DispersE head a night of meaty tech in Camden
As we shall probably never tire of saying, the regular attendees of Tech Fest are one big, happy family. With all four of tonight’s bands having graced the Tech Fest stages at least once, the venue steadily fills with an array of friends and familiar faces.
Kicking off the evening is Birmingham sextet Terraform. It would be fair to say that their extremely late, drummerless addition to last year’s Tech Fest bill – brought about by Napoleon‘s cancellation when the weekend was already underway – was probably not their finest hour.
Thankfully they’ve a drummer in place tonight, and new singer – but there’s literally no room for him on stage due to the band’s three guitarists, so he’s forced onto the floor in front of the crowd – but he’s plenty of personality, so it’s not an issue.
The overcrowding extends beyond just the physical presence, however. Combined with a backing track too – complete with sub drops at every opportunity – there’s a feeling of excess, and it’s a bit of a confusing mess at times. There’s just too much going on. The tones of the guitars don’t really compliment each other, and they don’t lock in when they need to. Songs are long, but lack progression, and while you can appreciate that they’re trying to do different things, the composition needs a bit more discipline – and probably to ditch the laptop. They have a fearsome arsenal at their disposal – including a great bass tone – but they don’t quite know how to use it yet.
No Sin Evades His Gaze also sound quite muddy, but the band are much tighter. Their grooves are thick and meaty as ever, and you can feel the bass through my your feet.
They play a selection of highlights from last year’s debut album Age Of Sedation (reviewed here) - it’s modern metal plus tasteful solos, packaged by a group of guys who clearly know how to handle their instruments, with drummer Theo adding some backing vocals, and bassist Moat adding his own grunts. Speaking of instruments, the crowd almost get a look at vocalist James Denton’s most intimates, as a zipper malfunction adds to a list of technical issues which unfortunately necessitate the dropping of a song from their set. We suspect it was “Filth“, the track for which they recently released a new video, as to omit seems a bit strange.
It’s maybe a bit too loud, but with well crafted songs and spidery riffs aplenty, there’s not too much to complain about.
Despite some prolific show-playing in recent months – particularly in London – I’d not seen Red Seas Fire since their set at last year’s UK Tech Fest. I’ve never been a huge fan, but always mildly enjoyed them – until now. Their new EP Resolution (reviewed here) is stonkingly good, and familiarity with their work rampantly increases my enjoyment of their set.
Their energy from the get go is incredible. Vocalist Robin comes across crisp and clear, whilst the accomplished trio of musicians around him put out a massive groove. They play through cuts from their EP trio, with Exposition favourite “The Gold Room” making an appearance, but it’s the new material which, understandably, shines. They’ve built off their former djenty reputation, and evolved into a properly hardcore-style tech band. New single “Blood Bank” and deceptively long “The Mistakes We Make” are particular highlights, with the latter feeling nowhere near as long as it actually is (close to nine minutes).
Despite having only four members on stage, the dearth of instruments means more clarity, but for Red Seas Fire, there’s no less power. The four work as a unit, and are a real treasure.
Topping the bill are Polish prog dudes DispersE, who make what is for all intents and purposes a technical spectacle sound so effortless that you hate them a little bit for it. But you can’t really: they are incredibly pleasant, and their music dreamy.
The star of the show is the somewhat prodigious Jakub Żytecki. DispersE aren’t just a vehicle for him, but they’re certainly built around him like a football team around their most precocious talent. Thankfully he resists the over fretboard histrionics for the most part, so that when he does hit the higher gears, does feels more powerful. He’s ever the perfectionist, even minutely adjusting his tuning mid-song. It’s all butter-smooth and difficult to digest if you watch too closely, so you just have to sit back and drink in the whole thing as a package.
Whilst technically amazing, I do find it a little forgettable at times. There are great sections, and in particular a dark, heavier, rhythmic number towards the end of the set, but for me there’s maybe not quite enough edge to the music. Still, it’s wonderful to watch Jakub play, and it’s by no means a disappointing set.