13th April 2014
Review By Ryan Spearman

Not being content with just one weekend a year, the tech fest machine hatched plan to have 3 all day “mini festivals” dotted around the country, with Manchester, London and Bristol being chosen as musical battlegrounds. The Exchange and The Stag & Hounds (which are conveniently next door to each other) played host to the Bristol leg, if you like a bit of groove and intricacy in your diet, then this would of cleansed your palette for sure.

To say it wasn’t Fall of the Archetype’s day, wound be somewhat of an understatement. Firstly, the sound of the venue was all over the place, making it hard to understand what was going on, heck, I don’t even think the band knew what was going on most of the time. Without sounding harsh, this was a car wreck at best for the most part, nothing worked, nothing made sense, until perhaps the last couple of songs. They had a few flashes of brilliance at this point, but alas, it was too little, too late to salvage the performance.

Perhaps the least “tech” band on the bill, Cornwall’s A New Hope absolutely reeked of hardcore, and had all the aggression and energy that came along with it. They were such a contrast to the previous band, in that they were tight, sounded amazing and looked like they were having the time of their lives. I can’t fault them at all, and the surprising addition of a Notorious B.I.G cover (which they nailed by the way) was the icing on the cake. A real tour de force.

I don’t know why, but they reminded me of Slipknot, minus the masks and boiler suits of course. Maybe it had something to with the same guitar tone and similar drum patterns, not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. Despite a sterile atmosphere, and many futile attempts to figuratively “destroy the place”, TCT carried themselves as if they were playing to thousands, not the mere tens in attendance. They loaded both barrels with power and gusto, and blew the heads off of every unsuspecting victim at The Exchange, messy business indeed.

If you like samples, then this is the band for you (take that however you want). Jokes aside, these guys definitely sounded the part, and were tight enough, yet something seemed to be missing, and it bugs me that I don’t know what it was. Their singer however was the strong point. Small and feisty like a terrier, he had enough energy for five bands, let alone his own. It’s just a shame the rest of the band didn’t share that mentality, as music that frantic needs the physical energy to pull it off. The moment I write this, I realise that that’s what was lacking.

There was a bit of buzz about this band beforehand, personally I’d never heard of them before. Imagine my surprise when all was said and done. Firstly, their singer is very reminiscent of early Mikee Goodman of SikTh fame. For those of you who know, you’ll remember his unorthodox vocal delivery, and this guy is the same, a true talent, and really funny to boot. Despite starting to an empty room, everyone piled in to watch this almighty spectacle. Armed with monstrous tones and tight musicianship, Valis Ablaze were every bit the raging powerhouse everyone expected them to be.

Hard to believe that Hieroglyph have barely been a band for under a year, as they have the same poise and presence as seasoned veterans. With the Leeds six piece spilling off the stage in comical fashion (a four piece could barely fit on the miniscule stage of The Stag & Hounds), the whole place was losing vertebrae left, right and centre, as that groove was near perfection. They have just started to dual wield vocalists, and this decision has paid the bands dividends, as they complement the each other and the rest of the band, like peas and carrots, bacon and eggs, the gym and tribal tattoos.

Aeolist are a band so up my street, they live upstairs and we have biweekly games of Pictionary, all in a figurative sense of course, anyway ,I jest. Despite the somewhat dead atmosphere and a few minor sound issues, they executed their battle plan with near flawless precision. The start was what you’d expect, energetic, tight, angst ridden. Yet what happened next was totally unexpected, the second half was the band crafting this vast soundscape that you could easily get lost in, once it was over, I was confused as to what just happened. All I know is that it left me speechless.

Yet another band going from strength to strength, one word sums up Orion at this current moment in time, crushing. Gone are the days of them throwing a million and one ideas at a problem, they’ve found their place, and that place involves dirty tones and lemon faces. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as for a large portion, the singer was too loud in the mix, very off putting indeed. But once said problems were ironed out, they were unstoppable, filthy riff after filthy riff spewed forth from the second stage like a whale regurgitating its last meal. Bad analogy ,but you get the idea.

Cue badass lighting effects, and strap yourselves in… Is what I should be saying, but that was far from the case. Everything looked to be going their way, then BAM! Their backing track had other ideas. It reminded me of that bit in Jurassic Park, where all the systems went down, and all that was left was Dennis Nedry saying “Nah Ah Ah, you didn’t say the magic word”, anyway, they never recovered after that, and coupled with an extremely short set, you left feeling somewhat hollow. A shame, as on their day, they’re a force to be reckoned with. Alas, that day wasn’t the case.

With sound problems still rife over at stage 2, Invocation launched into a set where the only audible noise was the rhythm section, which did sour the occasion a little. Although, it did make you appreciate how that section work as a tandem, a very slick tag team of grooves and monstrous power. Were they phased by this? No. They battled on and took it in their stride, that, or they didn’t even notice. Never the less, it was business as usual for Invocation, dammed if any sound problems would ruin this day.

Intensity is probably the best way to describe these lads from Sunderland, yet I swear there were tumble weeds blowing across the floor of the exchange, and I even heard a distant church bell in between each song, as the crowd just weren’t buying into it, which was frustrating, because they absolutely killed it. Enough about the crowd, Nexilva never fail to bring it, and to look at them, you wouldn’t think they could produce so much power. But looks can be very deceiving, and I swear they just get heavier and heavier every time I see them, simply monstrous.

With space cleared for their hair alone, the 2nd stage headliners slayed the demon that was The Stag & Hounds sound issues, and man alive, did they sound massive. Hard to believe that this was essentially a “pub gig” as the shear scope of the sound is more reserved for larger venues. As I waved goodbye to what was left of my neck, Exist Immortal were impeccable in their timing, precision and quite frankly, they tore Bristol new one. A great prophet of our time by the name of Doge would sum it up this way “Such tech, much heavy, wow!”

I have to admit, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Xerath going into this, and good lord did they bring it. Power, power and more power seemed to be an ongoing theme throughout their set, as song after song was like taking repeated roundhouse kicks from Chuck Norris, seriously, how can 4 guys come up with such devastating power? Needless to say, as I was picking up the pieces of a shattered neck, I kept asking myself “Why haven’t I given these guys the time of day?”, it still confuses me know thinking about it.