Photo - Joe Singh
One of the acts responsible for Holy Roar’s recent trailblazing run of success, Yohkai stage openers Boss Keloid (7) present their progressive and dense melting pot of psyched uber-sludge to the early arrivals. With a set primarily composed of material from Melted On The Inch, the fashion in which the Wigan collective present a genre typically perceived as inaccessible to those unacquainted is universally appealing to those who appreciative of innovation within the genre. Concise and refined, yet still basking in the reverberating grit and sonic gravel in which ‘Chronosiam’ and ‘Jromalih’ deliver, the way in which such distortion and heft co-aligns with the air pockets of groove that lurk beneath their swamping and miring sound is fantastic. Prominent yet never obnoxiously forefront, such juxtaposition with the rhythmic heft and progressive principles truly highlights the consideration Boss Keloid present both on record and on stage.
Stingingly angular and sharpened enough to be in violation of the festival’s health and safety guidelines, Body Hound (7.5) fly through enough unique time signatures in such a narrow window of time it’s a surprise no has succumbed to sudden audio triggered epilepsy. This is instrumental math rock complex enough to quantify as quantum physics, with content from Rhombus Now exploding shrapnel forth with power of that of a nail bomb. Whilst still retaining those youthful DIY aesthetics that made them so engaging to begin, the premiere of new content showcases their evolution of skill as musicians, with polyrhythmic structures popping into existence prior to dispersing erratically. Clearly educated scholars of tonal eccentrics, it’s no surprise that this act is requested and praised year after year.
Hailing from, in their words “The people’s republic of Liverpool’, the anticipation for another Alpha Male Tea Party (8) set at this festival has been monumental following their triumphant mainstage performance last year. Never the ones to disappoint, the perceived heroes of the upbeat post tinged math movement fully live up the lofty expectations placed upon them by the dedicated, delivering another jovial and spellbinding set of loose and angular musical progression. The miraculous balance between such sensibilities and sentiments is one of the act’s strongest suits live, with the act never straying too far into thought provoking ponder or adolescent pandemonium. There’s discipline and considerate control omnipresent, with such groove, heft and eccentricity never being shoehorned into their live fluidity. Ending on the tonal riffs and bounce of ‘Athlete’s Face’, it evidently becomes transparent once again that Alpha Male’s prolific taming of dynamics is not only influential but presented live it’s essentially celebrative poetry in motion.
Photo: Joe Singh
The first of many international acts to perform this weekend, Montreal’s Gulfer (7) present emo revivalism through fun and enthusiastic buffoonery. Twinkling and glistening with lax yet controlled intricacies, whilst it may take these Canadian locals a few beats to find their feet once the confidence takes clear hold it’s a tour of the post coming of age pains detailed within their latest album Dog Bless. Whilst the emo revival is most commonly perceived as somewhat rather stoic at times, Gulfer are all about the retainment of fleeting youth, exploring in that somewhat awkward period of eternal pre-adulthood we all seem to reside in. Resonating that DIY sound that has become synonymous with the genre, the raw math structures of 2015’s ‘Getting Hit By Parked Cars’ serves as an ideal finale, with such a closer detailing how the act have tightened their live sound over the years whilst still clinging onto their distinctive ethos and demeanor.
Riding on the tidal wave of hype generated by their phenomenal sophomore record It’s Hard To Have Hope, Svalbard (9) not only perfectly present the ferocious majesty from their back catalogue, but in turn amplify such elements to levels that border upon the impossible. The social-political stances come into the forefront of this performance, with frontwoman Serena Cherry rightfully taking no shame on elaborating on the truths that influenced such feminist war cries such as ‘Feminazi’ and ‘Revenge Porn’. However, the manner in which such ideological stances are highlight is simply a sight to behold, with the group beautifully projecting their euphoric post-rock elements amalgamated with blackened neo-metalcore with both force and clarity. Simply devastating, both in terms of aggression and emotion, it’s impossible not to be engulfed and possessed by the fury and demand for change this act rallies for, with the delicately constructed punishment of ‘Unpaid Intern’ and choice cuts from their debut enthralling the masses gathered. A whirlwind of detailing injustices through the art of perfectly delivered extreme yet expertly crafted material, Svalbard are an act that’s crucial. Not just within the metal scene, but as voice for those often silenced.
Literally days following the release of their invigorating saga that is Ghost City, the group’s respective second outing, it’s clear and pleasing to see how the masses have studied the content recently offered by Delta Sleep (8.5). Never indulging in showboating their talents, the group stay true to the fundamental principles introduced in their respective records, taming left-field experimentation to create a sound that’s soothing, intriguing, aimable and universally engaging. Whilst their sound can be easily be pigeonholed into the pockets of math rock, such a set highlights the group’s welcome tendency to dip their toes into the waters of indie and alt-rock, with the ever rousing single ‘El Pastor’ being mirrored word for word by the congregation gathered. Despite this, when prompted the group fly into dynamics associated with the experimental, with the classic ‘Camp Adventure’ showcasing how jarring time signatures can be utilized within a fundamentally mollifying sound. Groovy, and dare we say it, just a little funky, Delta Sleep demonstrate with welcome finesse what can conveyed when math rock is set to revitalize and tranquilize rather than prompt madcap insanity.
Photo: Helen Messenger
A match made in Holy Roar heaven, there’s been a lot of speculation regarding the collaboration between Conjurer and Pijn. Would it be monstrously heavy? Would it contain excessive mournful atmospherics? Would we actually get a Pink Floyd cover? Regardless, when Conjurer & Pijn: Curse These Metal Hands! (9) touch stage to Peep Show monologues whilst brandishing bottles of buckfast it becomes evident that we’re in for a good time. With a set composed of original material that ebbs and flows between triumphant and triumphing progression and caustic hellfire, the skill and prowess both acts possess interlock and chemically bond, creating an live atmosphere that’s reminiscent of each act yet distinctively unique, almost like the signature Holy Roar experience crystallized as a single sound. Even whilst presenting gargantuan heft and brutality, there’s an air of borderline nostalgic prog present, with the collaboration crashing into monolithic, sweeping and grandiose structures. It’s easy to see why the group comically likened their content to Pink Flyod, but it’s more on par with a Pink Floyd what was raised on a diet of Conan and the extended Holy Roar roster. Two offensively heavy acts bringing in their collective skillsets into play for the soundtrack of the pre and post metallic apocalypse.
If you’ve ever even just skimmed not only just our coverage and promotion of Rolo Tomassi’s (9) recent endeavors but any other publication's, you would know how fundamentally redundant an exercise in attempted criticism is. As astral synths lead into the lifting celestial allure of ‘Aftermath’ before descending into the malicious and cataclysmic nature of ‘Rituals’, it springs to mind how there hasn’t been an act who have made as much of a leap as Tomassi this year, going from curious scene heroes to leaders to the alt movement in just a matter of months. Such a sentiment and thought becomes animated physically as the group blaze through a set entirely composed of material from their incredible Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, with the divine punishment and majesty of such content bedazzling and possessing everyone in attendance. This set, and every other set they have performed this year demonstrates how no other band can parallel Tomassi’s ability to balance stellular movements and ethereal firepower, becoming an act who have become transcendental of the boundaries of the genre. Ending on the contrastive yet fully enthralling synths and doom of ‘A Flood Of Light’, 2018 will become known as the year in which Rolo Tomassi ascended, becoming a global influence of all things dynamic and contemporary.
“Hello we are Tangled Hair (8) and this song is called our line check” chime the lovable London trio mid soundcheck. Coruscating with personality and charisma, both personally and musically, the math indie collective are a group that firmly have their boots grounded whilst adhering to their core DIY orientated values. With a set composed of material from this year’s We Do What We Can and choice cuts from their handful of EP’s, Tangled Hair present forth their imaginative sound to those familiar with such sensibilities and their respective background, quickly turning such a set into a collaborative meeting of shared ideologies in contrast to a basic performance. Tonally crisp and bristling with tinkered experimentation, Tangled Sleep dial back on the spasmodic tendencies commonly associated with math rock to present a sound that still fits snuggly within the pocket of the genre, yet becalms and perspires relief. There can be comparisons drawn to label mates and future tour mates Delta Sleep, but the way Tangled Hair demonstrate their broken jazz and indie inspiration tonight helps distance them, with ‘Forty Winks’ and recent single ‘Nao Is My Driver’ resonating with the respective scene members in attendance. Radiating personality and restrained confidence, it’s truly hard to envision the scene without the presence of this group.
Photo: Joe Singh
As attested by anyone who was witnessed a performance by La Dispute (8.5), to witness such leaders of the spoken word focused alt scene is to see poetry metaphorically dance and unravel live. Opening with the chronical horror narrative of ‘Hudsonville, MI 1956’, the set blossoms into a concise history lesson of the act’s endeavors, with choice cuts from all their full lengths making appearances. Never the ones to have their presentation of emotional deliverance blunted by the decade of activity the band has endured, such a set stands as a collection of painstakingly detailed and exorcised short stories; some fictional, some real, but all resonating emotion and the convoluted human condition. Intense and gripping, the way such tales are expressed with a wavering level of anxiety carry a level of catharsis, with the group knowing how to pander to a festival crowd whilst carrying the levels of sobriety and aloofness commonly associated with this act, doing so by landing hit after hit whilst laying emphasis on their introspective dynamism. Ending their set of melodic sonic therapy with calls for unison prior to the tortured nature of ‘Such Small Hands’ and the narrative ballad of ‘King Park’, with the climax of the latter being mirrored word for word, whilst this festival predominately panders towards the math and post connoisseurs of the world, there will always be room for introspective artists such as this fantastic band.
Akin to the adjustments made by ArcTanGent’s sister festival, 2000 Trees, tonight marks the first Thursday main stage headliner. Clearly, there isn’t a better way to commemorate such an celebrative event than with one of the best post-rock artists performing one of the best post-rock records to come out in recent years, with the crowd for And So I Watch You From Afar’s (9) performance of The Endless Shimmering perfuming the air with excited agitation. Whilst full album run throughs are occasionally the focus of qualms regarding the predictability of a setlist and respective live show, once the opener ‘Three Triangles’ flowers into the swelling and enchanting ‘A Slow Unfolding Of Wings’, all privately held concerns slip away. As the group masterfully navigate through their fantastic 2017 effort, they are illuminated by dancing abstract forms of light, animating the naturally flourishing and building of sonic puzzles and knots the album presents. As the gentle title track crescendos and bursts into the manic youthful fretwork of ‘Mullany’, it becomes transparent that this headline set is a group of talents acting as one, a unison of precision and talent, knowing how to reimagine and amplify the themes and feelings such preciously crafted post-rock resonates.
‘Chrysalism’ crystallizes and dissolves, thoughts regarding the rest of the set manifest. However, from here on out, it’s nothing but ASIWFA’s most wild, youthful and restless work, with the frantic and tight, tenacious riffs of ‘Gang’ leading into the sugar rush of ‘Like A Mouse’. Such a performance bolsters the argument against post-rock being typically an aloof and forlorn and pensive, with the thousands in attendance displaying enough movement to mirror an EDM show. Climaxing on the celebrative and optimistic nature of the classic ‘Big Thinks Do Remarkable’, it’s truly impossible to consider an act more worthy of this prestigious slot and to close the first day of an incredible weekend.