Metal 2 the Masses Semi Final 1 – A Little Bitter, Conjuring Fate, Sorrowfall, Donum Dei, Dead Addiction
Friday 24th April, Voodoo Belfast
We are getting down to the business end of Bloodstock’s Metal 2 the Masses competition, as the buzz of excitement at Voodoo last Friday night will attest to. Tonight’s tussle, between A Little Bitter, Conjuring Fate, Sorrowfall, Donum Dei and Dead Addiction, was always going to be too close to call – it all came down to performance on the night.
First up: Derry rockers A Little Bitter, fresh from winning their heat last week. With a squeal of feedback they were off, filling the room with their no-frills metallic-edged rock. There’s a real storytelling vibe to the songs; a sort of Springsteen-esque working class attitude – no airs or graces, just honesty and a hardworking ethic. The rapidly filling room duly show their appreciation, especially when bassist Seamy Donnelly announces “Fuck the battle of the bands, this is just a brilliant night of music”. Nice!
Sounding even more beefed up than last week, they charge through their allotted half hour with vim and vigour, giving their all and receiving loud applause for their efforts.
From hard rock to classic metal: up next it was Conjuring Fate‘s turn to impress. And impress they do, from traditional opening number ‘House on Haunted Hill’ to a soaring (sorry) ‘Where Eagles Fly’ and the roar-along ‘Trust No One’, they pile all of their effort and muscle into playing a blinder of a set. Vocalist Tommy Daly’s face is creased with exertion from his opening notes: he’s in fine voice tonight, hitting the high notes with ease. He’s a warm and personable frontman, but make no mistake – the minute he opens his mouth to sing, he’ll rock your balls off.
The occasion has clearly gone to the band members’ heads: they are wreathed in smiles and are clearly having fun, from Daly’s impromptu Scottish jig/ballet moves to guitarist Phil Horner’s amusing antics during his ‘guitar solo’ wander (nicking a mouthful of someone’s pint, grabbing a photo opp with the judges) – all good, clean, silly fun, and the crowd simply love it. Despite the guitar occasionally getting lost in the mix (a problem that plagues every band tonight), their set is very well received by the crowd.
Blackened melodic metallers Sorrowfall were up next, with vocalist Steve ‘Sleeve’ Reynolds setting the tone by dedicating their opening number to disgraced former health minister Jim Wells! Sorrowfall’s music is ferocious and thrashy and they certainly hit the spot tonight. Despite the aforementioned muddy sound they still manage to showcase their invigorating mix of death, thrash and melody.
Sleeve is, as always, a sharp and witty frontman, whether through his stage banter, self deprecating manner or teasing of the crowd (at one stage hinting at older material, then basically saying ‘nah’ before relenting later with an airing of classic track ‘Into the Night’).
They end their set with ‘Rise’, a brutal number with a fat, rolling groove and plenty of beef to keep the headbangers happy. In all, a brilliant set, despite the sound issues.
Following them was the young face of metal in Belfast, Donum Dei. They hit the ground (literally) running, launching into ‘No Escape’. The energy and enthusiasm of this young trio is impressive; they truly are the Duracell bunnies of the local scene. Vocalist Thomas Marshall grows in confidence and stance with every performance and tonight is no different, as he covers every inch of the stage seemingly at once, even clambering aboard a table for a fiesty guitar solo.
Ending their slot with the by-now traditional set closer ‘Justice Fails’ proved that there were no surprises tonight for Donum Dei, simply a set full of impressive musicianship and boundless enthusiasm. It was hard to tell who was more thrilled: the band or the crowd!
Rounding up the night was hard rockers Dead Addiction, who enter stage left following a rather sweeping and dramatic intro, with vocalist Niall Graham making a particularly effervescent entrance. They immediately launch into crowd favourite ‘Bang Bang’ with grit and determination, to the delight of the audience. Their music is a spicy mix of their influences, from the glam rock of early Crue to the modern bluesy rock of The Answer. The result is both ballsy and fun, resulting in many a wiggled set of hips amongst their fans tonight.
The band are intent and focussed, determined to do their very best – indeed, this whole contest could be subtitled ‘Every Band Put In Their Best Effort’ – with Niall chatting amiably and modestly with the crowd during their brief pauses. They finish with ‘White Line’, a clear audience favourite, and exit, as they entered, with a flourish.
And so, semi final one is over. Who won? Was it close? How close? The length of time it took to check and double check the results would certainly suggest ‘very close’. In the end, the announcement was simple and direst. First through, Conjuring Fate. Second, by a single point, Donum Dei. The room erupted, the winners exchanged ecstatic and disbelieving whoops, and thoughts began to turn to the actual final, so close now.
The second semi final is this Saturday, May 2nd, in Limelight 2 at the early time of 4pm, with Altus, Rule of Six, Overoth, Proxist and Sinocence all vying for a place in the following weeks’ final. Hold on to your hats – something tells us it’s gonna be a close one yet again!