2023 sees RADAR Festival relocate from its previous home in Guildford to the larger industrial setting of Victoria Warehouse in Old Trafford. Situated next to Manchester United’s football ground overlooking the Manchester Ship Canal and Salford Quays, the imposing 1920s warehouse makes for a dramatic setting.
Kicking off proceedings is progressive metal outfit Shattered Skies. It’s a bittersweet show as this set marks the band’s final performance, but they make sure to go out on a high. The low ceilings, steel beams and club feel of the .strandberg* Guitars stage is incredibly atmospheric, and enhances the mood of Shattered Skies’ show. Filled with epic soaring vocals and intricate entwining guitar leads, the sound quality is fantastic. First to take to the Prog Magazine stage is Dutch and Greek quintet Playgrounded. Filling the main stage with floating melodies, electronics and a healthy dose of bass drops, their dreamy and immersive set also carries a dark undertone. The accompanying light show really helps to get lost in the music. Returning to the second stage, Mancunian grunge punk / nu-metal act Forager unleash lashings of energy cross the stage. It’s not long before vocalist Oliver Lindop is climbing around the stage, swinging from the ceiling joists while the crowd is a see of jumping, dancing and headbanging. Performing tracks from their new EP Who Wants It?, it’s an array of hardcore-esque breakdowns and catchy chorus hooks.
Returning to progressive realms, with an exploration into the ethereal, Exploring Birdsong deliver a stunning performance of piano driven tracks on the Prog stage. The trio recently released the new EP Dancing In The Face Of Danger and their setlist includes the track Pyre. Combining pop elements with prog, and some jazzy hints at times, it’s an uplifting, soaring show. Exploring Birdsong are clearly a big hit with the crowd and undoubtedly gain some new fans today. There’s a buzz of excitement as the crowd eagerly await Unprocessed’s set. The German quartet deliver a dramatic onslaught of progressive metal ranging from the highly technical, intricate and serene, to the thunderingly heavy, fierce bass and drama. Unprocessed begin their performance with a lighter and more prog led focus, before diving into the heavy getting the mosh pit going. Concluding with Haven taken from their 2018 album Covenant, it’s an apt ending bringing together all of their distinctive elements.
Filling the Prog stage with a hypnotic and enveloping sound is Irish trio God Is An Astronaut. Dramatic droning, shimmering tones, and fuzz-edged guitars are grounded with dynamic percussion. Elements of dissonance interject a dark mood, while explosive bass drops and distortion see the music ebb and flow into the heavy. A couple of technical difficulties arise across their set but fortunately, the band are able to return to manifesting enticing atmospheres without too much delay. Switching things up a gear on the .strandberg* Guitars stage, Swedish outfit AVIANA unleash an onslaught of fierce modern metal. Bringing to the stage an array of slamming rhythms Erased soon sees the mosh pit up and running. The dystopian Retaliation introduces the theatrical while Obsession brings thundering high-octane rhythms and an anthemic chorus.
No strangers to RADAR Festival, Haken take to the main stage with an offering of prog and Victoriana. With the members dressed in a fetching shirt matching the floral wallpaper featuring on the artwork of latest album, Fauna, begin with the album’s opening track Taurus. Along with celebrating their newest record, Haken travel back to their 2013 album The Mountain performing a number of tracks from this era including Atlas Stone along with the heavy, acapella and jazzy Cockroach King. Haken’s performance is flawless and the band members all gel together incredibly well. Heading the .strandberg* Guitars, Monuments go hard from the off. The second stage is full; the crowd are soon singing along and moshing to the four-piece’s unapologetic bouncing rhythms. Clean soaring vocals and demonic harsh contrast while accompanied with technical guitar melodies and huge rhythms.
Concluding the first day are Prog stage headliners Sleep Token. The crowd has been a sea of Sleep Token shirts and tattoos from the beginning of the day and not unsurprisingly, the main stage is packed out. The anticipation and excitement turns up to 11 when the stage becomes shrouded in a smoky blue haze, and Chokehold begins. The crowd immediately bursts into a chorus singing along. Vessel delivers a stunning, passionate vocal performance. The setlist traverses through the darkeningly heavy and the emotive serene all bathed in ethereal light that heightens the experience. Aqua Regia brings a display of airy synths and sultry tones to gel with its catchy chorus. Taking to the stage for a solo segment, Atlantic sees Vessel takes to the keyboard in an intimate moment among their setlist. Before long, the full band explodes into heavy riffs with an eerie backdrop of synths. The Love You Want sees the stage aglow in pink for the compelling, emotive track. Sleep Token end with the epic The Offering.
Alternative quartet Crushed By Waves open day two with a burst of energy, riffs, and breakdowns. Their gritty edge, melodic sound and anthemic choruses makes for high energy set. The band’s latest singles, Nothing Left and Won’t Get Out Alive sound powerful on the .strandberg* Guitars stage. Modern Error hit the Prog stage with an intriguing sound that encompasses elements of post-hardcore, mathcore, prog, rock and metal. They bring a distinctive character to the mainstage and despite it being early afternoon, the crowd soon gathers. Their atmospheric sound is enhanced by mood blue and white mood lighting, and the eerie backing tracks acting as interludes between songs. Ending on the dynamic Black Out Poetry they have clearly made an impact on their audience.
Graywave fill the industrial .strandberg* Guitars stage with an assortment of ambient, fuzz, and shoegaze. The smoke-filled stage makes an apt setting for their haunting sound. With a gloomy edge, their latest single Cycle is an immersive offering. Their set also includes the mesmerising Rebirth, the title track from their 2022 EP. Diving headfirst into the heavy, Londoners Harbinger unleash a ferocious sound onto the Prog stage. From vocalist Dilan Alves’ monstrous gutturals to their heavy groove rhythms the technical deathcore five-piece soon raise the energy in the room. The monumental Prayer Of Deliverance floods the crowd with intense rhythms while fast-paced Guile sees shredding riffs bleed onto the stage.
Tiberius bring an ‘80s infused sound to the .strandberg* Guitars stage. Their vocalist’s soaring performance throughout the set is fantastic. It seems their guitarist fancied an adventure mid-set as he leaves the stage popping into adjacent games room to some unsuspecting festival goers. Whatever wireless set up he uses it’s got good range. Hailing from Sweden Allt unfortunately encounter some technical difficulties leading to a delayed start and missing out two songs from their set. But once the band get going a wall of sound materialises comprised of electronics, blastbeats and thick distorted rhythms. Paralysed is a concoction of dark rhythms with a lighter texture in the verses. The aggressive Emanate carries a fierce edge with industrial leaning electronics and harsh vocals while The Deep Blue Silent takes things up a gear with ludicrous speeds.
The genre crossing sound of Profiler emanates from on the .strandberg* Guitars stage. Groove rhythms, intricate technical riffs, soaring cleans vocals and dissonant electronics combine into a full sound. Leaning into realms of the progressive, nu-metal and metalcore, with a hint of hardcore, the trio bring a wealth of high-octane energy to the industrial warehouse setting. The outfit dropped their new self-titled EP in June of this year, but they also delve into the back catalogue in this set with Ninety Three. Travelling all the way from Melbourne, Australia, Thornhill take to the Prog stage with an eager audience awaiting their set. Traversing across rock and metal, their sound encounters metalcore but also progressive and pop leaning aspects. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a complete Thornhill set without the stunning Lily & The Moon. The crowd were soon belting their hearts out to the iconic chorus. Arkangel taken from the 2022 album Heroine, is an immersive track with dreamy vocals floating above energetic distorted guitars. Their set concludes with Where We Go When We Die.
South Wales’ Dream State take their high-powered sound to the .strandberg* Guitars stage. A mix of rock, metal and EDM is the offering from the quartet who give their all in their set. Vocalist Jessie Powell gives an impressive live performance alternating between powerful cleans and monstrous harsh. With a setlist consisting of incredibly catchy tracks, it’s not surprising the second stage is soon filled. Entering the Prog stage, a dominating shrine like structure stands surrounded by smoke as the crowd gathers. Perturbator transform the room into an industrial Goth night club setting – despite it being early evening. The immersive drones, enveloping electronics, intense percussion and metal guitars create a thrilling and very different set. The theatrical show of both the venue lights and the shrine’s programmed lighting makes it extra special. Leaving their magnetic set, it takes a few moments to readjust as Heart Of A Coward begin their performance. The metalcore headliners bring a high energy set to the the .strandberg* Guitars stage. It’s an assault of harsh vocals, riffs and breakdowns, along with a taste of their upcoming album This Place Only Brings Death releasing in September.
Headlining the Prog stage, the eclectic Igorrr bring a fantastical array of genre combinations and a dark atmosphere. For those unfamiliar with this intriguing act, they combine extreme metal with operatic vocals, orchestration inspired by the Baroque with electronic and trap. Band leader Gautier Serre opens the show with an electronic introduction before the other band members make their appearances. Among there setlist is the Baroque-esque Nervous Waltz. Opening with orchestral strings and operatic vocals, the heavy distorted riffs soon emerge and the two become entwined amidst some aggressive electronic experimentation. The progressive, intricate, and Middle Eastern inspired melodies of Camel Dancefloor fuse with electronics before breaking out into a black metal influenced interlude. The elegant stage lighting, gothic gowns, dark hoods and black body paint make for a wonderfully theatrical live display.
Launching the final day of RADAR 2023, Dead Speaker open to a busy crowd at the .strandberg* Guitars stage. Based out of the North East, the metalcore act’s set gets the energy flowing early. Their single Wither starts out with a serene mood before exploding into heavy guitars and harsh vocals. Alternating between the two styles, the track sees a contrasting interplay of dark and light. Alaska takes things a little slower before Layogenic increases the pace. Over on the Prog stage we find Mancunian metalcore band Where Oceans Burn. Contrasting melodies and heavy sounds, the quartet appear comfortable on the mainstage and their mix is solid. Shadow // Self brings a darker mood with dissonant backing, thundering rhythms and anguished harsh vocals. Among their setlist, groove rhythms, soaring cleans and powerful chord progressions emerge, before concluding with Hollow Heart.
Forlorn’s ritual begins on the .strandberg* Guitars stage. Stepping onto the stage shrouded in smoke, vocalist Megan Elliott begins her ceremonial dance as hooded band members begin to surround. The low ceilings and industrial backdrop complements Forlorn’s pagan-esque/ Midsommar vibe as the space feels more intimate. The bass and guitar tones are just perfection creating a full and suitably heavy impact. Having recently unveiled their new offering, Sæl, Forlorn bring the EP to life on the live stage. Redeem Release is intensely dark and alluring while Hold Me carries a deep sense of agony and torment. The ritual draws to a close with The Weight Of It All. I Built The Sky’s prog display is filled with technical and intricate riffs. Keyboard riffs at times fulfil the role of the guitar and the two instruments interplay throughout the set. While predominantly instrumental, Monuments’ vocalist Andy Cziek joins for the final song of their set. With bursts of heavy groove rhythms and 8-bit-esque synths, the Australian act make a lasting impression.
Lake Malice unleash a grunge-edged alt-metal sound across the second stage. With explosive riffs, impressive clean vocals, demonic harsh and pounding percussion, the energy levels soar on the .strandberg* Guitars stage. Among their setlist are the powerful Creepers and Stop The Party two tracks advocating for women’s rights and calling out sexual abusers. The energy is still going all the way through their set. Ending with the compelling Blossoms, Lake Malice end with on an explosive note. ten56. make it to Radar just as their set is due to begin after their van broke down mid-route. With a speedy set up, it’s only about ten minutes later that they are kicking off their performance. Bursting into life the immense bass tones and guitars make for a dramatic opening. The energy is flowing around the room with the mosh pit in full swing and waves of crowd surfers, including one dressed as Jesus who is soon pulled up on stage by vocalist Aaron Matts. Resolve bring all hell and fury on the .strandberg* Guitars stage. It’s an onslaught of ludicrous breakdowns, clean vocals towering above the busy rhythmic percussion with some synths added in for good measure.
L.A. based quartet Volumes perform a number of tracks from their 2021 album Happier? along with a few from further back in their discography including Edge Of The Earth from the 2016 full-length Via. The two vocalists’ styles complement each other while both bringing something different. Filled with bouncy rhythms, riffs and electronics Volumes’ set is dynamic throughout. Loathe soon take to the the .strandberg* Guitars stage for their headline set. The low ceilings and club-like atmosphere feels very apt for their style. It’s only been a couple of weeks since the Liverpudlian quartet were performing here, at Victoria Warehouse, supporting Spiritbox on their UK tour. Loathe unleash their distinctive atmospheric, droning, heavy and emotive sound while bathed in a red glow. Screaming sees fuzz-drenched guitars form a huge sound for Kadeem France’s vocals to float above while the harsh and heavy create a stark contrast. Heavy Is The Head That Falls With The Weight Of A Thousand Thoughts brings their set to its end. A dark and haunting track, it showcases Loathe’s shadowy and aggressive side.
The Prog Stage soon fills with Periphery fans sporting their Djent Is Not A Genre merch. Sadly, guitarist Mark Holcomb isn’t present at this performance due to illness in his family. The progressive outfit from Washington, DC are the festival closers but they have been busy across the weekend taking part in other events including a masterclass. Theirs is a setlist filled with Spencer Sotelo’s charismatic vocals, guitar melodies, vibrant harmonies and breakdowns. They open with Muramasa, a track not played live since 2015, along with Wildfire and the enthralling Reptile.
It’s been an incredible three days filled with so many incredible performances. The sound quality and lighting on each stage has been very high quality overall. Despite some slight teething issues on the first day, which the organisers took action to address, it’s clear they care about the festival as it continues to grow. It’s hard to believe this was only the third edition of RADAR and first in a new setting. RADAR is quickly becoming a staple of the metal scene and it’s great to see they’ll be returning to Manchester in 2024.
Words by Holly Royle
Photos by Rubén Navarro Martín, Charlie Bluck, Claire Alaxandra, Lauren Robey and Moshmallows