LIVE: UK Tech Fest 2018 – Saturday

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.

It takes no time at all for the quality to show on Saturday as Pravitas blast the crowd with a barrage of classical metal. There are head banging riffs aplenty along with superb duelling guitar solos that are executed perfectly, conveying a fantastic old school metal vibe that goes down very well with those up early enough to enjoy it. Front man Joshua Barnett adds to the old school effect sporting a Metallica t-shirt, bushy long hair and an impressive moustache that all look like they belong to a bygone era. Barnett is well known to Punktastic through his instrumental math rock band Tall Talker, who we’ve previously covered as part of StrangeForms festival, but as a growling screamer fronting a metal band, he’s just as effective. A great start to another day brimming with talent thanks to this Leeds based quintet.

Tiberius continue the classic metal theme, but in contrast to Pravitas’ screamed vocals, Grant Barclay’s voice is more comparable to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, which proves too jarring for the majority of the crowd. The guitarists look busy on stage, but the absence of a central riff or groove means the majority of their efforts fail to make an impact, not being punchy enough to cut through the booming bass and pounding drums, and so falling too flat. The band clearly have talent and Barclay’s vocals are impressive, but sadly this set fails to come together as a cohesive performance.


Young metalcore upstarts Perception put on a decent display but their largely formulaic sound does little to distinguish themselves from the hundreds of other bands churning out the same riff heavy, screamed style that they’ve adopted. The band have talent and when bassist Ryan Anderson chimes in with the occasional clean vocal it offers a glimmer of hope that the band might be on to something, so Perception could be one to look out for in the future.

Bristol’s Valis Ablaze recently put out their impressive debut full length ‘Boundless’, notable for its accomplished balance of melody and heaviness, packaged inside prog rock song structures. Phil Owen’s voice carries well on stage and each instrument is played to perfection, however the consistent mid tempo of their songs and lack of movement from the members themselves means it all falls a little flat. As a performance based on execution, it can’t be faulted, however for a festival crowd it’s not a set that will live long in the memories of those who aren’t already fans of the band’s music

Valis Ablaze

The Five Hundred continue the classic theme at the Waghorn Guitars Stage, producing an accomplished and professional set. The impressive vocal range of Johnathan Woods-Eleys allows regular switching between ear piercing screams, gutteral aggression and soaring melodies, which fit nicely alongside the constant wave of heavy riffs and pulsating drum rhythms. The band won’t be winning any awards for the most original sound this weekend, but they do what they do well and can execute it perfectly on stage.

The sublimely talented Arch Echo wow the audience with their technical ability, working their way through mind bending time signatures and song structures, adding guitar and keyboard solos for good measure along the way. As good as each musician is, these songs aren’t made for mere showboating; their compositions are carried along by a core, central groove that keeps everything together, giving each song a distinguishable structure despite the regular tangents and flourishes of skill.  The quintet’s intricately woven instrumental songs are perfect for a festival that celebrates the complexities of alternative music and it’s a joy to watch a group of musicians at the top of their game flexing their abilities and loving every note they play as they do so. As they progress through the set the band joke that they’re just trying to “keep going and try to be as good as The Contortionist”. On the strength of this offering, they’ve just gone one better.

Arch Echo

Following one of the best performances of the weekend is not an easy task and Arcaeon aren’t able to keep the momentum going. Against the other bands that have played the Waghorn Guitars Stage today the heavy moments aren’t heavy enough and the melodic breaks not memorable, leaving this set labouring in the middle of the road. The melodic moments could be effective, however, the vocals are too pitchy to carry them off and a raft of technical issues don’t help the band convey their sound in the best way. One of the guitars is absent for the majority of the set due to issues and one of the band’s new tracks has to be restarted as the backing track malfunctions. Given the talent in the band it’s a shame to not see them at their best but with obviously more to give, hopefully the Tech Fest crowd will give them another go next time they’re in town.

Not being heavy enough isn’t something that The Voynich Code worry much about. The Portuguese tech-death crew test the resolve of the speakers and necks of those gathered in front of them as they smash their way through a set of tracks that have all the subtlety of using a machete to cut your vegetables. Nelson Rebelo has an impressive arsenal of unclean vocals, mixing it up with death metal growls, throaty screams and high pitched wails, all helping to keep each song fresh and interesting. It’s an excellent show that will be remembered as one of the day’s highlights, as much for the backache as the band’s material.

The relentless heaviness continues over at the Winspear Stage as Sunderland-based quintet Nexilva launch headlong into their blistering set. The guitarists race through transitions, laying out an impressive technical display, however in their haste there’s not much of a groove to anchor to, leaving the crowd largely static without something to head bang along to. Unlike The Voynich Code’s Nelson Rebelo, Nexilva front man Dilan Alves‘ scream stays at one tone throughout and though one of the guitarists occasionally contributes clean vocals, these aren’t his strong point and don’t land well enough to add anything valuable to the band’s sound.

Making up for the lack of groove before them, Damned Spring Fragrantia bring it in bucketloads. The Italian quartet’s djent-laden patterns and fully screamed vocals bring early Northlane to mind, causing heads to bob in appreciation. Not for the first time today though the vocalist’s monotonous scream takes some of the shine away from the performance, as songs start to bleed together without any differentiation in the vocals. That aside, it’s an enjoyable set that will no doubt have attracted some new followers.

With two of the heaviest bands of the weekend coming up to close out the day, Poland’s Tides From Nebula provide a breath-taking calm before the storm to wrap up proceedings at the Waghorn Guitars Stage. The band’s progressive, instrumental post rock is the most uplifingly beautiful moment of the festival, allowing you to float away on waves of ambient chords and lead lines, before each stunning crescendo hits with emotional power. The band jokes that “we’re probably the only band today, or maybe the whole festival that has only six strings on our guitars and a tuning that’s above O” and against the tide of heavy bands featured over the past couple of days it’s a momentary, welcome escape. Thanks to the dream like qualities of the band’s sound, it’s possible to block out any other sensations, including the stifling heat, for one beautifully rewarding hour. It’s a stunning set that gets the rapturous applause it deserves.

Tides From Nebula

Penultimate band Ingested announce themselves with immediate blast beats and rapid fire bass drums, and the intensity doesn’t waver from there on out. The death metal five piece occasionally reduce their frantic pace for just enough time to let the crowd nod their heads in time, before resuming their onslaught. It’s certainly not the most tuneful act of the day, but those looking to stare in admiration as musicians play super humanly fast are well rewarded and, judging by the reaction, there are plenty of people in that camp.


If violence could be condensed into musical form, it would sound something like The Acacia Strain. Saturday’s headliners are only interested in one thing: delivering a pummelling sledgehammer of noise to batter everyone round the head with. From the outset, the band’s gigantic sound engulfs the room, spawning slam dances and circle pits aplenty. There’s no subtlety in what The Acacia Strain do, this is a band designed to deliver massive heaviness and to their credit they succeed in their mission. With wave after wave of songs like this however the set does get repetitive and recycled as it goes on, but if you’re looking to be pummelled into submission, this is the band for you.

Acacia Strain