After excellent Friday performances from the likes of Vola, You Win Again Gravity, and The Contortionist, Saturday was all set to bring some well-hyped rising stars, returning favourites, a stacked after-party, and a left-field headliner for the Waghorn Guitars Stage.
Tiberius open up Saturday’s Winspear Stage, and instantly grab attention with one of the standout performances. The first thing to stand out is Grant Barclay’s soaring vocals, powerful and imposing, with shades of Bruce Dickinson at times, but consistently unpredictable. It’s a perfect match for the music – jazzy and mathy, unpredictable and twisting, and endlessly compelling because of it. This is a band that, once they start playing, you’re hooked in to, and unable to escape, and have a goofy grin on your face throughout; and makes the absence of Protest The Hero much easier to take.
Valis Ablaze were one of those bands that, even though I was unable to fully get into their performance in 2017, did enough to impress me that I thought they warranted a proper listen. Of course, in the end, I forgot to actually check them out. This time, however, it feels like I’m seeing a band I’ve known for years: atmospheric riffing and heart-wrenching vocal lines combining to create a sound that washes you away, trance-like. Magical. Arcaeon are next, and given how young they are as a band, they have no right to sound so tight and assured in their sound. Dynamic chugs get heads moving, but where their real strength lies is the clean choruses – at times soaring, at times emotive, but always mesmerising. Throw in some intricate instrumentation and this is very much a band to watch.
In possibly the worst pair of reasons to randomly decide to see a band, I wandered into the room to for The Voynich Code on the dual pretexts of them having a weird name, and being from Portugal. It was an excellent decision; venue-shaking breakdowns turning the front couple of rows into a parade of back-breaking headbangers, all mixed in with excellent lead work, a frantic pace throughout, and a load of sci-fiesque piano effects that both create an eerie atmosphere when juxtaposed with their deathcore sound, and would sound very much at home in Born Of Osiris’ modern material. I don’t think my neck fully recovered for the rest of the festival.
Any thought that Tides From Nebula might struggle to win over a Tech Fest crowd are quickly banished, with an impeccable performance. Even the band themselves seem entranced by the ethereal melodies they’re weaving, frequently swaying, eyes closed, in their own worlds – in the most shoegazey fashion – but it’s equally magical from in the crowd. What they lack in traditional heaviness, they make up for the sheer emotional weight carried in their crescendos, none more so than in a closing number that sees both guitarists mount the barrier, and end the set in the crowd, giving the show the magnificent finale it deserves. A truly special show.
Ingested are almost polar opposites, delivering a savage, blistering attack throughout their set. Vocalist Jason Evans cuts an imposing figure on stage, as his bandmates unleash a maelstrom of technical fury, bludgeoning blas tbeats, and destructive breakdowns. There’s very few bands in metal can match Ingested’s extremity, and it comes across in their performance. The Acacia Strain, in comparison to the rest of the day, are a disappointment. It’s one of those shows that doesn’t necessarily have anything wrong with it – they’re very much a good live band – but everything they do just seems lightweight, unimaginative, predictable, and slightly dull in comparison to the bands that preceded. Their fans would have loved it, but I doubt they made many more.
It’s hard not to have a warm feeling about Chiasmata; a band of festival regulars, coming out of nowhere, to completely storm the Strandberg Guitars Stage in the Saturday after-party. From the dynamic, very progressive instrumentation to the incredible vocal range of Zoe Gale, this is a band with clear talent; but what really stands out is the unbridled passion and joy they play with; a band that is already experiencing something beyond their wildest dreams, but that deserves to go so much further.