Indeed the competition was fierce for the three places in the May final, with many bringing friends and family along to bolster their chances in the audience vote (votes are 50% judges, 50% audience).
First to grace the stage were A Little Bitter, who were among those to début a new track amidst their set. With familiar melodic metal punch, reminiscent of mid-80s heft, but taking on board contemporary vibes they maintained a punchy effort throughout.
Within a few tracks the floor filled up - partly with Seamy wandering around, bass in hand. Among their heavier tracks Genghis was inflammatory with its mix of attack and soft threatening words. vastly underrated this outing proves there is an appetite for more releases from A Little Bitter.
Rosco's Riot version of the heavier end of the rock spectrum had their fans to the fore as they rolled out their riffage.
Tim's towering presence gives the act much stage presence as the band performed a solid set, with only the curious presence of an albeit brief drum solo questionable. Overall a sound that tries to combine the 90s with earlier periods of rock.
When you experience a technical fault mid-set, and have your guitarist holding his head in his hands many an act would have thrown in the towel. Not so for So Long Until The Séance (SLUTS). They took it in their stride (including the bass line of Grease's Summer Loving to alleviate the silence).
The schlock horror metal, including dark pop, had a real edge of humour. Great tunes with a nod and a wink to the crowd about the absurdist nature of the lyrical content. Sure, some may compare them a little to the Murderdolls but there is something uniquely Northern Irish about their take on the murderous laughter within.
With energy in abundance Lock Horns brought complex rhythms, full on wall of sound and windmill headbanging that had their set list levitating.
There is a primal sense of metal within their progressive bent, with an awesome sense of power pounding throughout their set. That said they are not afraid to add in some softer vocal moments as part of their musical tapestry. Within the overall heft there are some deft touches.
The emergence of Shrouded over the last 18 months has been phenomenal in terms of stage craft and musical dexterity. Melodic death metal is not the easiest genre for anyone to pull off with the intertwined lead lines from Dani and Shane as Jordy and Scott lay down an aural volcano of rhythm.
While many struggle to lay down their deathly mark on this genre across Europe and beyond this iteration of Shrouded have moved from bantam weight contenders to heavyweight bruisers vying for the belt.
With the five acts giving their all James Loveday was tasked with the enviable task of totting up the votes on his trusty abacus...many an accountant would have struggled with the complexity of the scoring system that applies to Metal2TheMasses.
As the weary crowd wandered home along Fountain Street the final calculation was complete. And, the three making their way to the final now have to muster up their best in front of Bloodstock's Simon Hall in four weeks time.
Proceeding to the final are:
SLUTS, Lock Horns and Shrouded
Review by Jonathan Traynor
Pictures by Darren McVeigh