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FESTIVAL REVIEW: UK Tech-Fest 2017 – Thursday & Friday

UK Tech-Fest, the annual extravaganza of all things tech-death, progressive and djent, returned in full force this year. Across four days, this year’s festival featured a staggering lineup featuring some of the best progressive and technical bands currently in the scene. Distorted Sound was there in force at this year’s festival and so, let the coverage begin. Here is our lowdown of the Thursday and Friday of this year’s UK Tech-Fest!

THE ROYAL (Thursday)

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

On the back of their hard-hitting release, Seven, which was released earlier this year, Dutch metalcore mob THE ROYAL brought energy in its abundance to UK Tech-Fest. From a dual charged riff assault from guitarists JD Liefting and Pim Wesselink had the crowd bouncing whilst frontman Semuel Pisarahu did a formidable job of leading the line with his vocal barks throughout the band’s set. Whilst their sound isn’t particularly original, THE ROYAL injected plenty of energy to warm up the crowd on the first day of UK Tech-Fest!

Rating: 7/10

Words: James Weaver

SHATTERED SKIES (Thursday)

The offering of bands on the opening day were predominantly on the heavier/crazier side of the spectrum so the inclusion of progressive metal outfit SHATTERED SKIES was a welcome change of pace. With their energetic and upbeat tempo they took full advantage of the time constraints as frontman Gerry Brown exhibited an impressive range of soaring highs whilst they showcased some new material from their most recent effort Auxilium // Vol I.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Dan McHugh

THE ARUSHA ACCORD (Thursday)

One of the biggest draws at this year’s edition of UK Tech-Fest was the triumphant and long anticipated return of THE ARUSHA ACCORD, one of the bands which put their stamp on the scene during its infancy with their highly regarded album The Echo Verses. By the time they approached the stage the atmosphere had reached fever pitch and they quickly proved there was no evidence of rust as they piledrived through classics such as Dead To Me and The New Face Of Revenge. The only issue which hindered their set was the vocals felt like they were lost in the chaos and with their dual vocal collaboration being one of the key aspects of their distinctive sound it somewhat dampened the enthusiasm of a large portion of the crowd. This criticism aside the Reading sextet pulled a memorable performance out of the bag which satisfied the fans of old and grabbed the attention of any newcomers.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Dan McHugh

CHELSEA GRIN (Thursday Headliner)

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

The first day of a festival can often prove to be sluggish affair, with the abrupt nature of the heat and the fatigue proving for many to be nothing short of a challenge. Despite this, and of course the aggressive emergence of the evening’s flash-floods, deathcore titans CHELSEA GRIN took to the stage as Thursday’s headliner and put on a performance to truly lift the spirits of hundreds of early-bird punters. Powering through a sixty-minute-strong set containing a broad range of material, the Utahan quintet certainly proved to silence those who questioned their compatibility with UK Tech-Fest. Their presence was confident, their performance was tight, and having taken a few songs for their engineers to find the sonic sweet-spot, the sound was able to translate very well for the majority of the set. All in all, CHELSEA GRIN managed to grace the Thursday of Tech-Fest with energy and entertainment, and succeeded in suppressing not only the onslaught of rain, but the prediction that their appearance at the festival would be somewhat underwhelming.

Rating: 8.5/10

Words: Sam Alberti

FRAKTIONS – Gigantic Stage

As far as Distorted Sound were concerned, London-based prog outfit FRAKTIONS was very much a “let’s go and see what these guys are about” sort of slot. Their debut EP Anguish was nothing short of an intriguing display of technical prowess, however it remained to be seen how this would translate in a live setting, and particularly one that was set to take place as a second-stage opener at midday. Much to our satisfaction, they certainly brought the noise with what was a thoroughly engaging and entertaining set. Vocalist Joel Pinder was able to front the band very well, with a great range of clean and harsh vocals and a confident and excitable stage presence, and in addition the instrumentation came across brilliantly, with the tight riffing and abundant polyrhythms allowing for a decidedly well-rounded performance. That being said, a gun-to-my-head criticism would undoubtedly come in the shape of the mix and live production, which at times was prone to feeling empty and flat; however the band were still able give a great overall performance to kick the day off, and as a young British act, we certainly commend them for that.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Sam Alberti

HIEROGLYPH – Gigantic Stage

On the back of their debut, Ouroboros, rising progressive metallers HIEROGLYPH came to UK Tech-Fest on bubbling momentum and their performance on the Gigantic Stage at this year’s festival showcased professionalism and genuine excitement for this promising band. Through their expansive sound thanks to the slick riffs from guitarists Sam Butterfield and Richard Barnes, it allowed dual vocalists Mark Howes and Valentina Reptile to thrive in fronting HIEROGLYPH‘s live stage presence. Both Howes and Valentina bounced off each other, adding subtle melodies in their respective vocal hooks and it resulted in HIEROGLYPH giving a truly gripping and enjoyable performance, one which showcased why this band are bound for great things in the UK progressive scene.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

DREWSIF STALIN’S MUSICAL ENDEAVOURS – Carillion Guitars Stage

Drewsif Stalin's Musical Endeavours live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
Drewsif Stalin’s Musical Endeavours live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

DREWSIF STALIN has progressed in leaps and bounds since becoming a YouTube sensation that grew in notoriety for putting his own comedic spin on the likes of ONE DIRECTION and Miley Cyrus. The Baltimore based musician has now recruited a host of misfits to accompany him in bringing his vision to life in the form of DREWSIF STALIN’S MUSICAL ENDEAVOURS and has since become a staple of the tech metal scene. The combination of Drewsif’s commanding, animated stage presence and frontman Lee Mintz’s charming nature were infectious and endearing, you couldn’t help but smile throughout their performance. It became quickly apparent they were in their element whilst on stage and it resulted in a very entertaining experience that was seemingly over in moments.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Dan McHugh

VALIS ABLAZE – Gigantic Stage

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

VALIS ABLAZE are relatively new on the scene but in their short tenure they have gained an impressive following with their vivid and diverse sound. At the beginning of this year they released their second EP entitled Insularity to a rapturous response from the tech metal faithful and a large majority of the attendees arrived at the Gigantic Stage to see if they could live up to the standard they had set for themselves. Taking advantage of the time available to them they wasted little time firing through their set with flawless precision which captured the essence of their recordings perfectly. Every key moment and vocal passage was executed to perfection and their performance was a warning shot to the rest of the scene, either up your game or step aside as the bar has been set. A cameo appearance by the comical Drewsif Stalin rounded the set off nicely.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Dan McHugh

DYSCARNATE – Carillion Guitars Stage

Since their re-emergence on the scene DYSCARNATE have been laying waste to venues staking their claim for dominance and 2017 witnesses their highly awaited return to UK Tech-Fest. Remaining as a three-piece since their shake-up they still continue to baffle crowds with their huge sounding, consistently energy ridden performances that leave little room for respite and with a new album on the horizon they gave the crowd a preview of what to expect in the form of Iron Sharpens Iron amongst other tracks. In a set filled with frantically paced material such as The Promethean and A Drone In The Hive they make a big statement that they are not to be underestimated and this could be the year that they rise up to the top.

Rating: 7/10

Words: Dan McHugh

MARTYR DEFILED – Carillion Guitars Stage

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

With the sun still shining and the crowd nicely warmed up, Lincolnshire deathcore powerhouse MARTYR DEFILED took to the stage at 3PM, and swiftly began doing precisely what we expect of them. Despite this performance marking their return from a lengthy hiatus, it became apparent after approximately ten seconds that MARTYR DEFILED were officially back; hitting the stage and immediately smashing through one of the fan-favourites LVCIFER, their sound was tight, confident, and brutal, and made as much impact as you’d want a return performance to. Equally apparent was the fact that frontman Matt Jones clearly hasn’t lost an iota of audacity and self-assurance; his vocals sounded near-perfect, and within minutes he endeavoured to jump straight into the crowd and conclude the vocal parts of the first song whilst standing in the middle of the mosh pit, which was a touch that really added to the impression of the band’s return. For the remainder of the set, the quintet continued to enthuse the crowd by powering through several more of their greatest hits, and opting to play just one track from their new record Young Gods; a move that felt very necessary considering the years of fans yearning for the return of the band they knew and loved. In summary, this marked an assured and impactful return from one of the UK Tech-Metal scene’s favourite outfits, and after fair consideration, it was rather difficult to find fault with it.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Sam Alberti

WITHIN DESTRUCTION – Gigantic Stage

Friday night saw one of the heaviest bands on the card step up to the stage in the form of WITHIN DESTRUCTION. In support of their most recent album Void the punishing slabs of slam metal were in full force accompanied by ferocious guttural belllows and screeching pig squeals inciting multiple circle pits. A lot of bands in the death metal circuit take themselves very seriously particularly with their stage presence and overall demeanour but the Slovenian quartet threw the macho exterior to the wind throwing in a few casual dabs for good measure and also weren’t afraid to bring some light hearted entertainment into the mix courtesy of an amusing Danielle Bregoli soundbyte. It was a testament to the appeal and hype around UK Tech-Fest that WITHIN DESTRUCTION commendably travelled all the way from Slovenia with the sole purpose of playing a 30 minute set which shows how eager bands are to be a part of such a prestigious event.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Dan McHugh

VIRVUM – Gigantic Stage

As Friday’s afternoon progressed in earnest, Newark was very fittingly joined by one of metal’s current meteoric ascents, Zurich-based progressive technical death metal enthusiasts VIRVUM. Bursting onto the scene with late 2016 release of Illuminance, an exquisitely-crafted piece of FALLUJAH-esque melodies and motifs, the band has made some significant waves in practically every direction, and climbed the festival’s second stage to excited whispers and rising ambience. Launching into a no-nonsense tour of their material, the band was in fact able to fit significant portions of their debut record into their set, running through their more popular numbers with deliberate and decided accuracy, including their ten minute epic A Final Warming Shrine. The set was incredibly well balanced, once again showcasing Tech-Fest‘s impeccable mixing and live production capabilities, with bass and kick drum linking to provide an impactful backing to tremolo riffs and tasteful leads. Their dedication to their craft proved palpable, and while in the grander scheme of things, VIRVUM may not have appealed to everyone, here in Newark’s tiny microcosm of musicality, it wasn’t hard for them to quickly catch the attentions and ears of much of the festival. It isn’t a unique sound by any means, but it’s one they know, and know well, allowing them to cement themselves as a highlight of the weekend.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Henry Jones

HACKTIVIST – Carillion Guitars Stage

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

Perhaps another of the more controversial selections for this year’s line-up, grime-djent outfit HACKTIVIST certainly had to make an impression in order to justify their third-from-top position on the bill. Luckily, they did so for the most part with relative ease, bringing an uncanny aura of energy and enthusiasm that seemed to imprint directly on the crowd. The reaction across the board was decidedly positive, with what felt like a sea of jumping and dancing, mosh pits and circle pits, and generally everything that you’d want to see from a festival crowd at 6pm. It has to be said that this reaction is a fairly standard effect of HACKTIVIST‘s general style, however the performance itself was also rather impressive; the songs were played tightly with virtually zero mistakes, and the grime vocals in particular were able to translate very well. This is partly thanks to new vocalist Jot Maxi, who seems to have settled in with ease, and is greatly contributing to the energy and vigour that this band bring. Having said all of this, it did become clear exactly what role HACKTIVIST were booked to play; they very much felt like the ‘party’ band that was there to play grooves and breakdowns, and subsequently motivate the crowd for the headliners. Despite being instrumentally tight and well-received by the crowd, they represented a clear gulf from what we know to be a ‘Tech-Fest band’, and as far as we were concerned, this was a strong take-home message.

Rating: 8/10

Words: Sam Alberti

ABORTED – Carillion Guitars Stage

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

ABORTED have a lengthy history of being a top-tier live act. Critically acclaimed both on album and off, they have continued pushing musical boundaries, if not in creativity then in extremity. For if there was a single word to denote ABORTED’s place in the tech death pantheon, it’s “extreme”. From crushing low grooves, to furious high end riffs, the band has distilled their craft to a science by this point in their career. The resultant setlist was relentless and ruthless, transforming a dense aircraft hangar into a chaotic sea of people, the sheer intensity with which the five-piece operated fearsome to behold, between the almost depraved antics of the group’s frontman, and the volatile trade-off solos of the pair of guitarists. One of the few critiques one might be able to levy against the band is the distinct monochromatic flavour of their catalogue, but this is of course a case of the band and how one engages with their music. Regardless of how one feels about their music, one would be hard-pressed to argue that they did not step up to the occasion with brilliance. Improving with every outing, both on the stage and off, the Belgian blast beat brigade will no doubt be seen as the unit of measure against which most modern technical death metal is compared. Indeed, there are few bands around today that could hold their own compared to such a performance, and a good many of them were already booked for the weekend. The hour that the group was offered was more than ample to prove as much to any dissenters that still inexplicably remained in what was perhaps the strongest death metal outing of the weekend. One would be a fool to pass on the experience.

Rating: 9/10

Words: Henry Jones

THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER – Carillion Guitars Stage

The Black Dahlia Murder live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography
The Black Dahlia Murder live @ UK Tech-Fest 2017. Photo Credit: Serena Hill Photography

Now 16 years into their career, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER have grown to one of the most consistently sound bands, both through their studio records and live reputation, and the band delivered a headlining performance to UK Tech-Fest that demonstrated why THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER are so revered within our world. Boasting a razor-sharp sound, the band instantly fired on all cylinders through the manic introduction of What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse and the momentum continued to be kept in top gear consistently throughout their set. Powering through set covering all areas of their beloved discography, with a healthy addition of material from Nocturnal, the reaction from the crowed was emphatic and this was only bolstered by the band’s tight and solid wall of sound. Strong and visceral rhythms led the carnage, new guitarist Brandon Ellis gave a masterclass with effortless execution of leads and ripping solos and Trevor Strnad demonstrated why he is one of the best vocalists in death metal through high shrieks and guttural lows. This was a performance of real intent and one which showcased the sheer prowess and excellence of THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER and marked an explosive and satisfying end to the Friday of UK Tech-Fest.

Rating: 9/10

Words: James Weaver

And that is our coverage of the Thursday and Friday of UK Tech-Fest 2017! Keep an eye on our website for our lowdown of the Saturday and Sunday of this year’s festival! In the meantime check our our photo gallery of Thursday and Friday’s action of UK Tech-Fest 2017 from Distorted Sound’s photographer Serena Hill here:

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