The Metal2TheMasses contest got underway in Belfast's Limelight2 on February 6th, with its usual format of voting: 50% an audience vote, 50% from the judges. My fellow judge and colleague Mark Ashby were faced with a difficult task. After all, the audience can be as partisan as they like, but passing judgement had to be impartial and considered.
And, it was telling on the passion displayed by every band member that when the final votes were counted only four points separated the four bands...
As usual the running order was decided by ballot and when Cursed Sun opened the M2TM evidence session they had the attitude and verve as if headlining. Andrew 'Jones' Cassidy was off and on stage like a hyperactive toddler over-dosed on e-numbers.
While he is the focal point for most of Cursed Sun's attack, there is a growing depth to the band; long gone are the overt Lamb of God influences - they may be the same songs, but with much more individual identity for this contemporary metal.
The same identity could not be as easily ascribed to Wardomized. While this was one of their better recent performances we've seen from them it was at times a pick-and-mix of all the various sub-genres of metal...grind, yes, thrash, yes, doom, yes.
Certainly they executed them all well, with Stephen McKeown adopting his vocals and his on-stage presence accordingly, but more focus will serve them well in the future.
Technical death metal is a difficult feat to accomplish for any set of musicians, but Shrouded not only nailed the music, but also have developed stagecraft that is needed to execute the style.
They are now a more complete aural and visual unit and even though they were unfamiliar to many present they had headbangers gathered at the barrier to offer neck snapping praise.
The bastard son of punk and thrash Deathbus had the first full-on mosh pits of the night, but they were facing problems from the get go...
For all their energy and determination guitar and lead problems destroyed most of Alessandro's sound throughout their set; a set that had to be cut short by 10 minutes. DB's drummer, John earned top marks for the evening, playing on as long as possible despite having a fractured hand.
All in all four bands determined to display their best take on metal, and all will have learned much more about themselves for the experience
When the final votes were totted up Shrouded and Cursed Sun were the victors on the night and now proceed to the semi-finals.
The next NI heat of Metal2TheMasses is on February 18th, and will see Baleful Creed, Erosion, Skypilot and So Long Until The Séance enjoin battle.
Review by Jonny
Pictures by Darren McVeigh