FESTIVAL REVIEW: ARCTANGENT 2019 Live At Fernhill Farm, UK – Day 3 (Saturday)
Battered but well-slept after the almost torturous day 2, I was ready to rock my entire list of bands for the final day. I first headed to the front row to check out promising prog/math rock band called The Physics House Band, a unique and interesting quartet, playing interesting experimental music. Two of the members stuck exclusively the bass and drums, while two of the others shuffled from the sax and guitars to keys. A lot of the songs were written around extraordinarily tight drum sequences, and the bass was lively throughout. The saxophone player got a lot of limelight too, almost being at center stage at times.
Shortly after were Azusa, whose set was completely ruined by sound issues. The quintet put out an interesting djent-core album titled ‘Heavy Yoke’ last year, with fantastic vocals by front-woman Eleni Zafiriadou. However, she had constant issues with her headset, meaning that she couldn’t hear her or anyone else play. Her throwing a strop at the drummer, who seemed to be the one in charge of the sound from the band’s end, was the ugliest moment of the festival. There were other issues too, revealed during the first track, where the bass was not audible, though this one was on the venue. The songs which they did play were good, the double mics for cleans and harshes were an interesting feature. The mood was spoilt a few songs into the set though, as the vocalist wasn’t enjoying herself and making it obvious to both the audience and her teammates.
Thankfully after a short break with Three Trapped Tigers in the surround, I headed to Yohkai stage where I was front-row for The Contortionist. Arriving almost exactly on time for their set, this was the most energetic I’ve seen them. The usually mellow songs off ‘Clairvoyant’, such as “Godspeed” and closer “Return to Earth” had a few interspersed harsh vocals that made than livelier. Michael Lessard was in inspired form, using hand gestures that reflect the lyrics in his usual style, in “Language” particularly. On the short set was also the ultra-heavy “Flourish” and a track, “Early Graves”, from their new EP ‘Our Bones’. They’re one of the great prog acts today and they continue to prove it in the studio and on tour.
After another short break, I headed to the Bixler stage to get my first experience of Car Bomb live. They were in great form too, albeit slightly less insane than the Frontierer experience the night before, though their math-rock style clearly had equally passionate takers. Unlike the latter band, this one did have a few clean vocals, which were delivered well. The pew-pew guitar effects sounded fun live, and the crowd loved to make a similar sound during the short pauses. They also debuted two new tracks on the day. I then quickly shifted to the Arc Stage, where we got an hour length of the Cult of Luna experience. Featuring an immense set-list of various tracks from most of their discography (save for ‘Mariner’), their performance was filled with intense lighting, thunderous drumming, and piercing screams. The songs with the double drums were massive, while one of the drummers shifted to alternative percussion during other tracks. The keyboardist used twinges and effects to add to the atmosphere. They featured a couple of gorgeous new tracks too, though this wasn’t made explicit as they didn’t utter a word during the performance.
Sadly missing Employed to Serve the next stage, I made the decision to stay back and play the waiting game in preparation for the biggest acts of the festival, Meshuggah, on a terrain which was at that point a wet, unstable mess. The wait was clearly worth it and I witnessed the light frameworks being set up for something clearly grandiose in the context of the festival’s history. While my knowledge of their individual songs is limited (hope to change that soon), I was made aware that they played a wide variety of tracks from a discography that can have influenced many of today’s djent and math-core acts. The grooves were irresistible and seeing Jens Kidman use his customary head-bang expressions up close made surviving a rampant pit worth it. The crowd were wild the entire duration the mud clearly not stopping them from thrashing around as thuds rung around them. Almost every metal man today recognizes “Bleed”, the song’s du-du-du-du groove getting even the most passive of fans to move during the encore.
It was a perfect closing performance to a brilliant third day, and despite a slight hiccup on the second day, I was very impressed with the overall vibes I got from the festival: the people, the food, the atmosphere and the weather (I joke).