Now in its third year and continuing to grow, UK Tech-Fest once again put on a fine array of tech-metal bands across a weekend when Mother Nature shone favourably on Newark Showground.
Any early birds on Thursday got to witness Glaswegians The Colour Pink Is Gay give a great indication of what was in store over the next few days with their jazzed up metal proving a hit. As well as initiating fans into the heat of the arena (this year taking place in three adjoining stables/barns) it showed how much the festival has grown with a decent turn out for such an early performance.
Local boys Martyr Defiled brought their brand of deathcore later on and while the aggression and passion was clear it was a shame their vocalist resorted to merely shouting down the microphone, which took the edge of things.
Instrumental guitar wizard Chimp Spanner (or Paul Ortiz as his friends call him) rounded off the night with a fabulous display. Along with a backing band that enhanced the experience, the outer space tones and memorable passages created proved mesmerising, not once getting stale as some instrumental acts can.
Kicking off the Friday were another Glaswegian act, Mountains Under Oceans, who were in a similar vein to Chimp Spanner by crafting magnificent instrumental soundscapes worthy of their name that eased everyone into the day ahead.
BEAR on the other hand were almost the polar opposite, their lively and intense blend of tech-hardcore thrashed out in one of the most energetic performances of the weekend. Short and punchy, they surpassed their recorded capabilities and appeared to win over a few new fans in the process.
Probably the newest band at Tech-Fest, No Sin Evades His Gaze showed no fear in what was one of their first ever live gigs. Their straightforward death metal/core approach was well executed and they certainly showed plenty of promise.
Venezuelan guitar virtuoso Felix Martin then graced the main stage with his 14-string guitar, switching styles from Latin to metal via tango, often all in the same song. Obviously extremely talented it was fascinating more than anything to see him utilise pretty much every fret on his instrument, making a lighter change from all the full on tech-metal bands.
Well in with a shout for ‘heaviest band of the weekend’ French outfit Gorod blasted out some powerful death metal with a technical edge to great effect. The crowd participation didn’t go quite how their excited frontman hoped but in the end it didn’t really need to as the strength of their music and live ability were more than enough.
Making a rare appearance in this UK exclusive, headliners Vildhjarta shook the room with their rumbling tone. The experimental Swedes didn’t say much and relied on strobe lighting that created an electric atmosphere as they rolled through a mix of their Meshuggah-inspired songs. The less said about their clean vocals the better but otherwise it was a fine performance by a band born for an event such as Tech-Fest.
One of the first Saturday morning slots was taken up by Acoda, who weren’t bad until the pained emo vocals came in. No thanks, back out into the sun!
Cult hero (or maybe just hero?) in the tech-metal scene and back for another year, Drewsif Stalin went down a treat. This time he had Nikki Simmons on vocals and her presence definitely helped the big man eclipse last year’s outing. One of the biggest crowds of the weekend watched on as their rendition of Miley Cyrus’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ got one of the few sing-alongs during their extremely fun performance.
On the more serious side Sunderland’s young death metal crew Nexilva injected some intensity as they stormed through half an hour of punishing tracks. Their vocalist literally went red in the face as he and the rest of the band exerted every ounce of energy they had into a tight set. And it paid off.
Electronic/dance metal dude The Algorithm got people moving as he headlined the second stage (and also made keytars cool for one brief moment). His cover of Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ a real highlight.
Unfortunately for Meta-Stasis hardly anyone turned up for their theatrics, much the same as last year, having been lumped in after the popular The Algorithm. It was a shame as their unique electronic-tinted death metal was done fairly well but only a handful of fans witnessed it.
When it was announced Glass Cloud would be replaced by acoustic singer-songwriter Jon Gomm, it appeared a strange choice. But he drew over ten times the number of fans as Meta-Stasis and his brilliant onstage banter kept them there. His folk style songs may not have fit with the rest of the bill but Jon Gomm still inadvertently got at least one circle pit going (no, really).
Given the number of fans walking round in Monuments shirts all weekend it was no surprise the main stage was pretty packed by the time they arrived. Having headlined the opening night last year their stock has grown significantly with the addition of superb frontman Chris Barretto, who had to put in an extra shift keeping everyone entertained after various technical difficulties plagued their set (the kick drum had to be nailed down at one point). Aside from those issues, which did put a dampener on proceedings, it was a bouncy, fun set mixing forward-thinking progressive metal with Chris’ vast vocal range to sometimes stunning effect.
Much like Acoda on Saturday, Aeolist created an atmospheric, interesting backdrop with their musicianship but their singer’s pained, wailed vocals were a turn off.
Stepping in at the last minute to replace one of the six or so late cancellations, Exist Immortal’s more melodic take on tech-metal with mostly clean vocals was a refreshing blast. The love for what they were doing was clear and infectious as the crowd grew into them more as time went on.
Making their UK debut after forming nine years ago, Destrage proved just as chaotic live as they are on record. The Italians rivalled (and possibly beat) BEAR with the liveliest set of the weekend as they darted round stage but still managed to hit every note in their mental mash up of prog, tech, jazz, math rock and anything else you can name. Maybe too much for some but those willing to give them a go were duly rewarded.
On paper Sunday looked the most appetising day and The Safety Fire started off the final trio, all of whom did their status at the top of the bill justice. Heavy and melodic with plenty of intriguing rhythms to please the most ardent of tech-metal fans The Safety Fire were on great form. Having missed the last two incarnations of Tech-Fest they seemed intent on making up for this and they definitely did.
German proggers The Ocean only had a forty five minute set but they still managed to cram in most of Pelagial to finish off their UK tour. An album that nearly has it all was replicated with finesse, from the doom elements via death metal and plenty of progressive parts, for anyone aware of the album (which should be everyone) it was nigh-on a perfect rendition. Ending with a long feedback laden outro and Robin Staps on his back, it was an astounding three-quarters of an hour of music.
Finally SikTh. Without them the UK tech-metal scene may not even exist so it was no surprise they were announced as headliners after reforming. It was also no surprise they drew the biggest crowd of the weekend and put on a fantastic spectacle. Packed with fan favourites such as ‘Pussyfoot’ and ‘Flogging The Horses’ they got everyone bouncing and reminded everyone how unique they really were/are. The spoken word ‘When Will The Forest Speak’ was done with aplomb and though there was no encore it was a fitting end to another success for Tech-Fest. Meshuggah next year? Can’t We All Dream…