Live Review: Tech-Fest: Day #2: Friday!

Ignore talk about Friday being the first day proper of Tech-Fest because there were capacity crowds for Deathcore brutes Bound In Fear and Progressive Metal masters Exist Immortal last night. This morning starts of painfully early because having been a freezing cold night in Newark, come the morning it’s roasting hot in the tent. Still, a can of Ultra Fiesta Mango Monster and a shower later (yes! They have showers at Tech-Fest and they’re bloody beautiful!) and we’re right as rain. Just need to wait for the Pizza Stage to open for the famous breakfast calzone…

Lightbulb stealing Progressive Deathcore quintet Voidwalker [8/10] shake off the cobwebs of the night before with a blistering set including the macabre “History Repeats“, slower somber number that doesn’t prepare us for the throat splitting brutality to follow. Can anyone else have a Progressive Metal tapping section followed by a downtempo Deathcore breakdown in the same song? Bristol’s In Fear [8/10] use their time to premier a some of new songs as they blast through a wealth of DJent heavy material. In the gaps between the the off kilter melodies they have eerie synths bleeding through while the effeminate clean vocal moments add a strange touch to what is otherwise a thunderstorm warning of a set. The storms warning continues with Pound [7/10], a rhythmically focused duo from Seattle who cross dbeat with DJent, Mathcore with Grindcore and even have time for some Sludge in what has to be a truly unique piece of audio violence. Fast and furious, their output is bounce heavy, fretboard smoking hot and disturbingly addictive. Then we have Baltimore Maryland Progressive Technical Death Metal quintet Greylotus [8/10] who are armed with Drewsif and rattle our bones with artillery shelling blast beats and riffs that threaten to cut us clean in half. Ambient touches make for but momentarily lapses in the onslaught and the band are given the first circle pit of the day as they reduce the main stage to rubble. Leeds Technical Death Metallers Pravitas [8/10] follow suit on the Pins and Knuckles stage ensuring that the quality of today’s offering remains phenominally high. Their new single “First Shadow” is an Frankenstein’s monster and they leave the kind of imprint on us that will live long in the memory.

Borders [10/10] were always going to bring the party but armed with material from their yet to be announced Arising Empire debut that add Trap Metal influences to their Rap DJent core sound and the two steppers are out in force. New cuts “Nothing Wrong With Me” and “Fade To Black” go down a storm and sit well with those from their “Purify” album. Crowd surfing over concrete floors maybe at your own risk but it doesn’t stop a few going over the wall as the band close the set in style. They have an energy that captures the mood and know how to bring the stuccato riff infestation to the plate. Scottish Progressive Metal act Tiberius [7/10] get a good reception and rattle off the cuts from “A Peaceful Annihilation” as if second nature. They’re a moment of respite during a day of far heavier bands and it’s easy to see why they are held in such high regard. October single “Of Sheep and Wolves” offers something a little different and it will be interesting to see what the long time friends of Tech-Fest have of offer next. Frontierer [7/10] are a unique brand of sonic punishment, bludgeoning us to death with their mix of downtuned riffs and Mathcore, rolling up on the Festival six years after their last appearance. They may be a last minute replacement but Northern Gloom Metal upstarts Creak [7/10] are a band we’ve been looking forward to seeing live for a long time. They take to the stage as a trio missing their bassist but make the most of it with an incendiary that one again brings out the two steppers in force. We also get a new song from them in “Doomed” that feels like it has some Post-Hardcore roots underneath it’s Gloom exterior. Due to technical issues French Nu-Deathcore enthusiasts Ten56 [8/10] end up sending out their former Betraying The Martyrs vocalist Aaron Matts to entertain the crowd with one liners while the band get themselves together. Fortunately Tech-Fest is notorious for its friendly family atmosphere and the audience take it in their stride, the reward being a blistering set and humongous light show from the band of veteran musicians who have been together for a year. “Boy” and “Yetna” sound huge on this stage and the attempt at a wall of death ends up a massive circle pit which is great fun.

Portsmouth Electronic Nu-Core operatives  Seething Akira [8/10] may have had to wait for the overrun of Ten56 but they don’t disappoint, getting wild with a truly unique rendition of “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys. A hybrid of the ultimate variety watching them is like being at a rave where the electronics are smashed by guitars on a regular basis, taking the work of Enter Shikari and Pitchshifter and pushing it to the Nth bombastic level for serious fun. Since the last time we witnessed Hacktivist [9/10] live performance the vocals of Jot Maxi have improved dramatically and not recovered from injury, he’s a major player in the success of the band as they are now. They play a career spanning set that includes “Elevate“, “Armoured Core” and “Niggas In Paris” while Aaron Matts from Ten56 joins them for a verse, reprising his role on “Hyperdialect“. They get a wall of death which succeedes and guitarist James Hewitt even gets a solo moment in the spotlight. The Pins and Knuckles stage headliners for tonight are Harbinger [9/10] who have turned up their fury with new vocalist Dylan Alves and new record “A Letter To Anguish“. As a band they’re on fire, throwing down the gauntlet to the other bands and pulling out all the stops from “Subsidized Slaughter” to “Guile” with pit stops for “Dark Days” and a cover of “Cowboys From Hell” throwing back to their after show party performance as Pantera covers band  Slamtera a few years ago. They even put on cowboy hats for it, which is hilarious. Armed for the apocalypse with a new EP in “Silver Lining” and the first appearance of new vocalist Rui Martins upon our soil, Betraying The Martyrs [10/10] are in no mood for messing around, hammering out a collection of classics including “The Resilient” and huge new single “Black Hole” while reminding us just how heavy they are, despite the symphonic flourishes. Keyboard player Victor Guillet’s clean vocals are an essential part of their sound but it’s his stage antics which entertain with some huge jumps and stomps that threaten to split the crotch of his skinny jeans. They are without bassist Valentin Hauser who caught COVID before the band left France and an unscripted video call finds him in bed and shocked to be greeted by a packed main stage crowd. After a day of largely heavier bands, Swedish Melodic Death Metallers Scar Symmetry [9/10] are a breath of fresh air and when they suffer a technical issue they pull out some riffs including a technical version of “Sweet Child Of Mine” by Guns ‘n Roses to entertain the capacity crowd. Their flamboyance is mesmerising with dueling leads and anthemic qualities galore as they blend Death and Power Metal with Progressive moments. It has been eight years since their last record but “The Singularity (Phase II – Xenotaph)” is set for this year via label home Nuclear Blast having originally been set for a 2017 release and the band are hungry to impress tonight.

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