TechFest 2017 - Festival Review Part 1


TechFest, a Metal festival with a focus for technical guitar playing, has been growing steadily bigger over the years. The Newark Showgrounds makes the location of TechFest comfortable and with a sense of intimacy. None more so than that the fans and bands are close together watching the bands and enjoying the festival year after year. Many bands return just to be at the festival. There’s a real sense of family. This is my third TechFest and with a line up including bands like Aborted, Black Dahlia Murder, The Algorithm, Textures, Northlane and Igorrr, we’re looking at an experimental and Death Metal heavy festival.

I want to give a quick shout out to all bands that we weren’t able to see but still makes the festival what it is. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to catch everyone. To all the bands and the organisers who’ve been able to make TechFest continue successfully like this I salute you.

Getting there early on Friday morning things were already underway and the atmosphere was electric. It had rained the night before but the only trace of it seemed to be the paddling pools people had brought out (probably for drinks but still amused me). With such a start it all began 12pm with Fraktions a tough slot to fill and they keep up a lot of energy giving a melodic start to the events but could do with a bit of refinement. Evidently it was still early in the festival even with James Norbert Ivanyi opening the main stage the crowd’s still dry, despite some good beats and tight execution.

When Hieroglyph take over we start to see things pick up, they’re TechFest veterans and the rapport with the crowd shows. They’re comfortable and energetic on stage to really start things up. Drewsif Stalin’s Musical Endeavours continues the main stage in a similar vain. Despite initial technical issues the vocalist builds things with some attempts at improvised comedy. This stage presence translates better to his performance, dominating the stage like a prowling lion ready to tear open a new one.

Valis Ablaze give us our more mellow sounding Metal, where earlier bands were technical, melodic, brutal or even elaborate in guitar playing; Valis Ablaze gives us a much needed atmosphere that reaches your appreciation over going all out insane for a band. TechFest’s variety knows no bounds, though we’re early yet. Kicking things back to a sense of doom and dread Dyscarnate gives a static energy to a heavy smash of thunder as they take the main stage.

Now there are several bands on the line-up that are instrumental metal powerhouses and Toska is one of them. Sometimes it feels like instrumental indulgence but at others we see guitarists planting their banner and claiming the stage for themselves. By now things are well on their way and crowds are wild, despite the heat mounting on everyone. Martyr Defiled give us an energetic performance, really brandishing their anger filled hate across the crowds as if they’re trying to push their veins to the surface. The vocals are ambitious and mostly really hit it home with a good variation, but more impressive is the music fronted by drums as a pneumatic drill upon us all.

Rolo Tomassi are another TechFest veteran, they have their shit down and the energetic melody is infectious. They know what to do and they deliver. By now the hype had really been building, many of the next bands had been talked about a lot and there was a powerful electricity in the air. Virvum are brutal Death Metal with a technical edge that recalls Cryptopsy, giving up a deliverance of utter carnage. Drums unrelenting and powerful and some fitting vocal work to really warm fires. Hacktivist represent one of the first ventures into more experimental Metal ground. Their rap Metal is certainly unique and though I’m unfortunately reminded of Grime artists every once in a while, I certainly can’t fault their performance. They show the best of Metal and rap. The crowd snaps it up like a shot at a party.

Headlining the second stage, Oceans Ate Alaska tear it up. They’re energetic and really utilise what they’ve got, thoughit’s a mellow step down musically from Hacktivist and definitely Virvum. After such brutality it’s a welcome gap and it closes the second stage modestly. With a light shining up from underneath, the demonic side of Aborted start to show, the singer stares out and it’s dark and dangerous. When Aborted take the stage they take it all, bones, meat, gristle, grinded up and eaten. It’s punishing music and the energy and stage presence is crushing. The pit opens like never before, front to mix desk and it’s infectious. Those in the pit really give it their all and also have time for their own jokes.

To set Friday to a ruin, Black Dahlia Murder throw in their fair share of violence. Conducting the pits like an orchestra, it takes a warm up but they’re brutal, it’s carnage, they take no prisoners. Drumming is tight as fuck, it keeps it all together as the music makes victims of those who can’t keep up and ultimately this was a band people had waited for. If it wasn’t for the unexpected brutality of Aborted they may have destroyed the stage sooner; or perhaps they’re a band that needs to warm themselves into the venue and crowd. When all is said and done, there’s no energy, no defence or strength left at TechFest. Death Metal cometh and destroys.

Things Learned:

You may be brutal but you’re not rowing to Aborted brutal.

When in doubt, improvise comedy or conduct your audiences.

Duct Tape, Bin Bags, Baby Wipes and inflatables are festival essentials.

What do you call 20 men and a girl? A mosphit. They’ll also beat up all your boyfriends.

Moshpits don’t know age, race, sex or even style but they’ll pick up the fallen.

Wait! We’re not done! Peel yourself off the ground. There are after parties! Continents shout out are you drunk? It’s a party, it’s personal and they have their energetic bomb-strike on anyone willing and eager. Metal doesn’t finish, it doesn’t sleep.

Words: Gavin K Photography: Ryan Winstanley


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