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Tech Fest 2014: Day Two

After such a successful and relaxed first day, Tech Fest proper kicked off on Friday, with two stages going full whack from 12pm until 10:30pm, plus after-party sets at the Double Slit Stage into the small hours – 16 acts in total.

We got a somewhat respectable amount of sleep, checked out the breakfast facilities, and ramped ourselves up for the onslaught. Photos once again from the talented Katie Croft of KTcroft Photography. Check out her page for lots more!

Mountains Under Oceans

12pm, Second Stage

Opening up the first stage are Scottish quartet Mountains Under Oceans, who provide the first genuinely nice surprise of the weekend for me. Less splenetic than many of the bands on the bill this weekend, they ease us gently into the first day of two-stage action. Their soothing, largely instrumental post-metal comes across like Maybeshewill in a metal overcoat, and would probably be equally at home as part of the ArcTanGent festival bill as they are here.

The long tracks pleasingly ebb and flow, building into huge crescendos before melting away again. Bass player Ian also marshals a laptop and assorted extra trickery, as well as adding some sporadic but nevertheless fearsome screams to the mix. The sparing use of the vocals, in a similar style to Isis, makes them all the more powerful when they appear. Along with some seamlessly incorporated electronica elements, there couldn’t have been many more ideal acts to help everyone shake the cobwebs from their hair and prepare for the day ahead. I was certainly impressed enough to scoot over to pick up a copy of their EP as soon as I had a spare moment. Definitely worth a look.

- Simon


Bear - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

12:30pm, Main Stage

We’d been telling everyone who would listen on Thursday to catch Belgian quartet Bear; so destroyed were we when we first caught them last year in London. It was a bit jarring, then, that the first few songs seemed to lack the punch we remembered – it was like something wasn’t switched on. It’s the first usage of the main stage of the weekend, though, so this is entirely possible – and whatever it was is solved after a couple of tracks, and by the time “Rain” is underway we’re able to receive the band’s full mauling capabilities.

It’s constant motion from front of stage to back: drummer Serch Carriere’s whole body is bouncing the entire time, and his rolling rhythms give the early afternoon crowd a surge of energy, even in the heat we’re only just becoming accustomed to. People aren’t necessarily moving a whole bunch, but it’s eye-widening.

Even with several hundred gents pinching to avoid making that inevitable trip to the festival bogs, this set was the tightest thing for that half hour at the very least. Bear put everything into their performances – even when there are sound problems – and it’s a testament to their craft that pretty much everyone stuck around to get the full whack when it came.

- Chris

Atlantis Chronicles

1pm, Second Stage

Coming in to Parisian quartet Atlantis Chronicles‘ set with literally zero awareness, I was open-minded as possible, but despite a clean slate to win me over, it just wasn’t doing much for me, despite the band’s commendable efforts. Lead vocalist Antoine Bibent is an imposing presence, bearded and muscular as he is. Their technically-minded music was skilfully executed, at least from a visual standpoint, but much of it was unfortunately lost into the room and its small crowd, which is a potential pitfall of this style – if the sweeps are lost, there’s got to be something strong backing it up, which for me there wasn’t.

This 1pm slot became somewhat notorious for being a bit light in front of the barriers, which is certainly not their fault – it’s bloody hot by then, and looks remarkably like lunchtime for a lot of people – so I’d certainly like to see them again under more favourable circumstances. Notably, a few people I spoke to afterwards raved about their music, which often inclines me to believe I’ve missed something major. It wouldn’t be the first time.

- Chris


Eumeria - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

1:30pm, Main Stage

It was a joy to even be able to see Eumeria in the flesh today. Tech-Fest has a history of uniting bands with members scattered over the globe, as is the case with this transatlantic band: vocalist Jonny Tatum, guitarist Reece Fullwood and drummer Kevin Barlett are Brits, while bassist Derek Blakley and recently-joined-but-absent-today keyboardist Matt Guillory are American.

The keyboard-infused melo-prog was a stylistic jump from the rest of the lineup, but the musicians more than compensated with serious technique. Fullwood, already known for his abilities in Mask Of Judas, lays down some scorching leads and solos, playing off neatly with Bartlett’s fills and grooves. Blakley is clad in skull-print pyjama pants, and may look a little incongruous from the rest of the band, but as he proves in the workshop on Saturday, has incredible bass-playing skills. Meanwhile, front-and-center, Tatum gives a stunning vocal performance: the high notes during a new track are jaw-dropping, while the lead-up to the chorus in “Rebel Mind” is simply infectious.

It’s a shame that, with such great pipes, he appears to lack the stage confidence to own the songs. Three promising new songs are presented for delectation, including “Marching” (a working title) and the instrumental “Shiitake“, indicating a more technical kind of proggery, removed from the band’s almost power metal leanings of old.

Unfortunately, technical issues related to the backing track strike during closer “Rebel Mind”, resulting in Bartlett ripping off his headphones in true rock n’ roll fashion, almost as if yelling “Fuck it! We’ll do it live!”, smashing out the track for a memorable finale. Eumeria’s set was an undoubtable highlight of the day, and they’ll have certainly picked up some new followers along the way.

- Mark

No Sin Evades His Gaze

2pm, Second Stage

I was told mid-way through the set that this was No Sin Evades His Gaze‘s second show ever. Wot.

That in itself is impressive – their first was at Les-Fest in Scotland
, and they’re also lined up for Bloodstock, Mammothfest and Headbangers Balls in the coming months – but with that comes a certain amount of expectation, because getting bookings like that must mean something.

Thankfully, we’re graced with a set that belies the group’s supposed lack of experience (although the members’ previous pedigree isn’t a known quantity); the quintet are comfortable and visibly appear to be enjoying the occasion, including bassist Moat who has a grin plastered across his face almost the entire time. We like this. It should be fun, right?!

The music is groove-heavy and technical, without being too reliant on either; there’s tapping and nodding in equal measure. Unfortunately, some of the impact is lost as the crowd, unsure of what to expect, is a bit spread out (despite being of a respectable size). Frontman James Denton gets a good reception nevertheless, coaxing them into a bout of arm-waving during an epic section of one of the closing songs, in which there’s a solo, harmonised vocals, and a climax of good feeling.

With good noises coming from one of our camp who has heard their forthcoming album Age Of Sedation, we certainly feel these guys are ones to watch.

- Chris

Black Dogs

Black Dogs - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

2:30pm, Main Stage

Last minute additions to the bill and possibly the least ‘tech’ of any band appearing on the main stage – and fresh from a short tour with stage buddies Bear - Black Dogs play an unabashedly straightforward and righteously furious metallic hardcore. They don’t exactly pull in the punters, but still go at least seven shades of mental as they tear through tracks from debut album Grief, released on Destroy Everything last year.

This is the third time I’ve seen the band perform, but the first since the departure of their guitarist. He has been replaced with not one, but two new guitarists, who already look like long standing members and play the songs as if they were their own. Their already beefy sound is made even thicker by the extra instrument, and the stage even busier with movement.

Vocalist Gollo’s stage persona is of a man possessed as he bellows his way through a half-hour of catharsis over the bleakness of existence in small towns full of small-minded people. Between them, the band utilise every square inch of the stage and – at times – a considerable proportion of the space in front of it.

There’s absolutely no denying that Black Dogs are an intoxicatingly fearsome proposition, but with many punters choosing to stay away completely, and those who watch standing and clapping politely, this may not have been quite the time and place for them. But, in a smaller space with a more favourably disposed audience, Black Dogs are a compellingly feral proposition .

- Simon


3pm, Second Stage

Kadinja are one of those names in the scene that I’ve heard bandied around, but with few qualifiers and so I had no idea what to expect.

What’s immediately apparent is that they’ve drawn a very respectable crowd, and put on a polished, comfortable performance. There’s not a huge amount of movement from the trio of guitarists or bassist Jihane, but they’re all smiling and making their way through the material with ease – and besides, frontman Philippe moves around with enough grace to be eye-catching.

I notice Max Michel amongst the guitarists, which was cool – he spent much of 2013 providing assistance to The Algorithm‘s live sound, so is a familiar face. A new song is a real crowd-pleaser, and it seems my ignorance is very much in the minority. Nothing particularly stood out for the few songs that I saw, but they’re definitely worth further investigation.

- Chris

From Sorrow To Serenity

From Sorrow To Serenity - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

3:30pm, Main Stage

Our one unfortunate omission of the day were From Sorrow To Serenity, as a number of interviews took up our time, but Katie did catch this snap of guitarist Steven Jones, so we hope that makes up for things a little bit!

- Chris

Red Seas Fire

Red Seas Fire - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

4:15pm, Second Stage

Red Seas Fire are one of the acts to have played all three iterations of Tech Fest – as well as the London all-dayer – and so hold a special place in attendees’ hearts. They’re also one of the bands who have got noticeably better each time, and that’s what we really like to see: progression. In a scene that values such a quality, it’s great to see this in the ability displayed and overall sound, as well as the complexity of the music itself.

RSF have become more mosh-worthy this past year too: their Confrontation EP was much more punishing than earlier efforts, and the material from this release in particular sounds great.

I must admit something of a detachment to their music at times, however, but I’ve never quite known what or why that was until today. This is entirely personal, but I’d love to see the band ratchet up the tempo a little more to match vocalist Robin’s expanded style – change it around a bit tempo-wise – and really show what they can do. I’m not saying they’re exclusively mid-tempo – that would be silly – but the grooves, whilst meaty and delicious, could do with savaging the audience a mite too.

All in all, it’s still a more than satisfying half hour though. Robin really has matured and grown in stature, whilst the rhythm section smack faces left right and centre. Good fun.

- Chris

Felix Martin

Felix Martin - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

5:00pm, Main Stage

There was undoubtedly quite the buzz to catch the Venezuelan-born guitar prodigy Felix Martin and his 14-string guitar. Yes, 14-string guitar.

We caught him on his first-ever UK show warming up for Tech-Fest (Simon’s take is here), and similar points arise here as they did that time. There is an unfortunate height disadvantage for latecomers; the stage is set pretty low, so only the top of the guitar-monstrosity is really visible, and as such the visual element of Felix Martin’s incredible technique is lost at the back of the room. He does, however, seem more confident than that first night in dealing with the major issue of this tour: the drummer became unwell and was unable to take the trip, so Martin and bassist Kilian Duarte had to quickly program the drums from scratch.

After several nights of acclimatising, he’s more confident and content while engaging in his incredible double-tapping technique. He’s apparently also confident enough to perform in his pyjamas, presumably without conferring with Eumeria’s Derek Blakley on the matter.

Martin and Duarte play off each other well onstage, clearly having fun while making faces, and feeling grateful for the enthralled audience. An appropriate set for Tech-Fest, and perhaps an indication of the direction some music may head, the show is guitar porn at its finest.

- Mark

No Consequence

No Consequence - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

5:45pm, Second Stage

The veritable forest of nodding heads confirms No Consequence’s rightful place headlining the second stage, with almost as many people watching as saw Chimp Spanner round off last night’s proceedings.

But whilst there are plenty of fans in the room, I’m not really one of them. Weirdly, it feels to me like the the parts of No Consequence’s sound are greater than the sum of their whole. There’s absolutely no denying that they pack a properly meaty punch with their modern metal sound and there are some very satisfying riffs interspersed through the set, be they heavy or atmospheric. Colin also throws in some very pleasing drum work as well. But, for me, these ingredients just don’t gel together into particularly memorable songs yet.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why this is the case, but there are few hooks in Kaan’s vocals,and whilst the chugs are there in the guitar sound, they are not necessarily wedded to interesting or emotive chord progressions. Songs seem to sort of peter out rather than be brought to an clean and clear conclusion. However, what I think is clearly moot as they obviously have plenty of fans in the room who are more than satisfied with what they have to offer.

- Simon

Devil Sold His Soul

Devil Sold His Soul - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

6:30pm, Main Stage

It occurs to me that there might be such a thing as a Tech Fest curse, and playing in the slot immediately after a crowd favourite like No Consequence sees Devil Sold His Soul playing at least the first half of their set to a substantially smaller crowd. As frontman Paul Green acknowledges, they’re probably the least technical band on the bill, however, this dampens neither the band’s spirits nor those of their core supporters, for whom this is an obvious highlight of the weekend – tracks like “As the Storm Unfolds” and ”The Disappointment” are clearly well loved and receive the proportionate response; their ability to go from huge, open, headbang-able riffs to dead stops, then oceanic is a bit of a treat.

When I saw the band last year at ArcTanGent, Green had only recently joined the band, but he seems properly bedded in now, and his voice is certainly easier on my ears than his predecessor – especially live. After a slightly shaky start, he finds his voice and his clean sections, in particular, shine through.

At times, the sound the sextet kick out is positively enormous, so it is hard not to be drawn in to their towering soundscapes and cleverly constructed songs. Tracks As I’ve said before, my view of the band has been haunted by the ghosts of their past, and this has probably been unfair. This show proves that my old views are increasingly irrelevant, and their hybrid of post-metal pacing and atmospherics, together with hardcore levels of aggression deserves to be revisited and any new material is definitely going to be worth a listen.

- Simon


8:00pm, Main Stage

Considering their station in the technical death metal scene, Gorod were probably the most under-appreciated band of Tech Fest 2014. It’s true that their extreme brand of technicality may be too violent for some – the ferocious jabbing of guitars and blasting drums drove away the attendees with weaker sensibilities – but under that thin veneer of uncontrollable noise and rage, is a divine sense of craft and composition, reminding those who offered themselves to the stage, why Gorod are considered to be one of the premier technical death metal bands on the planet.

They played a healthy mix of material, from old classics to numbers from their seminal critically adored 2012 offering, The Perfect Absolution. What struck me more than anything about Gorod’s performance though, was just how alarmingly happy they were. Usually technical death metal is a genre filled with serious, stern-faced bands that extol the horrific death of the human race in between songs, whereas these guys actually told jokes and laughed. Jubilant human emotion, in a genre that is often accused of containing none, was a refreshing change of pace.

All in all, they came, they saw. and they had a fucking blast while doing it. Never before have I seen such pummeling, aggressive music delivered with such keen, infectious grins and actual laughter. Not only did Gorod impress with their incredible music, but they also managed to spread a little bit of cheer, reminding all of us that no matter how heavy it may be, music is an emotional outlet – and most importantly, it’s okay to smile when playing death metal.

- Quigs


Vildjharta - KT Croft Photography - Tech Fest 2014

Photo credit: Katie Croft, KTcroft Photography

9:30pm, Main Stage

A mist descends upon Tech-Fest, and the atmosphere turns sinister. A crowd gathers in front of Vildhjarta to begin this ceremony; this rhythmic ritual of worship. All hail the Swedish lords of thall, and their loyal subjects – one carrying a sign carved from a cardboard Foster’s box with THALL inscribed on it.

The sextet onstage set about their deviant ways, unveiling down-tuned and staccato riffs set to an immense guitar tone, which complement the intense drum sound. The whole crowd is nodding, drinking in the wall of sound emerging from the speakers. Vision is limited, not least because the fog onstage grows to such intensity that the band members are obscured, reduced to a series of color and changes in the lighting. The relentless strobe lighting remains unnerving when combined with the pulsating music – largely instrumental due to the buried vocals.

The set flies by, with little dialogue to break up the sections, when unexpectedly, there’s a shift, and devastating blast beats are thrown into the mix, reaching a whole new level of intensity before the familiar jarring riffs settle back into place. As their allotted one hour onstage comes to a close, the worshippers emerge from that inky chamber markedly changed people. Tech-Fest undoubtedly hit its darkest and most oppressive during Vildhjarta’s set.

- Mark


Seething Akira

11:30pm, Double Slit Stage

Through what can best be described as an unfortunate series of events entirely outside of their control, Seething Akira‘s afterparty set at last year’s Tech Fest saw them perform with only their vocals audible through the PA, which somewhat hobbled their crossover ‘stepcore’ sound (yes, I’m going to keep calling it that until it becomes a thing).

Invited back this year to try again, the band find themselves, somewhat ironically, in almost exactly the opposite position. Blessed with the opportunity to play without noise complaints, vocalists Kit and Charlie instead find themselves battling against intermittently operational microphone leads.

But even if we lose some of the interplay between the two vocalists, the remainder of the band – recently augmented to a five piece with the addition of a second guitarist – is firing on all cylinders.

The band play through most of their recent and splendid EP Aggro Vito and their shouty hybrid of beats and riffs propels a number of the good-sized crowd, myself included, into some late night dancing.

I do still find myself wondering whether the addition of a bass guitar might give them a bit more low-end welly, but that is probably just my own biases at work. Either way, Seething Akira are a welcome change of pace from the double tech whammy of Gorod and Vildjharta on the main stage, and a damn near ideal band for festival season in any circumstances.

- Simon


00:45am, Double Slit Stage

It is then left to Collisions to round off the night with their party-friendly drum & bass infused riffery. I’ve made absolutely no secret of my affection for these Brightonian herberts in the past, and they are on fine form this evening.

They rip through a set comprised of some old favourites, current single “We Know The Enemy” and a couple of previews of new material that will be found on their upcoming debut album, due later this year. These new tunes sound very promising indeed, including at least one slightly less frenetic number that proved to be a welcome change of pace for those of us that may have let their fitness regime drift a little.

Collisions drew yet more people out of the slightly spooky fog that had descended on the campsite, and the pit saw plenty of action. With the more boisterous participants smashing into each other and those around them, I retreated to find a less populated spot beside the stage in which to temporarily kid myself that I was in my early twenties again, instead of my late thirties, and happily bop around to myself – a decision for which I was to pay heavily the next morning.

There are vanishingly few bands around these days that compel me to dance for the duration of their set, and Collisions are one of them. Chewy riffs, infectious rhythms and hooks big enough to land a basking shark. For me, that new album can’t come soon enough.

- Simon

Return in a few days for Saturday’s report,

Simon Chris Angel writer banner Quigs Author banner