Rivers of Nihil/Black Crown Initiate/Møl/Orbit Culture

The Dome, London. 2 October 2019.

Considering the show is starting early on a weeknight, there is still a generous crowd gathering for Swedish death metal troupe ORBIT CULTURE who are opening the show. Their riffs thump enough to get the audience in the mood for a night of blistering metal. However, it’s not until the band play new single Nensha that things start to get interesting. Once the band get more material and live experience under their belts then maybe they will have more of an impact.

It’s reassuring to see so many members of the audience wearing MØL tshirts tonight. Knowledge of their stunning live show has been spreading and there are many curious onlookers this evening. Front man Kim Song Sternkopf has not lost an ounce of his power and energy on this mammoth tour and is as captivating as ever. Screaming every word with such passion and intensity is incredibly moving as a spectator. A short spell in the crowd enables some fans to scream along with Sternkopf and everyone wants part of the action. The band play tracks from their debut album Jord – with the blackgaze sounding as equally superb and moving in the live setting. Guitarist Nicolai Busse Hansen is the contemplative counterpart to Sternkopf’s fiery persona, and the guitar notes shimmer over the crowd. Their live show is quickly becoming legendary. Surely we are due a MØL headline tour next?

After MØL stunned us into silence, it’s the turn of progressive death metal heavyweights BLACK CROWN INITIATE to pummel us into submission. Driving fans wild by playing the majority of their debut EP Song of the Crippled Bull and other older gems, the crowd were going fanatic! New song Years in Frigid Light sounds immense live and was lapped up gratefully by fans. Bassist Nick Shaw and guitarist Ethan McKenna spend the set flexing their faces making damn-good-riff expressions while drummer Sam Santiago proves he might possibly be an actual machine. Andy Thomas amazed with his impeccable voice, while front man James Dorton sounds as colossal live as he does on record, his penetrating growls commanding the crowd. With their long-awaited new album rearing its head soon, you can expect to see more (hopefully) from these prog death titans.

It’s been an epic night so far with MØL and BLACK CROWN INITIATE providing headline-worthy sets. RIVERS OF NIHIL had hard acts to follow but, my word, they were phenomenal! Listening to last album Where Owls Know My Name in full is always a treat, but hearing it in full live…? Nothing short of sublime. Throw in numerous spots by a real life sax man (a headbanging one at that) and you’ve got yourself an other-worldly experience. Front man Jake Dieffenbach is extremely striking in his unusual attire but his roars are formidable. With extremely brutal circle pits and a wall of death, the crowd were running riot. Being one member short tonight (guitarist Jon Topore was unfortunately in hospital) didn’t deter the band from delivering one of the tightest sets I’ve seen all year. After selling out The Dome and getting the whole venue moving, it won’t be long before RIVERS OF NIHIL sell out bigger venues. Watch this space.

Tech Fest 2019: Part 2

Sat 6th & Sun 7th July 2019. Newark Showground.

After a cracking Friday we all thought we could take it easy Saturday lunch time but no, ARMED FOR APOCALYPSE well and truly blew the cobwebs away. Their ferocious sludgy metal obliterated our senses and played their set with furious energy. You could not take your eyes off the band, front man Nate Burman especially, as they performed with the intensity of a headline act. An early highlight for most on the third day of Tech Fest.

The next act ended up being another ‘DIVIDUM’ for me, a band who I glanced over on the line-up announcement but who ended up being one of my favourite discoveries of the weekend. That band was UNSEEN FAITH, a tech band from Denmark (there’s been a bit of a Danish invasion this year at Tech Fest but that just reiterates what I kept claiming last year – that Denmark is exporting the hottest acts in metal right now) and they are definitely a band you need to listen to NOW. Front man Alexander Eriksen was truly captivating with his intense stares and formidable presence. The band performed as a unit and were utterly spellbinding to watch. Their brand of techy metalcore sounded fresh with just the right amount of familiar elements to keep things interesting, but it was the delivery which won over new fans. One to watch for sure.         

One band which most Tech Festers were anticipating were up next and it was one band I was never sure if I’d be able to witness on UK soil – SHOKRAN. The Russians have released some of the most innovative and downright brilliant progressive metal since their formation in 2012 and everyone was curious to find how their oriental metal translated into a live setting. It’s safe to say SHOKRAN smashed all expectations. Considering they arrived as a trio, every song still sounded colossal. Guitar aficionado Dmitry Demyanenko wowed in yellow with his distinct technical wizardy, but it was vocalist Andrew Ivashchenko who stole the attention with his flawless voice and commanding stage presence. Playing songs from all three of their albums, including new album Ethereal, the material sounded as strong live as it does on record. Ending with fan favourite Creatures From The Mud, it was evident SHOKRAN had proven themselves to be a sublime live act. Do not miss them at Euroblast.   

Headlining the Fireball Stage were British hardcore metallers PALM READER. “This is the first time we’ve played Tech Fest and we’re headlining the stage!” gushed humbled front man Josh Mckeown. The room was packed to witness their unique slab of hardcore and their intense delivery never fails to amaze. Tracks from latest album Braille go down a treat and the crowd response shows the band is going from strength to strength. PALM READER are definitely one band who do not get softer the bigger they get (oo-er).

The crowds were gathering for Tasmanian tech death metallers PSYCROPTIC and the wait was worth it because the set was phenomenal. With brutal circle pits, brutal tunes and stellar front man Jason Peppiatt owning the stage, PSYCROPTIC’s set was an obliterating sensory experience. With a wealth of material under their belts, their set was always going to be one to remember, but tracks from last year’s album As The Kingdom Drowns took on a life of their own in a live setting and fans went into meltdown. Rapidly becoming one of the most celebrated bands in the tech death scene, it’s no wonder why when you see PSYCROPTIC live!   

It was inevitable that tonight’s headliners were going to stir up emotions. British prog metallers MONUMENTS have always been firm favourites at Tech Fest, having played the very first instalment of the festival back in 2011. The week before this year’s edition, the band announced the departure of vocalist Chris Barretto and the introduction of Andy Cizek of MAKARI as stand-in for the tour and festivals. Tonight’s set was met with anticipation, but only one word can describe the event – otherworldly.

With the biggest crowd Tech Fest had seen so far this weekend it seemed the whole festival had packed into the main room to witness this spectacle. A mystical light show, bodies moving, John Browne’s  signature riffage and Cizek’s phenomenal vocals, resulted in a mind-blowing performance. Newer songs from last year’s Phronesis held their own amongst older classics but each song merged into the other creating a never-ending flow of glorious progressive metal and never-ending mosh pits.  It was clear Cizek was winning over the audience and after the set, many were heard saying they wouldn’t complain if he stepped up as a full time member.

Sunday

Sunday is usually the hardest day to get through, with hangovers, fatigue and sobering up before the Monday drive home, all taking their toll. Luckily for us Indian proggers PROJECT MISHRAM woke us all up and got us on our feet. The progressive Carnatic fusion band wowed the crowd with not only their djent, but their violin, flute and traditional Carnatic vocals. ‘Mishram’ means ‘mix’ which is truly apt for the concoction of styles PROJECT MISHRAM provide. This is what Tech Fest is about; innovation, discovering unknown bands and celebrating how diverse the metal community is. PROJECT MISHRAM attracted the biggest audience for this time in the afternoon and certainly became one of everyone’s favourite discoveries.

It is always a pleasure to witness Hull metallers SWORN AMONGST. Flawless, fun and professional, this band have worked so hard in the scene and their experience  as band is reflected in the quality of their live show. Front man Darryl Jones is an unstoppable force with his boundless energy on stage. The band had a great turnout and passionate fans down the front screamed back every word. With three albums and two EPs under their belts, including this year’s brilliant Reclamation EP, SWORN AMONGST have plenty of material to play a blistering set. Their positivity and talent never get boring to watch. Higher up the bill next time please?

CARCER CITY have always been darlings of the scene but sadly today was their farewell show. “Support bands, buy a CD, buy merch.” warns front man Patch Pinion to the crowd. The bittersweet set was a tremendous send-off for the lads from Liverpool, with circle pits and a wall of death to say goodbye. The band played their hearts out, clearly not having lost any passion for their craft after announcing their split. One of the most polished and tightest bands of the weekend, it’s a sore reminder of what the world will miss. Support the scene kids. 

UK tech wizards HARBINGER’s stage presence has mightily improved since their last Tech Fest appearance in 2017. However, they are still not living up to the hype for me and still have a long way to go to really capture everyone’s attention during a live show, the same way next act FROM SORROW TO SERENITY do. They utterly blew me away last year at Tech Fest, so expectations were high for their set today. I needn’t have worried as their performance was faultless. Vocalist Gaz King was most impressive of all, a true professional, his voice did not falter once considering the extreme workout it was getting. New album Reclaim was released earlier this year and the songs played today sounded absolutely huge. Being signed to Long Branch Records is suiting them well. Surely it’s only a matter of time before FROM SORROW TO SERENITY hit the big time.   

Having reviewed new album Render before the weekend by VALIS ABLAZE (it’s bloody brilliant), I was curious to hear how the new songs fared live. Now with a solidified line-up, the proggers from Bristol had a fuller stage presence and everything seemed to gel really well. New songs Hollow Heart, The Convincer and State of Decay all took on a new power in a live setting, and old reliables Insularity and Paradox still packed a punch. This band have ‘grown up’ playing at Tech Fest through the years, we’ve seen it all, from their numerous line-up changes, their Insularity EP, last year’s debut album Boundless and now Render. There is an air of ‘this is it now, watch us fly’ surrounding the band and the crowd can feel the buzz too. A band finally hitting their stride, see them before they get huge!

The real buzz today was around the highly anticipated co-headline set by VILDHJARTA. This would be the first time witnessing these elusive Swedes for the majority of people here tonight. In fact this is the band some had only come to Tech Fest for at all, so it was a momentous occasion and the pits and perspiration in the air were testament to that. Playing tracks such as Dagger and Eternal Golden Monk, the crowd were going wild and lapping up each moment. “Banana guy, get up here and headbang” led to the most legendary moment of the weekend. When people thought the set couldn’t get any better, they brought out Filip Danielsson from HUMAITY’S LAST BREATH to do guest vocals. That, my friend is how to go down in history at Tech Fest.

After that colossal set the pressure was on for Norwegian proggers LEPROUS to finish the weekend on a high. Of course they were up to the task and they were nothing short of spectacular. A godly set, LEPROUS churned out all the favourites including The Price and The Flood and played From The Flame and Mirage for their encore. Even the burliest metalhead was singing along to LEPROUS. Their crossover appeal is one of their greatest assets and their melodic prog was the perfect way to end the weekend. With a surreal atmosphere thanks to the ambient lighting and magical riffs, front man Einar Solberg “Aaahh-ah-ah-aaa”-ed his way through the set, much to the delight of fans. His luscious tones resonated around the room, somehow uniting all witnesses in this moment. Listening to LEPROUS, we could all forget we’d be returning to reality the next day. It concluded a spectacular weekend of innovative music, up and coming bands and old favourites. Repeat after me: TECH FEST IS BEST FEST.   

   

Tech Fest 2019: Part 1

Thurs 4th & Fri 5th July 2019. Newark Showground.

After last year’s UK Sweatfest, everyone was hoping for things to be a little cooler. A shame then the bands brought the heat and set Newark Showground alight.

Thursday  

It all started for me on the Early Bird Thursday with the mighty KARYBDIS, the melodic death metal band from ‘Laaandaan’. Pulling in a decent crowd for a Thursday afternoon, the band played bangers from their latest album In The Shadow of Paradise which lured in more curious onlookers. With a tight set, punishing vocals and good vibes all round, KARYBDIS got everyone warmed up for a weekend of tech.  

“We are not a kinetic band” states VOICES FROM THE FUSELAGE front man Ashe O’Hara. However, witnessing their super melodic prog metal live transcends you. Playing songs from both Odyssey: The Founder of Dreams and Odyssey: The Destroyer of Worlds, the riffs twinkled and the vocals soothed. Ending with the upbeat Vestibule of Hell, the band proved they could also pack a punch.

Unfortunately my Thursday ended here due to pollen sending me into a stupor…  

Friday

Kicking off the morning with ABHORRENT DECIMATION, who definitely blew away any cobwebs which may have accumulated the night before. Their ballsy set should have been illeagal for this time in the very early afternoon.      

After everyone got their ears pummelled, a few dazily wandered to the Fireball Stage to check out DIVIDIUM. This ended up being one of those special moments of a festival when you watch a band on a whim and fall completely in love with them. The passion, energy and talent oozed from these melodic tech metallers from Hull. Playing songs from records In Terrifying Colour and T.H.R.E.E, DIVIDIUM got the crowd onside with front man Neil Bailey performing the majority of their set amongst the dazzled witnesses. Leaving the stage with a whole new legion of fans in tow, the band ended up being a hot topic for the remainder of the day.

Next up were Metalmance regulars SIAMESE. These Danish rockers played the Early Bird last year but the demand for more of their catchy-as-sin rock brought the loveable rogues back for this year and on the Line 6 Stage. Playing songs from Shameless and new album Super Human, each song went down a treat with the very charismatic front man Mirza Radonjica winning over the punters.  Opening with B.A.N.A.N.A.S and confusing the newcomers, their high-energy set continued to pull in crowds, so by the time the band ended with the euphoric Soul and Chemicals, they had garnered many a new follower to their rock flock.   

After briefly checking out ODD PALACE and their ‘odd’ concoction of quirky ditties, it was time for one of my mostly eagerly anticipated sets, that of COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS. Last year’s album Fervor was spectacular and the band’s fans, me included, couldn’t wait to hear the new material live. Not letting technical issues deter them, the band delighted fans with the likes of Black Swan and Canaille and songs from 2016 album Course of Events. Vocalist Johan Pedersen commanded the crowd and brought the energy, ensuring the audience were warmed up ready for the monstrous acts later. COLD NIGHT FOR ALLIGATORS are still a band to watch, if they keep this up they’ll be headlining soon.  

No time to rest, as Scottish tech death darlings GODEATER were getting underway on the Fireball Stage. Just think, back in 2017 the band played their second ever gig here, and now they’ve packed out the room. The new material and latest single Exsanguinated sounded absolutely devastating live, with lots of SHOKRAN-esque oriental twangs thrown into proceedings. An intense performance by all members and a terrific turnout proves bright times ahead for GODEATER.

Norwich deathcore veterans ANNOTATIONS OF AN AUTOPSY hit the Line 6 and pummelled the crowd with old classics and material from their comeback EP World of Sludge. Delivering an absolutely punishing set, it felt like the band never went away. Welcome back lads.

Nothing prepared anyone for the absolute side-splitting sesh that was ARCHSPIRE. Their unique tech death is hard to rival, but now their live show is too. From their clam hands clap, the ‘Applause’ signs and banter of eating your better half’s prosterior, fans were not only entertained but blown away by the technical brilliance of the disgustingly talented Canadians. The venue was absolutely rammed, the circle pits around Banana Man were relentless (if you know, you know) and the positivity in the room was overwhelming. THIS is what Tech Fest is all about.  

BLACK TONGUE were getting nasty over on the Line 6 Stage. The down-tempo misery merchants were stirring up the most violent pits of the festival so far. Their self-proclaimed ‘doomcore’ sounded absolutely colossal, with front man Alex Teyen pacing the stage barefoot with a fury in his eyes and a fire in his barks to the crowd. Playing tracks from their whole back catalogue, the intensity BLACK TONGUE stamp up is mightily impressive, with the crowd antics matching the energy. A brutal set which raised the bar for the remainder of the acts this weekend.

Tonight’s headliner need not worry about keeping proceedings brutal. DYING FETUS have punished the masses for longer than some of the audience have been alive. Their destructive grooves were exactly what was needed to conclude a blistering Friday. The death metal trio didn’t let up the pace at all and blasted the crowd into oblivion. DYING FETUS showed the young ‘uns how it’s done and were the cherry on the cake that was an outstanding second day at Tech Fest. Superb. 

Crobot/Wolf Jaw/Kamensko

The Waterfront Studio, Norwich. 20 July 2019.

A Saturday night in The Fine City is the perfect time for a night of hip-shaking rock. Kicking off the night was Norwich stoner rockers KAMENSKO. It was reassuring to see a good amount of the local music community had come down early to catch the band’s groovy riffage. Playing tracks from their forthcoming EP and their current material, KAMENSKO blitzed through their set with guitar solos aplenty. Clearly humbled by the turnout and crowd response, the band stumped up the good vibes which continued throughout the evening.

Up next were the Midlands rock n rollers WOLF JAW. Last month saw this loveable trio play three sets at Download no less, and they treated The Waterfront Studio like any stage at Donnington. Spoiling us with new tracks from their forthcoming debut album as WOLF JAW as well as gems from their time as THE BAD FLOWERS, the band were addictive to watch; dungaree-clad Dale Tonk’s bass face, drummer Karl Selickis’ energetic drumstick twiddling and flying hair and front man Tom Leighton’s distinct gritty vocals and raucous guitar playing made for a blistering live show. WOLF JAW sounded huge and would give any headliner a run for their money, proving three is the magic number when it comes to making a monstrous impact on the live stage. Playing at the barrier and getting the crowd involved got everyone on side and in the palm of their hands. If these chaps continue the rest of the tour in this manner, they will and truly cement themselves in the music world as WOLF JAW.

After the riotous second set, tonight’s headliners CROBOT had a hard task to top what we had just witnessed, but the American groove rockers absolutely smashed it. It was impossible to take your eyes off charismatic front man Brandon Yeagley. His bejewelled waistcoat, allure with his mic stand tricks, and most importantly his talent as a rock vocalist will surely make him a legendary rock star. The chemistry between all members was something special and any interaction between each other was comedic, yet real. However, they made sure the crowd felt part of the family, even inviting one young punter to play the last riffs of the night.

Treating fans to lots of new songs from their soon-to-be-released album Motherbrain, CROBOT also entertained the room with snippets of BLACK SABBATH, TOTO and…Ghostbusters. In an age of super serious bands, playing their super serious music with super serious stage presence, it is so refreshing to watch a band who are both professional yet visibly still having the time of their lives. This sense of fun is infectious and dominates the atmosphere. Guitar slinging, harmonica solos and clambering on top of monitors (and each other), CROBOT are full of tricks and mischief which is a dangerous combination when coupled with the grooviest riffs. Their energy didn’t dip for one second ensuring everyone left the venue a hot and sweaty mess and a massive smile on their face. An absolutely blinding evening, tonight will go down as one of the best Norwich gigs of the year.   

Damnation Festival 2018

3 November 2018. Leeds University Union.

The second I stepped out of Damnation Festival last year I already decided I would return again in 2018. The atmosphere and variety of bands for this awesome in-door festival is unparalleled and it does feel lovingly unique. Each new line-up announcement throughout the year whetted my appetite more until the day finally came where I would once again be at Damnation. As soon as doors opened, the positive energy of extreme metal’s finest punters poured into each of the venues and the merch area.

The bars were already heaving with battle-jacket-clad metal fans as I wandered down to the Tone MGMT Stage to witness LEECHED opening the festival. The band’s debut album You Took The Sun When You Left is a gritty and dark affair, so it was no surprise their set was equally as suffocating. Backlit and shrouded with smoke, the hardcore metallers from Manchester were an intense group with their gruff vocals, blackened riffs and power violence elements. It’s hard to keep your eyes off drummer Tom Hansell; one because of his impressive myriad of tattoos and two, because it becomes clear he’s the secret weapon for LEECHED with his ferocious drumming and hardcore vocals. An excellent start to the day.

It would have been rude not to catch progressive darlings CALIGULA’S HORSE on the Eyesore Merch Stage as they did come all the way from Australia, but also because they’re one of THE most exciting progressive metal bands on the planet right now (they’re better than LEPROUS, there I said it). Starting their set with Dream the Dead off last year’s In Contact, the Aussie troupe mesmerised and stunned the crowd with their majestic set. On record they can sound quite soft, but in a live setting they’re surprisingly heavy. It’s clear they made new fans this afternoon judging by some of the expressions of delight in the curious crowd.

I sneaked off before the end of CALIGULA’s HORSE’s set to make my way to the Cult Never Dies Stage to get a good spot to witness MØL strut their stuff. The venue was already packed full with people, endorsing a one in, one out policy when the set started. I was close enough to see frontman Kim Song Sternkopf scream in the faces of the people down the front, in his madman-godlike state throughout the set. The Danish blackgaze group have rapidly gained a fanbase this year after the successful release of their debut album Jord and judging by the volume of people in the room, it proves there is a real buzz about this band right now. Having seen them at their debut London show earlier in the year supporting SVALBARD, I knew what to expect but their intensity and sheer blackgaze perfection still astounded me. It’s just a shame the fire alarm interrupted the set…

Once all the fuss (and annoyance) of the fire alarm had died down I headed to the Jagermeister Stage to see NE OBLIVISCARIS absolutely tear up the room with their extreme progressive metal. Their tight sound cut through the room like a knife; they were absolute perfection. The guitars sung and clean vocalist and violinist Tim Charles could do no wrong. The professionalism of the band resonated round the room, proving they were masters at their craft. Clearly owning the biggest stage in the students’ union, I wouldn’t be surprised if the band headline a few years down the line.

Having said this, I’m surprised Birmingham’s ANAAL NATHRAKH are yet to headline a Damnation as their set is always a killer. Easily whipping up the most brutal crowd of the day, the black metal veterans prove their worth with their stellar set of songs old and new. Forward! off new album A New Kind of Horror sounds equally as punishing as older classics Forging Towards the Sunset and Depravity Favours the Bold. The fighting pit in the middle of the room showed the fans’ appreciation of the band’s unforgiving music. Throw in a pair of knickers on the stage and you got yourself a legendary Damnation performance.

If I wanted to find something a bit more soothing then I was never going to find it with CELESTE on the Tone MGMT Stage. The French experimental metallers hypnotised the crowd with their unique aesthetic. Lit only by a red light strapped to each member’s head, it created an eerie – heck- celestial atmosphere which superbly suited the dissonant tones of their music. A severely underrated band, I was especially pleased to see a large turnout for them.

It was truly special to see death metal legends ENTOMBED A.D. tear up the Jagermeister Stage. They sounded bigger and more badass as ever with frontman L-G Petrov pacing up and down the stage commanding the crowd with his epic growls. Death metal never sounded so good but I needed to hop along to the Tone MGMT Stage to get a decent spot to see BATUSHKA deliver their sermon. I wish I hadn’t bothered and gone to see MONUMENTS instead as the room was absolutely packed to the brim for BATUSHKA. The majority of people couldn’t see the stage, let alone move and the band came on late so a lot of the crowd were getting agitated and impatient while people pushed past to try and find a better viewing position. The set was a prime example of the wrong choice of stage for a band, but from what I could see (very little) the black metal band from Poland were visually stunning. I’ll try and see them another time when I’m also not being crushed slowly to death.

To recover, I went back to the Jagermeister stage to see the mighty IHSAHN play an utterly mesmerising set. A legend in the black metal scene and a respectable solo artist in his own right, IHSAHN proved his worth tonight playing the best selection of songs from his albums. Songs from new album Amr sounded fuller live than they do on record, but a personal highlight for me was hearing Celestial Violence from 2016’s Arktis resonate around the room. His black metal vocals have always been perfection but tonight his clean vocals also got the recognition they deserve. A stellar set of magical proportions, IHSAHN just keeps getting better when it wasn’t thought possible.

I regrettably missed THE OCEAN’s set but before I stumbled back to the hotel I couldn’t leave without seeing grindcore legends NAPALM DEATH smash some skulls and rip up the Jagermeister Stage. Excluding the fire alarm earlier, today has truly been a fantastic day of metal. The festival already promise their biggest band yet for next year and I can’t wait to see who will be announced first. Damnation is a festival I’d recommend to everyone. See you next year.

Anaal Nathrakh + The Atrocity Exhibit

The Black Heart, Camden. 11 August 2018.

London was quite a hubbub of metalheads this evening, what with IRON MAIDEN and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE playing the O2 Arena and the Progmetalmadness all-dayer at New Cross Inn. Two hundred metalheads had chosen to embark instead to the sweatbox that is the Black Heart, Camden for an extra special night – the preview show of ANAAL NATHRAKH’s forthcoming album A New Kind of Horror. Of course a band of this calibre in a venue this small was going to sell out the night so it was a very hot and cramped evening…the perfect environment for some extreme metal carnage. The band always claim to be the soundtrack to Armageddon so we were lucky to survive the set.

Warming up the crowd tonight were the utterly mad THE ATROCITY EXHIBIT. Their sludgy grindcore in the clammy mist made sure everyone felt a bit of crust (see what I did there), but it was in between the band sets which was possibly the most exciting part of the evening. Fans were treated to an entire and uninterrupted playthrough of A New Kind Of Horror over the PA. Lead single Forward! sounded as brutal as ever and the majority of the crowd already knew the words. As the concept is the First World War, the sound effects of the shells expertly added amongst the riffs is just so disgustingly clever and judging by the look on punters’ faces it’s been well received by fans. As I listened to the album I thought the big riffs, bold motifs and general feel were not too dissimilar to Vanitas and I’m absolutely thrilled about that as that album is perfection. It was reassuring to see the rest of the crowd’s approval too. This album is going to absolutely slay.

It was time for a second helping of ANAAL NATHRAKH, this time with the actual band themselves gracing us with their presence. Tonight was being live streamed so things were bound to get rowdy, but tonight was one of those gigs when you end up being covered in someone else’s beer 0.0002 seconds into the set. No one was safe tonight, the whole room was one big pit, complete with a wall of death and numerous stage divers (despite the stage being only one step-up). The band brought out all the fan favourites including Forging Towards The Sunset and More Of Fire Than Blood and treated the crowd to a live rendition of Forward! Considering we’d already heard it tonight it was still like hearing it for the first time.

Flawless is one word to sum up the evening. In a live setting vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L sounds as ferocious as ever, confirming my thought that he is one of the most severely underrated extreme metal vocalists out there. You cannot fault him. You cannot fault the music either, Mick Kenney is a musical genius and hearing ANAAL NATHRAH live is like a full on aural assault. Don’t be surprised if A New Kind Of Horror ends up being contender for album of the year.

Tech Fest 2018

Newark Showground. 5th-8th July 2018.

There was quite a merry buzz running throughout Tech Fest this year, what with England doing well in the World Cup and the constant predictions of who the *Secret Act* would be on the Sunday (it was SLEEP TOKEN). Personally it felt like it was gearing up to be the best year but unfortunately due to an emergency in our camp I had to miss the bands Sunday (so, sorry for no reviews of the bands that day!). Despite this and the hottest weather on Earth, the atmosphere this year was unparalleled and the quality of the bands just kept getting better and better. I know I’m not the only one already looking forward to next year! For now, here is my rundown of the bands I saw (in between eating delicious food and avoiding the sun). Photos are a combination of my own and Lee Harper/Go To The Gig.

Thursday

It was absolutely staggering to see the amount of people already settled in and checking out the bands when I got to the showground Thursday afternoon. Definitely the most people I’d seen on a Thursday at Tech Fest which was a very promising sight. After pitching the tent I went to catch Danish rockers SIAMESE. If you read my last Metalmance Monthly Roundup you will know how much I was looking forward to catching these guys but I was also nervous about how they would be received by the rest of the Tech Fest crowd. I needn’t have worried as they totally owned the room and got everyone nodding along while they played songs from last year’s Shameless. The majority were surprised to see a violinist in tow but this adds such an awesome dynamic to their sound, the band as a whole sound irresistible. Frontman Mirza Radonjica is a captivating frontman and closing the set with Soul and Chemicals and Ablaze they got the early evening of Tech Fest off to a kicking start.

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I was glad to see a big turnout for CRYSTAL LAKE on the Winspear Stage. All the way from Japan, these guys really got the party started with their mix of hardcore and progressive metal. Frontman Ryo charms the crowd and when they break out with a cover of LIMP BIZKIT’s Rollin’ then that’s when all the bodies erupted. The band all looked thrilled to be there and it was this energy and passion that the audience fed off. A stellar performance, it’s safe to say the band won over a new legion of fans tonight.

Headlining the night was a very special set from HEART OF A COWARD. The band have always been lodged firmly in the hearts of Tech Fest fans and this year felt like a celebration of the band’s new lineup and the promise of the future. Last year at Tech Fest Kaan Tasan (formly of NO CONSEQUENCE) made a guest appearance during VALIS ABLAZE’s set, but no one could have imagined this year he would be back fronting HEART OF A COWARD and headlining the opening night. Everyone knew he would be able to deliver but bloody hell he surpassed expectations. Clearly thrilled to be there in the moment, Tasan and co conquered the stage and conquered the hearts of the crowd. The professionalism and talent oozed from the band and the audience lapped it up. A set I am very proud to have witnessed. With a reception such as this, who knows what new heights HEART OF A COWARD could achieve in the future.

The after parties at Tech Fest are always a goldmine of bands and sets and this opening night was no different. Tonight saw Dutch tech metallers THE ROYAL make their second Tech Fest appearance. This was my third time seeing this brilliant group and it was hands down the best set I’ve seen them play to date. The energy these guys have is i20180706_004149.jpgnfectious and the way frontman Sem Pisarahu commands the crowd is always a sight to behold. THE ROYAL just keep getting better and better and the response from the crowd during songs from albums Dreamcatchers and Seven was very promising, proving the band are continuing to be on the up.

 

Friday

Today was the day I was looking forward to the most with favourites VOYAGER, VOLA and SIKTH playing later, and it proved to be my favourite of the whole weekend. I kicked off my day seeing FROM EDEN TO EXILE, having heard their latest release Modern Disdain I was looking forward to seeing how their metallic intensity translate live. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to witness these guys live as I was completely blown away by their brutality and composure. This is exactly how you should get your Friday afternoon off to a cracking start. Frontman Tom Franklin is proving to be an unstoppable force and the whole band are equally as ferocious. One of the unexpected highlights of the weekend.

Nothing quite prepared me for the FROM SORROW TO SERENITY extravaganza that was to follow over on the Winspear Stage. I hate to admit I’ve always seen their name dotted around and knew they had recently signed to Long Branch Records, but until this 20180706_145322.jpgmoment I hadn’t actually committed to listening to a full song. So it’s safe to say the set was always going to be a bit of a surprise but I was utterly enthralled by their explosive performance. I’m now beating myself up for sleeping on this band for too long. Just a few minutes in their presence you can understand why they’ve pulled crowds of people to their set early in the afternoon and why they have been signed to an excellent label. The energy on stage was overwhelming and I was left a little shell shocked after. Absolutely superb.

I was curious to see how the mad genius of THE DALI THUNDERING CONCEPT fared live, but a few technical issues hindered their sound a tad. Despite this, the French math-metallers still sounded unbelievable. Every member performed with a fierce passion making the set an intense affair. Having been promoted up the bill in the place of JINJER (who unfortunately couldn’t make it due to visa issues) THE DALI THUNDERING CONCEPT performed to a very generous crowd, proving they’ve got what it takes to play higher up the bill. Let’s hope we see these guys again very soon.

There was a real excitement in the air before VOLA began their set. The band from Denmark always win new fans wherever they go with their stupidly catchy and charming prog metal. There were still some technical issues on the Winspear Stage but 20180706_164627.jpgVOLA still sounded brilliant. Their secret weapon is their keys player Martin Werner, whose skill and performance excels the band’s dynamic. Singer and guitarist Asger Mygind proved to be one of the most charming frontmen of the weekend, with his signature voice and his composed stage presence. The band played songs from their debut album Inmazes and their older EPs, much to their hardcore fans’ delight. They even generously threw a new song into the set, which was a very curious song including spoken word elements and a poppier approach. It will be very interesting to see what the band have conjured for their next album. Of course, the majority of the crowd wanted to hear one particular song and VOLA obliged by playing it as their finale. Stray The Skies got one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the weekend and VOLA was a name on the tongues of all who saw them.

Releasing one of the best metal albums of the year so far, BLEED FROM WITHIN are back on fine form and were ready to prove to Tech Fest why they’re becoming one of BBleed From Withinritain’s metal heavyweights. A big crowd, big sound and a big stage presence, it’s clear the Glaswegians are comfortable with the heights they are reaching but they have remained humble and interact with the crowd with joy and professionalism. Songs from Era sound utterly flawless live and the exciting thing is, BLEED FROM WITHIN still have so much to give. Don’t be surprised if the next time we see them at Tech Fest they’re headlining.

Next up were Australian prog metallers VOYAGER deservedly headlining the Waghorn Guitars Stage. With an impressive back catalogue, the band had a wealth of disgustingly Voyagerbrilliant songs to choose from for their set, but they chose one of their best to open – What A Wonderful Day. And what a wonderful set the next hour would be. VOYAGER are one of those bands where every member brings their unique element to the live dynamic and the band are highly addictive to witness live; guitarists Simone Dow and Scott Kay bounce off each other, while bassist Alex Canion is such an entertaining sight to behold, drummer Ashley Doodkorte is a beard with a beast attached and singer Danny Estrin is truly captivating with his 80s pop voice and keytar skills. Songs from latest album Ghost Mile go down a storm, such as Ascension and Misery Is Only Company. But the highlight of the set was when Estrin played the opening note of DARUDE – Sandstorm that things got really riotous. It’s so much fun to see a band who are comfortable playing together and who exude such magnificent showmanship you dread when the set ends. Until next time.

All throughout the weekend, choruses of “IT’S COMING HOME!!” ring out and in the queue for SIKTH it becomes deafening while two lads with Gladiator style inflatable Sikthsticks bang them together to drum the rhythm. Everyone is in good spirits and there is a good energy which erupts during the headline set of tech veterans SIKTH. The room seemed to be at full capacity with sweaty and hot bodies flailing around to classics such as Bland Street Bloom and Summer Rain. The band knew which songs the crowd wanted and they delivered, playing plenty of songs from Death Of A Dead Day especially. It’s crazy to think over a decade ago SIKTH played their farewell show in London. Now in 2018 their audience is bigger than ever and the quality of their performance proves their talent of raising venues to the ground, yet they still have plenty in the bag. An absolutely chaotic set with euphoric vibes afterwards, this is how you headline Tech Fest.

After a day of chaotic sets and dancing I was after something a bit slower to end the day with. Luckily Norwich doom merchants NERVEWRECKER were playing the after party and if you’ve been following my blog you may remember my recent review of their latest EP Murmur and a review of their support slot with EMPLOYED TO SERVE and CONJURER (both of whom were playing the Sunday). This was NERVEWRECKER at their best, a hardcore attitude and energy with a massive sound, this is doom metal with a big “fuck you”. The crowd loved it and lapped up every resonating note, proving the band were the perfect choice for the after party. Despite their disgustingly slow riffs, NERVEWRECKER whipped up a frenzy and the support from their fans was golden. Same again next year please!

 

Saturday

Saturday afternoon was something of a little Long Branch Records show case, with VALIS ABLAZE and THE FIVE HUNDRED releasing their debut albums through the label (the latter is still yet to be released) and playing after one another today. Last year Bristolian progsters VALIS ABLAZE played the smaller stage, but this year they finally get the setting they deserve and stormed the Winspear stage. With a new bassist in tow, it was great to see the new lineup and to hear the new songs played live. The band released debut album Boundless back in April and the new tracks went down a storm. Most of the fans in the crowd have been with the band since the beginning so there’s always a buzz when the tech homeboys play. This year DREWSIF STALIN was absent for a guest spot, and if you’ve heard Frequency off the new album you will know what a little gem this song is and how it really does shine with two vocalists present. The band instead had called upon WHITE DOVE to do the guest vocals and she absolutely killed it. A superb substitute for a winner of a song. It’s only a matter of time before VALIS ABLAZE burst into the wider metal community.

Up next on the Waghorn Guitars stage were Nottingham metallers THE FIVE HUNDRED. I’ve been listening to this band since they released their Winters EP back in 2015 but this was my first time seeing them live. It’s safe to say they completely blew my hangover away. I don’t know what’s in the water in Nottingham but the new songs they teased sounded beastly and a blistering progression from last year’s EP The Veil. Performing like they were playing a stage twice the size, it’s great to see the band’s energy match their sound. With their debut album soon to be released this set has made me even more excited for the record. Long Branch have snapped up one of the most promising tech acts around, fingers crossed next year will see the band will launch to new heights.

I was super eager to catch DVSR during half time of the football. Last year we had HACKTIVIST, but this year we had DVSR providing the rap metal and playing an exclusive UK DVSRset and I am very proud to have witnessed such an incredible show. Pulling in the punters despite the game, people knew this was a special occasion and the band delivered. Groovy, confident and downright heavy, this band were the perfect edition for a Saturday afternoon.

I had no idea INGESTED would turn out to be my last band of the weekend, but I’m very glad the slamming death metal band wrapped up my weekend as things got a little bit insane. Last year the band absolutely decimated the smaller stage when they headlined the Sunday. It was about time the Manchester mob played the main stage and after the release of their incredible new album The Level Above Human earlier in the year, it was well deserved. Seeing the biggest wall of death of the weekend, I don’t know if it was the sun or the football or the alcohol, but the room was whipped up into a frenzy and remained so the entirety of the set. Commanding the crowd, vocalist Jason Evans is an absolute demon live, some other frontmen could learn from his example. His energy and passion is unparalleled, one of the reasons why they always slay live. A superb set and a superb end to my Tech Fest weekend. See you next year.

 

 

 

Cancer Bats/SickOnes/Walk In Coma

Chinnerys, Southend. 12 June 2018.

If you’ve been following Metalmance then you’ll know how much I was looking forward to seeing CANCER BATS for the sixth time. I’ve been witnessing them tearing venues to shreds for 10 years now and tonight proves they are still as riotous as ever. The Chinnerys, Southend were hosts to the ‘BATS tonight and walking into the intimate room, you knew then you might not make it out alive. Or if you do, you’ll be covered in other people’s sweat and spit.

There was a decent amount of people to see the opening band, WALK IN COMA who are residents of the town. Rapidly gaining a reputation in Essex with their bold metal tunes, these Southend lads appeased their existing fans and gained new followers with their blistering set this evening. Playing songs from their first EP Narrenturm and their forthcoming EP Blur The Line Of Fiction And Fate, their sound is a cross between PANTERA and IN FLAMES so you can probably gauge how beastly WALK IN COMA sound live. It’s one thing having a big sound, you’ve also got to be able to pull it off live. Luckily the band are natural showmen, looking at ease and confident like they do this every day. Singer Alex Adlington is proving to be quite the beguiling frontman with his brilliant harsh vocals and cleans (the chorus of Through Your Eyes anyone?) and his stage presence was quite formidable. The new songs sounded absolutely massive, don’t be surprised if you find them playing a city near you soon.

I was not expecting what I was about to witness next. Hardcore punk trio SICKONES were an impressive sight to behold. Frontman Ben Curd can only be described as the Louie Spence of hardcore punk with his stupidly magnificent dance moves and jumps and spins. He has to be seen to be believed. Add this to their ridiculously charming hardcore punk and you’ll soon be dancing along and being converted. Playing songs from their EPs The Red Line and Find Energy, these Bristolians are truly something special. Explaining the messages behind each song, whether it be about feeling stuck in a rut, not conforming to lifestyle choices of the majority or if you feel stuck in a relationship, the band somehow make everyone in the room feel encouraged to be themselves and feel happy. It’s obvious SICKONES are all about the music and expression and it’s this sense of authenticity that is so appealing. Their music itself is hard, fast, fun and deceivingly catchy. The whole SICKONES package is a truly exceptional one. This is one band you absolutely HAVE to see live.

Standing at the barrier at a CANCER BATS gig is always going to be risky business and tonight was no different. As soon as Liam Cormier and co. graced the stage the bars of the barrier acted as a climbing frame for Southend’s eager hardcore kids. A few brave souls climbed up to the lighting rig and dived into the crowd from there causing absolute carnage. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Tonight felt like the reunion of kindred spirits. The majority of people here have been witnessing CANCER BATS slay venues for a decade now and the Chinnerys is one venue they always return to. And you can understand why judging by the raucous reception they receive! The set was full of classics such as Hail Destroyer, Pneumonia Hawk, R.A.T.S, Scared To Death which sounded timeless amongst new tunes such as Gatekeeper and Bed Of Nails. Seeing Pray For Darkness and Sorceress live is still an essential gig experience, it’s incredible to see 10 years on these songs still get the same intense response at shows. CANCER BATS have still got it and it looks like they’re not slowing down yet. Once the riff of Sabotage was played, the security surrendered and let the chaos ensue. This will be a night Southend will remember for years to come.

Employed To Serve/Conjurer/God Complex/Nervewrecker

The Waterfront Studio, Norwich. 16 May 2018.

Queuing outside The Waterfront this evening was an interesting affair, with hardcore kids and metalheads standing in line with quite a few of East Anglia’s middle aged folk. Why exactly? Well Heather Small was playing the other room tonight which encouraged a few impressions of “What have you done today to make you feeeeel proud?”. Well Heather, I’m not necessarily proud of what I’ve done, but I am proud of my bros in NERVEWRECKER. You might remember I recently reviewed their latest EP Murmur and it was great to finally see them when they opened the gig tonight. As it was a Wednesday evening the Waterfront Studio was slowly filling up but it was great to see local support for the Norwich doom lads. It was going to be one of those nights where people stand a mile away from the front but after a couple of songs there was enough nodding of heads to show at least the punters were enjoying it. “This is a fast one!” quipped vocalist Ed Bell before the band plunged into the slowest song EVER. In a live setting the majority of songs sounded like the same chord, add this to the band being submerged in smoke and you’ve got a doom fan’s paradise. They’re impeccably fun to watch, pulling out all the moves like a band 1000x faster, but they won over a new legion of fans to tonight.

After NERVEWRECKER we all needed a boot up the bum to wake us up out of our doom trance. Luckily the steel-toed boot came in the form of GOD COMPLEX and my word, they captured our attention. They reminded me of early EVERY TIME I DIE and their energy on stage was contagious. Frontman Harry Rule struts and raves and holds his head in his hands like a man possessed but it’s bassist Alex Chan who steals the hearts with his expressions and stage presence. They had a terrific grungy turn part way through the set which made me think of CANE HILL and I loved it. A fantastic set, they ended up being an unexpected highlight for me and proof it’s always worth seeing opening bands (I never understand why people go out of their way to avoid opening acts). One British band to watch for sure.

CONJURER were up next and things took a heavier and more serious turn. They were flawless and incredibly impressive, with vocalist/guitarist Dan Nightingale opting to scream without a microphone at one point which earnt him top points for stage presence. The band were tight and you could see why they’re getting a great reputation in the scene. The next time I see them on a tour, I’d be extremely surprised if they weren’t headlining. Amazing.

The Waterfront Studio had filled up quite a bit more by the time the main event was about to start. EMPLOYED TO SERVE got on stage with their matching Warmth Of A Dying Sun windbreakers and the aesthetic worked because they sure as hell looked like a band, a unit. When they played they blew me away with their confidence and charisma and they played with the same professionalism as a band who have been doing this for decades. The mix was spot on and they sounded just like they do on record. Guitarist Sammy Urwin demanded the crowd get involved and people finally wormed their way to the front. Mostly playing songs from last year’s Warmth Of A Dying Sun, EMPLOYED TO SERVE gave it their all and vocalist Justine Jones sounded equally as brutal as she does on the CD. Only a few minutes into their set you could understand why there is so much hype surrounding them. A disgustingly heavy and talented band who can deliver the goods live – what’s not to like? When the opening riff for their finale, I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away) rang out, the venue descended into chaos (should be noted no gig is a gig without a man doing the worm in the middle of the pit). A spectacular gig, these British hopes are destined for great things. Catch them live in small venues while you still can.

Despised Icon + Malevolence + Archspire + Vulvodynia

The Dome, London. 11 February 2018.

We’re only two months into 2018 and we’re already being spoilt with what could be the line-up of the year. A night of brutal metal awaits. Filled with slam fans, technical metalheads, hardcore lads and old school deathcore lovers, The Dome at Tufnell Park welcomes all punters and tonight it does feel like the perfect venue to host these stellar bands.

The room was almost full for opening band VULVODYNIA; ultimately one of the biggest crowds for an opening band seen for a long while. This is reassuring to see as the up-and-coming slamming brutal death metal group (and super nice chaps too) rightly deserve a large crowd, especially as they’ve travelled all the way from South Africa and we don’t see them enough! Circle pits immediately erupt as the band perform in front of the gory backdrop of the album cover for Psychosadistic Design. The eerie stage and lighting set the mood for their unforgiving show. Headbanging and windmilling while the drums and guitars threaten to pummel us into the ground, frontman Duncan Bentley is a mass of hair and underworldly vocals. VULVODYNIA had a lot of fans in the crowd tonight as Bentley only needed to say the last song was the first song the band ever wrote together, for the crowd to start chanting “DROWNED. IN. VOMIT!” Needless to say no one actually drowned in vomit, but we were at risk of drowning in other people’s sweat, and it was only the first band of the night! A fantastically chaotic start to the evening.

Metalmance has always been curious to see how ARCHSPIRE’s impressive technical death metal translates live. Opening with Calamus Will Animate, the machine-gun vocals unfortunately weren’t phased in fast enough, denying the crowd of the sudden brutal impact the band is well known for. Nevertheless, the Canadians proved to be an impressive force, expertly delivering their technical tunes with an irresistible flair. It is clear each member of the band is an extremely talented musician; almost to the point you become concerned the complexity would detract from their joy of performing, but no need to worry as they all look absolutely thrilled. None more so than frontman Oliver Rae Aleron, whose unique vocals are shot out of a mischievous grin. The diction could be a little clearer but this is to be expected in a live setting. The mix gradually improves during the set and by the time ARCHSPIRE close with Remote Tumour Seeker, the sound is spot on and the riff grooves harder than ever. Don’t be surprised if the next time ARCHSPIRE play the UK they’re headlining a whole tour.

Up next are Sheffield bruisers MALEVOLENCE. Last time Metalmance had the pleasure of witnessing the group tearing up a stage was last June when they headlined this very venue. And now they are supporting their heroes; “We’ve been fans of DESPISED ICON since we were *this* high!” claims frontman Alex Taylor. The band seem more relaxed at this show than last time, they were in good spirits and seemed to be buzzing about playing in this line-up tonight. They completely owned the stage and their fans owned the pit. Playing a lot of songs from last year’s blistering Self Supremacy, MALEVOLENCE are an untouchable team of brutality. If you’re not stomping along to their grooves, then you’re shouting along with guitarist Konan Hall to Slave to Satisfaction, Wasted Breath and Serpents Chokehold. With stage divers and fists in the air, this is exactly where you want to be on a cold and dreary Sunday night. MALEVOLENCE are a family and they always make their fans feels as much too. This, coupled with their monstrous anthems make the band truly unstoppable and it still only feels like the beginning.

Finally, the pioneers of deathcore grace the stage; DESPISED ICON are here to show the young ‘uns how it’s really done. The mix for the band was incredible with the vocals of dual vocalists Alex Erian and Steve Marois sounding crystal clear and resonating to devastating effect. Listening to classics such as Day of Mourning, Furtive Monologues and Retina, it’s easy to hear how DESPISED ICON have influenced countless of bands including tonight’s supports. They oozed professionalism and confidence, yet remained humbled by the crowd’s response and participation. A great band with a sickeningly impressive back catalogue, DESPISED ICON reminded everyone tonight of why they are still well respected in the scene. Smashing through songs from latest album Beast, including the punishing Inner Demons, the group prove they are still relevant and pack a greater punch than the majority of their peers. One thing’s for sure, tonight has set the bar high for the rest of the gigs in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Earl.