Very much the mainland European counterpart to our favourite UK progressive metal festival, UK Tech Fest, Euroblast packs as much tech, prog and general noodly goodness as it can into the cosy indoor facilities of Essigfabrik in Cologne, Germany at the turn of summer into autumn – and you’d better believe we’ll be there to cover the as much as bastarding possible.
We’ve put together our top five picks to catch over the weekend – as well as a few naughty special mentions – to give you some idea of who to see (or, if you can’t make it, who you’re missing out on).
We begin with:
Playing: Friday, 4pm, Mainstage
In April, Aliases finally dropped their long-awaited debut full-length Derangeable. We loved it then, and we still love it now. Yet for various reasons, not least the reactivation of guitarist Pin’s other band SikTh and their maiden US tour, we’ve had precious few opportunities to see the band weave their magic together onstage – so naturally we’re going to be as close to front and centre as we can be when they take to the main stage on Friday afternoon.
Aliases are very much a Euroblast institution, having played their very first show at the festival. 2016 marks their fifth appearance in Cologne, drawing them level with Monuments (who are taking their first year off since 2011), so we expect the regulars crowd to be out in force to see them.
Just in case you’ve been hiding under a particularly large and comfortable rock and don’t know what to expect, Aliases are sure to deliver a set that lovingly bundles head-bending technical riffs with great big hooky choruses into progressive metal anthems that don’t take anything, other than their musicianship, especially seriously. We also know that few bands like to party quite as hard as Aliases, and with their relatively early stage time, expect carnage to follow.
Photo: Katie Croft, KT Croft Photography
Playing: Friday, 3:30pm, Side Stage
A band who have been embraced by, and in return embraced the technical metal community, Carcer City are always worth downing your pint and making your way down to the front for. About as experienced as they come, across a hundred or so European stages, the Liverpudlian five-piece blend progressive tendencies with their blistering metalcore roots, and as the very recently released Infinite // Unknown testifies, it works a treat.
Over the years, Carcer have upgraded their live show significantly, and their absolute professionalism, blended with a real passion for the music they play, makes them an unmissable prospect, and although added to the bill late-on, more than just supplementary.
Playing: Friday, 8:50pm, Mainstage
Waiting for North American bands to tour Europe can be a frustrating affair – especially when the band in question has released an album as good as Intronaut‘s The Direction Of Last Things, and we’ve had to wait very nearly an entire year for them to get on a plane to come and play those songs for us.
With their last shows on this side of the Atlantic being as long ago as 2013, and their long European tour with Shining hitting London the week before the festival, we’re very thankful for the opportunity to see them in action two times in six days.
As we said last October in the album review, Intronaut’s songs contain elements of Mastodon, Isis, Jane’s Addiction and Tool, yet firmly retain their own identity. They prove that it’s possible to write complex, technical music that retains the loose vibe of a jam night. What’s more, to these ears, in bassist Joe Lester and drummer Danny Walker they possess the very finest rhythm section anywhere in modern metal. Big talk.
We have little doubt that, even with the quality of the overall bill being as high as it is, Intronaut’s set will be a real highlight, with spaced-out, dreamy polyrhythmic passages nestled snugly against facemelting, sludgy riffs. It’ll be a treat.
Playing: Friday, 6:20pm, Mainstage
There are few things for which prog fans are noted more than liking things that are a bit different. A wonky time signature here, a blend of contrasting genres there. Folk thrash? Progressive chiptune?
How about blackened jazz?
Norway’s Shining have been building on their distinct, absolutely compelling sound for three albums now – despite last year’s International Blackjazz Society being their seventh. The hardened edge, avante-garde sensibilites and generally batshit insane blend of progressive metal, jazz and ear-bleeding dissonance that they began crafting on 2010′s Blackjazz is like little else, and for that reason alone they’re worth a watch. It also helps that they work tirelessly at their craft, and put on a brilliant live show.
The band are currently nearing the end of a month-long European tour, with Euroblast the final date, so they’ll be fully tuned and absolutely humming by the time they hit Essigfabrik. It’s all going to be a bit mad, a bit loud, and a lot of fun.
Playing: Saturday, 6:20pm, Mainstage
For British djent fans, few bands have felt so far out of reach as Vola. Since making themselves known most agreeably with 2014 effort Inmazes, the Danes have thus far not made their way over to the UK, much to the disappointment of many.
Blending thoroughly agreeable polyrythmic progressive metal – complete with some absolutely massive, mildly dissonant big riffs – with stunning vocal work and catchy, pop-like melodies, we’re absolutely raring to finally get to see the Inmazes material – which has this month seen re-release through Mascot Records, astutely recognising the band’s potential – in a live setting.
This week saw them kick off a new European tour supporting the mighty Katatonia, along with Monolith favourites Agent Fresco – and although the run does come to London in about a month, that will be the only UK date, so for British fans attending the festival, you’d be well advised to hit up their Saturday evening set.
Best Of The Rest
Besides these, a bunch of bands The Monolith staff hold in high regard will be in attendance, who of course we highly recommend you go see. Click the links below for everything we’ve written about them!
The Dali Thundering Concept: 10:10pm – Official Warm-Up Party
Skyharbor: 5:10pm – Mainstage
Heart Of A Coward: 7:30pm - Mainstage
No Sin Evades His Gaze: 8:20pm – Side Stage
No Consequence: 2pm – Mainstage
Exist Immortal: 6:50pm, Side Stage
Below you can find the full breakdown of stage times across the weekend, and below that a handy guide to all of the bands from our friends at got-djent.com to help you pick out which bands you might like based on who else they sound like.