Bring The Noise UK

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Tech-Fest

In its fifth year, Newark’s Tech-Fest is fast becoming THE place to be for any fan of tech, prog, metal and anything in between. Arguably its biggest year to date with a huge line-up including headliners Animals As Leaders, Protest The Hero and Between The Buried And Me, we took a trip to the niche festival for a weekend of riffs – and plenty of them!

THURSDAY

One of the first bands of the entire weekend, Brighton’s Jonestown are without doubt one of the heavier acts on offer here. Frontman Harley Anderson is convincing in his vitriol, and while instrumentally the band sticks rigidly to their Meshuggah-esque groove metal, they are undeniably tight and help get the weekend off to a good start. 7 – JG

Akord (complete with spring sound effects) are slightly more light hearted in their approach. Pulling one of the larger crowds of the day, each member of the band is dazzling in their own right, and the Aberdonian four piece’s winding prog is a good fit for the Thursday evening’s jovial atmosphere. 7 – JG

FRIDAY

London five piece Harbinger had recently just released their debut five track EP Paroxysm, the very same release reviewed on Bring the Noise earlier in the year. Discovering a band’s music to then go see them for the first time is an incredibly strong and important mechanic as to why we all follow and support bands as passionately as we do. So with the EP in mind, excitement was reasoned behind hearing the EP tracks live and to see how the band would fare along with it. Opening with Falsifier, Harbinger seemed to be hitting it off with the crowd and fans alike, in many thanks to the fantastic strength of melody the band has within its grasp. Vocalist Thom Gardner expressed his stage stance as an almost fleeting force, but this was of no hamper to the show. His pitch screaming and rhythmic placements were on point and ran in a harmonious pact especially so with riffing connoisseurs Ben Sutherland and Charlie Griffiths. The Londoners successfully performed as one integral unit, delivering a strong set that clearly received many new fans and merchandise sales. 7 – AM

Tech metal seems to suffer more than most subgenres in terms of its ability to translate well in a live setting, and unfortunately Cold Night For Alligators embody this trope. While they are an exciting proposition on record, the band suffer not only from poor sound, but also seem under-rehearsed, with several guitar fluffs killing any atmosphere that their dynamic sound creates. Vocalist Johan Pedersen puts in a strong, energetic performance, but sadly this does not salvage what is otherwise a disappointing set. 4 – JG

Continuing to cover a variety of acts and artists, Tech-Fest 2016 featured some considerable instrumental giants on its roster, including rising Aussie, Plini. Whilst being highly impactful on record, instrumental artists such as Plini, Intervals and Sithu Aye have their work cut out for them more so than any typical artist regarding their live show. Of course, the unit is expected to be incredibly tight but this element on its own does not make a set. Plini and Intervals shared the same band for their sets, quite a feat considering the music of simply one of the two would be complex enough to learn. Despite this, both artists managed to perform with upmost conviction and appeal to audience members beyond the realm of the musically minded. Plini’s relaxed vibe produced an incredibly welcoming environment to simply be within, not just listen to. 8 – AM

Headlining the second stage, Disperse’s supremely melodic sound is a transcendental experience, and while it may be somewhat redundant to remark upon musicianship at Tech-Fest of all places, holy shit. There are far heavier bands on this bill, but Mike Malyan’s percussive assault is undeniable, helping to beef out the band’s awesome, soaring soundscapes. 8 – JG

Aaron Marshall’s Intervals achieved a similar goal, only differing in style. Instead of chilling back with elegantly voiced leads, Marshall fired out warm and this was no setback, as it was just as much of a elation to watch him play as it previously was with Plini. His music and performance equalled Plini’s sense of environment, filling it not with relaxation with joyous motions and a party-like airing. It was almost surprising just how much enjoyment he and his band provided with their performance, certainly enough to lull back anyone given the chance to see them again. 8 – AM

The first headliner of the weekend, Animals As Leaders, play a packed main stage tent, and even they seem surprised by the fevered reaction they receive. Opening with the crushing Wave of Babies pits instantly open up, and the energy rarely dips throughout their set. Sing-alongs aren’t often associated with instrumental music, but that’s exactly what we get in the pop grooves of Physical Education. The band have hinted at a move towards more challenging, prog-driven sounds on their next release, but the refined simplicity present on The Joy of Motion is head and shoulders above their older material in terms of crowd response. 9 – JG

SATURDAY

Armed with an obscene amount of sub-bass drops, Glasgow’s From Sorrow To Serenity are as slick as they are heavy. Now operating as a four piece, what the band lose in overall spectacle they make up for in new personnel: vocalist Gaz King is an excellent fit for the band’s technical deathcore sound, and tackles cuts from new album Remnant of Humanity with ease. 7 – JG

Of all the bands heading to Tech-Fest with recent releases, few records were utterly devastating as The Schoenberg Automaton and their second album Apus, something that anyone who heard it will reinforce. In performing songs from both their debut and Apus, the band unsurprisingly offered surgical precision in performing what can only be described as crazy music. Frontman Jake Gerstle may well have the most demonic, venomous and straight up terrifying voice in metal today, and parallel to his vocal sections are desires to hear more and more. What is even more impressive is just how well he translates from the album to a live gig, as he eliminates any doubts over this very matter with extreme prejudice. An incredibly tight performance from the band all round as they displayed prowess of specialising in bewilderingly heavy music. Even though small in quantity, the added character and banter on-stage of the Australians made them even more likeable, not to mention a certified highlight of the weekend. 9 – AM

Sithu Aye headlined the second stage on the Saturday, very much proving his mastery of his guitar playing. Yet, the bar of instrumental standards set by Plini and Intervals took a slight dip at this time. Aye and his band lacked the element that concreted the music together for the aforementioned acts. This wasn’t exactly a massive blockade in the path of enjoyment for any of Aye’s fans, but anyone not under this category would see Aye as striking out (or rather, failing to do that very thing). The entire band were as precise as every other high octane musician sharing the stages with them, but ultimately they failed to provide that previous element of atmosphere to accompany them. For instrumental artists, it is of the highest significance to be capable of pulling audiences who may not normally have much interest in instrumental music. In other words, you should not have to be a musician in order to enjoy it. This is the margin which Aye narrowly missed, providing nice touches such as playing Set Course For Andromeda, yet overall giving a largely forgettable performance. It will be of no surprise however, when Aye and his band soar to their true potential in live performance and we look forward to watching them grow and achieving this. 5 – AM

Californian death metallers Fallujah have adorned a following of fair strength throughout the years, all of whom were treated to the band’s first Tech-Fest appearance this year. A band heavily reliant on a blend of death metal technicality and clouds of ethereal atmosphere, if there was a band meant for the main stage, it would be Fallujah. Steam clouds and vibrant lights surrounded the band as vocalist Alex Hofmann hounds the front of the stage, giving an awe of menace to the cloud character. The five piece have all clearly honed their craft, providing a sound that no others could provide and excelling at bringing this colossal sound to their live show with zero complications. Sapphire, The Void Alone and The Dead Sea were standouts among an already shining set, one that has very likely sealed their place at Tech-Fest multiple times across the coming years. 8 – AM

Like all the headliners at Tech-Fest this year, Protest The Hero are making their debut appearance at the festival. Opening with the flawless one-two of Bloodmeat and Sequoia Throne, those in attendance go suitably nuts. Playing material from all their releases including the soon to be finished Pacific Myth EP, the slightly front-loaded set does lose its bite towards the end, and misses Kezia’s big hitter Blindfolds Aside. However, the goodwill extended from audience to band is palpable, and the positive atmosphere is further buoyed by a (successful) on stage marriage proposal. PTH may be treading water creatively, but the fun factor that Rody Walker and co. bring to a live setting further consolidates them as an excellent Saturday headliner. 8 – JG

SUNDAY

For the Oracle presented seven musicians of varying instruments to an audience still breaking free from the shackles of sleep on the early Sunday afternoon. Tenor and alto saxophones amidst heavy guitar lines, a silky voice and metal drum beats are such things doubtful to be on the mind of any of them, but this is precisely what they got. The musicianship on-stage was sublime but they proved the walk could also be walked by supplying engaging tracks of varying length and nature. Although suffering technical setbacks with their guitarist and overall attaining a rather timid presence, the band won the hearts of the early goers. Vocalist Sam Lawson provided silky vocal movements, which were splendid on the ears as he wandered around the stage seemingly without a care. From watching their set, anyone could tell just how much the band wanted to be where they were, and just how much performing at Tech-Fest meant to them; a rather warm hearted and delightful way to open up the second official day of the festival. 7 – AM

If you aren’t already a fan of technical deathcore, Copenhagen’s Ghost Iris are unlikely to change your mind. However, while the band may lack a sonic USP, they make up for this in unbridled enthusiasm and sheer tightness. Vocalist Jesper Vicencio Gün’s energetic performance spearheads the band’s laser-precise assault, earning them a strong reaction from the crowd gathered at the main stage. 7 – JG

Going into Tech-Fest with quite a buzz about their newly released album Orange Mathematics, Frontierer were a question on many minds as to how they would translate live and, how well. It seems that putting down any concerns over their live show was a prioritised goal, as Frontierer chose to overcome doubts with a storm of strobes and aptly described disgusting guitar noises. Whilst their audio resonance can barely be faulted, their music gives the impression of a stage presence eager to decimate rooms packed with human beings, which isn’t the case. This is not a bad thing necessarily, but the band seemed to be more concentrative towards their individual paths towards sonic devastation, instead of performing as one crushing entity. Their set was certainly impressive, but we can’t help but feel this was merely a taster for the true live potential to come from a more experienced and synergetic Frontierer. 7 – AM

Sounding heavier live than on record, Parisian metalcore five piece Novelists pack out the Hands On Printing stage with an energetic, but ultimately uninspiring performance. Vocalist Matt Gelsomino is a natural and commanding presence at the helm, and while he manages to cajole the audience into a clutch of bounce-along moments, musically the band bring absolutely nothing new to the table. 5 – JG

One of the more traditional prog rock bands here, Haken’s sound is very clearly influenced by the genre’s giants, possessing much of the same quirky charm and indeed musical prowess held by the likes of Dream Theater (you would be forgiven for thinking Jordan Ruddess himself was on keyboard duties). However, to mark them solely on this aspect of their sound would be to undersell them greatly, and songs like The Cockroach King and 1985 garner a fervent response. 8 – JG

Frequently cited alongside bands such as SikTh and Meshuggah as forerunners of the tech metal genre, Textures are on white hot form this evening. Drawing mainly from their 2016 release Phenotype, the Dutch six-piece deliver one of the sets of the weekend, with tracks such as New Horizons and Illuminate The Trail sounding monstrous. Tech they may be, but Textures are a metal band through and through, and the band engage the crowd with neck snapping heaviness until the closing moments of Laments Of An Icarus. 9 – JG

And so, closing the fifth annual Tech-Fest were one of progressive metal’s most accomplished outfits. Between The Buried And Me’s music has been circulating the progressive household of the metal society for the past four releases or so, and with high regard. Tech-Fest number five was the first time at the festival for the American five piece, gathering excitement and pondering from fans and attendees. Whilst their stage presence was not among the most menacing, busiest or exhausting of the festival, it aptly complimented the ever-changing force of their music. Tracks such as The Coma Machine and Telos were a pleasure to spectate and listen to. Frontman Tommy Giles Rogers seemed to limit his connection with the crowd by saying very little beyond his vocal duties, which is neither abnormal nor disappointing, but from a personal standpoint a portion of extra character would have been the upgrade from incredible to perfection. However, this was barely a dent in a titanic performance and perfect closer to an incredible weekend of heavy music. 9 – AM

Written by: Josh Graham and Andrew Macdonald

Photos by: Julian Bailey

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.