Metal 2 The Masses Heat 1 – Sorrowfall, Selene, Altus & Paradigm
Saturday 21st February 2015 – Limelight 2, Belfast
Bloodstock, the UK’s premier metal festival, has always supported up and coming bands. Their annual ‘Metal 2 the Masses’ contest, with bands vying for a slot on the New Blood stage, has shot many of the winners into the stratosphere, such as Evile, Bloodshot Dawn and Evil Scarecrow.
The contest seems to be expanding every year and 2015 is no different, with both a Dublin and – for the first time – a Belfast competition running. Belfast’s heats, run by James Loveday’s Distortion Project, began on February 21st in Limelight 2 with four bands, all running the gamut of metal genres. Each punter was given a voting slip as they entered, with 50% of points coming from their votes and 50% from the judges.
First up was alt-metal lads Paradigm, who immediately kicked off proceedings with a big, boomy, bass-y sound and mix of clean and growled vocals. Their sound called to mind a mix of grunge bands such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden with the rambling, unstructured feel of psychedelic bands such as The Doors. Though technically proficient, their identity seems a bit scattered at this early stage; they need to drill down on their current assembly of influences and decide exactly who they want to be.
Next up and really blowing the cobwebs out was Altus. Their self-described extreme metal sound needs no introduction (and received none!) as they unleashed a squeal of feedback and a scream that sounded like it came straight from the bowels of Hell. Vocalist Steve ‘Sleeve’ Reynolds was a coiled, writhing spring of intense energy and righteous fire throughout their set of quite proggy, epic songs.
Musically, the band sounded tight as fuck, all bludgeoning riffs, guttural vocals and ferocious beats. They put their heart and soul into their performance, resulting in a bruising battering ram of a set. Altus are clearly a band that know exactly who they are – sure, they may throw in the odd curve ball but they have a signature sound that’s immediately recognisable.
With the bar now set dizzyingly high, symphonic metallers Selene hit the stage. The Derry band were a last minute addition, having replaced Bakken who had to drop out of the competition. This was, they later explained on their Facebook page, their first time playing together onstage – a big ask for a relatively new band, and for vocalist Shonagh Lyons in particular. Sadly her nerves and some terrible technical glitches – at one stage her beautiful voice was all but inaudible – resulted in a technically spot on but ultimately flat performance. Lyons barely managed to look at the audience, let alone speak to them, which created a feeling of disconnect.
New song ‘Blood’, their heaviest of the night, and the title track from their new album ‘Paradise Lost’ finished up their set. It was clear to all that the band need to gain a bit more confidence in order to really reach the audience. They are obviously talented, but in all this was a frustrating performance from a band who are clearly capable of more. Hopefully by Blazefest on March 21st they will pull something out of the bag (and do a better microphone soundcheck!).
Wrapping up the evening was the most experienced band on the lineup, Sorrowfall. Since forming in 2004 they have gone through several band members and an extended hiatus before emerging with the original lineup and a renewed sense of vigour. This enthusiasm was plain for all to see as they blasted off the starting blocks and simply blew everyone away.
Describing themselves as ‘blackened melodic metal’, their sound is thrashy and huge, simultaneously bashing you in the face whilst eviscerating you. Somewhat daringly, the band (led by Altus vocalist Reynolds, this time also playing bass) play mainly new material tonight, as well as a cover of Bathory’s ‘A Fine Day to Die’; a canny move which created a great connection with the audience.
All epic guitar solos, aggression and thrashy beats, Sorrowfall are, heavy and hella good fun. And not just for the audience: the band themselves are clearly having a ball. Reynolds is (in both of his incarnations tonight) an amiable and unexpectedly funny guy when talking to the audience, jokingly apologising for appearing onstage twice and making light of technical difficulties with wit and aplomb. In short: Sorrowfall are the complete package.
Unsurprisingly, Sorrowfall were the victors tonight, winning both the audience and the judges’ vote, with second place going to the entirely deserving Altus.
The second heat, featuring Cavehill, Donum Dei, Zombified and Rule of Six takes place in just a few weeks, on March 7th, so come on down and cheer on (and vote for!) your favourite. Bloodstock’s Metal 2 the Masses is a huge opportunity for local bands, so do lend your support and let’s get a Northern Irish band up there on that New Blood stage!