Bloodstock M2TM North Wales, The Grand Final
Penny Black / XS Wrexham – 07/06/2019
Review by Beth Jones and Rick Tilley
They say time flies when you are having fun, and that certainly couldn’t be truer about this year’s Bloodstock M2TM North Wales competition. Last Friday saw the culmination of months of work, peppered with smiles and tears, frustration and joy and some challenges that made this night all the more of an achievement, both from the bands and the organisers. It was certainly promising to be a metal extravaganza, with four guest bands, including a headline slot from Damim.
Thankfully the subject of many musings, the great British road network, didn’t let us down, meaning that Bloodstock’s own, Rob Bannister and his awesome better half Sherrell, arrived with us exactly at the time they had planned and we got to the venue just as the first band started.
Our venue for this final was Penny Black / XS bar, in the centre of Wrexham. Comprising of XS bar upstairs, and Penny Black downstairs, this was not a venue that had been used by North East Wales Metal Productions before, and we were all keen to see how it was going to fare. Our first band to perform was one of the guests, In Depths, in the downstairs bar.
A local band from just over the border, in Chester, we saw these guys last year and like them. Since then they have gone through a slight line-up change, but they still have a great sound, and a dedicated bunch of followers. They gave a really good performance and warmed the crowd up nicely in readiness for the competition bands. For those that haven’t seen them, they are a modern djent type metal band, who have a really good feel about them. Well worth a watch.
Our initial trip to the upstairs bar was to see the first of our competition bands, BAD EARTH, who we have been impressed with for many reasons, not least their heavy groovy laden rock/metal. We have been especially impressed with them recently because of the seamless addition of their new bass player, Tim Nicholls, who despite only being a member for about a month, looks like he has been there years! In this performance, he also took on some backing vocals, which added an extra depth to the music. Again, this was a great performance from them, especially as front-man Steven had been struck down with tonsillitis earlier in the week, which didn’t really show. A great way to start the evenings battling!
We always love a bit of gothic folk and roll to clear our heads – I mean, who doesn’t, right? And who better to provide that than the very lovely Cadence Noir, playing in the downstairs bar. As last year’s M2TM winners, it was great to see them back here performing as guests. They played a range of their catalogue, from old to new, and got the gathered crowd moving along at a fair old pace. Vocalist / Guitarist Adrien Perrie is a fabulous front-man who also possesses a dark sense of humour which perfectly matches their music. Add to that the wonderful violin playing of Emma Bennett and an increasingly sharp rhythm section and you have a band that should soon be occupying bigger stages!
Lullaby For A Unicorn
We have come to know by now that when Lullaby For A Unicorn play, shit’s gonna get messy! So, we were very pleased to see that they had brought their trusty Henry Hoover with them to ‘speed up the clean-up’ operation tonight! Back upstairs they were the second competing band, and threw the kitchen sink at their performance. Now you all know that I love these guys dearly, both on stage and off, so what I’m about to say may come as a surprise. I didn’t think this was the best we had seen them and Rick was of the same opinion! I know, I KNOW I’m sorry!! I don’t know what it was – maybe they were just too stoked for it and put too much pressure on themselves, but whilst they were still brilliant, and despite the silly string, party popper assaults and the party cannons, it lacked just a little bit of their usual unicorn charm, which made us a little sad.
Scars Of Remembrance
Of all the bands who we have seen in this competition, this is the band who had the least confidence in the fact they could be in the running to win. When I spoke to them back at their heat, their plan was turn up, play a good gig and that was were it ended. Their main aim was to give people a show, and they were in complete shock when they progressed in that heat, and then again as the public vote winners in the semi-finals. They approached this gig with the same attitude – they were hungry as hell for it, but still had a humbleness that made them not yet believe. Well, guys, believe. This performance was, again, the best that we had seen them play, and you could see in each and every one of them how much this meant to them. Musically it was tight, it was well thought out, and it was so easy to get lost in the rhythms. Performance wise, they all gave it their all. Mike Edwards, as a front man, is brilliant and draws people in with his stare, and Ben thrashed the drums so hard that he completely sheered off one of his cymbal stands mid-song but carried on without missing a beat. It was a storming set!
We headed downstairs and had a short break before watching Guest Headliners Damim. These guys were new to us, and whilst they were not necessarily what I would usually choose, I actually really liked them for the musical ability. As for Rick, well he absolutely loved them! They were so precise it was superhuman, and every member was a stunningly talented musician. We found out afterwards that the guys on rhythm guitar and bass were actually stand-ins for the actual members who weren’t available that night! WOW, that level of talent and commitment cannot be learned, that is just something you are born with. Lead singer Nathanael is the most suave and focused person I have ever seen in Wrexham! He had an aura about him on and off stage which was very impressive. They also had an unfortunate random intrusion from the back of the stage, when one of the local Neanderthals managed to gain entry through the fire escape, however being the consummate professionals they clearly are, they never missed a beat, and the security had the incident under control in a matter of seconds, meaning most of the crowd didn’t even notice it happen. For anyone who hasn’t seen Damim before, and as we haven’t written about them before, their style is blackened thrash, with influences from Morbid Angel, Meshuggah and Death, to name but a few. They are very, very good and well worth checking out.
It was then upstairs again for the final competing band Navnløs. Last time we saw these guys we criticized them for having too long a break between songs and looking slightly lost in said break. They had clearly listened, as the break between songs was much smaller and there was always a bit of guitar or something filling the gap, and it made such a difference – so thanks for taking that constructive criticism and making a positive change guys – it really was an improvement. Their pace was much better, and they were really impressing us, and the crowd. Then they had a bit of a moment – I’m not sure what happened but they had to restart a song twice, and I think at that point they knew what that would inevitably mean. It was a real shame, because they had really stepped it up for the final. I get them, but I don’t at the same time, if you know what I mean! Musically they are all talented, and they have a good sound, but I think nerves hinder their performance, which makes them not quite there yet. Please keep at it though guys. Work on the performance element, because the music is solid. I’m going to shut up now because I am starting to sound like Simon Cowell!!
With that, the competition section was over, and we had one last guest band to play whilst Bloodstock’s Rob Bannister, who had the extremely hard task of judging this event, deliberated and collected his thoughts on what he had seen. In my opinion it was between two of the bands, but I couldn’t decide which. We restocked on beverages and settled in for the finale performance from Left For Red.
Left For Red
Rick has been on at me for ages to check these guys out, and I had been looking forward to seeing them. I wasn’t disappointed – a cracking five piece from the West Midlands, they deliver a combination of groove and prog and classic British heavy metal which has an enthralling and almost hypnotic draw to it. Front-man LC is a ball of energy on stage and has a look about him that made me think of Blaze Bayley – to the point that I was like ‘is this Blaze’s long-lost brother?!’ This performance was also slightly bittersweet, as it was one of bassist Dan Carter’s final performances with the band, as he is moving on to different pastures soon. It was a really great way to finish a really great night, and I would definitely recommend checking these guys out too – their new album “Human Complex” has recently been released, and is liked very much by the team at Ever Metal.
So here we were – the result (and no Ant and Dec anywhere in sight!). Rob had deliberated and, based on the performances he had seen his winners were…SCARS OF REMEMBRANCE!! We have to say that we concurred – they gave the best performance on the night, and you could see how much they wanted it, and this was why they won. The look on their faces was an absolute picture – total disbelieving joy, and I have to admit it got me a bit emotional. Having watched them grow since last year, I felt a bit like a proud mum!! Much happiness ensued, involving lots of hugging and love for everyone. Our thanks must be extended to not only the bands, who have slogged it for the whole competition, but also the really good sized crowd that turned up to the final, to Rob Bannister for judging and his lovely lady Sherell for manning the raffle and looking after my bags, to Ian ‘Fozzy’ Forrester and Ian ‘Beany’ North of NEW Metal Productions for organizing the whole thing in the face of some truly challenging times and to Dani & Joe Maguire of Powerzone and John Matthews of Phoenix Rising, for judging the heats and just being awesome people who make you smile when you see them at a gig. This is what happiness is. This is why we do this; the feeling at the end of this gig, the culmination of all that work. If we could bottle that, we would be millionaires. Bring on 2020!!
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones, Richard Tilley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of all parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
All photos courtesy of Beth Jones and PhotograBee Images