Whether it was planned or by sheer coincidence, the fact that the second Semi-Final of this year’s Belfast heat of M2TM fell on Easter Saturday saw a quite sizeable and energetic crowd fill Limelight 2. As our draconian drinking laws meant the bar had to stop serving by 10pm everyone was in the mood to party.
And what better way to open proceedings than the six-legged riff machine that is Skypilot. Originally it was to be False Solution taking part in this semi-final, but due to a bereavement were unable to take their place. Skypilot agreed to swap places with them and drew the opening slot. Maybe it was the circumstances, or the opening slot but the Doagh trio seemed slightly subdued by their usual standards. It didn’t take long however before the band locked into their groove and had the crowd lapping up every entrancing riff and mesmerising melody. And with a rhythm section that sounded like the God of Thunder’s personal backing band the tone was set for the rest of the day.
Next up were one of the competition’s favourites, Lock Horns. These guys have become one of the Belfast scene’s leading lights in a relatively short period of time. Thanks in no small part to frontman Alex DaCosta. He stalks the stage like a caged animal keeping everyone’s attention firmly focused on the stage. Lock Horns are one of the tightest, most professional bands around at the minute but like Skypilot they seem slightly subdued today. But even on half power the serpentine riffs and almost funk like bass, coupled with that scream, Lock Horns are a force of nature. If ever a band was festival ready, it’s these guys.
Aiming for a third final in as many years, Cursed Sun take the stage. Whatever malaise affected the first two bands was nowhere to be seen as the local veterans came out all guns blazing. This band is crushingly heavy, and they don’t know any setting other than murder, death kill! They also benefit from the cleanest sound mix of the day. Every jagged riff and tortured scream shattered ear drums and split skulls as Cursed Sun showed everyone present how it should be done.
Closing the competition tonight are Acid Age. They take to the stage and launch into their set at their customary breakneck pace and never let up. Even a malfunctioning guitar can’t stop them as it is jettisoned, and a spare is quickly taken up without missing a beat. Unfortunately they fall victim to a muddy sound mix that buries the guitar work and pretty much eliminates the violin. Then there is the issue of the vocals. Whilst Eddie’s squeals may work well in a grindcore setting, they are jarring and out of place in this context. But none of this deters the Acid Ragers (sorry Wayne) from going nuts down the front. Just a shame the kazoo never made it up onto the stage.
Closing tonight’s event are Northampton thrashcore heavyweights Cerebral Scar. They waste no time in cranking out the old school riffs. By this stage the crowd was well warmed up and the pit opened to welcome the visitors. Frontman Mark has a voice that could level a small city, and the band’s thrashy groove gets the venue pumping as they relentlessly plough through their set.
Once the final chord has died away, and with the venue staff trying to get everyone out in time to satisfy our puritanical overlords, James Loveday makes his way to the stage to announce the winners. It comes as no surprise when Cursed Sun are announced as winners. As always, our gracious host holds off on announcing second place for just long enough to have everyone thinking there may be an upset on the cards. The cheer goes up as Lock Horns are announced as the second band to make it through to this year’s final. And with that we depart the hallowed halls of Limelight 2 in search of whatever nefarious delights we can find. Until next time…