Bloodstock M2TM North Wales, Grand Final 2020 (!)
Central Station, Wrexham
Review by Beth Jones, with interjections from Rick Tilley
Pics by Beth Jones
You know that feeling you get when something you’ve been waiting for, for so long, finally happens? It’s a kind of warm nervousness, that consumes you and you literally can’t think about anything else. Well, that was me, leading up to this gig – the first since the dizzy days of early 2020, when no-one was ill, masks were something you wore at Halloween, and Covid was that new bug that people, thousands of miles away from us, were getting sick with. To say I was a little nervous was an understatement. A lot has happened since March 2020, and very few of us are the same people that we were back then. The thought of being in a room full of people was terrifying. The thought of having the responsibility of taking photographs after barely even looking at my camera for 15 months filled me with fear and trepidation. But the thought of seeing dearly missed friends again, and getting to watch live music as well, filled me with a kind of euphoria that’s actually impossible to explain, but equally doesn’t need any explaining at all.
The fact that this gig was the long-awaited Final of the Bloodstock M2TM North Wales 2020 competition made it all the more special, because one of the 6 brilliant competing bands would finally get the chance to grace the New Blood stage at, what is without question, one of the most loved festivals on the metal calendar. As an extra treat, Thrash metal legends, Virus were headlining. With the current restrictions, this gig had to be seated, and socially distant, with table service, masks, and hand sanitizer aplenty, so it was a little weird, but damn were we in for a treat with the music. So, here’s my rundown.
Thrashatouille have become a household name around these parts, with their comedic culinary Thrash Metal anthems that are guaranteed to cook up a storm. This would, in normal times, be accompanied by a lot of people violently hurling around inflatable food and generally losing their collective shit in a good old fashioned mosh pit – remember them?… Despite this not being able to happen, these crazy chefs still pulled off an awesome show. Given the fact everyone’s been out of the game for so long, it was amazing to see how tight and polished their sound still was. They supplied everyone with cake too, which was nice (although I couldn’t eat them because I’m allergic to pretty much everything)! They took us on a rip-roaring tour of their classics, finishing, as they do, with ‘Red Velvet Romance’. And what a joy it was to witness frontman Rob Sutton smashing a freshly primed red velvet cake into his face again. I’ve missed that.
Next up were Krank, those crazy kids from up the North Wales coast, whose show is guaranteed to be a little weird, if nothing else. Before they started, they distributed squeaky rubber chickens to the gathered crowd, and before long the venue sounded like a battery farm. I mean, the inner child in us all just can’t resist a squeaky toy, right? Now, it’s fair to say, in the past I’ve never really ‘got’ Krank. Their madcap zaniness was too much even for me. But this time it was different. They had a coherent story running through their show and were even joined on stage by some lizard people, and a sugarplum fairy fly! It was still zany and madcap, but it had a structure that I thought definitely improved the show, and certainly my enjoyment of it. Again, musically they were tight.
Cry For Mercy
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. These guys deserve to go a very long way. Their brand of Southern Blues Rock always makes for sweet listening, and they are thoroughly nice guys to boot. Over lockdown, they released their second EP “Automatic Breakdown” and debut album “Resist”, which I was lucky enough to review, and we got to hear some tracks off both, alongside some of their older tunes. Lead singer Kev Plant has a stunning voice and guitarist Andy Cutty knows exactly how to make his guitar sing the blues. But much as it pains me to say, I don’t think Bloodstock’s New Blood Stage would be right for them, although they would be superb playing a set on the Jager stage. However, I’d love to see them at some of the bigger Rock festivals as, at those, they would go down an absolute storm. (Call Of The Wild and Ramblin’ Man Fair please take note – Rick)
Scarfoot are a 3 piece that have intrigued us from their inception. And this performance was by far the best performance Rick and I have ever seen them give. Newish bass player, Rhys Jones, has really settled in now and what a difference he has made. Prior to him joining, they were good, but something wasn’t quite right. It was a je ne sais quoi that was missing from what they did, which always irritated us, because we could see the potential for them to be great. This performance answered our question of ‘have they got it right now?’ with a resounding ‘HELL YES’! They were by far the most improved band on the night, and they have grown their sound into a kind of dark Progressive Stoner/Sludge/Doom-esque thriller. Scarfoot are not easy to pigeonhole and that is to their benefit. Seeing as they’re still fairly young as a band, if they can keep this level of progression going then their future is pretty damn exciting.
Since their comeback gig in 2019, Severenth have been firmly planted on our radar. Their Modern Metal vibe and incredible stagecraft give me a little warm feeling – joy, I think! They are just so bloody good at what they do. They also have an incredible frontman in Peet Bailey. Not only is he super talented, but his stage presence and expressiveness are mesmeric, and exudes the passion that the whole band put into their performance. He’s also a photographer’s dream because he’s incredibly photogenic! Everything about their performance, for me, was next level, and I’m excited for their future as a band.
Rick Here – I agree with everything Beth has said but, as a former drummer, I have to also mention Severenth sticksman Dave Roberts, who is absolutely thunderous behind the kit. There were several occasions during their performance when I actually thought he and the drums were going to launch into orbit, such was his ferocity and precision.
This gig was probably the last time we’ll ever see Mad Spanner as, very sadly, they decided to call it a day last year, due to different personal issues and other commitments. But they came back for this gig to give us what we wanted – the madcap trio of Extreme Metal and comedy that they are. Unfortunately, drummer, Ben, had to pull out the day before, as Track and Trace identified him as a close contact of someone who was Covid positive. Bloody Covid! This didn’t deter Michael Randall and Dan Ashley however and they, bravely, cobbled together a show of Stand-Up comedy from Michael (something else he is annoyingly good at – Rick), some instrumental versions of their favourite Mad Spanner tracks, with Michael on Drums (yes, he is good on those too – Rick) instead of Bass, and Dan downtuned to make up for the lack of low-end sounds, and a guest appearance from Ashen Crown’s Kieran Scott to dep on vocals for several ‘classics’. It was still fun, it was still mad cap, but it was a real shame that their swan song wasn’t with all three of them together. They will be successful at whatever they, individually, choose to do next!
With all the competing bands done, it was time for the headline act. Thrashers Virus, with Venom Inc. frontman, Tony Dolan subbing on Bass. I couldn’t help but have a little titter at the irony of a headline band named Virus in the middle of a pandemic…
Rick is a huge Virus fan, and a huge Venom Inc. fan, so was a little bit pleased about this choice of headliner. He was also really chuffed that he would get to see Tony again for the first time in 30 years. So, it’s probably best if I let him tell you about them…
Hi Everyone, It’s Rick. I never got to see Virus play back in the dim and distant prehistoric past of the 1980’s, and with the band splitting up in 1990, I thought my chance had passed. However, in recent years they have been active again and in 2019, released their stunning fourth album “Evolution Apocalypse”. When they were announced as special guest headliners for this I was overjoyed. To then find out that Tony ‘Demolition Man’ Dolan was standing in on bass nearly sent me over the edge! I last met Tony in 1990 after seeing him play with Venom and I was also a big Atomkraft fan so, as you can imagine, this was turning into something of a ‘bucket list’, must see, gig for me.
Did they deliver…HELL YES, THEY DID! The inimitable Coke Finlay was firing on all cylinders and the band were as tight as a tight thing. Tony hadn’t even had a chance to rehearse with them in person and had learnt everything, by ear, remotely. He was note perfect for the whole performance, highlighting what great musicians these guys are, he also throws some of the best shapes and bass faces in the business. This performance was pure joy for me and I hope I get to see Virus (and Venom Inc.) again soon!
Meeting and chatting to Coke, before they played and catching up with Tony, for the first time in three decades, afterwards, also proved what absolute gentlemen they both are. Honestly, after being stuck in the house for nearly 18 months, thanks to Covid, I really couldn’t have wished for anything better. There was definitely a tear in my eye as they came offstage!
Now I’m going to hand you back to Beth for the conclusion…
Just as Virus were heading onstage, we had the tough job of coming to a decision about who the winner of this North Wales M2TM Grand Final should be. Usually this would be decided by Bloodstock’s Rob Bannister, but again, due to the damn virus (not the band), this job was left up to the organisers, Fozzy and Beany, and a judging panel consisting of Rick and I representing the Ever Metal posse, and Powerzone’s Dani Maguire. For us, it was a pretty clear-cut decision, and after a short deliberation, it was decided. Severenth had played a blinder and were the fully deserving winners on the night. We hope they have a thoroughly amazing time at Bloodstock Festival.
And with that, some quick elbow bumps, a few more photos, Rick catching up with Tony Dolan and a few waves, the night was over. What a fantastic way to start getting back to some sort of normality. A huge thanks to Stew Bassett and the team at Central Station for ensuring that everything on the day was as safe as possible in these weird times. And of course, to North East Wales Metal Productions’ Fozzy and Beany, who never gave up hope, and were determined to put on a great show, come hell or highwater.
But the special thanks from the day must go to all the bands who turned up and played their hearts out to remind us why we’re all in this community. The love and binding power of music, especially live music, is what makes it a pleasure for me to be involved with our metal family, in however small a capacity. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that has never been truer. Friendship, as well as the music, make all of us tick. And damn did it feel good to be ticking along with friends again!
Disclaimer: This review, and photographs, are solely the property of Beth Jones, Rick Tilley, and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.