Gig Review: Metal 2 The Masses Oxford Quarter-Final 2 – 13th May 2023

You should know the score by now, I am just wondering if The Jericho’s Tavern has rooms to rent as I am now here so often. Upon arrival it was easily noticeable that tonight was certainly quieter in the bar area, people were still recovering from our extra bank holiday weekend. I headed upstairs to the small venue where, as normal, I am greeted by the same faces from TwoFace Promotions, both Greg and Sam and boy did they have a surprise for me. Unfortunately, that evening one of the judges could not make that evening due to unforeseen circumstances, which meant they needed a third judge. Now I am fairly sure that was not within my job description when it comes to reviewing, but at the same time I felt honoured that they had the confidence in my ability. It was either that or they really were scraping the bottom of the barrel. That being said I nervously agreed to help, but I just hope that they remember my sacrifice when it comes to their festival, Rabidfest, in November. So not only with the pressure of writing a review for the latest four bands trying to make it to the semi-final rounds I now have the added pressure of deciding the bands’ fates.

Now it’s time to really focus on what I am listening for as we start the night with yet another band that I missed during the heat stages. On the stage opening the night we have Webb, a three-piece, who with their current line-up of band members has only been around for two years. But listening to the way they perform together you would not think that’s the case. I honestly don’t think I have heard so much music from just a guitar, bass and a drum kit in my life. And they were certainly loud, even for such a small venue. Their confidence on stage was fantastic and even had the crowd taking part along with one of their songs. It did seem that they have collected a small group of fans with them which is always nice to see. There is nothing worse for a band to perform in front of an audience who does not know who they are or what they will play. Upon doing my usual amount of research whilst listening to a band for the first time, I stumbled across what I can only describe as the best website I have ever seen from any band within this competition so far. The design and detail that they have put in is absolutely second to none, even the bio from their drummer had me laughing with his tasteful dislikes, if you want to know why then feel free to pop on their site and take a gander. Overall, their set was spectacular throughout with no issues. Definitely one to watch out for in this competition.

Next up to follow such a solid performance we had yet another band that I get to hear for the first time. Talk about making my double workload even harder. Depolarize are a four-piece metal core band from here in Oxford itself. The first thing that caught my eye was that all the band members were wearing their very own merchandise. If you are going to try and plug your merchandise, then this has to be the best way of doing it. I noticed during the start of their first song that I could barely hear the lead singer, naturally thinking we have yet another night with sounding issues, however, this was proved that I was wrong as they got very loud very quickly. The way they played their songs is very technical and intricate with loads of fast double bass and massive drops. It felt like all of their songs had deep and meaningful lyrics to either the entirety of the band or to each of the members individually. There were massive amounts of movement with not only the band but the audience too, and speaking to Greg afterwards he said they barely recognized this band as their performance in the heats was very static and rigid. Obviously, I can only take his word for this as watching them myself for the first time this was not noticeable at all. Clearly between the heats and now they have looked back and changed things up which is great as they appear to be quite a young band.

Third up on the stage, I finally got to hear a band that I am familiar with. Bring the Onslaught who took the judges’ vote in heat three are back bringing their metalcore all the way from Buckinghamshire. Reading back on the review from that heat it reminded me that these guys could possibly bring me into the realm of metalcore and tonight they may have made me take yet another step forward. They played even better than the heats which begs the question, what more do they have to offer? Straight from the first note being played the seemed to have entranced the crowd to head directly to the front of the stage and smashed out an almost faultless set, to which my only criticism would be their backup singers mic was extremely quiet. Had it not been the fact that I was looking at him then I would not have known that he was actually singing. Other than that, again it was a powerful and superior performance. They asked the audience to jump during one of their songs to which they complied throughout. I would have loved to be downstairs at this time and seen the reaction of the patrons of the bar area, as I am sure the look of confusion would have been on an epic proportion. Could we see these guys in the final? In my view potentially, but they have some more work to put in yet judging by the bands who have already gone through.

I knew the inevitable was going happen but tonight must be a record. Nether the less I headed to the facilities followed by a visit to the bar. I did make it back well in advance for the final band of this evening, who was none other than Mercury’s Well. These guys have progressed through from heat 5 with some unbelievably long songs in their set. Donning Hawaiian shirts, they took to the stage and before long their first song finished within a matter of minutes. Is this the same band from the heat stages? Do they have more material to share with M2TM? For a second I was second guessing myself as to who this band actually is. Turns out it really was the same band as their next few songs proved it was certainly them. I love that they have fun on stage and clearly have a distinct love of metal but bugger me it seems they really want to make it up into the heights with a few of Meshuggah’s songs. Unfortunately, I do not have the longest of attention spans so for me my mind starts wandering after three to four minutes which then diverts my attention from their performance on stage. Other than their incredibly long songs these guys know how to play. Another flawless performance, which was a pleasant change in this competition, where all the bands barely had any technical issues. The only other downside is that before they finished their last song I was whisked away by both Greg and Sam to perform my other duty of the evening… I almost forgot I had to judge, too.

Voting slips hit the table by their hordes, and I was lucky to keep my pen that people were using due to the swarm around the judges’ table. The piles started stacking higher and higher as we counted through them all to get the decision on the crowd’s favourite. And yet again it was another close vote between bands. Winning the crowd over this evening was the almighty Depolarize. This was no surprise as they really did perform sublimely. Secondly, and with a unanimous decision, the judges vote went yet again to Bring the Onslaught who blew the three of us away from the second they took to the stage and throughout their complete set. Commiserations to both Webb and Mercury’s Well whom I doubt we have seen the last of just yet. With that we now have half of the semi-finalists through, and another eight bands yet to secure their spot. What will the third quarterfinal bring? Stay tuned to find out.

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