It truly is hard to believe but we are at the business end of the competition for real. A stellar lineup tonight made of some of the heftiest bands we have encountered thus far in the competition means tonight’s result is going to be anything but a forgone conclusion. It has been a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the warm air blowing across the city and it lures us all into a false sense of security that all is well. It is far from well, five monstrous bands have gathered in Voodoo Belfast to wage war against one another to grab a coveted place in the Final this coming May. 

Survivalist is up first and after releasing an absolutely stunning debut “VII” the guys have recently been picked up by Earache Records Digital Distribution, so they have a quality in-depth that guarantee a monstrous performance every time. Stepping up first can always be a hard task, the show kicks off earlier this evening as there are five bands instead of four, the room is relatively quiet compared to previous heats even with the gargantuan following that some of the bands in tonight’s Semi-Final command. The early start could have caught some people out, the glorious weather keeping them at bay that little bit longer perhaps. But talking with those in charge, tonight’s event is actually sold out, so it means that the beautiful weather and divided loyalties for each band determine the numbers in the room at any one given time. One thing is for sure, it sure as hell hasn’t impacted Survivalists’ effort on stage. The brutality pumping from the PA ensures that nobody in the room here will doubt Survivalist are here to take home the prize. These guys always deliver live, a wealth of experience in the band and riding on the back of the confidence that the Earache announcement brings means these guys are riding a crest of a wave right now and it shows. 

Following Survivalist are Belfast based Archives, yet another band who recently released their own blistering debut Decay. Garnering attention far and wide these guys aren’t short on confidence and are totally pumped for tonight’s performance. Two bands in, two mosh pits, the opening bands are setting a seriously high bar and are a reminder of the quality on our doorstep. You don’t need to look too far for bands of real ability and stamina. Both bands bust their balls on stage, giving everything they have every time they step up there. This actually may be the best I have seen Archives play to date, they really have got that live experience nailed down, They gave it everything tonight, on stage, on the floor riling up the crowd and creating an experience way beyond what you would expect at a battle of the band’s competition. It was like a hometown gig, with hometown fans and the room is on fire. We’re only two bands in and I need a shower already, this has been a filthy experience!

Haint return after a lengthy absence, the prog-tastic trio is a gnarly proposition, a fusion of ambient melodic soundscapes against a backdrop of brutal distortion. As a trio, there are few places to hide, but no fear here as the musicianship is on point. Delicately interwoven components create a cinematic sonic journey unlike any other band in the bill tonight. Will the Voodoo faithful get it. A band very good at what they do, tight and on the money, they offer an alternative to the plethora of Death and Black metal bands we have on the local scene and more power to them! As the set gets into its groove the more you really appreciate what these guys are doing, against the backdrop of two Metalcore, Djent, Modern-Metal bands where will Haint fit it and can they make their mark. We shall see, 

Mortal Backlash is back with their thrash-tastic brand of metal, and a sizeable following in the room once again. Tonight is going to be a really tough one to call as far as how the chips will fall …. Apart from a dodgy start of their set, Mortal Backlash is nailing it once again, the room is in a frenzy as it was first time round which tells you their loyal fan base are here again to represent, we’ve already had 3 killer sets from 3 killer bands but something’s gotta give! These guys have youth on their side and an abundance of energy and bravado, the kids throwing themselves off the stage tell you everything you need to know, they are adored by their peers and the room can feel it. Big things lie ahead for this crazy bunch for sure. 

So Gozer The Traveller once again close proceedings – a groove-laden band that fuses old and new in an explosive way. As with the first heat we saw them, they take you by surprise, a band as a unit make a seriously powerful statement – a slamming wall of distortion with a matching backline and create a monstrous sound that pulls you in. As the set grows in stature,  so does the size of the crowd in the room, their songs gnawing away at your brain as each filthy riff embeds itself deep within …. I don’t think even the baby Jesus and the wee donkey can call this one. Every band tonight has stepped up to the plate, nobody was in hiding, the performances tonight were as good as we were going to get from each and every band, the occasion didn’t detract at all, nerves were put to one side and everyone grabbed it. The sad thing is that only two bands can progress, and it will feel like a gut-wrenching experience putting your score on the voting slip as no band here tonight is a one-point or two-point band, any of the bands here tonight could stand up on the BOA New Blood Stage and slay it. They would easily stand shoulder to shoulder with any band from the UK and beyond who takes a spot on that hallowed stage. 

There may be two bands who will progress this evening but there are no losers here, Survivalist have big things to come, Archives are going places no doubt about it, Haint will turn heads for sure and are making their mark again now things have opened up, Mortal Backlash have youth on the side and time on their hands and Gozer are a band well worth your hard-earned money at any venue. Goddam this is what it’s all about.

#THOUGHTSANDPRAYERS for James Loveday of The Distortion Project who went to England on tour with The Crawling and came back with full-blown AIDS, I think that’s what he said on the phone, could have been Covid, anywho get better son luv, we missed you!

I’ve been Mark, you’ve been lovely, till next time. Please feel free to use any images on your socials just tag @rocknloadmag 


Semi-Final Two takes place once again at Voodoo Belfast on Friday, April 8th

Pick up your tickets from the link below and have your say!
Competition and voting info:
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