LIVE: ArcTanGent Festival 2023 – Saturday

By Ash Bebbington

Saturday starts with the muddy remnants of the previous day’s rain still lingering, but with the weather looking slightly brighter. Everyone is dirty, sleepy, and exhausted but taps into their final stores of energy for another stacked bill of the best bands heavy music has to offer.

Words: Ash Bebbington  Images: Paul Lyme


Dutch electronic gloomsters GGGOLDDD might not be one of the biggest names on the bill, but they certainly steal the hearts of everyone who’s turned out to see their set on Saturday afternoon. Their music sounds like a darker, more unsettling version of Depeche Mode at their most gothic, with a mixture of guitars, synths, and a drum machine creating a hurricane of nightmarish din. Vocalist Milena Eva is the star of the show though, her haunting vocals and bizarre dance moves melding to create a hypnotic performance that has the feel of a dark performance art piece.

The standout moment of the set, however, is the final song for which all but one of the band members leave Eva onstage to perform a deeply personal song about her own experiences with sexual assault. At points she appears to choke up, to which the crowd cheer her on with great fervour. Apart from that, however, you could hear a pin drop in the huge mainstage tent. Looking around the crowd afterwards, it’s clear how much of an impact her words have had on all present. Without that final moment, this would’ve been a truly great set. But with it, it’s elevated to become one of the best of the entire weekend.


Brighton duo fakeyourdeath eviscerate the Elephant in the Bar Room stage with their heavy and aggressive brand of industrial hardcore. Vocalist Candi Underwood is an absolute whirlwind of energy, tearing through the set with a mixture of screams and cleans, while drummer Sam Barnes annihilates his kit throughout. The tent may only be around two thirds full, but those that’re present are clearly drinking in every moment.  

Rolo Tomassi

Considering they’re only in their 30s, it feels like Rolo Tomassi have had such a long career, and have really done the hard yards to get to where they are today. Their relentless hard work and honing of their craft have led to the greatest two records of their career, 2018’s ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ and 2022’s ‘Where Myth Becomes Memory’. Their longevity shows in the quality of their performance as they rip through some of their more recent material which the crowd are evidently very familiar with. Indeed, the opening notes of each song often elicit excited screams from a large section of fans, even as some were still trying to figure out which song it was they’re about to play. In recent years, Rolo Tomassi have become one of the most consistently incredible live metal bands in Britain, and they prove it again here. Whatever the future holds for them, they’ve clearly got a dedicated audience who will follow them there.

The Callous Daoboys

“If you know the words to this song, I need you to scream very loudly. If you don’t know the words to this song, I need you to Google very quickly,” yells vocalist Carson Pace to a ripple of laughter as The Callous Daoboys launch into a racket of chaotic hardcore brilliance. This is a band that has blown up since the release of their 2022 record ‘Celebrity Therapist’, winning fans over with a combination of wry wit, chaotic hardcore brutality, and occasional moments of genuine melodic brilliance. All of those aspects of their sound are ramped up to the N’th degree in a live setting, to the point that people present who aren’t familiar with the band genuinely seem a bit confused. A couple of people even walk out shaking their head, a baffled expression plastered across their faces. The vast majority of the crowd couldn’t care less, though, and gets completely swept up in a set that’s fun and crushing in equal measure.


One of the weekend’s biggest draws was Deafheaven playing their seminal 2013 record ‘Sunbather’ in full, which the organisers billed as a UK exclusive. Unfortunately for all involved, what looked to be a weekend-defining set is marred by technical issues from the get-go, taking the shine off what promised to be a celebration of one of the last decade’s finest metal records. It starts out well enough, with the Californian blackgaze kings delivering a note-perfect rendition of ‘Dream House’. However, at the song’s climax, singer George Clarke’s microphone cuts out entirely and doesn’t come back on again until part-way through ‘Sunbather’. This is compounded by frequent audio glitches and pops as well as issues getting the video backdrop working. The mood eventually starts to darken, with fans loudly exclaiming their disappointment and the band appearing frustrated.

To the techs’ credit, they do manage to fix all of the issues after the band have been onstage for around 30 or 40 minutes. To the band’s credit, they were consummate professionals, and keep on plugging away through what must’ve been a testing experience. Fans who stuck around for the whole set are rewarded with a glorious run-through of the final couple of songs from ‘Sunbather’. But once the set is over, the band look like they can’t wait to get offstage. Truthfully, it’s hard to blame them.

Tech issues happen. They are inevitable at an event of this size. It’s just really unfortunate that they happened to such devastating effect in a set that so many of the crowd were stoked to see.

The Fall of Troy

Post-hardcore trio The Fall of Troy sub-headline the second stage, melting the faces of those present with a perfect storm of noodley goodness. The tent isn’t as packed out as it has been for some previous acts on this stage, but those in attendance are having an absolute ball, throwing themselves around and yelling along to every word. It’s a livewire performance, the band members chaotically throwing themselves around the stage; especially impressive given the complexity of what they are playing.


“This is our first time at ArcTanGent and we had no idea what to say expect but you guys have shown us an amazing time, thank you so so much,” says Loathe vocalist Kadeem France. This is no hyperbole, the legions of fans packed into the Bixler stage hang on the Liverpudlians’ every note for the duration of a brutally cathartic set. Everyone in attendance is clearly knackered after an incredible weekend, but tap into a final reserve of energy to match the controlled chaos of the sound coming from the speakers. Heavier tracks ‘Heavy is the Head That Falls With the Weight of a Thousand Thoughts’ and ‘Aggressive Evolution’ get a predictably feral reaction, while songs like ‘Screaming’ push the audience’s hoarse vocal chords even closer to snapping with rousing singalongs. It may sound cliche to say that Loathe absolutely levelled Fernhill Farm, but during a wall of death at the end of the set, it literally feels like the very ground itself was shaking.

Devin Townsend

“Oh my god guys, it’s a collection of power nerds,” says Devin Townsend at the start of his headline set, perhaps coming up with the most succinctly brilliant description of the ArcTanGent crowd anyone has managed.

The first clutch of songs in the genre-bending set are operatic and bombastic, providing the flagging Saturday night crowd with a much needed shot of energy. It’s clear that not everyone present is a massive Townsend fan, but he manages to win over even the most sceptical and tired of attendees with his razor sharp, self-deprecating wit, as well as his boundless enthusiasm. Devin Townsend is a man who is clearly absolutely thrilled to be there, and it’s nothing short of infectious.

He’s also an artist that clearly doesn’t compromise. “Here’s a song that you probably don’t know so, y’know, fuckin’ suck it,” he jests to laughs and smiles, but the joke betrays a steadfast determination to do things his way. This is underlined by the second portion of the set which Townsend describes as “weird stuff” that will cause “30-50%” of the audience to leave. They don’t leave but he’s not lying, this section really is downright strange. He keeps everyone onside with his patter, however, remarking at one point “this song has been voted the least enjoyable song for a festival environment so buckle up for the next five minutes!” This culminates – naturally – in a musical theatre-style piece that divides opinion but feels oddly fitting at the same time.

He then closes out his set – and the entire festival – with 20 minutes of his “heavy shit”, a whirlwind of fury that wins back those left on the fence by some of the set’s stranger moments. As he strides offstage, fans melt away back to their tents, with the most dedicated party animals heading to the silent disco.

After the show we got chatting with a group of friends from the Netherlands, first-timers at ArcTanGent who had travelled 12 hours by train to be there. We asked them if they’d be back next year, “oh for sure, we had an amazing time”. Off the back of a festival this stacked and this good, they surely won’t be alone.

Until next year ArcTanGent, the UK’s best metal festival.