Tech Fest 2017

6 Jul – 7 Jul 2017. Newark Showground.

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THURSDAY

A small festival filled with technical metal bands, death metal and progressive metal? Yes please. Add to that the tight-knit tech community of people from all around the world, heavenly pizza, and tiny pancakes and you have a stellar weekend on your hands.

Thursday was the early bird day, with CHELSEA GRIN headlining. However, with Metalmance participating in camping shenanigans and being flooded out by rain of biblical proportions, there was only time to see THE ROYAL in the afternoon. Last time Metalmance saw these Dutch metalcore chaps, was in Boston Music Rooms supporting DREAMSHADE in March. Back then the band managed to stir up the crowd with their jumping-inducing tunes, and at Tech Fest it was no different, just on a bigger scale. Playing material from albums Dreamcatchers and their newest release, Seven, the band certainly won new fans over with their energetic set.

 

FRIDAY

Kicking off the weekend proper were London prog darlings FRAKTIONS. Metalmance recently had the pleasure of witnessing the band in Bristol supporting DEITIES, but their Tech Fest set was on another level. The group had brought their A-game, with vocalist Joel Pinder leading the performance with every vocal spot on. It was great to see a big turn out for the first band of the day and it’s clear to see how firmly wedged in the tech fam hearts FRAKTIONS are. If Tech Festers weren’t warmed up already, then they most certainly were after Kaan Tasan of NO CONSEQUENCE made a guest appearance. An impressive start to the festival by one of Britain’s promising progressive hopes.

Metalmance caught the second half of DREWSIF STALIN’S MUSICAL ENDEAVOURS and it was exactly as expected; fun, bordering on chaos with the man himself commanding the stage along with vocalist, Lee making a damn fine effort.

VALIS ABLAZE were up next on the Gigantic Stage. A solid set, the band were clearly well rehearsed, with material from latest EP Insularity shimmering amongst the setlist. Vocalist Phil Owen hits every note while guitarist Tom Moore steals the hearts with his evident joy of being there, demanding the most attention by performing on a front speaker. That is until the guest appearance of Drewsif Stalin (the producer of Insularity) stealing the focus away. Ending the set in high spirits and to a great response, it’s wonderful to see this talented band starting to receive the recognition they deserve.

Metalmance Valis Ablaze

From VALIS ABLAZE’s melodic progressive metal to something quite different, Metalmance entered the main arena to the irresistible riffy ruckus of British death metallers DYSCARNATE. Having never encountered the band before it’s safe to say the brutal trio ended up being one of Metalmance’s highlights of the festival. No nonsense, straight to your face, no gimmicks, the band deliver their material at 100mph. They treated their fans to a few new tracks from their forthcoming album. These songs have a blackened tinge to them, making the next release one of the most hotly anticipated of the year for us.

Deathcore masters MARTYR DEFILED deliver a polished set which loses none of its impressive intensity. This British lot have been touring for well over 5 years now, their ease at playing a ferocious show is evident. One of the veterans of the British scene and should remain so.

In a drunken haze, Metalmance caught bits of WITHIN DESTRUCTION and VIRVUM, both on the gigantic stage. Both very heavy. Heavy is the word which came to mind…

By the time the evening rolled round, everyone was buzzing for the headliners THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, but beforehand we all got warmed up with an absolute pummelling from the legendary ABORTED. Intense, disgustingly heavy and incredibly tight, the pioneers of Belgian deathgrind delighted the crowd with their impressive stage presence and set up. Skeletons graced the stage, backlit by eerie lighting. This, coupled with frontman Sven De Caluwe pacing up and down the platform and the technical instrumentation, all contributed to arguably one of the tightest sets of the whole weekend.

It was always going to be a challenging job to top ABORTED’s flawless set, but who better for the job than THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER? Their live reputation is well known, a stupidly tight and professional band, TBDM have always moved from strength to strength. Performing material spanning across their whole back catalogue, from Unhallowed to Abysmal, every song went down a treat with their fans. Of course, this year signals 10 years since the release of classic album Nocturnal, so several tracks were played tonight, including the fan favourite What a Horrible Night to Have a Curse, in preparation for their forthcoming tour playing the album in full. Feeding off the crowd’s enthusiasm, the band were clearly in high spirits and knocking out tune after tune. Frontman Trevor Strnad grabbed the inflatable banana which was being crowd surfed to the front. This bode the start of what would become a legendary year for inflatables at Tech Fest… Heads banging, pits, cheers and smiles all round were the result of TBDM’s set. You can’t help but to be left feeling impressed and upbeat once the band have rolled into town. A hard act to follow, the bar was set for the remainder of the weekend.

Valis Ablaze – Insularity

Self-release. Release date: 30th January 2017.

The opening bars of Insularity confront you with an instant TESSERACT vibe, which is never a bad thing if executed well, luckily in VALIS ABLAZE’s case, it is! Over the duration of the EP, this TESSERACT influence slowly ebbs away enabling VALIS ABLAZE to demonstrate the beginnings of the niche they are carving themselves in the UK tech metal scene. With the impressive vocals of new frontman Phil Owen and the progressive guitars by Ash Cook and Tom Moore, this band from Bristol achieve an ambitious sound with the help from producer Drewsif Stalin.

First track Resolution is reminiscent of One-era TESSERACT, with the bass-heavy verse and sprinkling of guitars which soon crash into a beastly riff and a catchy chorus fellow British metallers EXIT TEN would have been proud of. Inertia bursts into your consciousness with a glorious VOLA-esque riff, and it soon becomes apparent that VALIS ABLAZE have developed a knack for penning killer choruses and irresistible riffs. As unoriginal as that combination sounds, this band do actually provide top notch melodic goods with plenty of heart and power.

The electronic effects at the beginning of Lost in Syntax add another appealing dynamic to VALIS ABLAZE’s sound. The urgent riffs set the foundation for a high energy song which gathers pace then clears into a delicious haze of intricate elements. Title track Insularity has one of the most memorable beginnings on the EP, with a riff which borders on post-hardcore and a smattering of piano. This is one of the strongest tracks in terms of an original sound and diversity. Phil Owen also seems to find his own vocal style with this track which carries the song beautifully along until the last note fades out.

The urge to describe the opening riff of Persuasion as djent is strong, but it is a terrific punchy progressive number with subtle electronic flourishes here and there which enriches the sound. Things slow down a bit for the EP finale Legacy, which brings Insularity to a spectacular close. Bassist Kieran Hogarty also has his chance to shine, providing a rumbling bass riff throughout the emotionally intense song. The triumphant riff towards the end of the track leads into the progressive outro and brings Insularity to a final halt.

An impressive effort from another promising British progressive band, VALIS ABLAZE have all the components for something truly special. To push themselves to the forefront of the scene the band should focus on nurturing and fine-tuning their own sound, as the band have proved with this EP they already harness the talent and passion to potentially become a leading force themselves.