|Event:||UK Tech-Fest 2022|
|Written by:||omne metallum|
Wait Omne, I hear you say, Tech-Fest? I thought you were the death/thrash metal guy? Well, listen here my curious friend; I enjoy a wide range of music, even if I’m not as pretentious as someone like Musclassica *cough*. I have a varied taste in music, from the heavy to the expansive; it’s just that someone has to review the new Five Finger Death Punch record and damn, if I’m not a glutton for punishment.
Tech-Fest is a small UK festival dedicated to the more technical (now there’s a surprise) side of metal, from the heavy technical death metal bands to the experimental and Avant-Garde, with everything in-between. Ever since its first edition way back in 2011, Tech-Fest has been going from strength to strength, with line-ups packed full of some of the biggest artists in the small niche the festival caters for. Taking place at the Newark Showground, this 2000-capacity festival has outdoor camping facilities while the music takes place inside two conjoined cattle sheds (it’s better than it sounds, honestly), which meant festival-goers could always escape the brief rain outbreaks and catch some live music.
This year was my first trip to the festival; while it has long been something on my radar, I had yet to take the plunge before now. A post-Covid YOLO saw me purchase a ticket and attend what was arguably one of the festival’s weaker offerings to date, though the line-up still offered plenty of great bands; I wish I had made the commitment to attend back in 2017, with the stacked line-up that year had to offer. With that said, the festival has gained its reputation as one of the better niche festivals for more than just its line-up, with the third stage offering masterclasses and Q+A sessions from a mixture of band members and industry insiders, giving those wanting a greater insight into the industry a chance to hear from those neck deep in it.
So here I am, standing in a field in Lincolnshire (flat cap at the ready) listening to some of the most expansive and non-linear metal this side of Mr. Bungle. After getting settled into my 4 nights of accommodation at the Shangri-La... (okay, it’s just a tent, but it was home for a few days), I went to check out the festival site and amenities. Taking place at Newark Showground meant that festival goers got to take advantage of the facilities the location had to offer, with proper toilets and shower blocks, meaning attendees were more comfortable than at most festivals.
Beyond the gates... on a budget, entrance to the two main stages
The third stage ironically was in the largest building
Red Method 16:30-17:15, Main Stage
Method to the madness
Having arrived later than planned, Red Method were the first band on my list that I was able to watch. Wandering into the larger of the two cattle sheds that made up the stages for the weekend, I was introduced to the band that was to open up my weekend of music. I was immediately hit harder than a spear by Goldberg to one of the recurrent issues that arose at the festival, namely that the concrete and metal structure that made up the stage had the disadvantage of making a band sound like a wall of noise if the sound engineer didn’t get things right. While the band played admirably (traumatising some poor pigeon who had found its way into the venue while they were at it), the mix made it sound like an incongruent mess for much of their set, and meant that little stood out beyond a barrage of noise.
Bound In Fear 19:00-20:00, Second Stage
Bound to give you chills
If you have found a sludgier band, then please consult a medical professional, for the slow groove a la Obituary mixed with deathcore that Bound In Fear dealt up rattled my bones to dust and beat listeners’ senses into submission. With the crowd pumped up and throwing their heads around in time to the slow breakdowns, it looked like a tidal wave of moshers soundtracked to perfection.
Artificial Language 20:00-21:00, Main Stage
Not pictured: Bob Ross
If music is indeed an art form, then Artificial Language are sound coloured in by the gentle brushstrokes of Bob Ross. The band’s soft and sublime tones were the perfect tonic to the musical bruising the audience had just sustained. With the singer boogying away like a drunk uncle at a wedding, Artificial Language was the kind of experience you could close your eyes and soothe your soul too.
Exist Immortal 21:30-23:00, Main Stage
The Y.M.C.A. didn’t last long.
Headlining and closing out the main stage before the festival kicked off proper tomorrow, Exist Immortal set a high bar for subsequent bands to follow. Their melodic tech metal was both uplifting and hard-hitting, leaving you feeling good and at ease with the fact that you are back at a festival after all this time. A good sing-along session was had, with the front man engaging well with the crowd, who in turn were eager to get the party started themselves.
Stranded 23:30-00:00, Third Stage
Victor Meldrew came on for a spot of karaoke
With the third stage hosting the after-party festivities, those who were still able to stand (or were drawn like moths to bright lights) kept the festival going after hours. Stranded were much a blur for me at this point, mixing drum and bass with technical riffing to some effect. I was on my last legs at this point so can’t say much more than that.
A 12 o’clock start the next morning at first seemed late, but come Friday morning this belated start was a blessing in disguise. After a morning of finding my senses at the bottom of various cans of cider, I hit the stages early to kick-start my Tech-Fest experience.
Voidwalker 12:00-12:30, Second Stage
Kicking off the second day, Voidwalker were an enjoyable, if not particularly great band. They blew away the previous night’s cobwebs and got the lethargic crowd moving, which was a feat in itself judging by the looks on the faces in the crowd. With a sound on stage that was mercifully quiet for those with sore heads, it meant that the band were unable to fully unleash the power they had at their disposal, though the band’s loss was the audience’s mercy at this point of the day.
Pound 13:00-13:30, Second Stage
No change given
After a short break, I was convinced by my mates to go see “this guy with a 9-string guitar”; hell, I was sold just on the curiosity of what noise could be generated by such a thing. Thank god for friends like these, because I would have otherwise missed out on one of the sets of the weekend. The duo that make up Pound were on top form, with the drummer holding down the beat while the guitarist balanced guitar heroics and holding the bass at the same time. Forgoing audience interaction, the band offered up a strangely hypnotic sound that held your attention and wowed you from start to finish, easily a highlight of the weekend.
Frontierer 15:30-16:00, Main Stage
Chaos from beginning to end
I approached Frontierer the same way one would approach hallucinogenic materials: go in expecting some kind of mind-bending experience, and come out of it wondering what reality truly was and if I was the reincarnation of Super Mario (only one of these happened this time... lets a-go!). While the band’s music just sounds like a brutal sound collage, don’t let these first impressions colour your perception; sure, it is easy to view Frontierer like that on initial listens, but if you delve deeper you come out with an enriching and truly chaotic experience that you have to see for yourself. With the guitarist diving into the crowd and the singer up in the faces of the front row, it was the closest I’ve had to reliving the glory days of The Dillinger Escape Plan and made for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Hacktivist 18:00-19:00, Main Stage
Muscles Glasses takes to the stage, apparently
Despite having been around for over a decade, I had yet to see Hacktivist live and went into the show with high hopes. While the band were tight live, they were perhaps too well rehearsed, and as a result the appearance felt like a robotic performance more than a natural show. While good, they never really clicked in a meaningful way with me consistently beyond tracks like "Armoured Core" and "Hyperdialect". I will give them credit for stopping the show and keeping the audience entertained as an audience member required medical attention.
Harbinger 19:00-20:00, Second Stage
Closing out the second stage for the Friday were fast-rising crew Harbinger. I was interested to see what the hype was about, so wondered in with little in the way of foreknowledge beyond one or two songs. While the band were solid and hit hard with tracks like "Prayer Of Deliverance" and a solid cover of Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell”, which highlighted that the band have plenty of potential, the hour-long slot nevertheless exposed their weakness in depth in terms of quality material, with some of the same bordering on atypical groove-inflected death metal.
Betraying The Martyrs 20:00-21:00, Main Stage
That’s a finger in the photo, I swear
With the day slowly drawing to a close, it was the turn of French metalcore stalwarts Betraying The Martyrs to take to the stage. Despite being down a bass player owing to Corona, the band put on a strong showing that mixed newer tracks like "Black Hole" alongside older cuts such as "Man Made Disaster" with ease. While the crowd interaction was cringingly forced, the music more than made up for it and ensured that the quality of the music did not ebb as the day was reaching its end.
Kill The Witch 12:15-12:45, Third Stage
No witches were harmed in the making of this performance
Kill The Witch were a last-minute replacement for Hundred Year Old Man, who had pulled out earlier in the day. Even with zero foreknowledge of the band, the music was instantly memorable, with some solid stoner grooves and hypnotic riffs that made for a perfect way to cap off a day that had rapidly caught up with me. As the band drew to a close, so did I for the day.
Waking up on Saturday morning was not fun, with the previous day's drinks still having an effect on me; only the rising temperature inside my tent thanks to the summer sun forced me to get up. Though I didn’t match the pace in terms of watching a similar number of bands (owing to the discovery of Dragon Soop), Saturday was more about quality than quantity for me, with a highly anticipated show from Vulvodynia being the expected highlight of the day for me.
Where Oceans Burn 12:00-12:30, Main Stage
Burning down the…ocean?
Thanks to the aforementioned sun, I was already up and ready to go, and therefore decided to catch this Irish metalcore crew kicking things off on what was a painful morning for myself. The band’s melodies and soundscapes helped put some sonic padding on their abrasive edges that helped this aching head enjoy their show; with the haunting "Hollow Heart" and "Manifest" being particularly memorable, they are certainly a band I plan on keeping an eye on in future.
Axiom 14:00-14:30, Second Stage
This trio of instrumental progsters hit the spot perfectly, managing to balance interesting compositions without getting lost on a sonic tangent; they were a great mix of sublime and smooth prog that was a big hit with their large crowd. One of the better discoveries over the course of the weekend, they have been on regular rotation for me since.
Anima Tempo 16:30-17:15, Main Stage
These eclectic Mexican progsters drew heavily on djent and tech-death, but did so in a compelling and interesting way that managed to break through my drunken state and hold my attention for the duration. With tracks like “Cellophane Eyes” and "Decietful Idols" being highlights of a strong set, the crowd responded well and broke through the haze in my head and etched itself deep into my memory.
Monasteries 17:15-18:00, Second Stage
While deathcore might not be the most popular genre in metal anymore, in recent years the UK underground scene has become fertile ground for bands wanting to push things to their extremes. With the drummer dropping out at short notice, the band could have been forgiven for a disjointed set, but credit to Monasteries for not only pulling through with a hastily concocted drum track, but for being as entertaining as they were given the circumstances. As the band have been making waves in the British deathcore scene in recent years, it good to finally hear what all the fuss was about, with Monastries exhibiting why they were making the waves they are, with a strong set that belied the palpable tension emanating from the stage.
TheCityIsOurs 18:00-19:00, Main Stage
A late replacement for Gorod who pulled out only a few scant weeks earlier, TheCityIsOurs were certainly not a direct replacement in terms of tone. The band's melodic metalcore was, however, an enjoyable mid-evening break from the brutality, proving to be a much-needed respite for me as another day of sun and drinking was rapidly starting to wear on me. However, as good as they were, they pulled one of the smallest crowds throughout the festival, though at least those who did turn up seemed to greatly enjoy what they were experiencing.
Vulvodynia 20:00-21:00, Main Stage
Turns out the name isn’t pronounced as Volvo diner, my mistake
The band I was most looking forward to on the Saturday were South African metalheads Vulvodynia. Mixing technical death metal with a slam and deathcore bent, the band were a near-guaranteed success. It was, alas, then poor fortune that the band's mix was muddy, robbing them of the intricacies that peppered their songs and gave them the little details that make them so good, leaving you with a basic experience of the band's live sound. While "Flesh Tailor" and "Eternal Wasteland Of Galaxies" were impressive in their brutality, they were not as good as they could have been and meant the day ended on a low note for me.
With that, my night descended into more cans of the Soop, researching whether the urban myth that, should you drink seven cans, the eternal dragon will arise and grant you any wish. Alas, I got no wish, and was destroyed worse than Yamcha and looked worse than imperfect Cell for my efforts.
After emerging surprisingly refreshed after a day of punishing drinks, Sunday came around far too soon, leaving attendees with that familiar pall that is cast when you realize that it is the final day in the world away from reality. All told, Sunday was the weakest day line-up wise for me; while there were a few bands I wanted to see, I mostly took advantage of the small venue to quickly pop in and out of the venue hall to see if any band took my interest in between drinking yet more Soop.
Archeon 12:30-13:00, Main Stage
Gotta catch ‘em all
Self-described as prog and video games, Archeon were serviceable if unremarkable, with the highlight of their booking being that they brought along Pokemon Yellow to their merch table to cover the video games part of their description (which I won’t hold against them, even though they overlooked the superior Blue); the music however, felt flat in comparison.
Project Mishram 14:30-15:00, Main Stage
The house band packs out the house
This was certainly an experience; festival regulars Project Mishram have longed forged a bond with Tech-Fest that has meant they're practically synonymous with each other. Despite this being my first experience of the band, I was having as much fun as the packed audience around me, with the band on top form and immersing you in their music. Ending on their infamous "Loco Coko", the set ended far too soon, leaving all wanting more.
OHHMS 14:00-14:30, Second Stage
OHHMS are a band I've seen around before, but not one that I've ever really listened to. More fool me, for the band were the discovery of the weekend for me; their stoner sludge sound was just the right mix of heaviness and catchiness to make for one of the sets of the weekend. The only downsides came in the form of a particularly thin crowd and a mid-set stoppage for a medical emergency, both of which drew you out of the moment, albeit temporarily. Once OHHMS started up again, they quickly drew you back in and ensured that you remained enchanted until the end of the set.
Party Cannon 17:15-18:00, Second Stage
Despite a frosty reception upon their announcement several months ago, Party Cannon drew a large crowd eager to, well, party. With the audience a sea of beach balls, inflatables and mosh-hungry attendees, Party Cannon was perhaps the cathartic release many had waited for, as the crowd went wild. While the band were on top form, they're certainly a band better experienced if you have the energy to jump into the fray, as the periods I took out to rest from moshing saw the band's hold on me dwindle rapidly.
After wearing myself out to Party Cannon, I decided to rest up and ensure my journey back wasn't weighted down by unopened cans of alcohol (a serious problem, I’m sure we can all agree) that had manage to hide themselves over the last three days in my tent.
God Is An Astronaut 21:30-23:00, Main Stage
He’s not the messiah, he’s an *checks notes* astronaut?
As the weekend drew down to its final act, a sense of the morose drew over the packed hall that, after 3 years of waiting, Tech-Fest had nearly been and gone already. Luckily, God Is An Astronaut could take you out of your mind and immerse you in sonic waves. The band were on fine form, letting you rest your eyes and just sink into the music as the projector in your mind put on a show for you. A highlight and high note to go out on, the band did not disappoint. With the band celebrating their 20th anniversary, they celebrated by playing near note-perfect renditions of classics "All Is Violent, All Is Bright", "Suicide By Star" and "Epitaph", to the joy of those in attendance.
Tech-Fest was certainly an experience for me as an avid and regular festival attendee, with the festival hitting that sweet spot between not being too niche and small without becoming too large and destroying its laid-back atmosphere. While I didn’t see as many bands as I had anticipated (Scar Symmetry being the biggest casualty) I had a great time regardless, with many of the sets being high-quality and in a venue that was well suited to the needs of both bands and audiences.
If you are a fan of this style of music and are looking for a festival full of like-minded persons and decent facilities, then I would highly recommend considering Tech-Fest in future, especially if you want a break from larger festivals.
||Written on 27.07.2022 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.|
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