Gig Review: UK Tech-Fest 2023 – Friday

UK Tech Fest – 10 years of building a strong, respected event showcasing the finest bands in the metal scene of today, giving underground and newer bands the opportunities to shine amongst some of metal’s household named bands and then some… what a festival! 

The atmosphere is the epitome of warmth and has captured the essence of a family vibe amongst it’s festival goers over the years. Described as the ultimate “mates fest” – it’s plain to see that even online, Tech Fest has been in the hearts of every UK metal festival lover and has built foundations for memories, life long friendships and a stunning experience to take away.

This year being the year that the amazing organisers decide to put the final show on, we’re offered a stunning line up to conclude the years that UKTM have been running – Loathe, Hacktivist, Harbinger, Chelsea Grin, The Five Hundred, Aborted, Crepitation, Born of Osiris and many more to boot included in the line up. 

Friday

After Thursday evening’s pitching up just in time to see the incredible Harbinger, Friday kicked off with Nottingham two stepping Hardcore outfit Cavekiller.  

Ambience with a brutal and tech riff infused twist, the atmospheric elements playing hard with crushing vocals and thunderous drumming is a heavy theme with these guys. Though stunningly brutal, new track in its live format, Cursed To Suffer, mildly flirts around with some dance style beats beneath the blistering heaviness of the drums and face melting riffs. A stellar start off for the day.

The Cartographer (c) Red Death Media

Every time I’ve seen Derby death-tech lads The Cartographer, they’ve totally annihilated the stage and bring a huge fusion of energy with huge gnarly riffs and neck snapping breakdowns. I’m pleased to see that they got given a main stage slot at Tech Fest, totally undeniably deserved.

Though here at Tech Fest, is the tightest I’ve ever seen them – a clear and fully immersive clash of that djenty element they play around with, with harsh barking vocals over intricate tech riffs. 

“Have you got energy, Tech Fest?”

One of the newer offerings from The Cartographer, blistering track infused with Drum n Bass hints, Red Tape showcases intricate drumming that takes the heaviness to different spheres of the song. Mechanical blastbeats and thundering breakdowns command the pace that hold fast over some tempo change ups to the aforementioned injections of drum n bass.
Accomplished vocals completely give the track depth with high end gutturals and deep screams that deliver a punchy stride with the beats.

Basement Torture Killings (c) Red Death Media

Heading back to second stage and we’re met with the the familiar air of gore and horror that renowned grind-death outfit Basement Torture Killings feed into the crowd.

The atmosphere is murky and dim, though don’t let that fool you. BTK have long been terrorising audiences across the UK and Europe, this being the fourth time i’ve witnessed their blood-spattered exhibit and this is by far one of the most sonic assault shows to date. Taking us through offerings of their latest album Lessons In Murder, bludgeoning through some terrifying experiences that entwine the likes of Armchair Psycho or Pure Predator’s false sense of security before in comes the crashing and frenzied attack of Faceless Killer’s pure brutal smashing of the kit entwined with Beryl’s depth of hell-esque vocals.

It wouldnt be a BTK show without the brutal murder of the teddy bears on stage. Beryl has perfected this over the years – a total bloodbath, ripping entrails all over the place, stuffing and insides torn and thrown into the crowd. Brutal.

Next to tear up the main stage came Italian post deathcore band Despite Exile. Being new to these guys, it was so SO good to see some deathcore that has elements of different ambiences blended in, We’re at Tech Fest, this is the place for it. Though, these breakneck medleys of melodic and technical death infused ferocity came with some stunningly soft and beautiful glimmers to balance out their delivery.

Scepter was a stunning example of this, starting with atmospheric synths subtly balancing through the inevitable inferno that encapsulated this track.
The drumming is phenomenal. The changes in rhythm are commanded perfectly alongside the beautiful and brutal guitar work that injects some truly immersive moments to support the venomous vocal work.

I’ll be throwing myself into discovering more of these guys. Some of the best live melodic deathcore I have seen.

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Cage Fight (c) Red Death Media

Freshly forged within the past few years, brutal new sounds crafted by London based Cage Fight continue the fusion of genres combining so we’re given a taste of something new and unexpected. Tightly produced hardcore metal mythrilled in together with some technical, progressive, groove infused riffage and the subtle punk notes, we’re taken through a ripping performance that threatens aggression and fury over the main stage room. Reverating rhythms set the mood for Respect Ends, commanding a fearful warning throughout with anchoring bass notes and disorientating riffs. 

Straight off the bat, Nick Plews comes crashing in with some purely venomous wielding of the kit. The hurtling breakdowns lace through technical beats to deliver a serious amount of power with James Monteith’s huge groove fuelled monstrous riffs unleashing a sonic assault forward. 

It cannot go unspoken that the unity in the room was exceptionally present, a heartfelt tribute to the great and much missed Trevor Strnad saw the crowd celebrate him together with roars of cheers before the power of “Eating Me Alive” was unleashed.

Rachel Asp has some pipes that are purely devastating – her energy is bludgeoning and unforgiving. Ranging from rasping barks to guttural growls, the ferocity of her vocals command the sheer spite in this track and blow hit after hit with Nick’s frenzied blastbeats commanding the pace. James, whilst still delivering his exceptional riffs, gets off the stage and straight into the eye of the storm of the crowd, he starts a circle pit and the crowd happily obliges.

“My Dreams” showcases a slightly different element to Cage Fight where the intro of the song is an ethereal melodic carriage into darker and nightmarish riffs and Rachel’s furious roars fills the room. The back melody of this track takes on a more progressive and melodic tone than that of this set’s other songs – and it is stunning.

Forlorn (c) Red Death Media

Back to the second stage, another band that I’ve seen amongst more line ups recently, Pagan-esque Doom infused Forlorn have been making waves over the last year and finally, witnessing them was an absolute experience.

Megan Elliott approaches with a conjuring of magic, her vocals take on beautiful and clean singing echoing through the stage that ebbs and flows with some purely demonic growls that craft an atmosphere that shapeshifts constantly.

“Old Wounds” has elements that you’d expect to hear from a mash up between Massive Attack and Draconian. Use of light progressive tones with slabs of heavy and dark doom-esque shifts in guitars and double pedals of the drums form to create a stunning atmosphere that ripples and vibrate beneath your feet.

“Erased” comes in a slight more solemnly with beautifully melancholy touches of guitars and bass  that build up to a slow circle of lonely tones that invite subtle drum beats into the fold. Forlorn are utterly mesmerising, bestowing fully emotion fuelled and cathartic moods to share amongst the crowd. There is no song one like the other, with the way forward paved with both light and darkness, anger and passion, aggressive and gentle tones. Purely immersive. One of the best findings of the weekend for me.

Crepitation (c) Red Death Media

I was immensely happy to see this spot had been landed by this next band and after this year’s hard grinding, getting to witness some of these newer tracks live. When a band that you’ve worked alongside put their energy into their art and carve out something a bit extra within their realms of musicianship, therein lies a swell of pride to view them in a live setting. Liverpool’s answer to Slam/Deathgrind Crepitation have been busy at the wheel this year with the newly released album Monstrous Eruption of Impetuous Preposterosity ­and with a few shows to boot, descend their dark humoured, heavy grottiness onto UK Tech Fest this year.

“Vicious Entwattering Of Obstinant Nepotistic Shithouses” bludgeons the crowd into mashed potato with a frenzy of technical fuelled riffs and ruthless blast beats combined with some probing, monstrously terrifying duo vocals. It’s non-stop mashing, the set is completely submerged in guitars that grind and set no boundaries for the insane double pedal skills of the kit. “Rancid Blubbery Encrustments” hitches up the veil to reveal even more of the Slam/Death side of Crepitation but with added grind. The riffs are complex and brutal and the bass work provides the depth of festering tones that reverberate into the Slam elements of the track.

If you hadnt already had your face blown clean off, now was the moment. Half an hour of pure intense and frenzied gore had the crowd for Crepitation two-stepping, circle pits and riding inflatables in the mosh pit at the back. Now, go ask them about that little monster on their newly released threads…

Hacktivist (c) Red Death Media

All gathered into the main stage, after the very recent unveiling of rap/grimecore favourites Hacktivist‘s new vocalist – JJ Olifent whom we all knew as the pipes of Borders, it’s JJ’s very first show with Hacktivist at Tech Fest 2023 and laaaaaaad, we were in trouble!

With not a hint of hesitation, after the shimmering techy intro and chants of Ultima Dies, JJ appears alongside J Hurley and unleashes pure energy. Djent infused riffs and dropped beats engulfed the stage for “Armoured Core”, offering up slabs of heavy and punchy vibes. The bass notes are absolutely killer, serving a full force underline beneath the djent infused riffs, captivating that grinding and technical sonic assault that rips through the core of the sound from the stage.

“Elevate” concludes the sharpness of Hacktivist’s blades with urban synths subtly flowing the track through it’s heavy progressive and groove fuelled riffs with a raw and loud energy that see’s the pits going insane.

Headlining the second stage, another band I was happy to see given a spot to shine – Nottingham legends The Five Hundred were geared up to melt faces. I’ve been watching these guys go from strength to strength since the beginning and have always found myself totally submerged in the atmosphere they craft. Heavy, progressive and ambient – some of my favourite elements within metal and these guys have that down every single time.

Through the darkness of their silhouettes through blue and green stage glows, immediately the mood is conjured by frontman Jonathan staring intensely into the crowd before unleashing every fibre of energy The Five Hundred can throw. “Smoke & Mirrors”, my most favourite track by these guys, never fails to bring tears to my eyes. A proggy and punchy riff kicks off alongside Andy’s mesmerising djent ebbed low bass tones to provide the depths for Kelsey’s outstanding kit skills. 

The Five Hundred (c) Red Death Media

Jon’s vocals start out as a blend of gnarling screams and wails that melt and ripple into beautiful clean notes that talk to us of feelings of belonging in the darkness. It’s not until the break about halfway through the song that we see his voice turn into a frenzied and pain fuelled sonic assault that blend into layers of raw aggression over the stunning intricate riffs from Paul and Mark. A track I never tire of listening to, a track I’ve listened to inside out and never want to let go of.

“The Rising Tide” serves as a cathartic reminder of times that we all faced together recently – and which can also be interpreted for self expression within the realms of mental health. Kicking off with cascading solid guitar riffs, the pedals of drums here are tight as anything, offering up a completely diverse change up of tempos and layers, Kelsey displays some of the best drumming of the day here. 

I cannot express how stunning The Five Hundred have always been to me. Encapsulating the height of emotion into something that weighs into such heavy and as dark possible isn’t always found in places you’d expect to find. Totally mesmerising.

Headlining of Fridays UK Tech Fest stepped in relatively last minute and made as much a stir as Suffocation would have, Liverpool’s Tech Leviathans, Loathe take to the stage and are greeted by an ocean of people already hyped for their set.

“Screaming” offers up a different angle to Loathe with more nu metal vibes than the djent fusions yet doesn’t release the elements to keep this song heavy as fuck. Focusing more on the softer guitar work, there are doses of high guttural shrieks to run alongside the clean atmospheric vocals that echo through the main stage. The solo for this track is stunning. Flirting around with hypnotic grooves and melodic elements gives a beautiful and heavy mood throughout.

“White Hot” throws us straight back into the heavier and progressive side of Loathe and still gives me some stunning ambient tones that you’d find in an early to mid 2000’s Deftones album.

It’s a beautiful breath of fresh air in a lot of aspects. Visceral and full of energy, we’re pulled in at first with the smash to the face of blasting metal but soothed with some of the most calmest and beautiful ambience in vocals that are occasionally absent in newer bands.

Beautifully delivered and keeping the crowd moving, Loathe show why they are here as headliners.

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Photos by Red Death Media

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