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FESTIVAL REVIEW: UK Tech-Fest 2017 – Saturday

With the sun still shining and temperatures soaring at this year’s UK Tech-Fest, spirits were at an all time high as the Saturday of this year’s festival brought another wave of technical and extravagant bands for festival-goers to behold. Distorted Sound‘s coverage (read our review of the Thursday and Friday here) continues with our lowdown of the Saturday of this year’s UK Tech-Fest 2017!

HARBINGER – Carillion Guitars Stage

Harbinger live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
Harbinger live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

Landing an early slot of the Saturday at this year’s UK Tech-Fest, English metallers HARBINGER brought the heavy for those still shaking off the antics of the previous night. Hard hitting riffs from Ben Sutherland and Charlie Griffiths were jam-packed with tight grooves and led the audio assault whilst frontman Tom Gardner did an impeccable job in his delivery of his monstrous vocal lines. With a tight-knit sound that allowed each aspect of HARBINGER‘s sound to flourish and showcased why this band are such an exciting prospect for British metal.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

NYCOSIA – Gigantic Stage

From the moment NYCOSIA hit the stage there was a distinct level of tension in the air. The stage presence of the band felt ominously unnerving, particularly when frontman Adam Barkley approached the crowd with a crazed look of intent in his eyes before they rapidly kicked into jarring, discordant riffs blended with vicious growls. For such a young band they wear their hearts on their sleeves and their passion for their craft shines through. You could sense the feeling of desperation interwoven within their performance as if they were portraying darker times in their lives which culminated in a very engrossing set.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Dan McHugh

THE FINE CONSTANT – Carillion Guitars Stage

The Fine Constant live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
The Fine Constant live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

The Saturday of UK Tech-Fest brought a whole host of proggy delights, and contributing to this theme in abundance were Wisconsin-based instrumental trio THE FINE CONSTANT. If you’ve heard of this band before, it’s probably thanks to their incredible lead guitarist Sarah Longfield; typically, her dancing fingers and sheer musicianship made for a thoroughly mesmerising performance, littered with an array of tapping, arpeggio sweeps, and beautiful melodies. Despite this, it’s rather difficult to make any further comments on the set; each song came with a flurry of technicality and tightness, however it became difficult to differentiate between each song due to the instrumental nature of the sound, and therefore it developed into what felt like a shred masterclass, with Longfield of course being at the forefront of it. As far as we were concerned (and presumably also a strong demographic of the UK Tech-Fest audience) this is nothing to complain about, however it has to be said that there was a certain absence of a song-writing aspect, and one that many may have preferred to have seen.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Sam Alberti

THE PARALLAX METHOD – Gigantic Stage

On the outside THE PARALLAX METHOD appeared to be taking a very relaxed and laid back approach in preparation of their performance but their understated stage presence proved to be very deceptive. They had talent in spades and this became quickly evident as they sailed through their progressive metal masterclass which was instantly comparable to the instrumental experimentation of DREAM THEATER. In support of their most recent EP The Squid the three piece constantly smiled throughout their performance and you instantly gained the impression you were getting to witness a band who are very passionate and thankful about having the opportunity to perform their music as the crowd were captivated by the intricate guitar licks and groovy bass lines.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Dan McHugh

EXIST IMMORTAL – Carillion Guitars Stage

Exist Immortal live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
Exist Immortal live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

EXIST IMMORTAL have been bubbling under the surface of the UK tech scene for some time now and their performance on the Carillion Guitars Stage showcased why the London based band are such an exciting prospect. The dual-pronged assault from guitarists Kurt Valencia and Mikey G allowed the band’s melodies to reign supreme and the balance was expertly struck, allowing each guitarist to thrive in their execution of trickery whilst frontman Meyrick de la Fuente showcased his class with phenomenal vocal lines that really added an extra dimension to EXIST IMMORTAL‘s live sound package. Through a steady pace and a soundscape that certainly appealed to the festival’s audience, EXIST IMMORTAL gave a sound and solid performance at UK Tech-Fest, one which solidifies the excitement behind one of the UK’s bright prospects.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

MAXI CURNOW – Gigantic Stage

One of the lesser known characters at this year’s UK Tech-Fest came in the shape of solo act MAXI CURNOW, another home-grown British act. In a nutshell, Maxi is a singer songwriter who seems to focus primarily on melody and ambience, and incorporates an array of influences from progressive rock to jazz and blues. All in all, MAXI CURNOW provided a refreshing break from the abundant heaviness and aggression that so heavily saturates UK Tech-Fest; the outfit as a whole consisted of himself and his vocals and lead guitar, in addition to a live bassist and, much to our surprise, the legendary Mike Malyan of DISPERSE on keys and synths. Without a drummer or anything too overpowering going on behind him, Maxi’s beautiful singing voice was able to soar above the mix, and his proggy riffs were allowed to take a significant front seat. In general, the impression from Maxi’s set was one that could be described as ‘vanilla’, both in good ways and potentially bad; it felt nothing short of relaxing watching him perform, however the drastic contrast from every other performance that day had the makings of being somewhat mundane. Despite this, it was still certainly a strong performance from an intriguing and talented British up-and-comer.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Sam Alberti

THE COLOUR LINE – Gigantic Stage

The Colour Line live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
The Colour Line live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

Acquiring probably one of the largest crowds that the Gigantic Stage experienced over the course of the weekend the crowd were rife with anticipation as to what anarchy and chaotic antics would occur. Especially considering this was one of the final dates on THE COLOUR LINE‘s farewell tour and their notorious reputation for pouring petrol on the health and safety guidebook it was exciting to wonder what the 4 piece had in store and they certainly didn’t disappoint. It took literally a matter of moments for the pits to start encapsulating the crowd with iconic frontman and resident lunatic Sam Rudderforth stood right in the middle the whirlwind of chaos. From the outset he had the entirety of the attendees in the palm of his hand, utterly fixated on his mesmerising presence. The remaining members of the band were certainly not spectators as guitarist Sam Arundell laughed in the face of security mounting the speakers whilst bassist Adam Dowd passed his bass to a member of the crowd providing cues like a crazed conductor. Various bouts of stage diving and crowd surfing were littered throughout their set and THE COLOUR LINE left the stage to a rapturous response as well as leaving their mark on the patrons of UK Tech-Fest for years to come.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Dan McHugh

RED SEAS FIRE – Gigantic Stage

Red Seas Fire live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
Red Seas Fire live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

The spark that kept RED SEAS FIRE alive was seemingly extinguished in 2015 when the band fell silent for quite some time so it was quite a relief when they announced back in May 2016 that they were working on new material and later announced they would be making a return to UK Tech-Fest. The four piece powered through their back catalogue with relentless precision as their material sounded as huge as ever. The only disappointing factor was that the crowd dwindled due to the intense heat which had engulfed both stages for the majority of the day leaving many patrons feeling particularly weary but nevertheless RED SEAS FIRE persevered and provided a consummate performance instantaneously putting them back on the map and defiantly proclaiming that there is still a lot to come in the future.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Dan McHugh

UNEVEN STRUCTURE – Carillion Guitars Stage

Uneven Structure live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
Uneven Structure live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

It almost goes without saying that French outfit UNEVEN STRUCTURE were one of the prog giants of the festival this year. Despite what is evidently an extreme capability from them not only on record but in a live setting, they were due to pre-empt the mighty OBSCURA on the main stage, and so the pressure was certainly on. Incidentally, they were undoubtedly as tight as expected, considering their track record; powering through a 45 minute mix of material, including a good selection from their latest affair La Partition, the sextet were able to create a strong atmosphere within the room by boasting a tight sound, confident stage presence, and a general proggy ambience that is nothing short of characteristic of this band. Adding nicely to their impact was also the fact that they clearly had a strong following at the festival, and so the songs seemed to be very well received by the crowd. In contrast to this however, it became apparent that the strongest UNEVEN STRUCTURE sound was coming as a result of older songs from 8 and Februus; it may be the case that songs from their latest attempt are less suited for a live setting, and translate poorly in comparison, as a result of them having been written as part of a full album rather than individual songs in their own right. Having said this, it’s difficult once again to take anything away from the actual performance and sound of UNEVEN STRUCTURE.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Sam Alberti

PERSEFONE – Gigantic Stage

Saturday’s evening of entertainment proved far more varied than Friday’s iteration. As dusk settled, taking their positions upon the second stage were Andorran progressive death metal masters PERSEFONE. Unfortunately, before even beginning their set, they had some problematic news to deliver. Their keyboardist and clean vocalist had been hospitalised shortly before their departure for Britain, leaving them without a key component of their music. This was a major setback, and technical difficulties made it impractical to play his portions as samples, further compounding the calamity. Despite this setback, and much to the band’s cult following’s approval, they insisted the show must go on. This was quite a testament to the band’s dedication to their craft, for it became apparent in the first minute why this was such a serious blow. However, this serious blow was only truly visible for a few moments. If anyone had, for some inexplicable reason ever questioned the complexities of PERSEFONE’s music, the hour of music that the band delivered would quash all doubts. Even with their effective loss of two sevenths of their music, one could be forgiven for not noticing. If they had not announced the situation, it would undoubtedly be difficult to realise anything was wrong due to the fullness of the sound they delivered.

Indeed, PERSEFONE delivered one of the most impressive technical achievements of the weekend at UK Tech-Fest. The jaw-dropping prowess with which they performed was nothing short of phenomenal. Between fantastically carved riffs and melodies, solos and shred, the band more than made up for their technical difficulties. In fact, in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps, their harsh vocalist Marc Martins began to perform some sections of clean vocals, though one could tell he was not as confident as one could hope. PERSEFONE’s dizzying musical mastery was perhaps the height of technicality for the weekend. Even with some significant setbacks, the band still performed at the top of their game, and left a crowd completely awestricken. Few acts today could hope to compete with this act, in terms of both performance and professionalism.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Henry Jones

OBSCURA – Carillion Guitars Stage

Obscura live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
Obscura live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

Following PERSEFONE’s electrifying set, UK Tech Fest‘s hordes began to congregate before the main stage for the evening’s sub-headliner, German technical death metal legends OBSCURA. Typifying the far more “tech” theme of this year’s line up, the band certainly had a tough standard to compete with, considering their set had been preceded by that of PERSEFONE. And yet, despite OBSCURA performing within a millimetre of perfection, their set seemed to fall flat compared to the vibrant experiences of the day. Perhaps it is simply a result of the technical death metal genre overtaking OBSCURA’s contribution to it. Their music has become the norm, rather than the overly complex exception, which, while being extremely comforting to a technical death metal fan, for never has there been more choice on the market, doesn’t bode well for those that refuse to innovate. And this itself is something of a shame, for there was once an era when OBSCURA’s music was considered great innovation on the death metal formula.

That’s not to say OBSCURA’s performance was substandard or defective. Again, they performed as well as could be expected. Unfortunately, they simply proved to be somewhat dull. It could be reasoned that this stems from the format of the band. While Steffen Kummerer’s vocals and fretboard skills were certainly up to scratch, the combination of the two, on top of OBSCURA’s already demanding musical palette, rendered the band’s frontman a static installation upon the stage. When your music is as fast and as complex as OBSCURA’s, being a static object can be as a spanner between gears. It’s unfortunate, but OBSCURA, despite being a genre founder and staple, proved to be somewhat disappointing. Regardless of how well one can perform, if one lacks the natural charisma needed to be a performer, it can cause your performance to falter. A slight blemish on the reputation of an incredible band.

Rating: 6/10

Words: Henry Jones

TEXTURES – Carillion Guitars Stage

Textures live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
Textures live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

Billed as their last ever UK festival appearance, the headlining set from TEXTURES gave fans a chance to see one of progressive metal’s giants take to the stage for a performance of sheer class. From the monolithic riffing of Shaping A Single Grain of Sand from guitarists Bart Hennephof and Joe Tal to the soaring melodies of Awake the band were firing on all cylinders, showcasing the sheer quality behind TEXTURES. Frontman Daniël de Jongh was in fine form as his harsh vocals packed a punch whilst his clean vocal lines raised the hairs on the back of your neck, Timeless being an exceptional example of this, and his energy on stage transcended to the crowd to great effect. From choruses being sang back to the band and a battle of the ages featuring an inflatable T-Rex and flamingo, TEXTURES‘ set was utterly enjoyable throughout. With a razor-sharp sound and a tight unity from the sextet, TEXTURES gave a phenomenal headlining performance and as the curtain closes for the band, it feels bittersweet, as there will be a gaping hole left in their wake.

Rating: 9/10

Words: James Weaver

And there we have it, our coverage of the Saturday of UK Tech-Fest 2017! Be sure to keep posted to Distorted Sound as we bring you the final day of our coverage of this year’s festival and, for now, look at our photo gallery from Serena Hill Photography:

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