LIVE REVIEW: Techabilitation 2019 @ The Bread Shed, Manchester – 2nd November 2019

Techabilitation provides a fix for Tech-Fest goers outside of the festival season. 2019 sees the day-long event take place in Manchester for the first time. Doors open at 12pm and already metalheads and music fans alike are beginning to queue outside. Despite the continuous rainfall, Tech-Fest regulars and local gig goers are braving the poor weather conditions for the event.

Absalom (7) are first to take the stage in The Bread Shed. They have a pretty decent sized crowd for the first act of the day. There are a few technical issues with the sound levels, which is not entirely unexpected for the first band on a long set list. Initially Adam Ost’s vocals are lost in the mix and the lead guitar tones aren’t coming through clearly. Absalom do, however, have a fantastic bass tone and plenty of bass drops sees the crowd headbanging to the powerful sound. The balancing of the instrumentation improves as the set progresses and sees Adam’s vocals become more audible. His cleans are very dynamic – bringing a melodic, theatrical element to the band’s sound. The lead guitars also benefit as Absalom’s set progresses as their intricate riffs balance out the heavier tones of the music. Absalom deliver a good opening set – delivering such a strong, heavy sound, they set the tone for the rest of the event.

Mancunian based progressive metallers Blind Summit (8) deliver a great set showing the diverse nature of the line-up at this year’s Techabilitation. Combing soaring vocals with unusual rhythms, intricate melodies and strong bass, Blind Summit have created a unique sound. Their tracks felt a little disjointed on occasions but overall, they clearly have good song writing abilities. Unfortunately, the technology isn’t ready to behave itself and their guitarist is affected for the most of their first track. This issue doesn’t appear to phase the quintet who manage to continue the track and deliver a good performance whilst the issue is fixed. On a few occasions the vocals become a little quiet in the mix, but their set remains immersive and dynamic throughout.

Chiasmata (9), progressive metal quarter also from Manchester, bring another dimension of sound to the early afternoon set. Chiasmata are no strangers to Tech-Fest having previously performed at the festival’s after party. Their unique sound involves technical instrumentation, innovative song writing and Zoe’s ludicrously powerful vocals. As has been the theme thus far, the technology once again intervenes mischievously affected Zoe’s microphone leaving her vocals inaudible for one track. Fortunately, the remainder of their set is unaffected. The performance standard is high among these bands; none of the acts have allowed the issues to affect the energy and effort they put into their performances. Chiasmata have great stage presence and band chemistry; delivering a sense of theatrics with some choreographed sections. Whether performing a track with vocals or a track that is instrumental, Chiasmata’s sound is energetic and electric.

Arcaeon (9) follow suit with a powerful performance. The quintet bring energy in their instrumentation and passion fuelled vocals. Stuart Sarre’s clean vocals have a distinctive tone and texture that contrasts the technical aspect of their sound. Whilst his harsh vocals provide that extra depth to their heavier sections of their tracks. The technical guitar playing is impressive. Arcaeon have successfully managed to compose their tracks around the vocals and lead guitars without one overshadowing the other. The instrumentation feels well balanced with each layer of sound having its own space in the mix. They are clearly a big hit among the tech-metal fans.

The afternoon takes a heavy turn with The Human Veil (9). This metalcore band, also hailing from Manchester, create a dark, heavier atmosphere that radiates through the venue. There is immense power in their sound. The tones of the guitars and bass are just delicious. Producing a huge sound in the lower ranges. The energetic percussion really drives the track enhancing the energy levels of their performance. Frontman Matt Wall delivers both dramatic harsh and soaring clean vocals. By using his cleans in the choruses of a number of their tracks, The Human Veil convey further emotion in their music. Fans of the quintet are singing their hearts out throughout their set. It’s great to see the love and support these bands receive.

This Is Turin (8) are next to take to the stage. This early evening performance is the last for bassist James Kinnear. It’s great to see personal touch in their performance celebrating their band mate. The intensity of their performance shows the power this blackened technical metal band put into their music. Their heavy performance delivers a mighty sound. The instrumental tones are well balanced and complement each other whilst the vocals from Darryl Jones pack an extra punch.

The Mechanist (8) recently released their new EP, Shape And Vision, and their performance at Techabilitation is a treat for their fans as they play the EP in full. The five-piece metalcore act keep the high energy of the day going with their fantastic set. They have created a distinctive sound compiled of technical guitar melodies and charismatic vocals. Frontman James Cheal delivers a spectrum of growling harsh and soaring clean vocals throughout their tracks. The addition of Jonny White’s clean vocals enhances their sound by including a different vocal texture. They cleverly layer the instrumentation in such a way that makes their tracks very detailed without feeling overwhelming.

Sumer (8) are eagerly awaited and it’s not too surprising to see why. Their set dives straight into dynamic rhythms that fill the venue with a huge sound. Opening with an instrumental track really sets the atmosphere for their sound and the stage lighting works wonders. The band members become silhouettes against a dramatic colourful backdrop of lighting and smoke. With three guitarists, Sumer produce powerful tracks. They are predominantly rhythm focused – by layering the tones and textures of their instruments Sumer have created a unique sound. A few technical elements appear throughout the set and this does break up the extensive wall of sound. It is perhaps the variations in layering and volume that Sumer lack. Powerful songs produce a greater impact when including more variety to highlight the full extent of the power in the music. The vocal melodies explore further dimensions of their music. Vocalists Tim Bonney and Ian Hill have quite distinctive voices and yet both blend seamlessly with each other, and the instrumentation.

Borders (9) unleash an explosive set. They may be the penultimate act, but there is no intention of letting the music and energy slow down yet. Gut-wrenching vocals, growling guitars and powerful percussion combines to produce an immersive sound. Hailing from Lincoln, Borders clearly have a strong fan base amongst the Tech-Fest community. They have a powerful stage presence and radiate their energy into the audience. The crowd is, not unsurprisingly, a sea of headbanging and movement to the music. Borders connect deeply with their audience through their music.

Hacktivist (8) are well known amongst Tech-Fam, having appeared at the summer festival previously. They are distinguished in the genre of rap metal. Combing rap vocals with harsh sections and even some fantastic cleans from bassist Josh Gurner. Their set is energetic and dynamic throughout. Both lead vocalists, J Hurley and Jot Maxi, are strong characters and bring their individuality to the performance. Hacktivist bring high energy levels which continue throughout their performance and spread into the audience. It’s not long before a pit forms – we couldn’t go through the whole event without at least having one for the headliner of the day.

As per usual with Tech-Fest, all of the acts in today’s line up have been of an incredibly high quality both musically and in their performance. They have shown the diversity of music within the metal genre and the incredible talent of musicians in the scene, both from Manchester and further afield. But today wasn’t just about the music. Those familiar with Tech-Fest will understand the community that has grown from it. Catching up with friends, musicians and meeting new people is a huge part of this event and the main festival held in July. All of the acts were fantastic, and the day has rehabilitated the tech–metallers, well, for now at least.

Words by Holly Royle

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