Metal 2 The Masses // The Grand Final 2023 // Northern Ireland

So, this is less of a review of this evening’s events and more of the ramblings of a broken man.

It is hard to comprehend how we got here, back in Jan when this all kicks off we can’t believe we are back at the start and come May, we are equally shocked and dishevelled that we made it this far. It has been one hell of a ride, jam-packed with bloodthirsty bands who all wanted a crack at the M2TM crown.

From the off it was a different line-up, some of the usual names weren’t there and it was hard to predict how this would all play out, a few new bands threw their names in the hat, some who have taken a crack before returned and there was that blend of fresh-faced newbies and highly experienced bands who know how to deliver in a pressure situation such as this. Heat I kicked off with Red Mountain Radio, SLUTS, Teras and Snake Neighbourhood and brought us a flavour of what was to follow, the unpredictable nature of this competition with the public vote messing with our melons. Teras of course made it all the way to the final and along the way added another dimension to the competition with the duelling vocals of Harrison & Hunter doing their thang’ all fused in an alt-rock grungy vibe.

Heat 2 had only 3 bands with one having to drop out due to all members coming down with “Full Blown Aids” #fakenews but did that detract from the quality on show? Did it fuck! Gravepath annihilated Voodoo and Sinocence brought a little ‘Jeune et se quois’ with their years of experience and one of the best beards in the competition, I still can’t get past that! Both bands progressed to the semis with Gravepath repeating their earlier performance and taking a slot in this year’s final. It was great to see Dynasty (RnR) back again doing their thing.

Heat 3 delivered two more finalists, Acid Age & The Boat Sank, the latter being one of the gems of the competition with a fresh take on your instrumental, stoner, garage rock. I’ve seen a few bands over the years tossing out an instrumental track here and there but generally, they’re not cohesive and lack identity, not with this trio, a face-melting, thunderous rock band that just demands your attention, a great addition to the 2023 M2TM line-up.

Heat 4, four great bands, Domhain new to the competition blew my mind, their ambient black-gaze was a joy to watch, the band had such a presence on stage, from the intricate drum work to the multi-layered vocals that create the most ambient soundscapes, a band to watch for sure, apologies I can’t find band members names anywhere but they do deserve a shout out, a quality band for sure. Sikottic made a return after a few lengthy break, making their mark on the local scene once again and alongside them young thrashers Asphyxiation

And one of the big hitters in the competition Insidious Void who decimated Voodoo once again.  A band of real quality and rightly booked their place in the semi alongside Domhain.

Heat 5 was pretty special, once again a band had to drop out due to the ravaging AIDS crisis, so that left us with Imperial Demonic, Cursed Sun and newbies PxBx who a bit like Sinatra, done it their way. Heat 5 delivered two finalists so it was always going to be a tough heat to make it out alive, it also saw Andy Heathen (found his name in a previous review) fronting his second band in the competition (the greedy bastard) in the form of Imperial Demonic, these guys have it all where black metal is concerned, a powerful stage presence, Andy’s killer vocals and haunting allure on stage they deservedly took a place in the final alongside Cursed Sun who laid down one of their best performances in years.  PxBx indeed needs a special shout-out for one of the most entertaining and energetic performances of the heats and is definitely a band I am looking forward to seeing how they will progress in the future.

PxBx for president!

Heat 6 and the final heat (thank fcuk) brought other nights crazy music, two bands from Mexico (across the border) in the form of 12 Gauge Outrage all the way from Wexford and R.P.C. (Rabid Puppies Of Chernobyl), the latter being a crazed session of hardcore, punk, thrash that just had to be seen to be believed. A crazy heat for sure with Indomnious slaying their set and booking a spot in the semi alongside surprise act R.P.C. I totes needed therapy after this heat.

Semi Final 1 saw Acid Age, Indominus, R.P.C and Gravepath battle it out for a spot In the final, a blistering nights music reminds us all why these bands are here, but Acid Age and Gravepath make it out alive to fight another day. Semi Final 2 again saw one band fall foul to Full Blown Aids and it left s with Imperial Demonic, The Boat Sank and Insidious Void, a thunderous nights music, all 3 bands slaying it but somehow newbies The Boat Sank stole a place in the final alongside Imperial Demonic causing the first shock of the semis. #controversial – Words That Burn climbed the wall and came up to deliver a banging performance to remind us that we here in Norn Iron aren’t the only ones who know how to rock! Semi Final 3 was defo the group of death, there always has to be one, heavily weighted with big hitters and the bands in question were Domhain, Cursed Sun, Sinocence and Teras, B’Jaysus who could call this one? All four bands absolutely delivered on the night, knocking it out of the park with stage presence, technical ability and heft, I left the building before the winner was announced for fear of a riot breaking out and woke the next morning to find both Cursed Sun and Teras had progressed, I honestly couldn’t have called it, as with all of these competitions you’ll see some of the big hitters drop out unexpectedly but I guess that is the double-edged sword nature of the voting system and the importance of having numbers inhouse supporting you.

We eventually made it to The Final, May 12th 2023 @ Voodoo Belfast and another sold out event, roasting hot, total sweatbox and loud as fcuk, we gathered to watch six stellar bands deliver once again. Acid Age open up proceedings and what followed was a great nights music showcasing the quality of the local metal scene here in Northern Ireland. A diverse mix of bands, all highly experienced, well practised, all up for it. All I could do tonight was sit back and take it all in. I took less pictures, and after a song or two of each band went to the back of the room and was just present to take it all in, watching the reactions to each band in the room, the interaction from the paying punters and support from other bands for their peers was great to see.

It felt like a long night, the heat, the intensity of the performances, six sets I just felt battered and bruised by the end of it all, but thankful for every bit of it, even the blow to the head! Thanks Wayne!

Simon Hall took to the stage at the end of the evening and dragged the local leg-end that is James Loveday up with him to reveal this years winner, 5th time was indeed a treat and Acid Age took the 2023 crown. Long live the kings of War Jazz!

They had been so consistent across the competition and delivered every time they hit that stage, I know them will melt heads and faces at Bloodstock 2023 and I look forward to witnessing it for myself. A huge congratulations to the lads but to all bands who performed so well on the night, Cursed Sun, Teras, The Boat Sank, Gravepath, and Imperial Demonic all delivered, left nothing behind, captured the imagination of all who were there and no doubt inspired a few wannabe rockers in the crowd.

To all the bands who took part, well played. To Voodoo Belfast and their staff, a big thank you for your hospitality, and of course the one the only Mr James Loveday aka Mr Distortion Project a big heartfelt thank you for running a great competition once again and of course to those who helped keep me sane over the last 5-6 months, Wayne, Clare and Phil, Till next time. Of course, a BIG thank you to all the bands who tolerated my lens in their bake.

A final mention to the kids from Metal For Life for their continuous work for anyone who needs them on the local scene, for their time and presence at the heats. It has been a blast, but I need to sleep now. Sleepy time.

I’ve been Mark, you’ve been lovely. Later’s.


Photography: Mark McGrogan

@flashartmark #flashartmark


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