UK Tech-Fest 2022
Day 1 – Thursday 30th June 2022
The pandemic robbed us all of two years and the things we looked forward to gradually became diminished. After this interminable hiatus where we saw the best little festival in the land pushed back not once but twice, there was finally light at the end of the tunnel. UK Tech-Fest returned in 2022 much to everyone’s relief and excitement.
Upon my arrival at the festival, I was greeted first by the sight of the usual vast array of festival merchandise, and then by the man responsible for this great event, Simon Garrod. After a quick hug, he pointed me towards the second stage where one of his recommended bands Lost in Lavender Town were half way through their half hour set. Simon’s recommendation is well founded, as the guitar skills of this young English instrumental band are jaw-dropping. Fans of Plini and such acts will do well to check them out.
Then, such is the nature of this festival the next band were on immediately. This time it was on the main stage, with Progressive/Power Metal from Birmingham in the shape of Dakesis. Much Dio-esque pomp ensued with drummer Adam Harris and Amie Chatterley (wielding her six-string bass), laying down a solid rhythm. Layered over this came clean powerful vocals from Gemma Lawler and guitar wizardry aplenty from Matt Jones.
Now it was time for a break, a catch up and a beer with our UK and European friends. Although there are no clashes between the bands, there are also no breaks, so careful planning is needed. With 60 bands on over four days, it can be quite exhausting and somewhat of a marathon. Nevertheless, I was determined to cover as many acts as I could and had prepared a list, a schedule if you will.
After refreshments it was back to stage 2 for Sertraline. The last time this band played here they had a different line-up. Two people from that band have since left including founder member Lizzie Parry and that left a big hole to fill. Fill it they have though, and new vocalist Ben seems a suitable replacement. Now down to a four piece, they delivered a well-played and well received set of progressive tech-metal.
Back over on the main stage it was time for some Symphonic/Technical Deathcore courtesy of A Night in the Abyss. This outfit from Brighton sound very professional and there’s a hint of Fleshgod Apocalypse about them. For the rest of this opening Thursday, I decided to stick to the main stage and its last four bands.
Image wise Red Method stand out from the entire festival line-up. Their penchant for dressing up and makeup gives them the look of extras from a Mad Max movie set. Musically they stand out as well with their brand of industrial death metal. Vocalist Jeremy Gomez was suffering from bronchitis last time the band performed here in 2019. That was on the smaller stage but this time he was fully fit and gave his all. Overall, the bigger stage suited their flamboyant performance, and it was interesting to compare the two appearances, albeit three years apart.
So far so good, it was all going so well. Up next was old hand and regular guest Drewsif. The last time I saw him perform at Tech-Fest I really enjoyed his performance, so I was looking forward to seeing what he came up with this time. He was joined by a singer and another guitarist who I later found out are members of Greylotus. The opening song was a cover version of the Journey song ‘Separate Ways’. Up to this point there had been some complaints about the volume on the main stage, but this was painfully loud and really distorted. I only stayed for a couple of numbers and then retreated outside for the sake of my ears. I needed a beer anyway.
The penultimate act for the day was a much more sedate affair and one that I had definitely marked as a must see. American band Artificial Language did not disappoint and were one of the highlights of the day. The inclusion of this type of band really shows the diversity within the festival line-up. The Californians seemed to be five in number rather than the expected six with their keyboard player Jonathan Simpson being the absent member. The focus of attention with this band is guitarist Charlie Robbins who also held a masterclass on stage 3 over the weekend.
One band to go and on paper they were the absolute highlight of the day. I first discovered Exist Immortal at the 2017 edition, and they remain one of the best discoveries at the festival to this day. There was much anticipation and despite the volume being too loud again it didn’t spoil things too much. The band completely nailed it and proved that they are one of the best UK metal bands around at the moment.
So, day one was over and three more to look forward to. It was good to be back
Day 2 – Friday 1st July 2022
So here we go again. First on my list was an unusual act from Seattle, a drummer and guitarist going by the name of Pound. Their instrumental grind/math/sludge tracks have titles such as x-.+.+.x-.+.x-.x-.+ and x..^..x-x..^..x-x..^..x-x..^..x-, so you get the picture. It’s experimental, repetitive and it all sounded the same, so not really my thing but they drew a decent audience considering they were on early in the day.
Over on the big stage, the now familiar personage of Greylotus were next up. Speaking of familiar persons also joining them on stage to play bass guitar was our old friend Drewsif. The guys from Baltimore, Maryland are currently promoting their debut album due for release right after this festival. Entitled ‘Dawnfall’ it contains nine tracks of progressive technical death metal. Andrei Dan here at The Progspace gave it a favourable review recently. Not a bad start to the second day and there was plenty more to come.
There was more technical death metal to be had over on the small stage. Pravitas can always be relied on for a good show. There were quite a few changes to the festival line-up in the months leading up to the event. Pravitas were one of the late replacements, but a very welcome one. They also appeared at the Sunday afterparty as their alter ego Milk & Two Shuggahs – a Meshuggah tribute band – which unfortunately I was not able to witness.
At 3pm on the same stage, something quite amazing happened. All the way from bonny Scotland, Tiberius took the room by storm. The eager audience lapped up a tasty selection of catchy songs from their fantastic 2020 album ‘A Peaceful Annihilation’. This is an album which I reviewed and enjoyed doing so immensely. Vocalist Grant Barclay and guitarists Chris Foster and Jahan Tabrizi all ventured out into the audience frequently. There were times where Grant would stand in the middle of the crowd surrounded by people all facing him and sing to them. It got quite emotional and was definitely the most fun set of the weekend, or was it?
Rap and metal make for strange bedfellows, but somehow Hacktivist seem to pull it off with flying colours. The five-piece outfit from Milton Keynes played a great set of politically themed songs that was well received by a sizable crowd. But for me, the real attractions of the day were still to come.
The main stage now took on an international presence for the remainder of the night. The second to last slot was taken up by French metal masters Betraying the Martyrs. Having enjoyed their performance here in 2018 I was keen to catch them again. I was not to be disappointed; they put on a fantastic show. Time seemed to have flown by and it was hard to believe that we were nearly halfway through this fantastic festival.
To take us up to that halfway point, it was the turn of Swedish legends Scar Symmetry. This band employs two vocalists, one for harsh – Robert Karlsson and the other, Lars Palmqvist – for cleans. On top of this it boasts two of the finest guitarists on the planet; Per Nilsson and Benjamin Ellis. There’s just one other member, drummer Henrik Olsson. During a short technical hitch, Per entertained us with some solo work including the Guns & Roses track ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’. Apart from that, to finish this second day, the headliners treated us to a magnificent set of top-class progressive metal.
Day 3 – Saturday 2nd July 2022
For me, the best of Saturday’s running order appeared to be in the afternoon. First on the schedule He Knows on the small stage, who delivered a melodic Djent/progressive metal set. A nice start to what would turn out to be a very varied day.
Then it was over to the main stage and British extreme metal band Krysthla. The Northampton crew certainly gave the ear drums a good old rattling. Vocalist Adi Mayes bellowed out the lyrics whilst brandishing a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey. I wonder how much more of the day he saw!
Next, back on the second stage and a more laid back but technical set from Axiom. The instrumental three-piece from Birmingham played a tight set of progressive rock/metal. Their style is similar to Toska, Plini, or Intervals which was a welcome break between the two more extreme metal bands on the main stage.
The second of these heavier bands was another late addition to the line-up. Nottingham based The Five Hundred for me were a very welcome replacement after several bands dropped out. Having reviewed their 2021 album ‘A World on Fire’ I was excited to see them perform on the main stage. An excellent and particularly dynamic 30 minutes of metalcore was one of the highlights of the day for me, just a bit too short though.
Back over on the small stage, a more melodic performance took place. American band Wings Denied brought their brand of progressive rock/metal to an appreciative audience. Now, after five bands on the trot, it’s time for a break for food and beer with friends.
Suitably refreshed, it was back to the main stage for some technical progressive metal all the way from Mexico. I first encountered Anima Tempo at ProgPower Europe in 2019. Tech fest organiser Simon just happened to be there on the day they played as he was driving Voices from the Fuselage round Europe. The Mexicans obviously impressed him, and it was no surprise to see them on the Tech Fest bill. A wise decision made by him as this was another highlight of the day and the festival.
Headlining the second stage were Hertfordshire progressive modern metal band Vexed. Everyone I spoke to who watched the band agreed that vocalist Megan Targett has an incredible voice. Comparisons with Jinjer are inevitable because of her growls, screams and occasional powerful cleans. The material is aggressive but progressive, metalcore would be my guess for the genre. A great final set on the second stage setting everyone up for the final two acts of the day.
Well, if you thought that was heavy, what came next blew everything else out of the water. Slamming brutal death metal from South Africa just had to be witnessed. Taking the second to last slot on the main stage were Vulvodynia. The six-piece laid siege to a packed room and took no prisoners.
That just left the Saturday headliners to go. The Ocean Collective are a band that I have never got into. After seeing them twice before, the thought of a third time did not excite me. However, whether it was the different material or just the Tech-Fest effect, but I actually enjoyed them this time. It was a fairly relaxed end to another great day, and it felt like it was all going too fast.
Day 4 – Sunday 3rd July 2022
The final day proved to be the most varied of all, with something for everyone, perhaps. A slightly earlier start today meant covering the opening band on the main stage. Reading five-piece Arcaeon eased us into the day with a fine half hour of progressive metal. Guitarist Sam Machin had already held a masterclass on Friday afternoon and now had the chance to really flex his muscles. A great start to what promised to be a memorable day.
Now it was time for one of the most popular bands of the festival, Novena. The guys were obviously keen to show off their new member, Pipi Gogerl who was brimming with confidence and put in a perfect performance. As did the rest of the band, as expected by the decent sized crowd, actually very decent considering the time of day. Favourites such as ‘Sun Dance’ and ‘The Tyrant’ gave Pipi the chance to use her full vocal range. There was also a live debut of new track ‘Ghosts’ and a cover of the Billie Eilish song ‘Bury a Friend’. It was worth the ticket money on its own (almost).
Unfortunately, Novena was a hard act to follow, and the audience was much smaller for the next band on the second stage. Cardiff based Godsticks nevertheless played a great set of catchy progressive rock/metal.
The numbers were back at 2:30pm in the main hall. A lot of people who attended the 2019 edition of the festival would have seen Project Mishram before. This east meets west unit from India were one member short, but that didn’t matter. Eastern influenced progressive metal from the remaining six musicians went down a storm.
For Black Orchid Empire the scenario was the same as Godsticks over on the small stage. A great progressive rock/metal set played to a depleted crowd. I think people were saving themselves for the more intense stuff later.
On Friday Tiberius had thrown down the gauntlet with their fun filled slot. Fellow Scots Party Cannon had a good go at bettering it. A confetti cannon was let off followed by a load of beach balls being launched into the audience who promptly obliged by punching and kicking them round the room. At one point a young lad watched over by his dad, tried to kick every ball that came his way back into the pit that had developed in the centre of the room. All this to a background of brutal slam death, brilliant.
Then from one extreme to the other and one the mellowest bands of the festival. On the main stage Inme delivered an enjoyable and catchy set of melodic metal. It was well attended and if memory serves me right, for once the volume was tolerable.
With just three bands to go it was time for the second stage headliners. The delightfully named Pupil Slicer had obviously drummed up a lot of interest judging by the packed room. Image-wise they were not what I expected of the name, but the music is fittingly fierce and brutal. Vocalist Katie spits out screams and growls that are definitely not expected. This last band on the small stage left all present a little bit stunned.
There are always a few pleasant surprises at Tech-Fest (or any festival for that matter) and one for me was French progressive metalcore band Novelists. Although lively their material is a melodic form of metalcore with some superb guitarwork from guitarist Florestan Durand . The vocals are mostly clean which is uncommon in the genre. Having never seen or heard them before, they became one of my highlights of the day.
So, to the last band of the festival. Irish post-rock band God is an Astronaut seemed to me to be an odd choice for Tech-Fest. It was laid back, ambient and well, great, despite my misgivings. Guitarist Jamie Dean remarked that they had watched some of the earlier bands and marvelled at some of the techniques. “Perhaps we will try to employ some of those techniques in our future material” he said humbly. Well, after all that is what progressive music is all about, isn’t it?
Then it was all over bar the after-party. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait as long until the next one, roll on the 2023 edition. Many thanks to Simon and all the Tech-Fest team, it was all very well organised and thoroughly enjoyable. Tech-Fest really is best fest as they say.