ArcTanGent 2018: Day Two - Friday | Festival Review

Photo: Joe Singh

As the ominous late morning clouds drift high above the fields of south Bristol, there isn’t any better time for main stage openers Seven Colour Drive (8) to kick off the day. Maleficent and ill-boding, the distant ambiance that these local Bristolians conjure swells and swirls before breaching with magnificent force, the sonic equivalent of forewarning winds that suddenly crescendo into a devastating hurricane. Whilst not by any means the only act to take this mourning approach to post-rock today, the way Seven Colour Drive demonstrate forewarning and premonition post-rock that ebbs and flows between ambiance and directiveness is spectacular to bare witness to. Pensive and aloof, yet clearly possessing the capabilities to support such a stance, the act provide a perfect start to a day that’s dotted with similarly emotionally devastating acts.

Suitably for their moniker, Yohkai stage openers Blanket (9) envelope the early risers in warm post tinged emo, projecting the emotional heft associated with both respective genres. With a focus on inclusiveness, the way this Blackpool act fuse these two distinctive yet elementary genres is simply staggering, with content from How To Let Go intensifying the emotional wreckage these genres carry in ways unparalleled yet defined. Despite being relative newcomers, only having formed in 2016, they’ve clearly captured the imaginations of the masses, with such a turnout contrasting with the relatively early time period. With sparingly use keys reminiscent of that of Maybeshewill, Blanket provide the soundtrack of a heartbreak in amidst of the apocalypse.

With a line-up being dominated by aloof and often experimentally aggressive pursuits, Brighton’s Orchards (8) offer a enthusiastic sugary sweet take on math orientated endeavors. Riding on the back of their recently released Losers/Lovers EP, the group delightfully mar stickily sugar pop sensibilities with intricate riffs and a DIY ethos proves that the old proverb stating that opposites attract is true. The colourful and exotic zig-zag of ‘Peggy’ and ‘Darling’ perfectly highlights their vibrancy, with frontwoman Lucy Evers physically adding volumes to their upbeat attitudes, with her soaring vocals on ‘Age Of You’ adding a delightful feminine poppy touch to today’s line-up. Ending on the danceability of ‘Luv You 2’, this set just shows how Orchards aren’t just universally appealing but how they can prove to be a vital staple within any line-up.

“ATG, have a fucking banana”, bellows forth Joe Branton, bassist and effective frontman of Poly-Math (8), as he literally yeets an inflatable fruit into the mainstage crowd. As their name implies, Poly-Math is an act that revel in unstable time signatures and glitchy convulsing textures whilst remaining orchestrated and coherently neat as possible. Such is the eccentric nature of this band; as polymorphic textures flirt and mingle with jarring, almost organ-esque keys to present a live sound that’s challenging and yet still refined and catered towards chasers of music at its most contemporary. As the group indulge into ‘Crastovalva’ and ‘Alchemy|Terra Incognita’ such a set feels like a boasting of musical and technical prowess, but one that’s never obnoxiously forefront and a pleasure to bare witness to. Ending on a Slipknot-esque jump up and a drum circle, Poly-Math don’t just have the skill and means to create music that pushes boundaries, but the means to protrude from a line-up and to deliver a performance that engages and thrills.

Photo: Joe Singh

Decked in white nonconformist uniforms, Talons (9) are truly the act who will soundtrack the end of days. Opening with the pre-warning dual violin instrumentation of ‘The Drowning’, such a proceeding stands as a mission statement for this band, with the respective crescendo swelling into primal and climatic drumming reminiscent of a dead race. There’s no tender respite within the tracks presented from their fantastic recently released We All Know, with the composed droning static and cinematic beats and shrieks of ‘On Levels’ and ‘Movements On Seven’ presenting the sonic equivalent of hazy sun bowing upon a barren wasteland. Whilst these such tracks are truly immersive on record their engrossing capabilities are simply staggering live, with the group having the skill and acknowledgment on how to enthrall thousands into a stunned, hypnotized silence. It’s difficult to envision an act of this nature being tolerated, yet alone enjoyed, at a typical festival environment. However, Talons are not only acknowledgeable of the demographic this festival pulls but clearly know and have the means to engross a mass with their haunting apocalyptic soundscapes.

Potentially one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, the sheer scale of hype surrounding Conjurer (9.5) as of late has been colossal. Of course, given how incredible their debut Mire is along with their staggering live sets, it’s not surprising. You know that phenomena when you scrunch your nose up when hearing a particularly gnarly riff, narsty breakdown or leveling structure? A Conjurer set is just 30 consecutive minutes of that, a performance that will probably leave you with profound nerve damage before you even step foot in the pit. Opening with the snarling ‘Choke’ before dropping into the hellish pendulum swing of ‘Hollow’, such bombastic sonic abuse is simply unmatchable, with every riff and bestial growl and scream sounding like it was directly channeled from the neither worlds below. Even the passages of melody and respite within their content sound absolutely devastating whilst providing a welcome sense of balanced juxtaposition. Obscenely heavy, with enough metallic density to not just crush the sun but the entire solar system, Conjurer’s balance of metallic dynamics is executed so perfectly live it’s simply impossible not to show signs of physical approval, be it through headbanging or simply going feral in the swirling pits. Ending on the explosive ‘Hadal’, a renedition rivaling in intensity to match that of most conventional nuclear weapons, the hype surrounding this young act isn’t just superficial, it’s to be believed.

Photo: Carl Battams

Often celebrated and hailed as one the most under-sung heroes of the global post-metal scene, Pelican (7.5) aren’t the ones to rely or utilize gimmicks, hollow eccentrics or fallacious ruses. In contrast, the Illinois quintet robust frill-less robust and dense ionizing riffs and structures. With a focus on material from their two most recent releases, 2009’s What We All Come To Need and 2013’s Forever Becoming respectively, the groove laden weight that lies within this group’s concrete sound is infectious and crushing whilst being respectively straightforward, coherent and digestible, a factor many experimentally contemporary bands attempt to stray from in order to add a sense of character. However, a handful of newly premiered tracks showcase the group straying into more aggressive and darker pastures, with the group claiming the new direction is fully intentional and is inspired by the grave political climate in their own country. As the group calls for unity and showcase how the negatives can be transmuted into positives, we’re given a glimpse into the future of this band, one shaped by oppression and frustration.

Possibly the only positive thing to ever come out from 4chan, Zeal & Ardor (9.5) have garnered a fervent reception since the release of 2016’s Devil Is Fine, with this year’s Stranger Fruit only bringing in more people into the communion this act hosts. Whilst the group’s combination of chain gang spirituals and contemporary black metal may be a fascinating hypothesis, the way Zeal & Ardor present this thesis tonight is both spellbinding and helplessly enthralling. Opening on ‘In Ashes’ prior to indulging into the steel drone of ‘Servants’, the talent and creativity this collective carries becomes immediately transparent. Bolstered, sacrilegious intermingling vocals dance and interweave in an demonstration of profaneness. As the group indulge in material from Stranger Fruit, the almost religious and holy ambiance turns delightfully cultish by the electrifying blackgaze and sudden onslaughts of extreme blasphemous metal, as evident with a rapturous and ensnaring rendition of ‘Row Row’. Never tipping the balance between the contrastive genres that pursuit, the way this collective master each genre prior to amalgamating them is simply astonishing to bare witness to, with such a display of sonic alchemy effectively birthing an entire new movement and genre. Such ferocious and luciferin firepower comes full circle with the slamming closer of ‘Baphomet’. Flooded in crimson light, not only is Zeal & Ardor instantly rememberable and haplessly catchy due to the spiritual nature, they are but simply one of the most exciting bands on the planet right now.

Photo: Helen Messenger

As the charcoal skies above the Mendip Hills begin to darken, it feels like the optimal time for Norway’s Leprous (8.5) to take to the illuminations of the Yohkai stage. Opening with the timid and ambivalent strings of ‘Bonneville’, Leprous are an act who aim for perfection with each set, with the group’s sound being tight, sophisticated and polished to perfection. However, it’s the vocals of frontman Einar Solberg which truly steal the show. Pitch perfect, his soaring angelic voice dances in the air with imperative clarity, reaching heights commonly unreachable by the majority of their peers. Transcendent, material from Malina sounds as translucent and crystalline as it does on record, with the group’s progressive and contemporary traits burnishing with glory. The underlining synths within their work add volumes to the depth their sound has become renowned for. Complimentary, never drowning out or overshadowing the rest of the ensemble, the fashion in which Leprous handle themselves live is marvelous, with the group emitting confidence and reserved concentration, ensuring their performance is on par with the incandescence of their material. With just a smattering of djent sensibilities, as found within the ‘Illuminate’ it’s clear to see why this act is a cherished diamond within a broad range of contemporary scenes.

One of the key members of the global post-hardcore scene, it’s undeniable that the legacy in which Glassjaw (7) has left in their wake is one of most influential in the entire music scene. With a setlist predominately composed of material from 2002’s Worship And Tribute and 2017’s Material Control, it essentially feels like the set is divided between youthful nostalgic angst and sheer multitextured modern force. Despite the 15 year divide between such content, the sound such material carries remains wholly consistent and focused; if a casual listener were to be in attendance of this headline set (considering the festival demographic, it’s doubtful no such person would be) it would luckily come as a shock that such material is divided between a decade and a half gap. Such is a the live technical prowess of this legendary band, as the New York powerhouse flow from ‘Cut And Run’ into ‘Tip Your Bartender’, the flow remains fluid yet viscous.

Whilst the deeply textured riffs of ‘New White Extremity’ and ‘Shira’ are present and pummeling, a certain level of impact seems to be lost in the mix and absent, with certain post-hardcore classics from Worship And Tribute lacking that mighty power they were hailed for all those years ago. In relation, whilst the wails and wavering vocals of Daryl Palumbo transparently carry the emphasis, his demeanor seems distant, and to a certain extent, reserved and uninterested. Whilst this could be chalked up to the established personality of the act, one that is both unique and renowned, it’s difficult to pinpoint if his demeanor or a certain level of boredom is in play. Never the less, the majority gathered don’t seem to take notice or care, with the masses eating up every slice of post-hardcore magic the band issues. Ending on the ever classic ‘Siberian Kiss’, whilst the act may slightly and subtly pale in comparison to some of the emerging acts which performed today, it is their respective birth right to perform headline sets such as this.