Simon reels off his five bands to watch at Tech Fest 2015
Red Seas Fire
Playing: Thursday – 6:00pm, Second Stage
The history of Red Seas Fire is closely intertwined with Tech Fest. The band played their final show as a quintet at the inaugural event in 2012 before shipping guitarist Nolly off to Periphery, then returning in both 2013 and 2014 with new material – and more fans – each time. In 2015, they are one of a very select group of bands that will be returning to play the festival for the fourth time.
But this year’s show may be even more bittersweet than 2012. Bassist Jon is leaving the band after the show after a relatively short tenure, and guitarist Pete will be stepping back from live performances, whilst still remaining involved with the band behind the scenes, including the writing process – a sort of guitarist emeritus, if you will.
So Thursday’s slot will be the last chance to catch the band in their current form. They’ve grown substantially as a force to be reckoned with over their years as a quartet, putting out three increasingly compelling EPs, (Exposition, Confrontation and Resolution). This is sure to be a set to remember, and I fully expect the Tech Fest family to give the departing members a fitting send-off.
Playing: Thursday – 7:00pm, Second Stage
Tech Fest can always be relied upon to deliver at least a couple of special moments every year, and this time around they’ve really outdone themselves. Sydneysider guitar wunderkind Plini will be making the loooooong trip to Newark to play some of the gorgeous, jazz-infused prog-metal that has brought him an international reputation.
Astonishingly, despite releasing a stream of acclaimed EPs, Plini has played fewer than five live shows in his career, but for his first overseas adventure, Plini has assembled a backing band with a frankly jaw-dropping pedigree. Long-time collaborator Luke Martin will be tinkling the ivories, and Simon Grove from The Helix Nebula will be on bass. But, for people who may have got this far without encountering Plini’s music, the two names that should make every tech fest regular on site sit up and take notice are Jakub Zytecki and Mike Malyan. DispersE‘s guitar hero lent a guitar solo to “Paper Moon” on Plini’s latest EP The End of Everything, so it makes perfect sense for him to come and play it live.
Mike, however, is virtually a Tech Fest institution in his own right, having managed to play many more Tech Fest sets than there have been Tech Fests. As well as a clean sweep with Monuments, he’s also thumped tubs for The Algorithm, Skyharbor and Maxi Curnow. There’s probably more I’m forgetting.
Make no mistake, this set will be something special. The concentration of talent onstage and the quality of the material makes it all but certain. And, with the set falling immediately prior to Aliases, then Hacktivist, it will be a most beautiful way for us all to catch our breath on that first evening.
Playing: Friday – 1:00pm, Second Stage
Sometimes a band comes along and speaks to you so completely and immediately that you wonder how you’d managed without them. So it is for me with Sumer. Internet buzz lured me along to their album release show without having heard a note of their music, but they can’t have gotten more than two songs into that set before I was completely smitten.
That album, The Animal You Are, ended up being one of my favourite releases of the year. Not only that, but events have transpired to allow me to watch them play half a dozen times in the last six months. I really am very keen.
The band play an atmospheric and melodic form of progressive metal that draws on the sounds of bands like Tool, Oceansize and Earthtone9. It’s richly layered, as Sumer feature three guitarists, with two of them also singing. But despite so much going on, their songwriting is disciplined enough for it to never be over-complicated or confused – a trap three-guitar bands fall into with alarming regularity. Instead, they somehow find enough space for each part to breathe, crafting dynamic songs that can shift from delicately beautiful to surprisingly heavy, best evidenced by the final track on the album and practically inevitable set closer “End of Sense“.
With a fairly early slot on the Friday, Sumer will play you some lovely, soothing tunes to help shake off the night before and ease you into the day right before The Colour Line tear you a new one immediately afterwards. Expect to see me herding people towards the stage before their set.
Mask of Judas
Playing: Friday – 3:00pm, Second Stage
As a general rule, flashy guitar solos don’t really blow my skirt up – but there are exceptions, and it’s quite the pleasant surprise to find not one, but two guitar-wizard acts on the bill that genuinely excite me. The first is Plini, and the second is Mask of Judas.
It feels like we’ve been waiting an awfully long time for their album, but with a lot of it now in the can, that wait might soon be over. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, we can content ourselves with a live performance. The band had the impertinence to book their last tour, with Valis Ablaze, for a point in the year when I was out of the country. How rude. So the last time I saw them was back at Mammothfest in October. Despite being a guitarist down, they still put on an excellent show, with songs combining tech, death and a healthy dose of straightforward heavy metal.
But whilst eyes are inevitably drawn to the quite unsettlingly talented guitar duo of Sam Bell and Reese Fullwood, that quality of musicianship is evident throughout the band. Vocalist Jo Challen is an imposing onstage presence, switching comfortably between melodious singing and a thoroughly fearsome scream, and the rhythm section of drummer Jof Walsh and bassist George Bell are every bit as imaginative as their seven/eight string counterparts.
For various reasons, the last couple of times I’ve seen Mask of Judas perform, Reece has been absent and they’ve played as a quartet, so I’m looking forward to seeing them back at full fighting weight.
A Trust Unclean
Playing: Thursday – 11:30pm, Double Slit Stage (After Party)
Tech Fest is a broad church – perhaps helped along by the fact that the very term ‘tech metal’ is so fuzzily defined, but also the general open-mindedness of the regular clientele. Either way, the Tech Fest bill is a varied affair, and one that only gets more varied when the after parties kick in once the main stages are done for the day.
Over the last couple of years, these after parties have played host to all-star superjams, karaoke sessions and acts that might not have naturally found a home on the main bill, like Seething Akira, Press To Meco and Sean de Burca – and on Thursday night, Tech Fest will play host to by far the heaviest, slam-tastic after party to date.
Alongside Osiah and Acrania will be Oxford bruisers A Trust Unclean. I first encountered the band supporting Exist Immortal and was immediately won over, despite their deathcore stylings not really being my thing as a general rule.
I’ve also spent the last week or so listening to A Trust Unclean’s upcoming EP Reality Relinquished, due to be released on 7th August. I can confirm it is every bit as satisfyingly groovy and devastatingly brutal as lead single “Perverse Agenda” – as well as their live reputation – suggests. It’s been four years since their last EP, Fragmenting Reality, but the band have done some serious growing in that time. I’ll be putting down my full thoughts on the EP in the not too distant future.
But on the night, expect blasts, slams, drops, pinch harmonics, lip-curlingly beefy riffs and probably a spin kick or two from the valiant few that still have the energy for it. It’s going to be a heavy night.
More later in the week from Ryan and William!