Tech Fest, like its continental counterpart Euroblast, has reached a level of consistency where it has become an annual pilgrimage for devotees of the various forms of technical metal, while still attracting enough big (well, mid-level) bands to attract your average modern metaller. It also provides one of the most consistent undercards; even if you only know two or three of the biggest bands on the bill, there will likely be countless gems lower down on the bill that will be well worth the time investment.
My festival opened with Glaswegian death metallers Godeater, and they certainly opened the fest on the right note. Balancing technicality and accessible song-writing, melody and brutality, it proves to be an engrossing performance that, based on comments from other audience members, seemed to win admirers. It’ll be nice to see them back in a higher slot when they have enough material to fill a half-hour set.
Sentience are another to keep an eye on, mixing Uneven Structure-esque ambience with savage forays into extremity and some lead guitar work that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of the many solely instrumental bands in this scene. Their frontman is an imposing, and energetic presence, and, more importantly, a quality vocalist. Having already won London’s Metal to the Masses leg to earn a slot at Bloodstock, expect great things.
Core of iO are a much proggier prospect (progspect?), but unfortunately this doesn’t translate as well to the Tech Fest stage. The virtuosity and melody present in their music is largely drowned out by the heavy grooves, and without it, sadly, they sound slightly disjointed.
The Royal, on the other hand, are relentless. From emotive melodies to danceable grooves, it’s a class in how metalcore should be written. The audience really responds, pits opening up several times, despite the heat of the second stage, and the relatively sparse crowds that plague the early Thursday bands. Probably the best performance of the day.
Despite being closer to straight up hard rock than Meshuggah, the crowd fills out for Tech Fest veterans Shattered Skies. While they suffer from a similar problem to Core of iO – heavy grooves overpowering the synths that are a central aspect of their music, there’s still plenty to enjoy, from Ian Rockett’s stunning leads, to the ridiculously catchy chorus of ‘No One’s Safe’. And they play two tracks from Reanimation, and I’ve been waiting six years for that…
For some reason, Alaska use the Champions League anthem as their intro tape. It gets odder. Despite playing crushingly heavy deathcore, with eerie melodic passages that wouldn’t sound out of place in melodic black metal, they brought inflatables – producing what was less mosh pit, more people playing with giant beach balls, or trying to throw the rubber rings such that they landed around the neck of the really tall guy in the pit. It was a hell of a lot of fun though. (Spoiler alert: this will seem a rather normal level of pit antic given how the rest of the weekend goes)
The Arusha Accord are veterans in the tech scene, and their math madness brings near constant pits and a conga line. While personally I found it difficult to properly get into (long festival days do that), Paul and Alex Green are bundles of energy on vocals, at the forefront of an impressive band unleashing a chaotic tech storm.
Unfortunately, the tech storm summoned an actual storm, bringing three months of rain in one hour. Sadly this means that, due to making sure my tent doesn’t flood, there isn’t a review for Chelsea Grin, but those who did see them reported great things. Fortunately, the deluge passes by the time the after party rolled round…
The first of the four after parties consisted of three bands closer to doom than the tech the festival is named after, and the only one I was awake enough to see, My/Bitter/Half, were certainly worth staying up for. Falling somewhere between the introspection of post metal and the chaos of hardcore, My/Bitter/Half’s crowd, led by the inimitable figure of Drewsif Stalin all but destroy the somewhat makeshift stage before anyone else even has a chance to play it. A very impressive show.