Artist Portrait: Transcension

Artist Portrait: Transcension

Popularity contests are terrible things. Internet popularity contests are the among the most terrible of things. Bloodstock’s Metal to the Masses competition is a cheap and overly complex piece of brand promotion that ultimately comes time to arbitrary decisions, who knows who and a whole lot of bullshit. That’s before you even get to the internet stage of the contest.

Whether Transcension would agree with me on all of that I’m not so sure. That band though recently slugged their way through seemingly endless heats to the final leg of the Glasgow edition of this year’s Metal to the Masses to lose out at the final hurdle. From what I understand of the reviews of the show, Transcesnion fairly owned the stage that night. A tight and aggressive performance full of instrumental dexterity combined with a vocally enthusiastic audience seemingly doesn’t cut it for the standards of Bloodstock.

Possibly some songs about either dragons or extreme violence would do the trick. Or something Satanic. Satan rules.

David McGeehan // photograph by Calum McMillan
David McGeehan // photograph by Calum McMillan

Rapid ascension towards a potential slot at a festival as prestigious in metal circles as Bloodstock which stops with such a violent jerk could prove to considerable dent on the momentum of any band. But Transcension seem to have withstood the knock pretty well. I recently spent an evening with them in the rehearsal room shortly after losing and they seemed in a strong creative form.

The detail with which they pick out details of their compositions and sounds is almost exhausting. I’ve seen this band a thousand times and they made “mistakes” in their practices of these songs that I would never have noticed. It’s an impressive dedication to the intricacies of their music which has surely contributed to making them such a devastatingly tight live act.

Dave Fulton // photograph by Calum McMillan
Dave Fulton // photograph by Calum McMillan

Pleasingly however, despite being a band who clearly take their music incredibly seriously they don’t seem to take themselves so seriously. Even during the most aggressive and punishing moments of their music there are grins and friendly jibes a plenty. The well earned of perception of Metal music for being overly po-faced, intense and posturing has somehow passed Transcenion by, though their music is unapologetically metal.

Though make no mistake, this is band well aware of the importance of practising the essential rock poses. But thankfully, tongues are planted firmly in cheek as opposed to behind forced grimaces and macho nonsense.

Bob McBride // photograph by Calum McMillan
Bob McBride // photograph by Calum McMillan

The reality is that bands like this won’t win popularity contests. They aren’t slick enough. Not in terms of performance, but in terms of hitting all the “beats” that marketing campaigns and poorly disguised PR stunts are looking for. This is a band who spend as much time as they can working on their songs. Not their photo shoots or their social media presence.  The song’s are there, but the numbers probably aren’t.

Luckily, the reality also is that in artistic terms numbers count for nothing.

If you’re going to play metal, and play it like this band do, then you’re not doing it because of any kind of motivation beyond loving it. Artists should never be ashamed about being astute about turning their talents into a career, but they should be ashamed to contrive to pass off calculated, unnatural, career focused moves as integrity.

Popularity contests suck and prove absolutely nothing about the quality of a band. Dedication, integrity and a sense of self-awareness say something.

Maybe not as much as some sweet hair cuts, but they say something.

Transcension // photograph by Calum McMillan
Transcension // photograph by Calum McMillan

3 Comments

  1. I really disagree with using both metal 2 the masses and transcension to spout your distaste at the battle of the bands formula. M2tm is one of the few competitions that’s not based on popularity alone but judged on the band which has the best potential to please the bloodstock crowd. Did you know that even once a band gets through to play the new blood stage they are also being watched for the potential to progress to bigger bloodstock stages as well as wacken etc etc. I find this piece quite miss informed and miss placed in its attack. If you knew the organisers as well as Simon who ultimately gives the prize you would know how miss placed this attack is.

    1. That’s totally fair enough to think that, it might well do the whole contest thing a lot better than most. I’m just not a fan of any of these kind of competitions, though I’d never judge a band for giving one a bash. Winning is obviously too good an opportunity to pass up. I did know about that future thing you mentioned, I’ve known bands who did get through to play it from elsewhere in the UK. And I’ve also seen bands that seemed like obvious winners lose out for reasons that totally escape me at the last hurdle plenty of times in the Glasgow heats over the years. Though I’m willing to admit that aspect might well just be a taste thing.

      Personally, and it is just in my opinion, I’m still not really convinced that these competitions are a great idea, no matter what the criteria and procedure is. It was more meant as a general criticism of these kind of formula’s than any kind of malicious attack on The Bloodstock Approach itself.

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