Tech Fest 2015 review: Saturday
We return again with further in-depth, overly-wordy coverage of Tech Fest 2015; this time focussing on the penultimate day – Saturday!
Deterred by the Friday morning hangovers, no-one goes quite as hard as they did on Thursday, and as a result there are plenty up and about by the time the bands start. This bodes well for the early acts, especially when they really turn it on…
Photos by Jo Moolenschot: Clockwork; Heavy Metal Ninjas; The Sun Explodes; Cyclamen; Martyr Defiled.
Photos by Hannah Cole: Slice The Cake; Agent Fresco.
12pm, Hands On Printing Stage
Top to bottom: William Alex Young; Rhys Thomas, Tom Turner; Sam Machin.
Holy moly. It would be fair to say that there’s quite the buzz around young upstarts Clockwork at the moment, but that still doesn’t quite prepare me for walking in to find at least 250 people waiting for them to open the day’s proceedings. The band clearly have a lot to live up to, and reward the substantial crowd that’s managed to get its shit vaguely together for this early slot by attacking their set as if they were headlining.
Frontman William (who, in the interests of full disclosure, is also a fellow Monolithian) has managed to sneak onstage for a clutch of guest appearances over the last couple of Tech Fests, but this is his first time performing in his own right. Since joining Clockwork relatively recently, the band have quickly upped their collective game, and I admit to being slightly taken aback by how quickly they’ve developed into a formidable live presence.
The remnants of Clockwork’s time as an instrumental band is still evident, with the average song length clocking in at a hefty seven minutes. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with any of the individual sections on their own, but having so many of them strung together does lessen the overall impact of each track, but it’s nothing that a touch of editing – or a brace of new songs – can’t fix.
So whilst Clockwork only have time for about four songs, what they deliver is a startlingly engaging half-hour of modern progressive metal. The guitars are completely on point, and baby-faced Will is in possession of a remarkably mighty roar. There’s an almost palpable feeling that we are witnessing a little taste of the future here. Although it might be toothpaste. It’s still early.
With their slightly techy, groovy riffs, big choruses and some great guitar solos, Clockwork all but smashed their set out of the park in a manner few of us would have expected. What a very pleasant surprise indeed. Watch this space, for sure.
12:30pm, Main Stage
Brighton quintet Immersa are hit with a somewhat unfortunate double-whammy of opening the main stage and having to start their set as Clockwork’s substantial crowd are filing out from next door. Certainly, some punters head straight over to catch Immersa’s set, but they are unfortunately a minority. However, for late additions to the bill with no recorded music available, there is a respectable crowd.
Immersa also provide a fairly neat example of the interconnected nature of the scene. Bassist Ollie is pulling a double-duty, and will be returning to the stage later as part of Slice the Cake, and drummer Chris is also part of Monolith ones-to-watch Porshyne. What’s more, the band are currently without a full-time vocalist, so microphone duties are covered this afternoon by Josh from A Night At The Abyss.
Immersa churn out an agreeably chunky sound that skirts along the boundaries between metalcore and deathcore. It is tight and chuggy, and comes complete with all the trimmings one would expect. However, what does seem to be lacking at this stage is a real spark of inventiveness that would lift their proposition out of a heavily populated pack.
Nevertheless, it’s still early days for Immersa, and perhaps their search for a vocalist will yield some interesting results, and spice up the recipe a bit. So, clearly a work in progress at this stage, but there’s enough there to warrant keeping tabs on how they develop in the future.
This Is Turin
1pm, Hands On Printing Stage
An unfortunate casualty of trying to goad as many as possible into the online journalism workshop given by myself and my esteemed colleague John Whitmore, none of us manage to catch This Is Turin – a rare miss for us this weekend.
In lieu of proper coverage, here’s their new 2015 album Cercis in full:
Voices From The Fuselage
1:30pm, Main Stage
There’s no way to talk in any detail about Voices From The Fuselage without referencing TesseracT, so let’s get it out of the way, shall we? Voices were a going concern before vocalist Ashe O’Hara joined TesseracT and lent his considerable talents to Altered State, but with that tenure lasting almost exactly one album cycle, Ashe and co have properly reactivated and released debut album Odyssey: The Destroyer of Worlds just before the festival.
In the main, Voices From The Fuselage ply us with a set of shimmering, chilled out progressive rock. There are occasional ventures into heavier territory, but rarely are they chunky enough to be considered ‘metal’. There are plenty of floaty guitars, dynamic swells and a fistful of interesting vocal effects and backing-track harmonies supplementing Ashe’s admittedly gorgeous melodies.
So gorgeous, in fact, that repeatedly throughout the set the crowd bursts into spontaneous mid-set applause at the end of particularly impressive sections – the type of behaviour usually reserved for things like Jakub Zytecki’s guitar solos with the tech fest crowd. High praise indeed.
The performance itself is maybe slightly hesitant, but with relatively few live shows under their belts in recent times, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time to resolve those minor issues. Certainly, I heard and saw enough to wander straight out at the end of their set and pick up a copy of Odyssey.
It may take Voices From The Fuselage a little while to step out of the shadow of Ashe’s former bandmates, and the songs on Odyssey – though beautiful and well-crafted – may not quite be the songs to do that, but it is nevertheless a strong confirmation that Ashe’s talents will not be wasted. And that has to be a good thing.
The Voynich Code
2pm, Hands On Printing Stage
William’s coverage of The Voynich Code‘s recent EP Ignotum promised much from the young Portuguese band, playing in the UK for the first time, and it’s refreshing to find that, despite the intensity and aggression of their performance, there’s also a distinct air of positivity coming from frontman Nelson Rebelo, who talks up the power of music and doing what you love. Nice going guys.
Very much in the Born of Osiris mould, they splice technical deathcore with keys, and although the lighter elements of such bands are often lost, their backing track is more than tangible, which is great to hear. That being said, there’s not a great deal of inspiration to their tunes – whilst more than listenable, the familiar rhythmic patterns could do with a spruce, and you can predict the appearance of sub-drops and breakdowns with relative accuracy.
There is certainly some dynamism to the group’s music however, and considering their youth, they’ve put a lot of professionalism into their performance, as well as some potential, if they continue to up their game.
2:30pm, Main Stage
Prior exposure to Swiss five-piece Promethee is limited, and so they’re the first totally fresh prospect of the day for me.
Neck-bending and abrasive, the Genevans kick out a thrashy blend of hardcore and metal, and are certainly one of the refreshingly straighforward and aggressive acts on the bill this weekend. For a festival that, despite promoting technical and progressive music, prides itself on diversity, this is another win. Yet, perhaps for the band, a little more dynamism would suit them in the live environment, as the reliance on muscular riffs and somewhat monotonal throatiness of vocalist Joshua Orsi – with much of the lead work buried in behind these two forceful instrumental aspects – is overbearing and stagnates a little after 20 minutes of similarity.
This is certainly in contrast to their recorded output, which bears fruitful progressive elements and a knack for groove not as apparent from today’s performance. One for investigation and a repeat listen, methinks.
3pm, Hands On Printing Stage
I only pop in to quickly have a listen to Sectioned, and it equally quickly becomes apparent that I have no personal frame of reference for their frantic and caustic tech-death. But what does deserve a special mention is that vocalist Murray is clearly nursing a fairly serious injury of some description. He performs the set sat in a chair, with his leg tightly strapped below the knee and foot supported. So significant respect for dedication and perseverance is due.
That determination to play the set was perhaps further explained in the week after the festival, with the sudden announcement that this iteration of Sectioned was coming to an end. Whilst the band would ultimately continue, it will be with a new line-up, so fans of their big, scary noise need not be too disheartened, just patient.
Heavy Metal Ninjas
3:30pm, Main Stage
Top to bottom: Richie Allan; Keegan Donovan; Brandon Reihana; Joe Brownless.
Costumed Kiwis Heavy Metal Ninjas play noodly prog over djenty rhythms, sans vocals. Funnily enough, they’re dressed as ninjas – complete with face masks and coloured contact lens – but it’s no gimmick; they’re good at what they do, and have a lot of fun doing it – you can practically see the grins behind the facial coverings.
Perhaps closest to our own beloved Chimp Spanner as a touchstone, the rudiments of their music are strong, but perhaps a little too rudimentary, whilst the soloing and shredding is impressive, if not a little indulgent.
Honestly though, there’s not much that is overly memorable about the New Zealanders’ music for me – although I appear to be in a minority, which is all credit to them. Certainly great if you’re into that kind of thing.
4pm, Hands On Printing Stage
A mid-afternoon dip in energy means I’m based in the press pit next to the Hands On Printing Stage for much of Kardashev‘s set – but even from there, they sound unreasonably heavy.
The Arizonan death metal outfit are something of an oddity: rather than caterwauling about the coming of the apocalypse, they’re more interested in the advancement of the human race through themes of selflessness, love, and altruism, which is quite refreshing for a band of their style. As a Kardashev virgin, this philosophy isn’t immediately obvious via the absolute ear-pummeling I’m given through the metal walls, but all the same it’s incredibly satisfying, and is enough to drag my weary body next door for the last couple of songs.
As it turns out, they don’t actually have a drummer, which sort of explains the precision of the racket, but the three human members are still nothing to sniff at. Vocalist Mark Garrett’s snarls are potent, but are counterbalanced by some rather neat atmospheric leads that underpin the threatening aspect of the whole package.
I certainly regret not being able to catch the whole thing, but should they return to the UK they’ll certainly be given more time in the same room.