Crazy to think but here we are, Semi-Final II and the last chance saloon for two of these bands to take their place in the final to be held once again at Voodoo Belfast on May 6th. All roads lead to Bloodstock Open Air Festival in August, 20k people in a field all celebrating their love for all things Metal, cross-pollination of genres, cultures and sheeple with one common denominator live music!

After a crazy few years, it has been great to see the passion and support locally here at Voodoo, each heat has been rammed with people out in force making up the numbers to support their favourite acts, there have been tears and tantrums and that’s just the judges but it’s all been worth it. As ever the venue hosts Metal For Life NI who have been here throughout offering their services to anyone in need of support in the mental health community in Northern Ireland, they’re there for anyone to introduce themselves so do say hello to the team on site. 

Tonight we have five bands once again battling it out, four from heats this year and one carried over from the chaos pre covid. Tonight is more of a Heavy Rock / Thrash affair and a balanced looking lineup so as not to melt the brains of the collective people trying to wrap their heads around various genres battling against one another. 

I’m so excited I could pee myself, Let’s do this!

First up we have pre-Covid rockers Victim Royal a five-piece who have seen out the pandemic and are back with a vengeance. It’s an earlier than usual start tonight with five bands taking part and the crow at the moment is a little light, will this have any bearing on how things play out we shall see but it doesn’t stop Victim Royal from knocking it out of the park. They’re back more focused, tighter and maybe a little heavier than before and the time away seems to have helped with the cohesion of the band. A solid start to proceedings. The guys work hard, you can see that hopefully, all that graft will translate to support from the crowd tonight. 

Wildheat are up next and these guys have their sound locked in, 80’s hair metal sunset strip style all the way and they do it very well. They have a great stage presence about them also which helps sell the dream, spandex, fat chicks and free beer that’s what the 80s were all about before those checkered shirt grunge hippies in the 90’s ruined it! #wildheatforpresident The blistering guitar solos and sleaze oozing from the stage – I feel filthy just watching it, they’re always popular with the crowds, their energy is always off the chart, could this be their night?

Blurred Reality makes their return in gargantuan fashion, sometimes it can be hard to remember every band from every heat and so you clock them at the venue and go aye I remember that face. But when these guys kicked in you’re instantly reminded why they are here in the Semi – a tight trio with killer stage presence and the balls to pull it off. On stage or on the floor in the middle of the crowd Blurred Reality is one of the surprise packages of M2TM 2022.  As tight as a tiger’s ass, great melodic songwriting with an edge you can’t help but pay attention when they play and all three members absolutely slay it live, hair flying all over the show Loreal would not be impressed but the crowd at Voodoo digs it! 

12 Gauge Outrage are the penultimate band tonight, thrashing their little asses off! The pace of the set is relentless, speed thrash at its finest, blistering pace and energy from the stage, the guys have their set nailed once again. Hefty, hefty stuff. Their music is full of twists and turns with more tempo changes than a Jazz bands metronome, their music can be packed with smelling riffs and then take you off leftfield on an intricate bit of guitar work as a musical diversion before slamming back into those crazy riffs once again, another great performance and a band to keep your eye on.

Dynasty wrap things up and it was always going to be interesting catching these crazy kids again, they made a serious impression in the heats but could they do it all over again? It seems they can, crazy as ever and full of confidence they glide through their set like they’re playing a headline show! Old school rock for the new millennials’ is a crazy combo but it seems to work. They bust their little balls up there on stage as I think the only way they know how to play, for such a youthful group they seem to have this Rock ‘N’ Roll thing sussed!

The Guest performance by Netherhall brings the evening to a close, I met and interviewed the guys at Bloodstock and they are a serious proposition as a band, proggy goodness, glorious cinematic soundscapes and wrapped up in Djent chaos and huge breakdowns make for a glorious end to the evening. Netherhall does what they do so well, the room is booming with ambient nuances bouncing off the walls before a sledgehammer of distortion comes crashing down. A beauty of a band and one destined for great things.



As always a fantastic nights music, great craic, good people and hosted yet again but Lazarus himself Mr James Loveday of The Distortion Project

Semi-Final III takes place on April 22nd so be there or be square, this is going to be a very tough one to call!

I’ve been Mark, you’ve been lovely, please feel to use and share the photos below just tag us @rocknloadmag 






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