UK Tech-Fest 2015

Decapitated head up metal’s most virtuoso gathering

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THURSDAY

Now on its fourth showing, the annual shindig for fans of all things progressive and technical is growing year on year. Not just in terms of attendees, but in terms of the breadth and scope of the acts playing the festival. The Tech-Fest of 2015 doesn’t stick rigidly to its previous remit, instead inviting other members of the modern, free-thinking metal family along for the ride, making it an event that is clearly heading in the right direction. Early birds are treated to SHATTERED SKIES[7] melodic metallic charms, before RED SEAS FIRE [8] make the most of their current lineup’s final ever gig. Although there is a degree of obvious technical prowess, it’s the huge and instantaneous riffs that get bodies moving. Headliners HACKTIVIST [9] really need to release an album now. Their live show continues to improve and their djent-hop sound is still unlike any other band around. Once everyone knows all the words, this could be carnage.

FRIDAY

With so many fast and aggressive bands playing, the warm, Cult Of Luna-esque vibes of post-metal crew SUMER [8] stand out – even if they’re not well-attended so early in the day. The more crowd-pleasing, juddery crush of NO SIN EVADES HIS GAZE [6] is better viewed, but the band look a little less comfortable on stage and reduce the impact. The crushing deathcore of BELIAL [7] lends something different to Tech-Fest, and if they drop the unwanted cover of Korn’s Here To Stay they could be ones to watch. THE INTERBEING [7] are almost veterans in this scene, but still find themselves on the second stage, which seems unfair on the Dutchmen, as their guitar tone is as tight and taut as any band this weekend.

Despite missing a drummer (as they were at the first Tech-Fest in 2011, where they were a revelation) NEXILVA [7] hit hard, the furious techy, black metal-tinged deathy stuff whipping heads nicely. CARCER CITY [7] go down an absolute storm, the crowd moving extensively to the accessibly crafted, intricately riffed aggression they deliver with abrasive panache. On a bill where virtually everyone is astoundingly proficient, LEPROUS [8] still manage to look virtuoso, their angular prog with note-perfect vocals transfixing a crowd still hungry for more when they finish. Headliners BETRAYING THE MARTYRS [6] arrive late and are immediately thrust onstage without a soundcheck, meaning they sound horribly messy. The fact that their tech-death is fairly unremarkable doesn’t help their cause, either.

SATURDAY

While they may play well, there’s a distinct lack of personality to THE VOYNICH CODE [5], their Born Of Osiris-esque tech failing to stand out, partially due to indistinct vocals. Lack of distinctiveness is no problem for a world-exclusive first show for SLICE THE CAKE [7], whose understandable awkwardness onstage is made up for by the immense, varied progressive destruction they unleash to a madly passionate crowd. They are, however, slightly outshone by THE SUN EXPLODES [8]. The mournful singing crowning their intense but subtle rock is superb, and their honesty is enormously watchable. Brilliant stuff.

It wouldn’t be Tech-Fest without a whole heap of instrumental guitar noodling, and HEAVY METAL NINJAS [5] fill the remit this year. Clever and well dressed? Yes. In possession of interesting songs? Not so much. No band look happier to be here than CYCLAMEN [7]. The Japanese oddballs grin their way through an excellent set of spazzy, melodic Dillinger-isms. Then AGENT FRESCO [9] enrapture the festival with a set of shimmering, beautiful post-rock. It’s the weekend’s highlight and biggest talking point. They may not be the most obvious fit here, but MARTYR DEFILED [6] still have enough technical moments and onstage nous to get the crowd moving. Saturday headliners HEART OF A COWARD [8] seem to be even more brutal than usual. Their pounding tech metal shakes the foundations of the site and gets the largest number of heads banging in the crowd by some distance.

SUNDAY

THE DALI THUNDERING CONCEPT [4] provide an example of the tech scene’s weak side, sounding far too much like everyone else and not having the live chops to pull it off. That’s not a problem for NO CONSEQUENCE [7], though, who are helped to stand out by a weekend oddly missing djent. With more interest in groove than bounce, they quickly get the afternoon crowd nodding along. Quite why BAD SIGN [7] are here is anyone’s guess, but we’re glad they are. While they’re not even remotely tech, their Therapy?-slanted alt-rock provides instant pleasures. PRESS TO MECO [8] are similar in the fact that they are more of a rock band, but the odd time signatures and inventive vocal melodies mean they fit the bill better. HAKEN [6] are pure prog. There is more than a dollop of Dream Theater here and, although you’d think they would fit in, their set falls oddly flat. Unlike ROLO TOMASSI [8], who are adored while being terrifying at the same time. Their amalgam of Mr Bungle and The Locust is probably the most unusual music of the entire festival.

Despite Chris Barretto being unable to sing due to vocal nodes (he takes a master of ceremonies/saxophonist role today) MONUMENTS [9] are still fucking brilliant. The near-impossible precision, huge, jazzy grooves and natural charisma of the hugely engaging musicians carry them even without their singer. They are then matched by DECAPITATED [9], and that’s with the Poles having to cope with a late start due to an onstage raffle. But when you have as much impetus and crunch and punch as this grooving death metal, and deliver it this well, it’s unsurprising to see the hair fly for Spheres Of Madness.