Quick review of some of the bands we caught on Friday at UK Tech-Metal Fest last week!
Karybdis - 12pm
After a slight set-back in the band order due to technical difficulties, lively Londoners Karybdis jumped onto the stage with an intense vigor, eagerly showing off their brand of melodic death metal tinged with metalcore. Theirs was a jam-packed set of copious guitar melodies, intense drumming, and a smorgasbord of harsh vocal styles, offering tracks from their 2012 début From The Depths and a couple of cheeky glimpses at new material. Rich O’Donnell gave his usual acrobatic vocal workout, switching up rapid-fire shrieks with guttural grunts at a bewildering speed as he paced the stage in a flat-cap, having traded in his usual lumberjack-hat due to the heat. The grinning Mitch McGugan was also fun to watch on the drumkit, guiding through varying fills and blasts, as Jay Gladwin supported on bass and howling low growls. Meanwhile Pierro Dujardin and Harsha Dasari were on guitars, trading delectable melodies and the occasional breakdown-chug, and trying not to let their fingers slip with sweat. The moments of chug simply thundered, augmented by the powerful speakers, such as on “Without Wings” after a rather amusing “Shut up you cunt!” line in the lyrics. To have put on such an energetic show in the intense heat was most impressive; hats off and glasses raised to Karybdis, and time to get some more water.
The Colour Line - 1pm
The Colour Line are a late addition to the Tech Fest bill, but a more than welcome one. There’s a real buzz building around this Hull quintet right now, and it’s not hard to see why. The band don’t so much play a show but attack it – a blizzard of limbs and riffs. The influence of Dillinger Escape Plan in both their music and stagecraft is undeniable, but it is executed with a hungry ferocity and seemingly limitless youthful energy that makes this early performance a compelling one.
The band take caustic, Weinmann-esque Tech-metal riffs and infuse them into a rawer, somewhat unhinged hardcore sound that is reminiscent of the likes of Refused and Daughters. Vocalist Sam Rudderforth is a near constant blur of motion, clambering over the crowd barrier to bellow from the floor at one point and getting dangerously close to clambering onto the poles of the tent roof before thinking better of it.
Watching these young and seemingly fearless guys chuck themselves and their guitars around for the entire duration of their set makes me feel old, fragile and in desperate need of a sit-down. They are playing a whole bunch of shows around the UK over the next few months, and should be quite the spectacle to behold.
If they can capitalise on this momentum, I’m sure they’ll be back at the next Tech Fest with a much higher billing.
Cold Night For Alligators - 2:30pm
Cold Night For Alligators hit the stage in looking almost too clean-cut to be at this festival. Sporting shirts, short hair and almost irrepressible smiles, on face value alone they stand out like a black metal band at an X-Factor audition. But appearances can be deceptive – these Danish veterans of the 2012 Tech Fest fill their half-hour with quirky, angular grooves that pack a satisfyingly meaty punch.
Vocalist Seb spends large portions of the set up against the crowd barrier, and switches comfortably between clean and harsh vocal lines – and one also has to admire the chutzpah of a man who stands on the main stage in a vibrant pink polo shirt and calls Tech Fest a ‘gay’ festival. Well played, sir.
The band all seem to be having a tremendous amount of fun, and somehow manage to retain enough energy to end their set with all five of them leaping around the stage in a Harlem Shake-esque fashion. It’s great to see a band playing music as heavy and technical as CNFA that don’t take themselves too seriously. This is further evidenced by witnessing them playing a peculiar version of croquet out in the campsite later that day that appeared to largely involve striking the floor repeatedly with the mallets.
Damned Spring Fragrantia - 3:30pm
Damned Spring Fragrantia have travelled all the way from Italy for their first ever show outside of their native Italy, so it is maybe a little disappointing that more people couldn’t quite travel the 50m from the campsite to watch their set.
This doesn’t appear to noticeably dampen their spirits as they pile though a set of highlights from Divergences, their recently released Basick Records debut. Presumably the climate of their homeland means they are more prepared for the steadily climbing temperatures than the crowds piling up in the few available shady spots.
Their fusion of beefy djent tones and hardcore-esque burly grooves gains extra heft in the live environment, which gets many of the assembled heads nodding appreciatively. The band certainly gained some new fans from their tightly performed set, and with their style being a near-perfect fit for Tech Fest, we can only hope they get invited back next year and get the attention they really deserve. Definitely ones to watch for the future.
No Consequence - 6:30pm
Now it was time for the big guns to arrive. Progressive metalcore lot No Consequence have made quite a name for themselves since their début In The Shadow Of Gods was released in 2009, and now it was time for a triumphant return to Tech-Fest after playing last year. Fueled by the energy of a new release this year, the band put on an enthusiastic show with a set that mixed tracks from both albums, from IO opener “So Close To Nowhere” to live staple “Latitudes”. Charismatic frontman Kaan had the crowd fully under control, inviting them to headbang or mosh at appropriate moments when the bass-vamped breakdowns kicked in. His ferocious hardcore vocals were on top form, while the cleans gained a rougher and sharper sound to what was on CD. Musically the rest of the band were very tight, with quick noodling sections dropped effortlessly between the thundering metalcore moments. The guitarists bounced around the stage and headbanged with surprising energy considering the sweltering heat, while the pit swayed with the grace of a drunken boxer. About halfway through the set, seemingly à propos of nothing, Kaan went on a tirade against the banks and current economic crisis, although it soon turned out to be a set-up for introducing one of the most powerful songs of the set, “Bury The Debt”. Closing out on IO’s “<em>Unify</em>” was a smart move; there was a resounding cheer from the crowd as Kaan screamed “We are one” for the last time. However, it wasn’t the last we were to see of some of the members…
Scar Symmetry - 9:30pm
And so, headliner time. Over from Sweden, sextet Scar Symmetry had brought their sci-fi tinged melodeath to Tech-Fest, riding on their much-lauded fifth album The Unseen Empire. Not being that familiar with the band after vocalist Christian Älvestam left in 2008 and was replaced by two vocalists, I was curious to see how the band were doing. Two albums later, it seems this line-up has settled in nicely, and there was a strong stage presence from all the members. The setlist was fairly mixed, drawing from the full range of their output, although the band were clearly stronger on the newer material. This in particular was highlighted when harsh vocalist Roberth Karlsson, who otherwise put in an admirable performance, attempted to cover the multi-layered growls of “Pitch Black Progress” by himself, resulting in an obvious loss of breath. Lars Palmqvist’s clean singing fared less strongly, and while he was clearly comfortable on his own tracks like “Frequencyshifter”, older track “Mind Machine” didn’t go down quite so well with these ears. Still, the audience visibly enjoyed the set, and as a live show Scar Symmetry left little room for complaint. A solid way to round out the night’s main entertainment, before the eventful after-party kicked in.
I admit that, for all the quality on show on the main Friday bill, it was the afterparty I was most looking forward to. Right from the first time I heard the Anthrax and Public Enemy version of Bring The Noise at the very start of the nineties, I have always had a soft spot for the crossover genres. After about a decade in the wilderness, this style of music seems to be coming back with a vengeance, so I was very much looking forward to seeing two firm favourite acts of mine, plus a whole new one.
But it very nearly didn’t happen at all. Some confusion over the very existence of the afterparty led to some rather public and angry exchanges with the venue, and susequently much of the crowd simply wandered away.
Portsmouth quartet Seething Akira tentatively took to the stage to play a somewhat denuded set to possibly the smallest audience of the entire festival. The bands mixture of punk energy with hip-hop and dubstep relies heavily on the bank of electronics marshalled by second vocalist Charlie Bowes, but with the main PA carrying little more than the vocals, they were all but inaudible. The band do not currently have a bass player in their ranks, so the loss of the PA completely gutted their sound, leaving Charlie and lead vocalist Kit Conrad to effectively sing and rap over the drums and guitar alone.
To their eternal credit, despite the sound issues and tiny turnout, they still performed as though they were playing to a full house and maximum volume – which is certainly not an easy thing to do. On the strength of their Jim Davies-produced single “Firepower” alone, I had been looking forward to seeing them play, and I saw enough to know that this is a band worth me, and indeed anyone who shares a love of crossover, making the effort to check out in a more sympathetic environment in the near future.
With the PA still turned down below previous levels, Brighton’s Collisions cautiously took the stage. Whilst their drum and bass/metal hybrid still leans heavily on a laptop perched on the corner of the drum riser, they do at least boast a full line-up. So, even if their full sound was still slightly hobbled from previous shows of theirs I’ve caught (including Southampton’s Takedown Festival) they were still ready and willing to put on a show.
And, all things considered, it was something of a minor triumph. The assembled crowd was certainly sparse as they began their set, but with the sound crew regaining their confidence and the volume levels rising, a steady stream of punters filed into the tent to check out what was happening. What’s more, they pretty much all stayed, so by the final song of an infectiously lively the band were playing to a very respectably sized and dancing crowd. I’m sure they earned more than a couple of new fans for their efforts.
I sat down for a chat with the Collisions lads the next day, so watch this space for more on these guys in the next few days.
Next up on the bill was the first of two Tech Fest sets from Drewsif Stalin, but unfortunately nobody from The Monolith was there to see it. Perhaps if you were there, you could tell us what we missed in the comments.
Rounding off the night was a much anticipated live set from The Algorithm. Mastermind Remi had been highly visible and highly sociable all day, despite the scorching temperatures and the fact he wasn’t even due to set foot on stage until close to two in the morning. The audience swelled in number as the volume concerns and confusions that dogged the earlier sets were resolved and the PA was returned to more appropriate levels.
Boasting the ‘full’ live line up with near omnipresent drummer Mike Malayan and guitarist Max Michel, Remi twiddled his knobs and slid his sliders through a set of Polymorphic Code favourites that is as baffling as it is mesmerising. This was either the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen an Algorithm set, so I do find myself hankering a little for some new tunes. However, my increased familiarity with the glitches, twists and turns in these tracks does also deepen my enjoyment of them. And I’m not sure I’ll ever get bored of the inspired dub interlude and subsequent craziness of “Access Granted”.
The addition of the live musicians to Remi’s tightly marshalled samples and sequences is a stroke of genius, and makes for a more involving performance than the uninitiated may suspect. I also have a feeling that there are many for whom Polyrhythmic Code is the only electronica album in their collection, thanks at least in part to the Basick seal of approval.
Even in this broad and boundary-pushing line-up, The Algorithm operate in a field of one. The band are taking part in Hacktivist’s mammoth UK trek for much of November and December, so if you haven’t yet taken the opportunity to witness this show, you really should do so then.
The previously advertised DJ set didn’t quite materialise, but the majority of the assembled crowds were happy to return to their tents and attempt to grab a couple of hours sleep before the sun rose again.