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New Forces Malta: Inaugural Showcase Recap - Day One

The first ever edition of New Forces Malta by Metaldays was held over the second weekend of March at The Garage, with twelve bands playing their hearts out for a chance to play at this prestigious European festival.

Unfortunately, on the 29TH January it was announced by the festival organisers, that MetalDays will not be held in 2024, and instead shifted their focus to MetalDays 2025, scheduled to take place from July 27th to August 2nd, 2025. Altghough this was bad news, the organization for the local New Forces event Nick Grima MGT ascertained that the winner shall in fact play in Metaldays 2025. Not only that but, literally a hours before the doors opened on Friday, Nick announced that the victorious band shall also travel to Germany for the Metal Battle at Wacken Open Air, making it the first Maltese band to ever play in this huge festival.

band photo: Maria Baldacchino

The winners, Morsrot, were announced on Sunday 10th at 7pm during an after-party held at Kickstart. Runners-up Repugnance will replace Morsrot should they not be able to make it to any of the festivals.

Voting for all twelve bands was done via three processes: the online poll during the days building up to the festival, in which Morsrot edged past Luciferi Regnum to take the lead, ballot voting on each day of the festival where each attendee was given a chance to vote once for any of the six bands playing on the day, and the judges’ votes.

The judges panel was originally made up of Gunnar Sauermann from Prophecy Productions and Metal Hammer, Micheal Berberian (Season of Mist an independent record label and record distributor with subsidiaries in France and the United States, founded in 1996 by Michael in Marseille, France), Thomas Strater from Testimony Records and Metal Hammer and Roman Hilser from Summer Breeze Festival. Unfortunately, due to an airline strike in Germany only Micheal Berberian was able to arrive and attend making his task more arduous and exhausting at times.

Doors opened at 6pm on Friday 8th March with the first band taking the stage 30 minutes later. The bands slots and times of playing were defined on the 21st January during an event meeting between the oganisers and members from the bands participating. A member from each band was asked to pull a ticket from a hat uncovering the date, time and slot his band will play in during the event.

First out of the hat were Mur.doc 104 and they were the first band on stage on Friday. To be honest I was a bit sceptic that there would be anyone in front of them at that ungodly hour, and minutes before the doors open, I could only count a score of metaheads waiting for the door shutters to go up. But anyone thinking the same as myself were proven wrong once the time arrived for Mur.doc 104 to start their 30 minutes set.

band photo: Noel Mifsud

There are of course pros and cons of playing a short set, and it is burden on the band to choose the songs to put on their set list. I have to say before we endeavor into more details about the bands’ performances, the songs each band choose for their allocated time did not seem to be much of a bother as all sets were solid.

But back to Mur.doc 104, their set comprised of six songs with a mix of tunes from their debut EP ‘The Undying’ which was released independently last year on the 3rd March. Apart from the title track, they included ‘Ignorant Masses’ and the eponymous ‘Mur.doc 104’. The other three tracks are songs which should be on their next release (hopefully to see daylight soon). These are, ‘Condemned To Rot’ which the band opened the evening with, followed by ‘Thrashgauge’ and ‘Curtain Falls’. Before hitting the stage, I could see that I was not the only one troubled with attendance, any worries were crushed with the first couple of notes and Mur.doc 104 delivered a strong thrash metal set awing the audience in front of them.

band photos: Maria Baldacchino

Next up was the band who eventually won the right to play at Metaldays and Wacken, Morsrot. The band was formed in 2021 amidst a dark time on the world and their debut show arrived a few months later during the first festival after covid, Metal City Rock City which took place between the 15th and 20th March 2022. Since then, the band not only matured musically but managed to build a good following of young metalheads most of them fresh out of school, just as the band members were. A demo titled ‘Carnal Enslavement’ quickly followed and was released on 7th July 2022. Since then, the band played numerous live gigs many times introducing new songs the band developed with the aim of a debut album very soon. Their setlist on Friday comprised of nine songs, two of which were taken from their 2022 demo. The set also featured their recently released singles, ‘Masochist’ which got the crowd singing along to it and ‘Sloth’.

band photos: (i) Clint Cassar (ii) Stacey Zammit (iii) Maria Baldacchino

One thing that this festival offered was the diversity in styles and the third band that played on Friday is a witness to this, as it was time for Align The Tide. Fresh from their gig in London last February, sharing the stage with Suicide Silence and Glower and the introduction of a new singer a few weeks earlier, the band returned to the local stage with a grit and determination to show that the band is still strong, and their blend of heavy fast thrash chords mixed outstandingly with the band’s trade of metalcore did just that. ATT delighted us with six songs, three from each album, the 2017 debut ‘Dead Religion’ and ‘Hollow’ released in 2022. Nowadays the band boasts two prime guitarists since James Horton joined in 2023.

band photo: Clint Cassar

Next on the bill was, what I believe were the outsiders for both nights, but Krishna managed to deliver a haunting piece of music, rendering their show one of my favourites for the night. As in their tradition whenever they have a short slot, they played just one song entitled ‘Abaddon’, through which both Tim and Alan played as if there was no tomorrow. As always this was a unique version as although the band might play it again sometime it would definitely be a different rendition of the song, as it can be heard on previous songs on their multiple live recordings the band has online. ‘Abaddon’ is the second new song the band put forward since the album Headless was released on March 24, 2023, although ‘Despondent’ was released a few days prior to the album launch. The band’s next stop is Bucharest where the band shall be performing for the first time abroad at the Soundart Festival.

band photos: Alexia Vlachakis

With four bands over and only two bands left one would think it was getting late (for the Maltese scene) and people will start getting tired, but it was certainly not the case on Friday. The next act was one of the two veteran artists taking part. SaHHar has been around since 2006, releasing his debut full length album ‘Magija Sewda’ a year later. Since then, there were 18 releases. Recently he also released a couple of singles online and is working on his new full length, hopefully to be released soon. Anyone who has never seen SaHHar live might raise some eyebrows when you see him walking out on stage all alone with his guitar, but right from the first note (usually after an intro) one knows he is in for a show from the man. Starting his set with a song from 2007, ‘Nar Li Jsaffi’ he soon took all present on a journey through the years covering some of the most important work he produced during his 18-year career.

band photo: Rachel Mifsud

Last band for the night, was more or less on the same wave as SaHHar but more melodic. Luciferi Regnum is another band that popped up right after covid and in a few months took the scene by storm. Their blend of Gothic metal with melodic Black together with the stage antics of their frontwoman Lilith Macabre, who was also unveiled as the new Martyrium singer in December, bestow a unique ambiance congregating a following from all genres and ages. Their set was made up of 5 songs including Banshee – the band’s first single released in November 2022. The band is currently working on their debut release.

And that was the end of Day 1, which shall definitely be immortalized as one of the best days any metalhead experienced at The Garage and got everyone eager for the next day. footnote: New Forces Malta: Inaugural Showcase Recap - Day Two shall feature tomorrow at 6pm

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