After the last few years of false starts and other covid related shenanigans the Manchester Metal 2 the Masses is once again underway. You probably know the drill, across the UK and slightly further afield, there are competitions held by Bloodstock festival. Unsigned bands compete in a battle of the bands format across the regions, and the winners get to play on the New Blood stage at the festival itself.
The New Blood stage is dedicated to the winners of the competition, and since I started going to the festival way back has been the consistent highlight of Bloodstock for me. There’s something quite magical about watching bands taking that shot at making it on such a stage, it really is wonderful to watch. Over the years some of the other bands that have been progressing up the ranks on the UK scene have got their break there, and it’s absolutely magical to see.
This year’s competition is once again running out of Rebellion and is being organized by the local legends themselves the 0161 Manchester Underground Metal Community, and 7 Heats in they’ve done an incredible job. Towards the start of the competition gigs were and continue to be dropping like flies, but the M2tM have been running like clockwork. Hats off to them for making sure not only that these have happened at all, but that they’ve had such a hefty turnout too.
So, for the benefit of the uninitiated is that over 7 weeks 4-5 bands will compete. Each heat one band will be selected to progress to the quarter finals by the Judges, and another one by crowd vote. Two bands will be selected in addition by judges as a wildcard choice to make it to the 16 required for the quarter finals.
Heat 1 – 23rd of January 2022
Opening things up were Fractures in the Sky who had an ambitious sound for a 3-piece, the guitarist doing most of the work for the show, with the drumming providing most of the low end. A lack of confidence/experience seemed evident as they struggled to fill the stage, especially as the singer kept disappearing from stage when not singing. Musically really good, and I’d like to see how they progress in future.
I am the wreckage were excellent, they had an absolutely huge energy on stage. The bass player in particular was a human dynamo both on and frequently off stage. They sounded great and got a big buzz going in the crowd, and the good kind of chaos that comes with an energetic mosh pit.
Orbital Alignment were suitably seismic in their sound, lots of heavy chugging riffs, plenty of pits and everyone having a good time. Unfortunately, they had to replace their drummer with a drum machine owing to a medical emergency which I think might have lost them a bit of energy.
Last band Mexican Painkiller were good, they had a big crowd following, literally at one point as a conga line mosh pit snaked its way through the crowd. An excellent set which won them the crowd vote.
Judges Vote: I am the Wreckage
Crowd Vote: Mexican Painkiller
Heat 2 – 30th January 2022
Impavidus are well known on the local scene and always put on a good show, tonight was no exception. Great songs, catchy chorus playing to a bigger crowd already than the first heat. Having seen them a few times before the mix seemed a little blunt to showcase the excellent vocals, but at this stage of completion it wasn’t a make or break.
Shadow Company were good, a bit slower and more traditional metal, they had a good selection of songs and a good stage presence. Only the Righteous brought a lot of tech with them, it was clear with the amount of monitors and lighting on stage that they had put a lot of thought into their show. They were a good band, I could legitimately see them playing at Bloodstock, the crowd loved them even when a broken drum had the front man wandering around the crowd. Only criticism was that their talk of being on tour and this seeming like just another gig to them didn’t seem to sit too well with the crowd, M2tM can be rough and ready at time, but this felt a little bit too slick maybe.
It would be no exaggeration to say that last band Technologist absolutely smashed the living sh*t out of it, and really kicked the competition up a gear. From the guitar p*rn on stage (guitarist Eddie Johnson having built the guitars himself), to the intense energy it was unbelievably good. A few songs in and band and crowd were moving as one, perfectly synchronized to the point being awe inspiring. Merch acquired
Judges Vote: Impavidus
Crowd Vote: Technologist
Heat 3 – 6th February 2022
Starting off what may have been the toughest heat in style Bloodmeridian played a wonderful set of heavy rock with some very prog/post-rock elements. Soaring guitars and vocals which were wonderful and had me both buying merch and playing their songs on Spotify for the next few months. Simply wonderful
Wailing Banshee were awesome too, with a very classic metal sound to them, some excellent riffs and vocals which evoked the sound of the early days of heavy metal itself. It was a real shame this heat was so damn tough, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them again.
Crowd favourite and renowned spell-check botherers Portrayal of Ruinn came out and smashed it again. I’ve seen them before and it’s another band that have gone from strength to strength, really honing their craft. It’s clear that singer Calvin Fayle has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.
At the risk of sounding redundant God Shaped Devil were also great live to the point they were one of the two acts going through on the wildcard as declared in heat 7.
This was 100% the heat where every band could have easily gone through and played a great set on new blood, and it’s testament to the strength of the local music scene, phenomenal talent all round.
Judges Vote: Bloodmeridian
Crowd Vote: Portrayal of Ruinn
Heat 4 – 13th February 2022
Riot Eye brought some sleazy punk energy to heat 4 with an incredible live show, energy in spades. They were the most fun to photograph so far because of their energy and enthusiasm. The front man rarely stopped moving and really got the crowd moving. Guitarist Rhea is a rare talent, making her playing look effortless, a quiet presence that shone brightly.
Ninety Nine Mercies started well with the enthusiastic crowd, lost of energy and crowd interaction, unfortunately some equipment issues later in their set sapped their momentum, which was compounded with the lack of interaction with the crowd left everyone wondering what was going on. That was a shame after such a strong start, but I think emphasizes the necessity to keep the crowd engaged no matter what.
Steel Forge play melodic/black/Extreme metal but were somewhat static on stage, singer Danny giving plenty of shapes, but they just seemed to be lacking something on the night.
Dead Retinas were another band who came out of nowhere and blew the roof off starting off reasonably non-descript before singer CJ seemed to unleash an alter ego, stripping off his T-shirt to reveal some sort of harness with Daddy Bear on it, seemed to somehow liberate him on stage, and from then the performance just went up a notch. The band firing on all cylinders and CJ spending most of the set with the crowd, this was another stand out performance from the competition.
Judges Vote: Riot Eye
Crowd Vote: Dead Retinas
Heat 5 – 20th February 2022
Awful weather today, truly awful, but still an attendance of at least 130, but with Square Wild dropping out last minute meant this one was going to be between 3 bands.
Leeds based Cadaver Soiree played a good set of extreme metal, although they were relatively static on stage preferring the music to do the talking. Whilst enjoyable enough musically it’s clear from the competition thus far that any band hoping to go through needs to have that something extra as part of their live show.
Blackened Hardcore act Kvilla have a striking visual aesthetic to their set with clown masks, face coverings and corpse paint. The effect of the white contacts contrasting the corpse paint of the singer gave an extra dimension when screaming and shrieking their blackened vocals. Plenty of movement on stage adding to the frenzy of their music.
Viking metal band Vilka Fenryka had a strong following in the crowd, and once they took the stage festooned with custom made shields and axes they engaged with the crowd immediately. A great set dominated by an absolute giant of a lead singer had even me chanting board the boats.
Judges Vote: Kvilla
Crowd Vote: Vlka Fenryka
Heat 6 – 6th March
The biggest heat so far with 5 acts playing this was going to be a tough one no doubt. First band Pumpkin Bomb were a decent bit of nirvana-esque grunge, complete with very animated drummer. Unfortunately they didn’t seem to get comfortable until their 3rd song, the singer seeming constrained by the dual role of guitar, there was an air that he wanted to go wild but kept having to drag himself back to the mic stand. Finishing on a high with dystopia, I’d like to see them again.
3-piece Crescent Halo were decent, their first show in 2 years they did manage to get the crowd alongside. Trad metal with catchy singalong choruses, they were clearly winning the crowd over with some call and response work, drum solo’s and guitar virtuosity, the lack of animation made me wonder about their ability to grab a new blood crowd.
Entering to ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ – Daybreaker were another popular band I’ve seen before at gigs. A great set, if somewhat difficult to shoot, they seemed to lift the energy on stage to a different level. I could see these going over well on new blood. I predicted that they would win on the crowd vote, but they would later get through on the wildcard.
Another band destined to annoy more than a few spell-checkers Judjment sounded aggressive from the name alone, coupled with the old school thrash T-shirts It was obvious thrash was about to happen. Some solid chops, plenty of Thrash with death elements they blasted the heck out of it in what I’m sure they said was their first gig.
Unfortunately, the lack of experience caught them out as another band with a broken amp which was not acknowledged and several minutes with everyone stood in silence dropped their momentum considerably. It’s a shame as most bands aren’t going to get judged on this unless things go wrong, but it does reinforce the need to engage the crowd even during technical difficulties to keep them engaged.
Having seen Asylum City Zoo a few times over the years, and their previous attempts at Metal 2 the masses having seen them progress quite far. I was in no doubt when they took the stage that they’d make it through, great songs, solid riffs and catchy live, they did not disappoint in a tough heat winning the judges vote.
Judges Vote: Asylum City Zoo
Crowd Vote: Crescent Halo
Heat 7 – 13th March 2022
The final heat kicked off with 2 piece slam outfit Coprocephalic Mutation, a bit of an odd duck. The guitarist was the front man with the singer remaining silent between songs. I quite enjoyed the music and the between song typical death metal banter had me chuckling at times with it’s inappropriate humour.
4Gen7 (agent 47) are another band well known locally. A decent set with some good groovy songs and riffs, punctuated with some good crowd interaction and a few wall of deaths. I had a feeling that they might buck a notable trend of later bands capturing the crowd vote and winning it from the second slot.
Third band Dwingle were my personal favourite of this heat, a 3 piece who took to the stage with confidence and swagger aplenty. Good crowd interaction, not afraid to take their time yet maintaining the pace of the set, they had a significant amount of groove to their unique sound which was quite a feat as they had had no bass player. All of the heats so far I’d been able to predict the bands going through, this was my first disappointment as I’d have definitely loved to have seen Dwingle at Bloodstock.
Final band of the heats Viral Strain were playing their first gig in two years (admittedly a common theme) despite some signs of rust they really did get the crowd going, to the point I thought they’d go through on the crowd vote.
Judges Vote: Viral Strain
Crowd Vote: 4GEN7
Wildcard – God Shaped Devil
Wildcard – Daybreaker
The next stage is the Quarter finals, also held at rebellion, and the line ups are incredible this is going to be fun 😊
Quarter Final 1 – 20th March
Portrayal of Ruinn
Quarter final 2 – 27th March
I am the wreckage
Quarter Final 3 – 3rd of April
God Shaped Devil
Asylum City Zoo
Quarter final 4 – 10th of April
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY RICH PRICE