We’re at the first incarnation of a brand new Progressive Metal Festival in Guildford Surrey, taking place in a Casino a stones throw from the train station. It promises two days of wall to wall Metal with a wide range of bands we know well taking to a pair of stages with no overlapping sets. Who could ask for more? First impressions are that while the venue looks like an older biker gambling establishment outside with black and neon lights, inside the stages are on split levels and it all looks immenc, especially with the custom lighting on the main stage. Oh and the sound engineer for the main stage is the one from Tech-Fest!
Visionist [8/10] get things off to a flyer in front of a filling main stage with their heavy low end Tech-Metal cuts like “Aftermath” that have behind them ambient Progressive backdrops that are bless through to be stuccato riffage and even kit work. The DJentisms aren’t only enjoyed by us but also by Loathe Guitarist Eric Bickerstaffe. A pair of new tunes confirm that their future should be bright enough to burn your retinas.
The Deadlights [6/10] are a instrumental quartet from these parts who inject that cinematic quality into their sound. The sound being that of your classic Italian subtitled film. It is the third time we’ve seen London based Harbinger [9/10] this year, following their hugely successful European tour in support of Rings of Saturn and Nekrogoblikon back in May and again smashing it on the Fireball Whiskey stage at Tech-Fest earlier in the summer. They are perhaps lower on the bill today than we would have expected but with their debut full length “Compelled To Suffer” making up the majority of the set, they don’t seem to care. They smash out a set in front of a packed main stage with Tom Gardner leading from the front. Achieving the first circle pit of the day is no mean feat. Shattered Skies [7/10] play a set of cuts that has in part “Muted Neon” colours. When your vocalist says that he’s not needed for the songs and just there for the dancing, it’s a fair tribute to the rest of the band, who after a Megadeth inspired warm up are all in, it should be enough said. In some ways it seems to have been a strange time for Loathe [10/10]. They’ve been on some impressive tours and some odd ones as well (Hollywood Undead?!), while their label SharpTone Records have hinted at their sophomore album. We heard a new song in their set last time out at the Employed To Serve album release show for “Eternal Forward Motion”. They smash out an incredible set of cuts including a simply phenomenal version of “White Hot” that leaves the crowd out for blood. There stage presence is second to none and their bass heavy DJent groove with a smattering of Deftones inspiration makes them a band primed to crack the US. Harbinger frontman Tom Gardener joins them on stage for a tune and with two stepping going off for every song, their set is simply masterful. Mask of Judas [8/10] if a vocalist existed that encapsulated the range of both Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepard of Butcher Babies and fronted a Progressive leaning DJent heavy band. Well she does and she’s right here. They deliver slab after slab of DJent groove with Progressive breaks and while appear after Loathe is a challenge, they carry it off with style. Probably the biggest surprise on the bill at Radar Festival are Polar [7/10]. They are Guildford natives and with a new album and participating in the Impericon Never Say Die Tour later this year so perhaps that had something to do with it. They hammer out a two step worthy set that is the sort of Hardcore that goes down incredibly well in Europe. The heavier edged tunes work well and they know how to work a crowd, it’s just that when they throw in a few post-hardcore elements or big sing a long moments it’s a bit flat. Unprocessed [10/10] have a new album on the way on 9th August album entitled “Artificial Void” which will be appearing via label of the moment Long Branch Records (an imprint of German giant SPV) and we’ve heard “Fear”, “Abandoned” and “Prototype” from it in the pre-release wave. They’re simply phenomenal and a humble enough not to expect the capacity crowd they get on the smaller of the two stages for what is nothing short of a blistering set laiden with crowd surfing galore! Uneven Structure [6/10] are getting ready for their third album in October. Called “Paragon”, it is very much seen as the French quartets big moment. This year also marks a decade since their debut EP “8”. They have a great balance in their sound but seem out of place this high up on the billing. Eschar [6/10] hail from Guildford and offer some Progressive Tech-Rock relief from the onslaught that has been some of today’s acts. They have an album in “Nova” that shows great promise. The Secret Act [4/10] is Black Futures who have more people in bio suits as dancers than they actually do in the band. They have a blend of Psychobilly Punk with Industrial Rock that basically makes them sound like Marilyn Manson. They stick out like a sore thumb, some love it and some don’t, a total Marmite band.
Sumer [7/10] on the other hand are a sort of Post-Metal with Progressive leanings band that have 3 guitarists and 2 vocalists in their ranks and sound like Gojiria met Led Zeppelin down a dark alley. It’s a thunderous affair. Fresh from the first tours for their fourth album “Disconnect”, the first with Kaan Tasan fronting the band Heart Of A Coward [9/10] suffer a major technical outage after their opening tune but manage to get back on track after a couple of minutes of “dead air” and prove that they are once again a force to be reckoned with in the live arena. “Collapse” and the tune that started it all, “Shade” are sheer perfection and a capacity crowd are left baying for blood. Toska [8/10] have come a long way since we last saw them live at Tech-Fest 2017. Their debut full length “Fire From The Silos” is a critically acclaimed film score of an album and live there are so many more nuanced bits and tempo changes that it has to be seen to be believed. They’re the classical music version of metal. Soon to be heading over to the US, Monuments [9/10] have announced that Andy Cizek of Makari will continue as the replacement for Chris Barretto who exited the band at the beginning of the summer for at least that tour. He was impressive during the bands short but sweet set as the Saturday headliner at UK Tech-Fest. As you would expect, the set draws heavily on current album “Phronesis” and is frankly a joy. It’s clear that the run to Tech-Fest has given their new vocalist the confidence and the band that extra bit of trust and that is something that will only get stronger with more shows.