Saturday, the third and final day of ArcTanGent 2017, started with lots of groove. First, Wigan’s Boss Keloid, whose singer Alex Hurst’s powerful bellow and mannerisms channelled his inner John Garcia and Neil Fallon, laid out enjoyable stoner-sludge grooves with riffs heaped in fuzz. Opener “Lung Mountain” may have been the early highlight (that reprise is a killer!) but the whole set, lifted from the underrated Herb Your Enthusiasm, was great.
Then Spain’s Jardin de la Croix played a splendid set of proggy instrumental math-rock. Fun and cheerful they were a totally different affair from Boss Keloid, but equally impressive. Featuring intricate, melodic guitar parts played over a driving bass and a drummer that was astounding, Jardin de la Croix were a nice surprise.
The next two bands were really helped by and also contributed to the friendly summer atmosphere around ArcTanGent on the third day. Playing the ARC stage in the early afternoon, ArcTanGent favourites The Physics House Band’s funky bass and jazzy drumming went down an absolute treat. They brilliantly merged engaging lead keys and synth soundscapes with Tom Morello style riffing on the likes of “Surrogate Head” and “Calypso” as they played the whole of this summer’s Mercury with a couple of bonus earlier tracks at the end of their set, finishing with a tremendous rendition of “Teratology”.
Another band suited to ArcTanGent’s atmosphere were Belgian trio Brutus with their noisy hardcore take on anthemic pop-punk. Hot off the launch of their excellent debut, Burst, they did look somewhat bewildered at first but after a few tracks the three members relaxed more and had found their stride for the rest of their set. Somehow Brutus managed to mix blast-beats, Stefanie Mannaerts’ uplifting and catchy (at times throat shredding) vocals, post-rock guitar work, and propelling bass-lines into one energetic whole.
The contrasts between Brutus and Boris were blatant: one band is at a fledgeling period of their career as a punk band and the other has just released their 24th album of droning doom (although to be fair, Boris have recorded quite a few punkier songs as well). With winds blowing hard the Japanese doomster’s stage smoke didn’t hang around at all but still helped to add a bit of a peculiar aura to their set. I did really enjoy their set – a mixture of sublime classics peppered with a couple of tracks from Dear, including the excellent “Absolutego” – but I would have preferred to see them in a later slot under one of the tents, where their dark mood and doom tones would have been more suited. Boris’ compatriots tricot gained a great reception from the crowd as they walked onto the Yohkai stage and their sugary j-pop style belied the complex rhythms, staccato guitars and pacy drumming of their math-rock music. I didn’t stick around long as I anticipated a big turnout for Employed To Serve but did appreciate what I saw of tricot’s upbeat set.
Sweet Jesus, Employed To Serve absolutely decimated the PX3 stage! Beginning as they do on their The Warmth Of A Dying Sun album with the ferocious one-two attack of “Void Ambition” and “Good For Nothing”, Employed To Serve took no prisoners right from the get-go. Confidently combining hardcore beatdowns and technical metal riffing, they barely allowed the crowd in the rammed tent a moment to catch their breath, aside from a quick tune-up before playing a chunk of earlier material. After encouraging a circle pit as wide as the tent during final track “I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)”, Sammy Urwin surfed around the perimeter of the pit from front to back then side to side as Brady Deeprose of Conjurer filled in on guitar and backing vocals. This was an uncompromising and savage show from the British up-and-comers, and one of the highlights of the weekend.
I watched the first two songs by SiKth to see if they were still any good – they were okay – but I was desperate to catch Jambinai so I dashed to the other side of the festival site for the excellent South Korean post-rockers.
Receiving the warmest, most appreciative applause of the whole festival, the five-piece used an assortment of traditional Korean instruments and the standard rock set up of guitar, bass and drums to produce an emotional and enthralling show that by the finale had the crowd chanting ‘Ten more songs!’. Like Jambinai’s whole set, the magnificent “They Keep Silence” – introduced by Lee Il-woo as a song about the controversy surrounding the Sewol ferry disaster – managed to jump between furiously aggressive metal climaxes and truly beautiful, tender moments. Much like the rest of the audience, I could easily have watched another hour of Jambinai’s dynamic music, they were powerful, melodious and utterly engrossing.
I would have been happy calling it a night after Jambinai, so seeing Explosions In The Sky close the festival on the main stage was a bonus. Always guaranteeing a refined, symphonic performance Explosions In The Sky did not disappoint and they were backed up by a glorious light show that emphasised the impact of their loud, swelling crescendos and was suitably subdued for the softer, quieter moments. The band had the crowd completely captivated with everyone in the audience (thankfully) near silent and swaying along to favourites such as “Your Hand In Mine” and the wonderful finale “The Only Moment We Are Alone”. In fact, Explosions In The Sky finished the final uplifting build of their last song with a superbly tight and abrupt snare hit and stamp on pedals to silence all instruments on that single beat. Explosions In The Sky were a tremendous, epic final showcase of a cracking weekend of diverse and impressive bands.