Metalmance's Top 20 Releases of 2019

The best 20 releases of the past 12 months

What a year! I was absent for most of it but that didn’t mean I wasn’t lurking and listening to albums. I’ve kept the list honest this year, with the releases I’ve listened to the most. If you’ve come here expecting to see SLIPKNOT and TOOL then you can go to Metal Hammer for that. As always I’m featuring EPs as well as albums…so behold! My Top 20 releases of 2019!


 

20. HOUR OF PENANCEMisotheism. Release date: 25 October.

It’s been a couple of months since Italy’s HOUR OF PENANCE dropped the meaty slab of death metal that is Misotheism and it still absolutely slays. Out of all the brutal death metal releases which have dropped this year, Misotheism is one of the most consistently punishing. Tracks such as The Second Babel and Lamb of the Seven Sins are violent delights. The brutal grooves and relentless battering of the senses are a morbid treat. Instead of focussing on how fast or how extreme they can go, HOUR OF PENANCE ensure there is some form of structure and substance to their songs which is sometimes missing in extreme music today. If you’re also a glutton for punishment then you could do a lot worse than giving Misotheism a spin.

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Misotheism


 

19. ABIGAIL WILLIAMSWalk Beyond The Dark. Release date: 15 November.

It’s great when a band’s first album in almost five years doesn’t suck. ABIGAIL WILLIAMS have always been a bit of an oddball (in the best possible way) and have upset the most cvlt of black metal fans through the years. Walk Beyond The Dark is their best album since In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns. That’s a big statement I know, but it just emphasises my point on how good Walk Beyond The Dark Is. Atmospheric enough to be gripping and chilling, succinct enough to remain ambitious without overstaying its welcome. Sun and Moon and Into the Sleep are some of the more storming tracks on the album, but no second is wasted on this beauty. The darkness and colossal atmosphere is something else and proof that ABIGAIL WILLIAMS have not lost an ounce of intensity. In fact, it seems they’ve gained more.

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Walk Beyond The Dark


 

18. BAESTVenenum. Release date: 13 September.

I’ve probably said this a few times but BAEST are what I wish BLOODBATH still were. Their old school death metal is addictive as hell and with Venenum their second album, they sound beastlier than ever. The riffs are utter filth and the venom spat by frontman Simon Olsen is some of the most terrifying you’ll hear from a modern death metal band. Heresy, As Above So Below and Sodomize are ferocious additions to BAEST’s arsenal of death metal delights. With hellish lyrics and a relentless delivery, BAEST are firmly on the rise to extreme metal royalty. This year saw their ascent escalate with successful support slots for the likes of DECAPITATED and ABORTED. Their recorded material is impressive but their live show absolutely slays. One of the most promising death metal acts out there, beware the BAEST.

Roundup – September 2019 feat. Venenum


 

17. WORMEDMetaportal EP. Release date: 19 July.

Another death metal delight, this time in the form of WORMED’s incredible EP Metaportal. Their technical death metal is some of the best I’ve heard all year, like old school DECAPITATED with extra speed, madness and sci-fi themes. Metaportal is four tracks of unapologetic tech death bludgeoning. 2019 saw some albums which should have been EPs and some EPs which should have been full-lengths, including this one. Spain is rapidly gaining a reputation for its quality, extreme death metal acts and there’s no reason why WORMED can’t join Spain’s metal elite. A polished slab of the most unforgiving metal around, Metaportal shows the newbies how it’s done. Full length next please!

Roundup – July 2019 feat. Metaportal


 

16. CRYSTAL LAKE Helix. Release date: 15 February.

The last couple of years has seen Japan’s metalcore troupe CRYSTAL LAKE grow from strength to strength. Last album True North was a bit all over the place, but Helix is an absolutely punishing release. Aeon has remained one of my favourite songs of the year with its flawless execution. If the same focus was given to the remainder of the album then Helix would rank higher in the list. Agony and +81 are other bangers and things get brutal again with the heavy Hail To The Fire. Helix features lots of riffs to die for and some of the most ferocious drumming of the year, but it’s front man Ryo Kinoshita who is the [not so] secret weapon of CRYSTAL LAKE’s appeal. The technique and talent on display in Helix is incredibly exciting. Once they tap into which sound works best for them and stick to it, world domination awaits.

Crystal Lake – Helix review


 

15. AENIMUSDreamcatcher. Release date: 22 February.

Californian brutal troupe AENIMUS are slowly but surely working their way through the ranks to being one of the best progressive extreme acts out there. I’m surprised they haven’t gained more recognition off the back of the incredible Dreamcatcher album. One of the most polished and consistent extreme records of 2019, Dreamcatcher is a spectacularly dark record. Any moments of light and optimism are briskly extinguished to maintain a fiercely dark atmosphere. Songs like The Ritual fill the empty BLACK CROWN INITIATE-shaped hole that is in our lives at the moment, while My Becoming could have been what we wanted from SHOKRAN this year…there is something for every extreme metal fan on Dreamcatcher. Fingers crossed we get more live shows and we can get our faces ripped off in person.

Aenimus – Dreamcatcher review


 

14. SCHAMMASCHHearts Of No Light. Release date: 8 November.

One of the most atmospheric black metal bands out there, Switzerland’s SCHAMMASCH never fail to bring the most chilling and ambitious black metal to our ears. SCHAMMASCH achieve blackened brilliance without all the cringey cvlt gimmicks of the genre. Hearts Of No Light is another superb effort from the Swiss demons. Polished and bold, but not so it loses any raw power or impact, the album is sure to finally put the band on a level which they deserve. There are a few interesting nuggets on this album which hint at the band experimenting with new ideas and approaches (the bewitching I Burn Within You anyone?) which is exciting as some black metal bands churn out the same stuff year after year. SCHAMMASCH are a band you can’t wait to hear more of or see what they conjure up next. All hail the new dark lords!


 

13. THIS GIFT IS A CURSEA Throne Of Ash. Release date: 14 June.

I made a bold statement at the beginning of the year, saying 2019 was going to be the year for black metal and sludgy hardcore. Sweden’s THIS GIFT IS A CURSE mix all these genres into a terrifying aural assault in the form of latest album A Throne Of Ash. This album is anything but uplifting and optimistic. Harking back to the glory days of CURSED and chaos, THIS GIFT IS A CURSE have produced one of the most bleak, yet rewarding albums of 2019. The unforgiving Blood Is My Harvest and Gate Dweller provide some of the noisiest and most disorientating metal of the year. If you’re a sensitive soul then avoid THIS GIFT IS A CURSE.


 

12. MYRATHShehili. Release date: 3 May.

Shehili by Tunisian metallers MYRATH is a bit of a gem. If you like your progressive metal with a little extra something, then MYRATH are for you. They often get compared to ORPHANED LAND but MYRATH are more power metal than oriental metal. MYRATH write catchy songs and go easy on heavy messages, so it’s a good time all round. Tracks like You’ve Lost Yourself, Dance and Darkness Arise are absolute belters. If you don’t get your shimmy on with this album then you might not have a musical bone in your body. Shehili is a solid, catchy, polished album that is a fun listen and rewarding every time. Well worth checking out.

Roundup – August 2019 feat. Shehili


 

11. CAR BOMBMordial. Release date: 27 September.

Ah CAR BOMB. Previous album Meta was mathcore perfection, yet with Mordial they have pushed the boundaries further and created something so genius and mindblowing I am almost lost for words. I mean, we all fell in love with the laser effects on Dissect Yoéurself but CAR BOMB mostly avoid gimmicks and let their otherworldly music speak for itself. Some fans have expressed their dislike of the ‘clean’ vocals but I love the DEFTONES edge they give. Mordial is one of those albums that you find yourself shaking your head at in bemusement and awe. The crunchy, metallic riffs, the whirring instrumentation and crazy time signatures all add up to a cacophony of brilliance and madness. Indulge if you dare.

Roundup – September 2019 feat. Mordial


 

10. GODEATERAll Flesh Is Grass. Release date: 27 September.

America might dominate the tech metal scene but Glaswegian darlings GODEATER are sure as hell worming their way upwards to the British elite. Their debut album All Flesh Is Grass has thankfully smashed out of the UK tech bubble and has been invading its way into the wider metal community, both at home and overseas. Environmentally conscious but not in the way that dominates the music, GODEATER are a band with a conscience…and tasty riffs. Standout songs Silent Spring, Blood Moon and Inertia Haze exhibit the technical brilliance of the band, but technical brilliance which also shimmers with heart and soul. There is substance to the songs which prevents it from becoming soulless guitar noodling. This is only the beginning.  

Tech Fest 2019: Part 1 feat. Godeater

Roundup – September 2019 feat. All Flesh Is Grass


 

9. ISSUESBeautiful Oblivion. Release date: 4 October.

ISSUES’ first self-titled album was perfection and their second album Headspace fell short of expectations, so I wasn’t expecting much from third album Beautiful Oblivion. That was until they released lead single Tapping Out and I got all excited by its promise of a heavy direction. When I first listened to the album I was bitterly disappointed. But once I got over that it wasn’t the self-titled 2.0, I began to appreciate the gem that it is. Mature, catchy and subtly heavy, Beautiful Oblivion is a solid, melodic metal album. It’s a passionate, thoughtful, polished slab of joy, but nothing quite prepares you for the brilliant Flexin and its irresistible hooks. Some might see ISSUES as a guilty pleasure. I see them as a melodic band worthy of your attention.


 

8. TIDES FROM NEBULAFrom Voodoo To Zen. Release date: 20 September.

Polish post-rockers TIDES FROM NEBULA released their most ‘electronic’ album to date, with the incredible From Voodoo To Zen. From the breath-taking opening track Ghost Horses to the sublime closer, Eve White, Eve Black, Jane, TIDES FROM NEBULA have created a post-rock masterpiece for the 21st century. The synth greatness which ensues in tracks such as Dopamine and the mesmerising title track, elevate your senses to a stratospheric level. The shimmering tracks take you on a journey and the bright, crisp sounds are oddly reassuring and positive. An outstanding album by one of the greats. Phenomenal.


 

7. SIGNS OF THE SWARMVital Deprivation. Release date: 11 October.

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed SIGNS OF THE SWARM new album Vital Deprivation. I’ve always liked them, don’t get me wrong but they have seriously stepped up their game with this latest effort. Last year it was all about WITHIN DESTRUCTION for slamming deathcore, this year it’s about SIGNS OF THE SWARM. Songs such as Malformed Dissonance and Malevolent Enslavement bring the best slamming grooves, while Lost Within Reflection and Tempting Death (featuring Tom Barber) bring something a bit more mature and nasty to the table. It’s really promising to hear such a huge jump in progression between albums, I wonder what SIGNS OF THE SWARM will pull out of the bag for album number four?

Roundup – Oct & Nov 2019 feat. Vital Deprivation


 

6. VOYAGERColours In The Sun. Release date: 1 November.

VOYAGER have always been a quality prog band but with newest album Colours In The Sun they have really surpassed themselves. It’s the old cliché of the album being their poppiest, yet heaviest to date. But it only takes one listen to realise this is true. Tracks like Colours, Brightstar and Reconnected are some of the best songs VOYAGER have ever penned. A glorious highlight is the magnificent Entropy which features none other than LEPROUS’ Einar Solberg which makes for a terrific proggy surprise. Colours In The Sun is the band’s most solid and consistent release and it’s a gem from start to finish. Fun, upbeat, heavy and catchy…what’s not to like?!


 

5. PORT NOIRThe New Routine. Release date: 10 May.

PORT NOIR’s previous album Any Way The Wind Carries was my second favourite album of 2016, but their newest effort The New Routine hasn’t quite matched its predecessor for me. BUT, The New Routine is still one of the slickest releases of 2019. PORT NOIR have dropped their heavy, progressive edge and embraced their funkier, poppier side, and it’s divine. Tracks like Champagne, Blow and Flawless are some of the catchiest and smoothest songs of the year. They will have you groovin’ and movin’ in no time. No one really qute sounds like PORT NOIR and their experimental side is utterly irresistible.  

Roundup – July 2019 feat. The New Routine


 

4. NUMENOREANAdore. Release date: 12 April.

Over the course of the year Adore has really grown on me. NUMENOREAN are one of the most promising post-black metal bands out there and I’m beginning to wonder how they will ever top this masterpiece. So many blistering yet moving tracks feature on Adore; the brilliant Horizon, the bewitching Stay and all the cacophony of terrors in between. NUMENOREAN appeal to the blackgaze community with their black metal approach and their melodic twists. The atmosphere that NUMENOREAN create is unlike any other, it’s both chilling yet heartwarming, an amazing feat without losing any of their impact. An incredible album by a band still so early in their career. Ones to watch for sure.


 

3. GHOST IRISApple Of Discord. Release date: 22 February.

Danish progressive metallers GHOST IRIS are always one of those reliable bands you know are going to smash it with every release. Latest album Apple Of Discord is a magnificent release and easily their best record so far. Last album Blind World hinted at the band’s talent at writing brutal yet catchy tunes, but nothing prepares you for what they’ve achieved with Apple Of Discord. Crushing riffs with Jesper Vicencio Gün’s menacing growls and impressive cleans are the order of the day. One of the standout songs The Rat & The Snake features the bludgeoning growls of TRAITORS’ Tyler Shelton and is unforgettable. GHOST IRIS also drop some absolute belters with the likes of Heaven Was Pure Hell and The Devil’s Plaything to keep you nodding along. Such an underrated yet talented band!

Ghost Iris – Apple of Discord review


 

2. PIJN & CONJURERCurse These Metal Hands. Release date: 16 August.

Is this an EP? Is this an album? Who the hell cares this trumps most releases which have dropped this year. PIJN and CONJURER are both exciting up and coming bands from the UK, but together they are phenomenal. Curse These Metal Hands sees the material the bands wrote for ArcTangent Festival finally see the light of day as a recording. It mixes the mesmerising post-rock of PIJN and the storming venom of CONJURER and the result is something so special it makes me want to weep. High Spirits sounds like MAYBESHEWILL with BARONESS riffs and a bit of the ol’ shouty, shouty. whereas Endeavour sounds like a KYLESA/CONVERGE gritfest and I’m all for it. Such a treat.

Roundup – August 2019 feat. Curse These Metal Hands

Pijn & Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands review


 

  1. CARTOGRAPHS wilt & blossom. Release date: 1 March.

Well, here you have it, my favourite release of 2019. Earlier in the year I said this was a contender for album of the year…and no other release has topped it for me. Post-metal is seriously gaining some traction and Denmark’s CARTOGRAPHS have proved they are one of the genre’s most promising bands with the sublime wilt & blossom. The passion, the fire, the grit and the power in each song is unforgettable and incredibly striking. Wilt Over Time and Peace Was Never Mine To Be Found are two standout tracks but the biggest gem of them all is the superb Through The Garden Gate with THAT riff and all the feels. It’s no surprise no other band have touched the top spot for me after this release. Listening to wilt & blossom again nine months on feels like I’m listening to it again for the first time. I am winded by its colossal power and numbed by its heartwrenching melodies. Just…incredible.

Cartographs – wilt & blossom review

Crystal Lake – Helix

Label: Sharptone Records. Release date: 15 February 2019.

Back in 2016 when they released breakthrough album True North, Japan’s CRYSTAL LAKE were a little speck on the tech metal scene. In my review of True North I predicted the album would “propel CRYSTAL LAKE into the metal stratosphere”. The band did indeed progress into the greater metal realm, with worldwide tours and a slot on the main stage at last year’s Tech Fest. The band are slowly but surely getting bigger and gaining momentum and new album Helix will most certainly launch the band to wider audiences. Compared to its predecessor, Helix is a real tour de force with its ferocious consistency.

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! springs to mind when AEON kicks in. The programmed effects are spot on in this song and Helix as a whole. The opening minute has everything; blast beats, blackened passages, deathcore moments and dark TED MAUL moments. The sound is HUGE. AEON has already surpassed anything CRYSTAL LAKE have done before. So much happens yet it all flows seamlessly, but nothing prepares you for the slamming deathcore riffs and beats and the relentless tech metal at the end. Unbelievable.

Next track Agony is a bit more of a ‘typical’ CRYSTAL LAKE track (think Omega from True North with more melodic moments). The drumming and programming are once again insane, yet the ending is unexpectedly but welcomely soothing which enables you to process the brutality of the album so far. The rap returns in +81 but it’s executed perfectly making the track a disgustingly fun listen. There are some FAITH NO MORE-esque passages with the funky bass and seductive vocals. This is a real party metal anthem and will be stuck in your head for days.

By the time Lost in Forever bludgeons your ears it’s become clear CRYSTAL LAKE are sounding more focussed and mature with Helix and this track continues the brutality but with a more melodic slant. The jumpy riffs sound very much like the energetic guitar work of THE ROYAL which makes for another song to bounce to. Something a bit more unusual happens with Outgrow, with its FAITHLESS-esque passages and the slower pace, but it’s good to catch your breath during a high-octane album.

With its big ol’ swagger of a riff and the distinct vocals, Hail to the Fire becomes a bit of an unforgettable track. There is a real groove straight out of KILL THE KONG before it lapses into more slamming deathcore territory. Lots more interesting snippets happen in Devilcry which is a solid track with a catchy motif. The brutality and melodicness are perfectly balanced here making this track a bit of a dark horse to be Helix‘s best track.

Just Confusing is more ISSUES than CRYSTAL LAKE but somehow it works! The chorus could easily upset some old school BRING ME THE HORIZON FANS (if you get what I mean). CRYSTAL LAKE can even master the new wave of emo and I’m not even mad. The bouncy, tech riffs return with Apollo along with the ferocious drumming. It’s not a particularly memorable track but it’s a fun track all the same (especially with the DISTURBED moments…you’ll see what I mean).

Sanctuary makes sure Helix gets the storming send off it deserves. A straight-up, no-nonsense song, the urgent energy of Sanctuary gets the job done. The riffs are stratospheric and the hypnotic end brings the album to a dramatic close. The crossover appeal of CRYSTAL LAKE cannot be ignored. This is their secret weapon and the biggest threat to their contemporaries. Every metal style they attempt to capture they expertly execute. The quality of their work just keeps on getting better and better. What will the band achieve by their next album? One thing’s for sure, you won’t want to be late to the CRYSTAL LAKE hype.

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.

20180705_204950.jpg

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.

 

 

 

Crystal Lake – True North

Label: Artery Recordings. Release Date: 2nd Dec 2016.

Punishing. That is the word to describe True North, the fourth album by this Japanese metal troupe from Tokyo. Now under MDDN management (Joel Madden of GOOD CHARLOTTE fame) this album is set to propel CRYSTAL LAKE  into the metal stratosphere. True North is an exciting and absolutely blistering record; full of surprises, this band definitely have a few tricks up their sleeve.

Their explosive brand of hardcore infused metalcore has made them pioneers of heavy music in their homeland, and now they are causing quite a stir in Europe and North America with their first single off the album, Omega. Crashing in with absolutely lethal vocals by Ryo coupled with the ferocious guitars and drumming, Omega is a blinding statement that CRYSTAL LAKE mean business. A truly crushing song, relief is found in melodic electronic effects which adds an interesting dynamic to the brutality of the composition.

Things then take an interesting turn with Hatred, an impressive example of metal with a hip hop flourish. CRYSTAL LAKE execute this mix of genres with aplomb, making this one of the most memorable songs from True North. The band then turn all of that on its head with Metro, a surprisingly catchy song with pop punk overtones, yet it maintains the band’s hardcore intensity. It is this intensity which CRYSTAL LAKE channel into the pummelling title track True North, a brutally honest anthem with lyrics such as “This is the way we are, this is the way we die.” It stands as a testament to how we are who we are, no matter the changes which occur around us.

It would ruin the surprise if the stylistic direction of every song on the album was described in this review, but one song you can become acquainted with before the release is the new track Six Feet Under. A violent 2 minute blast of pure hardcore which will most certainly feel like the aural equivalent of having your face ripped off. It kicks you in the throat then leaves you for dead before you’re washed up by the stunning album closer, Waves. This song perfectly juxtaposes melodic components with unforgivingly heavy elements, which results in a breath-taking finale to a truly spellbinding album. Believe the hype, CRYSTAL LAKE have arrived to claim the metal throne.