Dalí Thundering Concept: Photo by Ryan Winstanley
THURSDAY + FRIDAY
Run by musicians for musicians, TechFest is a living tribute to the survival of accomplished metal music. Its endurance tested by its apparent versatility. Giving a shout out to Tech Metal might feel as if only a few bands would qualify, but year on year, TechFest unleashes hordes of different and out-there bands. The fact that the organisers achieve this, again and again, is testament to the growing endurance felt throughout each weekend. The four-day festival quickly becoming the widely known family of UK Tech Metal Festival. 2018, again, showcased many bands and we, unfortunately, couldn’t catch all of them; but I dedicate this three-part review to every band that played, every organiser, every sound engineer and every person that attended. It is thanks to YOU that TechFest endures.
We won’t mess around, Thursday started just as quickly as people started to arrive. Fractions take to the stage in one of the unfortunately early spots. Their forceful energy and accomplished vocals are testament to their efforts but it’s a hard spot to pull off (5). From Her Ashes suffer a similar problem as their music rages out to the crowds, through a rather anxiously still demeanour. Heavy sounding music with a somewhat empty grounding make for their music to warm the room but only so far (5). But with Embodiment we start to feel a bit more precision and force behind an angry sound. Guitars play their way through the notes with needlework like accuracy, whilst a deep and animal growl takes the stage by sheer ferocity (7).
Taken by the Tide: Photo by Ryan Winstanley
Keeping violent tides of darker Metals, Taken by the Tide make it their necessity to ensure they’re known. Their heart is in the right place and you can see it out on stage dripping in its bloodied form, with the vibrations of heavy music tearing it up. Clearly ensuring that standards are kept and wanting a meatier sound to their playing, they get crowds moving – an accomplishment under the severe heats that plagued all who went (7). Pouring their all into the audience and bringing along their niche to the crowds, Ursus bleed their dark sounds through their skins. It’s almost theatrical and their energetic stage presence isn’t unnoticed. Their pride with being on stage almost raises a flag high enough and buried deep enough to keep the stage, if only their music kept as high as their presence (6). Quickly taking over from them, Ravenface feels like a very different sound to be almost jarring. However, their natural and fluid mastery of their instruments isn’t to be missed. The melodic music and clean vocals might feel like an odd change but they make it theirs quickly (7).
Now, not always, can things go well at festivals, it’s a lot of pressure and a lot of build up with very little time. Each band arrives to only have a small amount of time to get it all right before they shake the ground with their music. There’s a small wait of anticipation and then Crystal Lake dominate the stage. This energetic Japanese band almost completely pull it out of left field. Their brutality and precise musicianship despite their energy is surprising. One could be forgiven in thinking that they couldn’t achieve both; and make an audience shake off any last hesitation, ignore any obstacles, like sweat (again it was a hot weekend!) and throw themselves into it. Crystal Lake ensure that you know that they were there (9). Confident and at home, Heart of a Coward, know exactly what to do. Thursday might have had its jitters of nerves and hiccups, but they’re here to ensure you know: TechFest is here. Giving it an accomplished performance with a strong excited approach to bringing you their music. They’re festival favourites after all and they shake grounds and audiences with their powerful presence (8).
Crystal Lake: Photo by Ryan Winstanley
By this day the festival is buzzing, any who couldn’t make it Thursday would start to fill up the place on Friday. However, first bands on are always tough spots to fill. Altitude give it their all and there’s a sense of fun to their instrumental music. Very much like they’re jamming with you, not bad for a early start (7). Taking over from them You Win Again Gravity give it as much energy as they can, but seem to be needing to warm up, themselves. The ways that they work in their instruments are interesting, but it just felt like it wasn’t their day (6). Whereas Miscreant were on good form and brought an energetic performance that was infectious. Playing well to a crowd that ate it up (7).
If we’re to talk energy, however, the confidence that comes with From Sorrow to Serenity’s familiarity with the crowd and their sheer determination to put on a performance can hardly be missed. Though it felt that this time around something was missing from the vocals as if slightly more strained than they’ve been previously. Despite this From Sorrow to Serenity remain a force to be reckoned with (7). Emerging from the side-lines as From Sorrow to Serenity’s music dies down, This is Turin bring us a tight and passionate set. The strength they give their music isn’t missed, whilst it felt accomplished musically as well (7). An unfortunate victim of technical issues, The Dalí Thundering Concept gave a lot of charm to false starts and audience reactions. Keeping the energy to be able to deliver in spite of their obstacles. However, this only went so far, they were plagued by under-sounding or even instruments cutting out. This was most unfortunate for them as there was a sense in which something strong was beneath the surface, we just didn’t get it (6).
Heart of a Coward: Photo by Ryan Winstanley
As previously mentioned, TechFest is about accomplished musicianship, certainly Despite Exile are amongst them. Their performance was both tight and passionate as if they really felt what they were doing. This certainly came across in waves in their set (8). Vola took things back to more melodic fairs and gave it a completely different side of heart. Crowds gorged on this but it wasn’t quite where it needed to be, to make it some of the best of the festival (6).
By now the festival is truly hitting some heights of anticipation. Already people have moshed and banged their heads despite the hottest of weather causing a sweat on the brow just by standing. It’s all building and the excitement is in the air Unprocessed are up next and keep this excitement alive with a lively performance (6). Building on this the tight and powerful performance by Bleed From Within really strikes its chord with the audience and gets the air moving (7). Headlining Friday’s second stage Voyager take an energetic stance themselves with their more melodic Metal. Surprisingly dancing around the stage that feels infectious and certainly the crowds with them. Holding it together in precision and atmosphere in equal measures that can sometimes be difficult for bands (8).
Back to the main stage we have the last two acts of the day. It’s been a heavy day with many powerful bands leading up to these moments. When The Contortionist take the stage, crowds show no signs of withering but instead are holding up their exhausted horns in support. The Contortionist hold this drive in the audience and carry it with them. Playing their songs with the strength of bull but taking careful consideration to the music as they do so. They don’t falter only uphold (7). Meeting the strength of the crowds with fun and aggression Sikth are certainly a crowd favourite and their energy certainly exhumes more. Keeping it together in the wake of the night, which simply adds more presence. It’s Fridays that everyone wants to tear it up and make a fearsome start to the weekend. Sikth close this evening very well and make a shout that TechFest 2018 has truly begun (8).
Sikth: Photo by Ryan Winstanley