Finding a home this year at the surprisingly fitting Newark Showground, the labour of love festival UK Tech Fest, organised by Monolithic Music’s Simon Garrod, is quickly becoming one of the most hotly anticipated weekends in the UK metal festival calendar. It’s not the biggest and it’s certainly not one of the most well known, but it provides in spadefuls what a lot of festivals are lacking these days; a real and tangible sense of community. This, combined with a fantastically nichéd line-up, creates an experience that you simply can’t get from a bigger festival such as Reading, or Download where people are actually going to the event for the music, this may be a strange concept to grasp but it is something beautiful to behold. Despite it being one of my personal highlights of the year so far, and undoubtedly so many other’s, I will try for you today to streamline four days of the best that the technical/progressive metal scene has to offer into a measly Top Ten list. This is going to require some coffee.
There is no way that there can be any top ten list anywhere about this particular weekend that doesn’t include the Trans-Atlantic ridiculousness that is Monuments. With last year’s performance still fresh in their minds, fans were eagerly anticipating how the new material off of their recently released sophomore “The Amanuensis” was going to hold up live, and good god was it huge. Kicking off with ‘The Origin of Escape’ to get the party started, the lads absolutely controlled the Tech Fest crowd with everything you expect from a band of their calibre.
2. The Safety Fire
The Safety Fire are just one of those bands. You know the ones I mean, the ones that you come back to listening after forgetting how much you love them and wondering why you stopped in the first place. With a set early on the Sunday evening they showcased their mix of scintillating melody and technical brilliance with balls-to-the-wall sledgehammer-esque riffs all tied together with the unique vocal charms of Sean McWeeney. With a great eclectic mix of new and old, busting out crowd-pleasers ‘Huge Hammers’ and ‘Beware the Leopard’, The Safety Fire cemented themselves as a truly memorable performance.
3. Devil Sold His Soul
One of the many wild-cards of this weekend, anthemic post-hardcore troubadours Devil Sold His Soul didn’t initially seem to fit the the bill very convincingly. But they were a welcome break from the wall of sound stylings of a lot of the bands that were featuring throughout the weekend with beautifully nuanced guitar stylings and sampling and synth undertones with the tortured vocal style of newly recruited vocalist Paul Green. This made their set early on Friday evening a wholeheartedly tear-jerking experience from the meandering ‘Time’ to the punchy ‘The Disappointment’.
Jheeze, what is it with the French and their obscenely brutal death metal bands these days? I mean, wasn’t Gorija enough? It’s just getting bloody ludicrous now, you’re not Norway. Stop it. But in all seriousness, Gorod were flipping crazy on the Friday at Tech Fest playing their well established brand of pure, unadulterated death-cocking-metal and forced themselves into our ears and emerged as one of the biggest surprises of the weekend. Technical music and death metal tend to go hand in hand quite nicely, but Gorod were sticking to their guns like no other; showing us that the genre is still most certainly alive, and icky.
5. Jon Gomm
It’s always nice to move away from angry, shouty music and Jon Gomm fits the bill perfectly in this category. Being one of the foremost percussive guitarists in the scene as well as being blessed with the ability to write lyrics that tweak at the insecurities of even the most proud man and uplift him at the same time. Well known for his cover of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ which roused the crowd of smelly metal fans to take up voice and his tuning shifting ballad ‘Passionflower’ Jon Gomm reduced a crowd of what would usually be reserved for circle-pits and throwing down to gently swaying bodies; and a conga line, of course.
This band are whole-heartedly frustrating, but in a good way. Seriously, if you’re an aspiring metal musician aged twenty or over the lads in Nexilva are going to simultaneously make you love them for how unbelievably good they are for their age, and hate them for the very same reason. I know it’s possible to be this musically talented at this age, but to be able to develop genuinely intelligent and interesting music in this genre takes an incredible level of skill that is rarely found until later on in a career. Watch this space ladies and gentlemen, with a fast-paced and tight as hell live show, and a doozy of a debut to boot, Nexilva are going places. The omni-talented fucks.
I honestly have no idea how these guys managed to get such a massive sound out of just a three piece, it is absolutely staggering. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois the prog-metal triplet Alaya took to the mainstage on the Sunday of Tech Fest at half past three as a part of their European Exclusive, and they absolutely slayed. To have a modern progressive band on this line-up take such a balls-out approach to riffing like these boys do is undoubtedly refreshing, as opposed to the usual palm muted chugging that dominates the lay of the scene. Their music is mesmerising, powerful and intelligent, everything that lets a band stand out these days and they’ve only just begun.
8. Drewsif Stalin’s Musical Endeavours
What is there to say about Drew that hasn’t already been said? The Maryland hailing YouTube cover-meister blew the crowds away with his larger than life performance at UK Tech Fest last year, and this time he was back with a pocket-sized secret weapon, Nikki Simmons who collaborated with him on his cover of Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball came to the UK to assist the mighty chug-lord in his bid to make djent fun again. Despite her string of bad luck leading up to their performances Nikki’s voice was still strong, and the Drew we all knew and love took the stage with a great set of his own creations and then kept the party atmosphere strong with a cover set on the afterparty stage, a true performer if there ever was one.
9. Chimp Spanner
Paul ‘Chimp Spanner’ Ortiz is honestly one of the most talented musicians in modern metal music. Being an instrumentalist, his understanding of melody, song-structure and all-round creativity shine through in the music that he creates and Tech-Fest after Tech-Fest he proves why he is a true veteran of the scene. Headlining the Thursday Early-Bird he packed out the second stage and provided the fans with a mixture of classic tunes from both album and EP, including the epic three-parters Mobius and Terminus in true Chimpy fashion. In short; Sublime.
10. No Consequence
Up until this weekend I would never really have identified myself as a fan of No Consequence, their music was fine but I had never been able to see them live with a sound that genuinely complimented them. With a huge following in the tech metal scene, the UK rising stars delivered a top-notch performance with an absolutely fantastic live sound from the headline spot on the Friday second stage. With unwavering hardcore sensibilities mixed with Dillinger-esque technical mathy elements we were treated to some new material as well as the generously road-tested classics from IO, stellar stuff from the lads!