What sets Bloodstock Open Air apart from other large scale festivals is their dedication to showcasing rising talent. Their enthusiasm for this emerging talent is presented in part through the Metal 2 The Masses initiative. A series of competitions held in regions throughout the UK as well as Europe and Ireland where up-and-coming or unsigned bands can compete for the opportunity to play to a festival crowd on Bloodstock’s New Blood Stage. Our photographer William Mawdsley has been following the Manchester leg of the competition again this year including the incredibly stacked Grand Final.
Hosted at Manchester’s favourite rock club Rebellion and organised by the incredible team at the 0161 group, who put on many fantastic shows in and around Manchester to share their love of the community and help give a platform for some upcoming bands local or otherwise.
The competition plays out over a series of heats featuring 4 bands with 2 from each advancing to the next round decided by a combination of a judges vote as well as a crowd vote with the final being presided over by Bloodstock’s own Simon Hall. Unfortunately Simon was unable to attend this year’s final in Manchester which left the unenviable task of picking the band who would go through to play Bloodstock down to the very competent judges panel. A mighty task indeed as this year’s completion has been the toughest one so far.
But before we get onto the bands themselves a big shoutout has to go to the Manchester metal community who this year has turned out in full force in support of this incredible competition. On multiple occasions throughout the heats, quarters and semi finals topping out at around 300 – 400 people in attendance which means it’s no surprise when come Grand Final day there are around 500 eager metal heads ready to show Rebellion a night it will never forget.
So starting back in January with 32 bands, all of which would be worthy of filling the coveted slot, a mere 14 shows later we are inevitably down to our final 4. And honestly you couldn’t ask for a more diverse lineup of acts to showcase the larger Manchester heavy music scene as our finalists include genre-blending prog powerhouses SQUARE WILD, soaring heavy metallers 40,000 LEAGUES, we have some wildly heavy antics of DEKAYTAH and finally ‘Springfield Hardcore’ party animals RELEASE THE HOUNDS.
But it is not just the competing bands here today, the 0161 have curated a monster of a lineup that’s intended to leave your ears ringing and your neck sore in the best possible way. We kick off proceedings with KRINGER AND THE BATTLE KATZ, treating us to a groovy hardcore and metal mixture, a perfectly chaotic way to warm up your dancing shoes. Next up we have the first of our M2TM alumni of the night, KARMA’S PUPPET who won the Chesterfield competition last year and seeing them today it’s clear why, with chunky riffs and catchy choruses abound. EMBODIMENT, 2017 M2TM Bristol winners who are set to storm the Sophie Lancaster stage at this year’s festival deliver a stomper of a set with a healthy dose of brutal tech death to help blast away any sunny Saturday afternoon cobwebs as we head into the competition proper.
Up first we have SQUARE WILD, easing us into their set with a piano intro to set the mood it’s not long until we are treated to the magic that this band produce. A mixture of prog rock with heavy metal elements, it’s always hard to pin down quite what musical trickery Square Wild are going to pull next with the band weaving through genres with ease. Next up DEKAYTAH who throughout the competition have consistently brought some of the most adrenaline infused sets we have seen and tonight is of course no exception. It’s just high energy heaviness from start to finish with room spanning walls of death and far too many circle pits to count.
It’s safe to say that once Dekaytah get the room moving it simply does not stop. The same could also be said for our next act except this time you might also have to dodge the occasional inflatable ball or flying yellow space hopper. That’s right it’s time to down a cold Duff beer and then immediately lose yourself in the ensuing chaos that is RELEASE THE HOUNDS, everyone’s favourite Simpsons themed hardcore act. But don’t let the whimsical exterior fool you Release The Hounds know how to write a stompingly good hardcore track that will leave you with no choice but to bounce along.
And finally we have our final competing band of the night 40,000 LEAGUES who take some time to draw us in with some perfectly atmospheric guitar work rising until they blast head first into a blazing set of heavy metal goodness. The dual guitar work topped with their signature soaring vocals keep the energy rising throughout. And even after the past few sets the crowd are still in full swing throughout with a constant stream of crowd surfers helping to bring the competition to a close in style.
And with that the competition is over and it’s up to our judges to head off and make the ultimate decision of which of these 4 incredible bands will represent Manchester at Bloodstock this year.
But! The night is not over just yet, we still have a few bands left to round out this absolute scorcher of a lineup. And up first it’s the no nonsense blackened punk assault that is WOLFBASTARD, a blistering set of raw aggression, if you’re there be sure to check these guys out on the Sophie stage this year you will not want to miss it.
Following that we have local legends PORTRAYAL OF RUINN who stormed last year’s M2TM to represent Manchester at Bloodstock showing us their impeccable deathcore chops. With the crowd going absolutely wild once again these guys show why they are one of the rising stars of the Manchester scene. And finally our headliners for the evening, on their way to appear at this year’s Download Festival, OCTOBER ENDS treat us to a serving of synth laden metalcore that sees the night out in style.
So, finally it’s the moment that all this has been leading up to; 32 bands, 15 shows but it inevitably has to come down to just 1 and the band going through to play Bloodstock Open Air is…Square Wild! A massive congratulations to them and commiserations to all the other bands who performed incredibly and helped make this final a night unlike any other. Check out a few photos as well as a short highlight video of the night below.
All images by William Mawdsley