Concert Review: UK Tech Metal Fest 2014, part 1. Valis Ablaze, The Sun Explodes, DispersE, Mountains Under Oceans
Posted by Irmelinis
The event I was looking forward to the most this year is already over. Time goes fast when having fun! And during four days unlimited amounts of fun and hugs was had by all: bands, fans and festival crew alike. This was the third time running for UK Tech Metal Fest and once again it proved to be a festival like no other, as it felt more like a relaxed holiday together with some of your best friends and favourite musicians. I can’t think of a better way to spend a summer weekend.
A couple of things had changed for the better this year; food, toilets, showers, location, weather and the number of tech-metalheads (around 900). The festival line up of no less than 50 bands was very impressive, including some of the best upcoming bands in metal as well as bigger acts like The Ocean, a recently reunited SikTh, Monuments and Vildhjarta. The incredibly friendly and welcoming atmosphere is now a trademark of the festival and there was never a dull moment between all the live music, workshops, drinks, merch stands and after parties. It was such a great feeling to meet and catch up with the wonderful people from last year and to leave knowing I have made a bunch of new friends. Many, myself included, say this festival is the absolute highlight of the year and went into serious PTFD (Post Tech Fest Depression) as soon as we had to face the real world again, which is a sign that something out of the ordinary was experienced… in a cattle showground arena in Newark-on-Trent.
Thank you so much, organizer Simon Garrod and the whole crew for doing a fantastic job, for making this possible, for keeping up the lovely atmosphere and giving us an exciting and very diverse line-up of bands.
This festival review won’t cover all the bands playing, I’ve chosen the ones I personally liked the best. So brace yourself, incoming Tech Fest fangirl…
Valis Ablaze – Valis Ablaze have been on my “must see-list” for a long time and they started off the festival in the coolest way possible. With intriguingly odd but groovy songs and an energetic frontman that was quite the character, they were a pleasure to experience live. Even with a stand-in guitarist everything goes smooth; their style of modern progressive metal with a slightly insane touch is refreshing and fun, with a good dose of darkness. My favourite part was “That Which Fades”, it’s such a groovy, dance-friendly tune. It’s clear that these guys believe in what they are doing and I’ll cross my fingers for them to be back next year with another wild show.
After the set I was thinking to myself “Starting with a mad Valis Ablaze and ending with the lunatics in SikTh; this is going to be a great weekend.” And it continued with…
The Sun Explodes – This band released one of my favourite albums last year, one I’m still frequently rocking out and singing along to in my living room, in the car and on lonely forest walks. As the band say themselves, they don’t really belong to any genre, but that’s also a part of what makes them interesting. The Sun Explodes were a gloriously good band to see live, they had everything from heavy technical elements to light and uplifting prog, delivered with great power. On top of that a singer that looks just as sexy (slowly stripping his clothes off on stage) as his fantastic voice sounds. The contagious, riffy melodies and complex rhythms really come to life and it’s very satisfying to hear the songs I love being performed with such sincerity and passion by all members in the band.
Disperse – Unfortunately I missed Disperse’s set last year (I heard from others that it was great!) but I did catch them at Euroblast and thoroughly enjoyed it. These Polish guys label themselves ‘fantasy music’ and play a unique flowing, groovy style which is very welcome between all the hard-hitting, chuggy rhythms of most djent/core bands on the bill. As expected they drew a big crowd. The vocalist-keyboard player Rafal Biernacki sounded better than ever and I would love to hear more of his screams in their music. Much of the focus inevitably ends up on guitarist Jakub Zytecki, and it’s not only because of his beautiful eyes and charming smile; his skill when it comes to blasting off a dreamy guitar solo or a mesmerizing riff is truly something special. He’s got the feels! A great and memorable moment was the band’s own proggy version of The Prodigy’s “Voodoo People”, I could not get enough of that one.
Mountains Under Oceans – No sleeping in late on Friday morning for me, because I already knew from pre-festival research that Mountains Under Oceans is a real gem that could not be missed. That said, I had no idea how completely absorbing their style of instrumental post metal was going to be live; as the notes of the first track reached my ears the shed we stood in transformed into a vast landscape with starlit skies. I was surrounded by a peaceful darkness together with the beautiful souls in the audience, as the pounding bass line carried the dark voice of the earth, the ambient guitars gently climbing up winding paths and raging down hills, gathering strength for something more powerful to come. Effortlessly and engaging, the drums hypnotized me to follow the pulse of the music and curiously explore every twist and turn in the magical landscape they painted before me. I did not want it to end, wanted to stay in the feeling for the rest of the day. After the set, I went to buy their EP and the drummer told me that sadly, this was bassist Iain Macleod’s last show, as he’s leaving for other adventures. Thank you, Iain, for your work and thanks to the whole band for one of the best musical experiences this weekend. Come back next year, okay?