FESTIVAL REVIEW: TECH-FEST 2017 Live at Newark Showground, UK – Day 2 (Friday)
After a strong pre-show, Friday saw the majority of the stragglers pitch their tents in the baking sun. Musically, the day got off to a weak start with second stage openers Fraktions. Though musically decent, less than stellar vocals and a cringe-inducing stage presence from the frontman left Fraktions as one of the most disappointing bands of the weekend. However, proceedings vastly improved with Australian James Norbert Ivanyi opening up the main stage. The solo shredder showed an extreme talent, and though I lost interest in the instrumental set nearer the end, no one could argue that he doesn’t have some serious chops.
Hieroglyph were next up on the second stage, and the dual-vocal attack of Mark Howes and Italian Valentina Reptile offering a brilliant contrast and something a bit different. While some of the riffs sounded a bit generic, both vocalists carried the band through a stellar set. The UK’s answer to Dying Fetus, Dyscarnate delivered an astoundingly brutal set, displaying a tightness that wasn’t present during their Heavy Scotland set earlier this year. The trio are certainly one of the most promising bands in the UK death metal underground – watch out for their third full-length and Unique Leader Records debut ‘With All Might‘, due in September. If their Tech-Fest set is anything to judge by, it’s going to crush. I missed the start of slam-masters Within Destruction’s crushing set as I checked out a masterclass from the nicest guy in death metal, Aborted shredder Mendel bij de Leij, who offered a brilliant insight into his riff-crafting, Aborted’s songwriting in general, and how to shred like a pro. I did duck out early to catch some of Within Destruction, however, and though slam isn’t really my thing, in a live setting Within Destruction absolutely slay.
One of my highlights for Friday, and the weekend as a whole, were Swiss tech-death newbies Virvum. There has been an incredible buzz and a lot of love online for the Swiss five-piece following the release of their utterly magnificent debut album ‘Illuminance‘ in September last year – and it is rightly deserved. The band came out of nowhere and delivered one of the best albums of the year, and one of tech-death’s strongest records in a long, long time. I was somewhat concerned at how the band would bring such a beautiful sounding, exquisitely produced collection of songs into a live setting, but I would most definitely not be alone is saying Virvum not only delivered, they absolutely ruined Tech-Fest with an incredible performance of expertly crafted progressive tech-death. This may have been their UK debut, but based on the strength of their set, it won’t be long before Virvum are back on our shores.
Rolo Tomassi were the next band to grace the main stage, but unfortunately, I don’t see the appeal. A decent live band for sure, but not a band I would find myself recommending them to a new-comer to the genre. Following them on the main stage, Hacktivist provided some fun before the brutality took hold for Friday night. Though their brand of rap metal isn’t something I would necessarily choose to listen to myself, their live show is crammed with bouncing riffs, well-placed rapping and above all, fun. Second stage headliners Oceans Ate Alaska found themselves with a disappointing crowd – perhaps they were a bit too –core for the tech-obsessed crowds, perhaps it was just the right time of day for people to grab a beer and some food, perhaps it was due to the Tech-Fest associated headline run they had completed just before the festival. Whatever the reason, Oceans Ate Alaska did not let a poor turnout stop them from smashing the second stage to pieces.
Aborted and The Black Dahlia Murder seem like two perfect bands to tour together. Both play a brand of metal that is serious and extreme, tackling lyrical concepts that are not for the faint of heart. And while both bands take the music they play very seriously, neither band takes themselves seriously in the slightest – yes, they are extreme and write about gory subjects that would turn the stomach of those not well-versed in death metal and/or horror, but they’ll be damned if they can’t have fun doing it. Together, the two bands delivered the best one-two punch of the weekend. Aborted are as tight as tight gets, ripping their way through ultra-brutal death metal with a smile – “This next song is about Pokémon… oh, no, it’s about killing people. Still, gotta catch ’em all!” was probably the best quote from a band of the whole weekend. Focusing largely on newer material, Aborted showed the already fragile-necked crowd that they are not to be fucked with – though they have been a band for over two decades, their time is now, and they are not slowing down any time soon. It would take a very good band to play tracks from an album as flawless as ‘Retrogore‘ perfectly, but Aborted made it look easy.
Detroit’s The Black Dahlia Murder were the headliners for Day One – a UK exclusive for 2017, and no doubt one of the last European shows before their new album drops later this year. With 2017 marking the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough album, ‘Nocturnal‘, there was a lot of speculation from their legion of fans about what the set-list would be like – they announced they would be playing ‘Nocturnal‘ in full during America’s Summer Slaughter tour, could Tech-Fest expect the same special treatment? As it turned out, not quite. But they did play a size-able chunk, and focused a lot more on older tracks than anything from the last couple of albums. The melodic death metal titans blistered through a near-perfectly executed set of classic, set-list mainstays mixed with some forgotten gems. Although witnessing the brutality of “In Hell Is Where She Waits For Me,” “Raped In Hatred By Vines of Thorn,” “Everything Went Black” and “What A Horrible Night To Have A Curse” is truly something to behold, witnessing tracks like “Nocturnal,” “I Worship Only What You Bleed,” “Climatic Degradation” and “To A Breathless Oblivion” performed to such a high standard felt truly special – it’s unlikely many of the songs played will feature in the set again in the near future.
From the opening moments of The Black Dahlia Murder’s set to the all-too-soon end, the pit was a constant maelstrom of carnage, arms were raised in a flurry of fist-pumps and there was scarcely a neck not swinging. Despite being a whipping boy for elitists, The Black Dahlia Murder are one of the tightest and most sonically eviscerating death metal bands in the live circuit – unstoppable, brutal, immortal.