LIVE: UK Tech Fest 2018 – Friday

By Mark Johnson

Tech Fest began in 2011 with a mission to provide a place where “bands and fans are able to integrate, network and share the passion of music together”. Now in its eighth edition, it’s fair to say the mission has been accomplished, judging by the loyal community that comes out to support the festival each year. Its line-up caters for the fringe genres of metal, including tech-metal, metalcore, grindcore and instrumental math rock, to name but a few.

This is the fifth year that Tech Fest has been hosted in Nottinghamshire, at the Showground in Newark, and the location’s compact site puts the whole festival within easy reach, allowing you to get from your tent to the main stage in a maximum of five minutes. The festival’s two stage set up also means you can enjoy the entire line up without worrying about clashes, as stage times are staggered between the two, allowing one band to sound check while another performs.

While the festival officially opens on the Thursday, playing host to a smaller line-up, things get into full swing on the Friday, which is where we begin our Tech Fest journey with Schiermann. The guitar virtuoso’s solo project kicks us off appropriately, supplying all the competencies that typify bands at this festival: superb technical ability, complex and intricate musicality and an endless supply of talent. As an instrumental act, the technical display is impressive but as the set wears on, the lack of central groove means the crowd remain largely static throughout.


With the summer sun reaching almost 30 degrees, and the two indoor stages at Tech Fest being effectively cattle sheds with iron rooves and barely any ventilation, the atmosphere in the stages is stifling, which goes some way to explaining the static reaction to Miscreant‘s raft of heavy songs. On any other day the crowd would be obliged to move around in response to the band’s impressive riffs, but in this energy sapping heat, they’re greeted by a lukewarm reaction to an otherwise solid performance.

Scotland’s From Sorrow to Serenity are next in line to try and inject life into the audience and they fare a little better, managing to elicit some enthusiastic head banging from one corner of the room. Vocalist Gaz King displays an impressive range with both guttural and high pitched screams being mixed in with raspy cleans, and once the initially poor mix is solved, the guitars are punchy and driving. It’s still early in the day, but the crowd is slowly coming out of its shell, thanks to this quartet’s solid offering.

From Sorrow to Serenity

Sensing the energy deficiency, This Is Turin front man Darryl Jones draws on his performance experience to stir the crowd into action. Dropping into the faces of the front row, Jones encourages them to sing along and instructs people to bang their heads in time, and with a classic helping of mass hand clapping for good measure, he elicits the best response so far. It helps balance a lacklustre musical performance that’s not helped by a muddy mix which makes all guitar notes bleed together and bury the snare drum beneath it all. Despite this, it’s a decent offering, punctuated by a great front man performance.

Stepping up in place of Jinjer, who had to withdraw from the festival due to Visa issues, come The Dali Thundering Concept, and they’re greeted by more technical gremlins, forcing them to restart their opening song. Even after this, problems still persist as the massively down tuned guitar gives out a barely audible frequency for the first track, but once it’s corrected the band come into their own. When the three musicians settle into a groove, the riffs are meaty, causing heads to bob, particularly when Sylvain Conier barks over the top to inject some energy. Léo Natele’s occasional solos are also noteworthy moments and emphasise the talent lurking within the band, making for an enjoyable set despite the early niggles.

The Dali Thundering Concept

Despite Exile prove how good the Waghorn Guitars Stage can sound when everything is balanced just right. And this balance goes beyond just their live sound, the Italian act bring the widest ranging metalcore formula to the festival so far, managing to sound melodic and atmospheric as well as brutally heavy. The transitions from driving rhythms with sweeping lead lines to bone crunching riffs is seamless and the crowd finally oblige with a wave of energy, the entire room banging heads in unison and moving their feet. Front man Jacopo Durisotti fuels that atmosphere, commanding the stage and getting in the faces of the front row, capping a fantastic performance that lifts the mood for the rest of the day.

Vola continue the theme of excellent sound quality, their set is the most pristine sounding yet on the Winspear Stage, every note audible despite how low the guitars are tuned. They kick in with an attention grabbing djent-like groove, before Asger Mygind treats us to our first real dose of clean vocals so far, highlighting the melodic tendencies of the Scandinavian act. The band deliver wave after wave of impressive riffs and punchy rhythms and while Mygind’s voice is refreshing among the line-up and technically very good, there are times when it lacks the oomph to match the instrumentals and as such, some choruses lack impact. For the most part though it’s an excellent set that ranks among the most memorable of the opening day.


German riff masters Unprocessed keep the new found energy pumping, packing a massive punch with huge sounding guitars over at the Waghorn Guitars Stage. Between the three guitarists and bass player, the band are definitely leading the contest for most strings on their instruments, but they’re all used to good effect. Ranging from spine crushing, drop tuned riffs to technically noteworthy lead lines and solos, the quintet use everything at their disposal to craft intricate, complex and interesting compositions that come alive on stage and shake the speakers. Doubling up as the band’s vocalist, Manuel Gardner Fernandes’ ability to switch from low, aggressive screams to effective clean harmonies adds yet another string to their already overwhelmingly impressive bow. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable set that has the audience grooving along with every riff.

From the relentless sunshine and the press of bodies gathered there, the Winspear Stage is now stiflingly hot and void of air, but Bleed From Within’s front man Scott Kennedy isn’t interested in excuses, immediately ordering a circle pit as the band take to the stage. The rousing command does the job, pushing reluctant energy into the crowd and as the order is followed by a Wall of Death, Kennedy knows he has them in his grasp. He continues to lead by example, charging back and forth, expending his own energy as he commands the stage. Behind him, the band churn through a standard fare of metalcore, providing heavy riffs for the audience to feed on and for Kennedy to bark his words over. Bleed From Within are the most imposing band to take the stage so far and their confidence and assured stage presence compensates for songs that gradually bleed together as the set goes on.

Bleed From Within

Voyager bring something completely different to Tech Fest, opening with a track that sounds like a mash up of djenty tech metal and Depeche Mode. The offbeat dance rhythm and electronic effects are surprisingly effective over low, heavy riffs and though Daniel Estrin’s quirky vocals are jarring at first, they’re just another unique ingredient thrown into this curious melting pot of a band. Add glam rock style guitar solos and a keytar for even more diversity and Voyager become one of the surprise highlights of the day. Alongside heavy metalcore acts, it’s no surprise that some people aren’t into it, but those willing to stick it out and experience something different are rewarded with an interesting and unique set that brings the party atmosphere to Tech Fest all the way from Australia.


The Contortionist have come out on top in the battle of the band t-shirts today, with festival goers sporting more with their name than any other on show. With the band a clear favourite among the crowd, anticipation is high as the day’s penultimate band take to the stage. The opener’s pedestrian pace doesn’t kick things off with a bang, but it does highlight Michael Lessard’s superb vocal ability as it saunters through a gentle tempo. The Contortionist’s genre defying sound bends and twists in as many ways as their name would suggest, so this pace doesn’t remain for long, instead bursting into a more aggressive track that sees Lessard switching to screamed vocals, which are just as effective as his pristine cleans. As the set progresses, more styles are ticked off the list, ranging from djent riffs and pulsating drums, to atmospheric passages that are beautifully ethereal when combined with soulful vocal melodies. At times the slower tempos can feel too lethargic and drawn out, but this is a minor niggle in an otherwise excellent set that justifies the anticipation and exceeds expectation.

The Contortionist

Tech metal legends SikTh have the honour of closing out the day and the first notable part of their set is the absence of guitarist Pin. The band don’t draw attention to his absence, or offer an explanation, but his lack of presence is certainly felt as the pre-recorded guitar track that’s instead used to accompany co-guitarist Dan Weller often lacks volume and is over shadowed by the live instruments. Regardless, the band press on and with a strong set list that calls upon old favourites like ‘Hold My Finger’, ‘Pussyfoot’ and ‘Skies of Millennium Night’, it’s a crowd pleasing set that ends the day on a huge high. The interplay between co vocalists Mikey Goodman and Joe Rosser is as strong now as it’s been since Rosser joined the band in 2016, signalling that SikTh are very much alive and not just here to provide nostalgia. New material from recent record ‘The Future In Whose Eyes?’ proves they’re still at the top of their game, putting a fitting end to a talent-strewn day at Tech Fest.