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New Forces Malta: Inaugural Showcase Recap - Day Two

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.

Day 2 was set off by a blend of Death Doom and Experimental Progressive Metal from the most veteran band to play over the weekend.

band photos: (i) Clint Cassar (ii) Daniela Dalli

Oblique Visions were formed in 1991, and after releasing a much-acclaimed demo, ‘The Fallen’ four years later (and a collector’s item today) they released an opus in Malta’s metal scene ‘Seas Of Serenity’ in 1995. A follow-up to "Seas of Serenity" was being written prior to the band's hiatus till Oblique were revived in 2006 with a string of live performances. Circa 2020, original members Brian 'Fusa' Sammut, Conrad "Twister" Attard and Jeffrey Bugeja were joined by Frank Pizzo on guitar and ex Sceptocrypt and ex Martyrium singer Conrad Borg, with their first appearance on stage being during Sanguis Noctem on the 18th December 2021. Since then, the band released their second full length album ‘Out Of Darkness’ in February 2023. Saturday’s set was mainly composed of songs from this release except for the track the band opened their set with ‘Deranged’ (from ‘Seas Of Serenity’) and ‘Darkness Has Fallen’, one of the new songs the band are working on for their next album and which was unleased to the public the first time during Peccatorum last September.

band photo: Clint Cassar

One could not ask for a better start for the day, especially when the second band for the evening was Damaged & Co. offering their blend of Metalcore and Alternative Metal. Starting off their set with their first single from 2018 ‘Here To Stay’ the band changed their attention to music from their debut full length album ‘Life's Grand Delusion’ which was released around a year ago in February 2023. Their excellent performance came to an end with two of my favourite tracks off the album: ‘Carpe Diem’ and ‘Reflections’.

band photo: Clint Cassar

After a quick change over, to which one must compliment all those involved as stagehands throughout all the festival for their timekeeping, it was time to get doomier, and sludgier with Lady Lizard who gave us one of the slowest and heaviest sets over the two days. With a set comprising of four tracks which have not yet been released officially except for ‘Bloat Drone’ (released 8th January 2024) they astounded all those present. The other three songs making up their set and which I for one am looking forward to seeing them released were: ‘Far Too Long’, ‘Solitary Planet’ and ‘Statues Of Bone’.

band photo: Diane Caruana

Rankin is a band that just showed up on the scene out of nowhere with an immediate impact. They released their debut album ‘Chrysalis’ in 2022 (April if not mistaken) only in digital format and started tiptoeing their way into the local live scene only to become one the favourite bands to watch perform. Probably the British humour and banter of their main singer James Byrne is one of the main factors that the band became a people’s favourite but it surely doesn’t reduce any merit the guys around him deserve. They opened Saturday’s show with a new song ‘Rage’ which James promised it shall be on their second album to be recorded later on this year and continued with three more tracks from their debut.

band photos: Diane Caruana

As if it wasn’t already burdensome on Micheal Berberian to judge the bands so far, things were going to get much more heavier with the two remaining bands.

band photo: Clint Cassar

First up was Repugnance, who ultimately finished runners up to Morsrot. Their first two songs for the night were taken from ‘Shrouds Of Deceit’, the band’s debut full length album released in 2019, before playing a new song titled ’A Fading Breed’, then back again to another song from the album before ending their set with ‘Priest Of Impurity’ taken from the band’s first EP ‘Seeds Of Opression’ released in 2014. Without diminishing the musical accomplishment of the band, personally, this was the best ever I heard the band, probably since their induction in 2011 and all this merit to the amazing capabilities of Steve Lombardo on sound, which he managed to define exceptionally to the listener, not an easy job in Brutal Death Metal.

One thought that kept lingering in my mind after each band was “they’re going to be tough to follow” only to be proven wrong time and time again. All the bands performed exceptionally and the last band for Saturday did just that as well. Haine were formed in 2017 making an immediate impact on the metal scene with their Deathcore grooves. I consider them one of the tightest band on the island and it’s always a pleasure to see them perform, and I believe this was not just my opinion especially when the mosh pit in front of them was as wild as ever. Their set commenced by ‘This Darkness’ which is a non-album single from 2018 and continued with four songs from their debut self-titled EP released in 2021.

band photo: Clint Cassar

A mammoth of an act to close the night and the festival, but all good things must come to an end. It was one hell of a weekend, one which many hope there’ll be a repeat soon. The organization was impeccable, and sound was immaculate, but one must also thank Philip and Jim for taking care of the lights and backline. They are rarely shown the gratitude they deserve.

On a closing note: I would like to congratulate all the participating bands, all were outstanding making this weekend an exciting one to all those who attended from early hours and stayed till the last band, on each night, said their goodbyes. A massive congratulations goes out to Morsrot: “We’re all proud of you and we know you’ll be making us proud in Slovenia and Germany in 2025”. Of course, one must not forget the organization of Nick Grima MGT and all those who in one way or another were there to make sure the festival is a successful one – thank you.

This was the first edition and it surely won’t be the last!

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