Walking back onto the site feels like coming home. Newark Showground, the home of UK Tech-Fest, is filled with booming bass reverberating from the stages as the first bands begin their soundcheck. It’s Day 0 and already many campers have arrived and are setting up their tents. The sun is attempting to push through the clouds and there are a few hopeful patches of blue sky overhead. Before long, the hot sunshine arrives, perfect weather for strawberry daiquiri slushes. This is the 10th edition and last full four-day festival of its kind as an indefinite hiatus approaches. A wonderful community has grown out of Tech-Fest, one that extends beyond the gates of Newark Showground, and that will continue.
Opening the second stage and kick-starting Tech-Fest 2023, Itself Timeless exude emotive post-metal. The dark and progressive outfit from London engage with elements of noise metal creating haunting music. The theatrical delivery and intense emotion are clearly central to their art, as their vocalist strides over the barriers into the crowd and falls to his knees in an impassioned enactment. To Obey A Tyrant from Bournemouth are the first to take to the mainstage with a thrilling display of deathcore; it’s a brutal offering with great energy. Despite it still being early in the day, the Tech-Fam are clearly eager for their next injection of heavy music. Lost To Light are next to grace the second stage. This new metalcore line-up is one with which you may be familiar; the band are comprised of current and former members of Sworn Amongst, Laguna Sunrise, The Cartographer and Skies In Motion. Minor teething issues occur at first, but soon this collective unveil powerful lead vocal harmonies, guttural growls and compelling rhythms. 2023 has a notably diverse group of attendees, and some the younger fans are enthusiastically dancing having taken a shine to Lost To Light.
A progressive, all-encompassing serene atmosphere builds during Netherhall’s set. With contrasting lighter tones, vast soundscapes and distortion-fuelled groove riffs, Netherhall’s sound has something for everyone. Changing gear, Starved’s full-throttle hardcore unleashes a storm of relentless aggression, speed and breakdowns. It’s soon time for a tea break with Milk & Two Shuggahs, this tribute act is a crowd favourite with their high-energy take on some of Meshuggah’s best hits. The audience is soon a mass of headbanging fans. The atmosphere is electric, and it is still only Day 0! Returning to the realms of prog, Arcaeon’s polished show sees a fantastic balance of the heavy with a nice mix prog and tech metal features. Arcaeon’s vocalist Stuart Sarre effortlessly segues from intense harsh vocals to impressive cleans reaching some incredible high notes. The band recently released their new single Burn Beyond The Grave that showcases a heavier, lesser-known side of Arcaeon’s sound. On the main stage, the chunky riffs and screams give a huge impact.
Mancunian quintet The Human Veil have an alternative take on metalcore with post-hardcore elements thrown in for good measure. A thrilling display of catchy hooks and hard-hitting breakdowns soon gets the pit going. Anima Tempo treats us to an early listening of the new album Chaos Paradox released the following day. The second stage headliners from Mexico City deliver a dynamic performance infused with technical, progressive, djent, and melodic death elements. Much of Anima Tempo’s setlist leaves a lasting impression, notably the new album’s title track that makes an impact with its cinematic string intro and build-up, before diving into djenty riffs and demonic vocals. Thursday’s headliners are London-based technical-deathcore outfit Harbinger, who soon set about filling the mainstage with their fierce modern metal sound. They are joined on stage by Harbinger’s original vocalist, Thom Gardner, now frontman of Pulse who have a slot on Sunday at this year’s fest, for a throwback track. The two vocalists, old and new, complement each other bringing different tones into the mix celebrating their beginnings and this next chapter with Dilan Alves. As their set heads towards its end, prior to two last songs, drummer Joel Scott gives a heartfelt message to Simon Garrod and the importance of Tech-Fest in the making of Harbinger. It was through the festival that the members met.
Despite some rain attempting to dampen the campsite, the central hangar is buzzing with bands setting up their merch tables and festival goers eagerly awaiting their next dose of metal. The second stage has a great turn out for Friday’s opener Cavekiller. Dropping a plentiful load of explosive bass drops and breakdowns, with intricate guitar leads thrown in for good measure, the quartet sporting brightly coloured floral and leopard print shirts are determined to get the energy flowing throughout the stage, and it works. Opening the mainstage on the release day of their new EP The Cold Black, The Cartographer deliver a blistering assault of modern metal. The pulverising rhythms creating a bone shattering impact although guitar leads become somewhat overshadowed in the mix, a theme that unfortunately prevails for a few bands on the main stage across the weekend. The unceasing energy from the five-piece is infectious. Hardcore act Glower—think The Simpsons’ Mr Burns’ ‘Glower Power’ (and yes, they actually sampled that)—waste no time in ripping up the second stage. Perpetual speed, gutturals and high-octane groove rhythms are of course accompanied with slow dramatic breakdowns. InRetrospect are one of many making their debut at this last edition of Tech-Fest, and they fit in perfectly with the Tech-Fam. Soaring vocals from their charismatic vocalist enhance this engaging performance. Including their self-proclaimed heaviest track in the setlist, the show draws to a close with a wholesome group hug.
Forlorn conduct a ‘Midsommar Metal’ offering blessed with theatrics, breakdowns and floral crowns. Their ritual entwines progressive and modern elements into a truly spectacular display. Megan’s ethereal cleans and demonic screams manifest a dark contrast amidst the metal instrumentation. Their setlist includes their newest single The Weight of It All—it’s a thrilling journey through light and dark, folk elements and the brutal metal. Exist Immortal’s explosive set of metalcore, tech-metal and hints of prog, is let loose across the main stage. With unceasing energy from the off, Exist Immortal’s highly enjoyable set sees Dilan Alves of Harbinger interject a burst of obliterating harsh, technical guitar solos from James Hewitt of Hacktivist, and two vocalists introduced simply as Max and Paul, add cameos. 2023 sees Sworn Amongst return with original members after their hiatus was announced back in 2020, and in March of this year they revealed the new track Restitution. The Hull-based metal quartet erupt into a full-fronted assault of intricate riffs and savage vocals on the second stage.
Heading into the evening buzz as the headliner’s set approaches, the main stage is full for Conjurer’s soul crushing sound. The sternum-shattering bass bleeding out from the speakers does unfortunately over-shadow some of their sound. However, the quartet’s genre-crossing music shrouds the audience in monstrous display of eerie dissonance with musical influences drawn from the likes of doom and black metal, with a progressive touch. Hacktivist caused a stir with their announcement of vocalist Jot Maxi’s departure a few days before Tech-Fest. It wasn’t long though before fans in the scene began to put two and two together as to who the new vocalist might be. JJ, formerly of the hip-hop infused metalcore act Borders, who announced their end as a band earlier this year, took to his new role in Hacktivist like a duck to water. It all feels incredibly natural in this new line-up and with JJ’s talent for rap and harsh vocals, he’s a pretty perfect fit especially evident through the debut of a new track Crooks And Criminals. It’s like a celebration of the scene with the audience fully engaged and with two guest vocal spots from Exist Immortal’s vocalist Meyrick de la Fuente and former Borders guitarist Gavin Burton.
An onslaught of technical, melodic metal explodes from The Five Hundred who waste no time making their presence known. Unleashing an array of crushing breakdowns, thundering percussion, emotive melodies and dark atmospheres, the quintet from Nottingham also provides a tantalising taste of their upcoming album. Liverpool’s Loathe take the headline slot, having been promoted following death metallers Suffocation’s withdrawal from the festival. With a vintage, gentlemanly aesthetic on stage enhanced by the waistcoat casually draped over an amplifier and red velvet fabric covering the keyboard stand, the four-piece’s immersive style is filled with emotion, soundscapes and shimmering melodies as well as fierce breakdowns. The line-up sees Louie stepping up to cover percussion while Sean recovers from recent surgery. Loathe are another among who Tech-Fest helped to elevate earlier in their career, and now are headlining the festival and preparing to head on tour with Spiritbox.
After many made the effort to rise early for the one final Tech-Fest group photo, the showground is soon wide awake and ready for another day of heavy music. Fusing a powerful combination of trap and metal, Swarm6ix make a memorable opener kicking off the day’s epic line-up. The new single Death’s G(rip), released the day before, sees emotional yet vicious vocals, fierce guitars and deafening bass combine with dynamic trap and electronics to create an incredibly eerie, dark mood. You might remember Blind Summit from last year’s Tech-Fest. This time, they’re are opening the main stage and give it their all; showcasing a mix of old songs and new including The Place I Feel Safe and 303, the outfit bring catchy hooks, enticing rhythms, breakdowns and even some hints of prog. Blind Summit are a big hit with both existing fans and new ones.
Monestaries serve up a large helping of technical death in their wild, vicious display. Circle pits going are soon underway. Gearing up to the release of their new album later this summer, their latest single Alone And Against goes down a storm and their track Force Fed Apathy is clearly a crowd favourite. Azure switches up the mood with dynamic prog goodness in the form of phenomenal vocals and lashings of intricate guitars. With a fluid transition between lighter tones and rich distortion, their technical execution is exquisite and, they have a keytar! Another of today’s line-up who are no strangers to the festival are London based quartet Vexed. Having recently released the highly acclaimed cathartic new album Negative Energy, it’s fantastic to see the brutality translated from studio recordings onto the stage. From the dedication of X My <3 (Hope To Die) to their LGBTQ+ fans to the emotional energy of Trauma Euphoria, Vexed are not afraid to speak out on injustice and experiences of discrimination. They’ve had their own unpleasant encounters in the industry. Ending with Nepotism, complete with dramatic mic drop from Megan, they’re not letting anyone who discredits them as “just another fucking female-fronted band” get in their way. They have an incredibly supportive group of fans, and Vexed’s live shows keep getting better and better. They are most definitely one to watch.
Kublai Khan TX, hailing from Texas, draw a huge crowd to the main stage. Countless fans can be seen singing along, and the pit is soon up and running at full speed. It’s ludicrously fun, stupendously heavy, angry music for moshing. The number of Kublai Khan TX tees sported for the remainder of the festival shows how popular the US act are. It’s bass drop after bass drop, breakdown then breakdown but slower, and continuing the trend of guest vocalists this year, Bound In Fear’s frontman Ben Mason joins for a cameo. Changing gear once again, the post-metal band from Leeds, Hundred Year Old Man, slow things down with their atmospheric, doomy sound. It’s an immersive experience, the lighting is muted, the air is hazy with smoke, from which shimmering guitar leads, imposing bass tones, and captivating vocals emerge from the silhouettes on the stage. Through the shadows you might just recognise Tech-Fest’s very own Helen Tytherleigh on bass.
Making a grand entrance to Aerosmith’s I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing, Aborted dive into a crushing set filled with raised fists and star jumps. The mix is on point; from the annihilating percussion and bass, groove rhythms of the guitars and unyielding vocals the band’s energy is relentless. With the theatrics of smoke machines, atmospheric lighting and alien-esque imagery, it’s an impressive show. Cardinal Sin, a track about nightmares that never leave, is played live for the first time and, of course, they exit to Darude’s Sandstorm.
Bound In Fear release a raucous display of deathcore. Merciless breakdown after merciless breakdown, with some downtempo thrown in, the quintet unleashes a fury of vocals and wall of aggression driven instrumentation. Saturday’s headliners Chelsea Grin’s deadly onslaught of deathcore sees a packed stage with crowd surfers (among whom include Mario and Luigi) and pit goers going hard from the off. The Americans perform a mixture of older tracks and new from their recent album release. Dealing with a medical emergency is not something any band wishes to encounter and after two attempts of performing Recreant, it becomes clear a medic is needed. Chelsea Grin deal with the situation incredibly well, and festival organisers have since confirmed the casualty is doing well. Third time’s a charm and they make it to the end of Recreant and continue to finish their cutthroat display.
It’s Sunday, and there’s a sense of determination in the air from both fans and bands to make the most of this final day. Raging quintet Pulse kick off proceedings by opening the mainstage with a blast, and before long their bassist hops over the barrier into the pit. For lunchtime on a Sunday, they’re really going for it. With a backing of abrasive electronics adding an eerie edge, it reveals a gloomy side to their extreme, high-octane metal. Desire, an as-yet-unreleased track, brings clean choruses and punishing breakdowns, before ending with the groove rhythms of Devour. Through obliterating high-speeds, ethnic elements and a tambourine (more metal bands should use tambourines on stage), the Cambridge-based group, Akkadian, manifest an enchanting atmosphere. A spiritual aspect is conveyed through their historically themed music along with an air of mystique. Defences’ charismatic and dynamic alt-metal style incorporates melodic aspects, groove rhythms, even a hint of djent, with anthemic touches also present in the mix. Despite dealing with a nosebleed mid-set (can you be more metal?), vocalist Cherry Duesbury gives a stunning performance while William Alex Young’s harsh vocals inject a fierce edge.
Michigan’s Of Virtue draw from their metalcore focused origins but have more recently expanded their sound to incorporate some softer elements alongside the heavy. Having previously performed in 2018 at Thursday’s afterparty, they now fill the mainstage with catchy bangers. From the anthemic new release Cannibals with its melodic vocal lines to the highly enticing Sinner with its memorable chorus. Hungarian post-hardcore outfit Shell Beach are energetic from the off. Despite a long journey to be here, they don’t let any signs of tiredness show. Their progressive sound is accompanied by an enthusiastic delivery, as vocalist Zoltan Bodóczy gets his steps in pacing up and down the speakers on the second stage. Shell Beach’s energetic set is one you can’t help but move to comprised of tracks from their latest record Solar Flare leaning from alternative rock to the more progressive realms.
The audience is packed for Paledusk. Hailing from Japan, they make quite an entrance with raging sirens before entering the stage to a rap backing track, the metallers not only push genre boundaries but also go all out with their performance. The energy in the room is incredible, not to mention the band themselves. Guitarist Daisuke frequently launches into high kick-spins throughout the set, a movement he makes look effortless. EDM elements along with J-pop creating a stark contrast to the ear-splitting distortion and Kaito’s growls. In SLAY!! Paledusk somehow manages to reference elements from almost every genre of music into an experience of high-octane chaos. Guitarist Tsubasa encounters a few technical difficulties but is back up and running for the new song I’m ready to die for my friends. The catchy chorus which soon has the audience singing along, it’s a diverse crowd of metalheads, young families and dinosaurs…
With a number of Tech-Fests under their belts, for 2023 Where Oceans Burn return with an excellently executed set of solid metalcore comprised of melodic clean vocals from frontman Alex and aggressive contrasts. Where Oceans Burn offer up lashings of bouncy rhythms and catchy choruses. Continuing with the watery theme, Oceans Ate Alaska take their genre-crossing modern metal sound to a packed mainstage. While some melodies are unfortunately overpowered by the booming bass, the fierce screams and pounding breakdowns give a huge impact. Details such as the synth choir backing, and trap cymbals add an extra something by giving an extra dimension of character to their tracks. The lightning speed percussion of Blood Brothers is just ludicrous, drummer Chris Turner is a machine playing this live. The drama of New Dawn soon gets the pit going in full force while Shallow Graves showcases the band’s more melodic side.
Blackened deathcore sextet She Must Burn begin bathed in blood red lighting. Valice Volkova’s ethereal vocals make for a haunting introduction before the shadowy onslaught of heavy instrumentation and Kyle Lamb’s demonic vocals flood the second stage. The crackling sound of burning embers leads into Incantation, taken from the band’s latest offering Umbra Mortis. The emotive Eulogy carries a sense of the bleak through anguish-soaked instrumentation, and yet there’s a sanguine aspect through the Valice’s powerful vocals and orchestral progressions. Venturing further back into their discography, After Death and Possessed close this enchanting yet formidable show.
As the crowd gathers eagerly awaiting Born Of Osiris (aka BOO Crew), it is tradition at this point on the final day before the headliners to announce the winner of the raffle draw. This segment also provides an opportunity for Simon Garrod to give a speech on this final and 10th anniversary of Tech-Fest. The ethos of Tech-Fest has always been to give a platform for smaller bands where other areas of the industry weren’t offering those opportunities, and as can be seen from this year’s line-up, so many have grown because it. The crew arrange a heartfelt presentation for Simon, Helen and Amanda, thanking them for all they have created. It’s an emotional time as Tech-Fest isn’t just another metal festival, it’s a community and has impacted so many lives for the better. After a rather emotional outpouring, Born Of Osiris unleash an onslaught of djenty chuggs, technical guitar leads, guttural vocals and synths that’ll make your soul leave your body. The catchy and entangled melodies of Angel Or Alien’s otherworldly synths, layered with commanding vocals and intricate guitar leads, fills the stage with an epic sound. Ending with the gnarly heavy of Machine, BOO see the festival conclude with a bang.
Words by Holly Royle