LIVE: ArcTanGent Festival 2019 – Thursday

By Dave Stewart

ArcTanGent is one of the metal worlds best kept secrets – or one of its worst kept secrets, if you’ve ever been one of its guests. Tucked away in the rural countryside of Bristol, the festival is a haven for anyone harbouring an intense love for all things progressive, from extreme metal and raw hardcore, to instrumental jazz and electronic showstoppers. 2019 was their biggest, most diverse line up to date, and also garnered their largest attendance numbers as a result.

Day one attendees were greeted at the gates by clear blue skies and gleaming sunshine – the perfect day to get things underway. Tents were set up in record time, tinnies were packed into bags, suncream was heavily applied, and it was official. ArcTanGent 2019 had officially begun.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard

If you wanted to start your festival experience by covering yourself in sludge, then Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard would’ve been the right band to kick things off with. Their crunchy and thick tones slowly oozed throughout the tent, fixing everyone in place for the duration of their groove-laden set. The performance was animated, yet felt ever-so-slightly awkward, sitting somewhere in between entrancing and disappointing – but those in the tent found themselves completely sucked in by the sound waves. Their music was weighty enough to bring down Goliath with riff after riff launching boulders at all his weak spots, but the vocals were like pebbles that bounced off his frame, hovering in the background of the mix and serving as an accompaniment rather than standing proudly at the forefront. Some of the biggest grooves of the whole festival, let down by muddy and unbalanced sound.


If you were watching Bossk and you weren’t thinking “holy shit, this is slow”, then you might have been in the wrong place. Their trudging gargantuan walls of sound washed through the Arc stage like a tidal wave, every single drop of water connecting with the audience with seismic power. They picked a wide array of songs for their set to keep fans of all eras of the band happy, often referencing their earlier days, which made their long term followers erupt with approval. Bossk are incredible atmosphere creators, able to generate rich outpourings of emotive energy with ease as they charged across the stage. As strong and magnificent as the delivery was, the set felt like it never really took off, like they were building towards a grand reveal but never dropped the curtain. Overall, though, it was a stunning display of power from one of the genre’s most under-appreciated bands – it just didn’t soar quite as high as it should have.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

If the front man of the band you’re watching announces to the crowd that you’re at Monsters Of Rock Festival, they’re Twisted Sister, and Judas Priest are on next, you’d be pretty excited. However, if you’re actually at ArcTanGent and the band you’re watching isn’t Twisted Sister, the ensuing moments are probably going to be a little strange. That is somewhat of an understatement for Pigs x7, who melted hordes of minds with their Thursday afternoon Yohkai set. Sounding like the result of Electric Wizard, Down and Black Sabbath all meeting up to eat naughty brownies, their performance looked like the drugs hadn’t quite worn off yet. Front man Matt Baty didn’t stop moving the entire set, endlessly trudging from one side of the stage to the other as he reached out and charismatically yelled at his crowd. With songs slower than your Nan’s first computer and guitar tone thicker than her gravy, their set was a stoners dream, with every crushing riff plunging them deeper into the void. Half the crowd were mesmerised, the other half bewildered and confused about Twisted Sister’s new sound. Unique is an understatement.


Conjurer have an incredible amount of hype surrounding them at the minute, and for good reason. Not only is their most recent record ‘Mire’ an absolute powerhouse that made its way onto countless album of the year lists in 2018, but their live show is already regarded as one of the most frantic and punishing in today’s metal scene. It was odd to see such a popular band on such an early slot on the smallest stage, but the way the tent overspilled into the festival grounds was testament to their talent and popularity. They began their set with ‘Choke’, immediately taking a firm grasp on the massive crowd and pressuring them to pay attention. The show that they put on was relentless, windmilling and headbanging their way through all their biggest and best and whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Both guitarists Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose were flawless, executing every furious riff with precision as they thundered their pained vocals to their onlookers. A triumphant set that cemented their status as a band to watch in the coming years.


Denmark’s Møl are another band that made an impressive mark in 2018, releasing their record ‘Jord’ to critical praise across the board. Their enormous shoegaze soundscapes are draped over an underlying and unignorable darkness that, when applied to ArcTanGent festival, created an atmosphere so dense that it could’ve completely levelled the tent they were performing in. The rich black metal tones, combined with the furious aggression and vast instrumentation, are impossible to ignore, and everybody inside the Bixler tent was completely transfixed. Their frontman Kim Song commanded the stage, confidently waltzing across it in an almost theatre-like way as he drew the audience deeper and deeper into the drama unfolding around them. If Brian Eno made black metal it’d sound like this. A demonstration that was both devastating and beautiful, like a thunderstorm fighting the sunlight.

Zeal And Ardor

Chances are pretty high that you’ll never get to experience any form of voodoo rituals in your life, but watching Zeal And Ardor perform live is the closest you can get. The ritual taking place? An exorcism. Gospel vibes and old slave chants meet black metal in a ceremonial colliding of worlds, driven outward with passionate soulful vocal delivery and erratic stage presence. Every member of the band seemingly expelled their demons via their physical performance, using their movements to reflect both the calm and the chaos in the music. Their set sadly sounded a little samey in places, a lot of tones getting lost in the tent and blurring some songs into a string of similar sounding opuses. The delivery, though, was undoubtedly spectacular, shining a bright light on the incredible vocal ability of front man and founding member Manuel Gagneux and his ability to switch from angelic to demonic at a moments notice. ‘Gravediggers Chant’ was a prime example of this, quickly proving to be a crowd favourite and a highlight of their set. They were unfortunately stricken by the first technical issues of the day, experiencing some laptop issues that put a delay in the closing moments of their set, but it didn’t take anything away from the sheer uniqueness of what preceded it. One of the most unique and hypnotising bands of the day.


ArcTanGent acts as a home for a large number of instrumental bands to show off their musical prowess, and one of the biggest names in that category this year was Polyphia. An internet sensation and the envy of guitarists everywhere, their slick and sassy grooves will get even the greasiest of metal heads to grind their hips and pucker their lips. Their performance was nothing short of stunning, with infectious beats, sexy licks, and musicianship so locked in and impressive that it was almost unbelievable. Both guitarists Timothy Henson and Scott LePage made their mind-bending work look completely effortless, constantly scanning the audience and grinning at the sea of bopping heads in front of them as their fingers went into muscle memory mode and baffled every guitarist in attendance. Drummer Clay Aeschliman was a groove powerhouse too, thundering every hit home like he was the Khal Drogo of percussion. Bassist Clay Gober was the star of the show though, using every drop of adrenaline in his body to get the crowd into party mode. He was one of the best front men of the weekend, and Polyphia don’t have an actual front man. It didn’t matter if you were a huge fan or a total newbie – their performance and stage presence could’ve conquered any audience. The sexiest set of the weekend by a country mile.


The PX3 stage hosted so many unique bands over the course of the weekend, but few were quite as mesmerising as Pijn. They’re half prog rock, half instrumental; consisting of a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and a trio of strings. The end result was rich, haunting, and expansive, with a powerful sense of instability and unnerve seeping through every orifice. Their stage presence wasn’t mind-blowing – the bassist was the only member that really thrashed about and expelled any adrenaline – but the lavish textures of the music did all the talking and over-shadowed the performance entirely. Every song was dark and brooding, continuously evolving and culminating in a rush that was like audio pins and needles, occasionally sludgy enough to crease your face in all the right places and spine-tingly beautiful in others. Not the most entertaining band to watch, but completely fascinating to listen to.

Carpenter Brut

Everyone loves 80s music, right? Gigantic power ballads driven by larger than life synths, fist-pumping riffs, and addictive vocal melodies that ingrain themselves directly into your brain. Well, for everyone in attendance at ArcTanGent, Carpenter Brut provided an 80s thrash metal disco for a field full of sweaty greebos. As soon as you stepped into the Arc tent it was like stepping into a time machine, with funky synths overwhelming your senses and an old school video display really transporting you back a few decades. If you closed your eyes you could vividly picture a neon landscape, filled with leather-clad rockers in aviators all air guitaring along to the music. Everywhere you looked in the tent were big smiles and bopping heads, every single person falling victim to the party atmosphere. If things weren’t already fun enough, the set closing addition of a cover of classic Flashdance hit ‘Maniac’ took things to another level entirely, producing deafening sing alongs and masses of dad dancing in a tidal wave of joy. Pure, unadulterated entertainment.


In a number of social media posts running up to the festival, ArcTanGent organisers stated that the latest Daughters record ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ was one of their favourites of 2018. From the number of people in attendance to their headlining performance on the Yohkai stage, it would appear that the festival organisers weren’t alone in that. The tent was well and truly full to the brim, and when the band took the stage to a wall of noise it was echoed right back to them in cheer and applause. The punk aesthetic hit a high for the day, with the combination of a restless performance and loud, punchy tones laying waste to the crowd. It was only really the front half of the crowd though, it seemed – the further back in the tent you were, the less intelligible the noise was, the infectious vibes getting lost along with the clarity. The performance itself was incredible, with none of the band ever really stopping for the entirety of the set. The punch just didn’t carry enough weight to reach the entire tent. An energetic and visceral performance let down by muddy sound.

Coheed and Cambria

The Thursday night of the festival ended with Coheed and Cambria’s first ever headline set – a feat that the prog-rock giants deserved to achieve many moons ago. This was a tremendous occasion for a phenomenal band, armed with one of the strongest discographies modern prog has to offer and musicianship in troves. Sadly the turn out for their set on the Arc stage was a little on the small side, the bulk of the crowd filling the middle section of the tent and leaving the outskirts relatively unoccupied. This didn’t phase the band in the slightest though, using their position at the festival to take attendees on a journey through their history.

Accompanied by colourful and occasionally trippy visuals, the performance that Claudio Sanchez and crew put on oozed with class – an animated and expertly performed collection of prog-rock masterpieces. The more recent stops on the journey failed to ignite the crowd, with only the die-hard Coheed fans bursting into song. The big hits and golden oldies, though, didn’t just ignite the audience – they completely engulfed it in a blaze of glory. Enormous renditions of classics like ‘No World For Tomorrow’, ‘Gravemakers and Gunslingers’, and the infectious ‘The Suffering’ all pulsed through the crowd, everyone jumping in perfect synchronisation and shaking the ground with their collective appreciation.

The end of their set provided the moment of the day, with the highly anticipated performance of ‘Welcome Home’ producing not only the loudest singalong of the day but also the most movement. As soon as the opening notes swept through the tent there was an excitement explosion that was felt throughout the entire festival grounds, seemingly drawing people to the main stage to witness the grand finale of their set. They may have had a slow start to their day-closing show, but they ended it in style and showed those in attendance exactly why they were deserving of a headline slot. An intense, sophisticated and awe-inspiring end to a solid first day of ArcTanGent.