Disclaimer: This photo album is solely the property of Beth Jones. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of these images, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
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.
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