than what they are performing on, but unfortunately, we are stuck with the size that we have.

Lastly to close this evenings musical entertainment was Reveller, and this gave me a chance to experience a new band tonight. I unfortunately missed out on heat four where they progressed through on the crowd vote so at least I get to hear these guys at least once. I missed the very start of their set by about a minute and a half, you can probably guess where I was at this time, but I certainly heard it. I felt sorry for the lights in the toilets, vibrating and shaking to the double bass coming from the drums. But wait, I know their drummer, surely that impeccable beat isn’t coming from little old Gavin? Who knew the little emo kid I have known for years actually had any talent? Emerging from my second home and walking back into the venue I was hit by such a sound I did not think possible in this competition. It really felt like I was watching a professional headlining band at a normal gig, and when I say these guys are good, I seriously mean it. You know that difference between listening to a band on something like Spotify or listening to them live, well these were two of the same. Had it not been the shear intensity of the way they were all playing their instruments I would have sworn outright that they were just lip syncing to a backing track. Yet another melodic metal band here from the very heart of Oxfordshire, this band seriously have what it takes to win this competition. My only criticism, and it is a very small one, is that maybe Matt Winchester, their lead singer could move around just a touch more. Not that there was anything wrong with their stage presence, but more that we could barely see Gavin’s little baby face smashing everything he has into that poor drumkit. I can certainly see these guys going all the way to the final round, but will they win? I guess only time will tell. I would not want to be put up against them that’s for sure.

So that’s the end of the round and the voting slips came in their hoards. I have yet to see that many voting slips being counted in any of the rounds so far, but my vote didn’t get counted. Not that it was misplaced or forgotten, merely the fact that I couldn’t decide who to vote for. Personally, I was torn between three of the four bands, and had I voted for another band I would have never heard the end of it from Gavin. But the votes were finally counted, and the announcement was made.

Going through to semi finals were none other than Reveller on the crowd vote and Stone Soup on the judges’ decision. Two great bands who wholeheartedly deserve to go onwards. But that being said I felt for both Compounds and Second Hour, which on any other night could have progressed further. I would be happy to see more from both of these bands and hopefully they enter again next year. Two of the eight bands have been decided already and I am looking forward to what the next quarter final brings.

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