Tech Fest turns seven, bringing UK heroes Sikth and Heart Of A Coward, metalcore titans The Acacia Strain and Betraying The Martyrs, a Protest The Hero and Norma Jean cancellation saga, the mystery of a secret act, one of the most talked about bands in prog, The Contortionist, returns to the scene for Bleed From Within and Nexilva, and a farewell to Martyr Defiled.
I turned up in 2017 knowing very few bands, and even fewer people, expecting Meshuggah worship and little else, and had one of the best festivals I’ve ever had. Music-wise, it covers so much ground, and in a much more cohesive way than most rock or metal festivals manage, that any prog and/or extreme music fans should consider this festival a priority; it has a line-up that ranges from dreamy post rock to brutal death metal (and that’s just between 7pm and 9pm on Saturday), and that puts on workshops with some of the endless virtuosos that play the festival. To further emphasise the diversity, the festival has organised two cover-sets for the after parties: of Linkin Park and Pink Floyd. It’s about so much more than the music though; nowhere has the concept of a metal family been more on show than at Tech Fest. I am supposed to be talking about music though, so here’s a list of ten bands that I would consider unmissable, although realistically, you should see as many as possible; there’s so many sick bands this year.
The Hirsch Effekt – Sunday, 17:15, Waghorn Guitars Stage
After recommendations at last year’s Tech Fest – but unfortunately after missing the 2am listening party in the shisha tent – I listened to Eskapist, the then-new album of bonkers Germans, The Hirsch Effekt. It took roughly thirty seconds to fall in love with it. They jump between mathcore that sounds like the sonic equivalent of being shaken awake by a disorientated giant that doesn’t know its own strength; soaring choruses so catchy that I was singing along to them long before I realised they were in German; and more experimentation than the average chemist, and should blow minds live.
Employed To Serve – Sunday, 19:00, Waghorn Guitars Stage
Who would ever have predicted that modern-day Kerrang would manage to choose The Warmth Of A Dying Sun, from a band as high-quality as Employed To Serve as their album of the year for 2017? Nihilist, cynical, socially conscious, and very, very angry, this is everything hardcore should be. Employed To Serve are a snarling, pummelling, pit-producing machine, and if there’s one thing a Tech Fest crowd does well (other than high-pitched whoo sounds), it’s pitting. This should be a match made in heaven.
Ingested – Saturday, 20:00, Winspear Stage
Speaking of pitting, one returning act that should not be missed under any circumstance are Mancunian slam titans, Ingested. Last year, on a bill with death metal titans Aborted and Black Dahlia Murder, they more than held their own; and, after the release of the stunning The Level Above Human album, should be rightly regarded as the leaders of whichever wave of death metal we’re into now. Destruction and chaos, guaranteed.
This Is Turin – Friday, 15:00, Waghorn Guitars Stage
Deathcore and black metal can combine surprisingly well with good songwriting – the frenetic tremolo and blastbeats of the latter are natural bedfellows for the brutal chugs of the former, for double the intensity while maintaining the atmosphere – and This Is Turin’s Cercis album is a very solid example of this. Their recent single ‘When God Bleeds’ reaches new depths of blackness and power, and they should impress, even in a mid-afternoon slot on the Waghorn Guitars Stage. Hail Satan, and don’t forget your sacrificial goat (or vegan equivalent).
Tides From Nebula – Saturday, 19:00, Winspear Stage
In a massive tonal shift from the majority of this list (and the line-up), come Poland’s Tides From Nebula, headliners of Saturday’s Waghorn Guitars Stage, with their brand of dreamy instrumental rock. They’ll take you on a journey through ethereal soundscapes that drift like paper planes on a breeze, and emotionally intense crescendos that the biggest post rock bands would be proud of. Let yourself drift away for an hour before Ingested.
Chiasmata – Saturday, 23:30, Strandberg Guitars Stage
Kicking off Saturday’s after-party are Manchester’s Chiasmata, one of the truest progressive bands at the festival. Fresh from the release of their debut, self-titled EP, a swirling maelstrom of technical extremity, virtuosity, and post-rock melody, all held together by the incredible voice of Zoe Gale, this should be the start of great things for this young band. The Saturday after-party also includes a Pink Floyd tribute set, and the famous Super Jam – featuring some of the biggest talents at a festival not exactly short of them – so is worth staying up for as a whole.
Despite Exile – Friday, 16:00, Waghorn Guitars
Swiss progressive/melodic death-metallers Virvum proved to be one of the biggest surprise highlights in 2017, and Despite Exile from Italy tick all the same boxes – intricate, progressive song writing; uplifting, soaring melodies, all over a relentless extreme core that can’t help but leave you grinning. 2017’s Relics is a great album, and Despite Exile are a band that deserve your attention, not just at Tech Fest, but in general.
Loathe – Sunday, 18:00, Winspear Stage
Late additions to the line-up, Loathe are a difficult band to pigeonhole – that’s possibly why I first heard them described as an experimental, heavy collective, and why their most recent release was a split with the wildly different, but similarly incredible, Holding Absence. The key emphasis in that is the ‘heavy;’ they never quite settle on how they intend to destroy you, but they do it consistently all the same. Throw in a snarling, in-your-face, stage presence, and Loathe aren’t just unmissable at Tech Fest, they’re unmissable in general.
Vola – Friday, 16:30, Winspear Stage
Imagine Tesseract, but with an 80’s synth vibe. If that doesn’t convince you, you’re officially dead inside. These Danish metallers are a rising star in the tech scene, have already supported Katatonia, and if the soaring melodies on Inmazes haven’t made them one of your favourite bands by the time this festival comes round, they’ll be your most anticipated returning band in the future editions.
The Dali Thundering Concept – Friday, 12:30, Winspear Stage
One of the absolute best things about Tech Fest is the sheer quantity of excellent, yet still unknown bands they manage to stuff into a line-up. One of the absolute highlights of the pre-festival band listening, is The Dali Thundering Concept, who, in April, unleashed Savages – a concept record about the dystopia Earth is on course for – onto a public that could never quite be ready for it. With occasional shades of Vildhjärta, excellent use of audio samples, and a genuine unpredictable nature, this will be an impressive way to open the Winspear Stage on Friday.
And if you’ve been dawdling on getting tickets, or the fine bands listed above have convinced you, tickets are available at: http://uktechfest.gigantic.com/uk-tech-fest-county-showground-2018-07-05-10-00