The last of UK Tech Fest’s all-day main event precursors: nine bands in all
Kicking off the all-dayer by starting a little earlier than expected, Subversion have undergone quite the makeover since we last witnessed them opening for Centiment. The five-piece have been revitalized since their recent switch in vocalist, and Jay Shields has slotted comfortably into their sound. Despite only being with the band for six weeks, his imposing presence has changed the dynamic of the band, and his ferocious screams are phenomenal. He fills the frontman role with ease, added with a touching tribute to a fallen friend, to whom the set is dedicated. Each musician seems more animated as a result, throwing themselves behind tracks both old and new, although it’s the renditions of “Butchered” and “Bypass”, which add Kai’s soaring cleans, which still hit hardest.
The previous issues of a muffled backing track and slack drumming have been rectified, and Subversion put in one of their strongest performances yet. If a couple of them just lay off the juvenile banter a little, Subversion would become a live force to be reckoned with, and we keenly await the new album next year.
Having missed Subversion, Doomed From Day One were my first band of the day, and an unfortunate taste of things to come as far as the room’s acoustics were concerned. The guitars were certainly doing something, but the intricacies were lost to the point of inaudibility, which was a shame.
It does seem that DFDO’s music hangs in something of a dichotomy. The comparison that best springs to mind is Between The Buried And Me, and whilst the more technical flourishes are handled well (thankfully bassist Eifion Sweet could be heard, as his work was a good watch in the manner that Dan Briggs makes BTBAM’s music pop that extra touch), the straight up aggressive stuff is a little drab at times. A little more range from vocalist Sean Scott would also not go amiss, but this is a case of taste.
Hopefully the technical issues abate for their main event performance and we’ll get the full flourish of their ability.
Shields bound on to the stage with considerable enthusiasm, but something doesn’t feel quite right. It is clear right from the get-go that the backing track is doing quite a lot of work, however it is not until later that I discover the band has recently lost their bass player, and guitarist Sam has temporarily switched instruments until a replacement is found. This is a commendable strategy – the easy option would probably have been just to run the bass through the backing – but the instrument switching helps both the look and live sound.
Shields are building quite a buzz around themselves at the moment, and they definitely have some fans in the room. Their modern metal sound has a slightly punky twist to it, augmented by the clean vocals provided by Sam that add some contrast to Joe’s screams. Joe is certainly an animated performer, bounding around the stage and – at one point – clambering up to a vantage point beside the stage.
But even with the band throwing themselves into their performance, and acknowledging that they are not currently at full fighting strength, there is little which is truly memorable about Shields’ set. They clearly have the right attitude and levels of commitment, but there’s definitely more work for them to do in terms of writing arresting songs to match. – Simon
Aeolist | Image courtesy of Katie Croft - KTcroft Photography
On a much grander note, tech-metal lot Aeolist were in stunning form this evening. Once the muddy sound was cleared up and the guitars became audible, the musicianship shines through as they plow their way through their self-titled EP.
The EP is constructed to be one continuous track divided into four sections, each flowing smoothly from one to the next, and the band don’t take a single pause in its 30-minute runtime. From intensive drumming workouts and twiddling guitar lines to the odd jazz-infused post-rock break (c.f. mid-way through “II”), the songwriting is top-notch throughout, as are the relentless screams of Bradley Gallagher.
The band don’t forget to have fun either; Gallagher has a little boogie in the calmer sections, and the whole band are no stranger to weighty headbanging when the appropriate times hit, tie-dyed drummer included. Aeolist put in one of the best performances of the day, and if this is the level they are now with their youth, the next few years are looking very bright for them.
Exist Immortal | Image courtesy of Katie Croft - KTcroft Photography
As we said last time we saw them, Monolith favourites Exist Immortal don’t mess about. By far the most professional-looking band of the day so far, they plough into a set largely drawn from their recently released debut full-length Darkness of an Age, with a couple of older tracks thrown in.
Vocalist Meyrick spends the set out on the thin strip of stage in front of the monitors, leaving the maximum possible space for guitarists Tom and Kurt, as well as bassist David, to do their very best to keep both the floor and the ceiling clean with some impressively deep, synchronised head-banging, as well as a near-complete set of Rock God poses. Their cherry-picking of the best elements of metal schools old and new are well received by the crowd, and it’s clear they have plenty of existing (ho ho) fans in the room. Even with all the movement, the band are super-tight and virtually note-perfect.
As the only band to appear on the bill of all three of these all-day events, its almost a surprise not to see them on the bill of the main festival, but this evening’s strong showing, together with an equally strong album should mean that we won’t be short of options to see them again over the next few months.
Carcer City | Image courtesy of Katie Croft – KTcroft Photography
Following the throat-burning performance of EI, it was up to Carcer City to try and keep the energy in the now Amazonically-muggy room high – and given Simon’s enthusiastic words about their recent performance supporting Continents at The Unicorn, we were confident they could match themselves. Frontman Patrick Pinion makes it his mission to do just that, and is brilliant in this role; he’s engaging without being pushy, and his voice is both powerful and emotive.
Despite what we’re told is a birthday hangover of epic proportions for guitarist Lewis Hughes, the rest of the band give him ample platform to do just that. Very much in the vein of big riff connoiseurs Heart Of A Coward, the scouse five-piece beat the audience across the face with meaty guitar work, and it’s very welcome, even after a hastily scarfed meal. It’s a distinctly professional performance – shown not least of all by being the only band with their own (tasteful) lighting rig – crafted via playing venues the length and breadth of the country. It feels honest and earnest, and hopefully we’ll see lots more of them soon.
We’ve not seen Red Seas Fire since the last Tech Fest, but we suspect someone has been sprinkling something on their sugar puffs in the interim. Their sound seems to have become bigger and beefier on all fronts. Jake smacks the living hell out of the kit, and Robin seems noticeably more confident in his vocal delivery, perhaps helped along by his in-ear monitors. Guitarist Pete can’t help but be an imposing presence on stage, and his riffs, which propel the tracks that comprise the band’s relatively recently released Confrontation EP are probably the best he has wrung from his guitar to date.
The longer-standing members are ably assisted by a temporary and terrifyingly young bass player Jon, who fills his side of the stage with aplomb. Having played just a handful of dates, he looks like he’s been a part of the band for much longer. Backing tracks are now largely standard practice for tech bands, but Red Seas Fire seem to make more imaginative use of theirs, especially on new track “Tyrants” where additional percussion helps drive the song, injecting some extra texture to the groove. However, perhaps the track needs some minor tweaking because a couple of times the band are left waiting for a measure or two before being cued in for the next section.
Either way, it is a strong performance from the quartet, and after a relatively quiet few months things are ramping up again, including coveted slots on both Tech Fest and Euroblast, and we are certainly going to be taking the time to catch both of those sets.
Clearly a band many are here to see, Nexilva battle against the odds for most of their set. Considering a large proportion of the symphonic deathcore band’s sound revolves around keyboards and guitar lines, it’s a shame that both were submerged under the dominating rhythm section, as without them the songs end up almost indistinguishable. As a result, the show is musically not as engaging as it could have been, although Gary King knows how to play frontman faultlessly for this genre, drawing the crowd ever closer and sharing vocal lines. His vocals are intense if unintelligible, and the way he switches between shrieks and growls at a moment’s notice is remarkable in itself.
The show’s indisputable highlight is closer “Evil Will Prevail”, featuring the re-appearance of Meyrick de la Fuente, who guested on the album version. The vocals here work well in unison, as do the two vocalists, and make for a memorable bang to end the performance.
It was an unfortunate side effect of their precursor’s popularity for Deadly Circus Fire that, after seeing the Sunderland quintet, many of the crowd chose to call it a night. Eight bands in, many were likely feeling the effects of fatigue, the day’s heat, and one too many beverages, and so the remaining faces could only be described as “committed.” Nevertheless, a group of four or five enthusiastically inebriated souls are ever present at the front, stomping around and enjoying themselves immensely it seems. The band had opted to dispense with their customary gothic circus makeup for reasons that were neither elaborated on nor probably that important to the music itself.
Honestly, I was frazzled by this point, and a few technical issues from the day spoiled the overall effect, but the performance was certainly merited. The audibility of the guitars remained patchy at best, but Save Addario’s work came across as accomplished and meaty in all the right places, whilst vocalist Adam Grant’s voice was spot-on throughout.
Whilst they might chalk the set as one to forget as far as picking up new fans goes, there was certainly something there to be looked into at a later date – perhaps when their forthcoming second album sees the light of day.