Welcome back to the second part of our ArcTanGent analysis! Everything Is Noise was pleased to have made it to the festival for the third year in a row to witness what was arguably the festival’s best ever line-up, and one of the best in the UK across the summer. If you missed the first part of our review you can find it here – it’s where we set the scene and listed the bands from Thursday.
Friday promised to be the best day booking-wise, yet unfortunately mother nature had plans to keep us all away. The forecast was utterly fucked: seven centimetres of water predicted throughout a nine-hour period, during all of these amazing acts. Quite fittingly, The Ocean were playing, as were other intense post-metal bands like Russian Circles and Toska. Also on the bill were We Never Learnt To Live, Slow Crush, Frontierer, all topped off by Battles, who brought their eclectic math-rock electronica to the farm.
ArcTanGent – Devastated By Rain Edition
In our previous article, I explained that some clever cookies had re-routed the pathways across the site and also decided to pave the roads with metal pathways. The early morning wasn’t too bad; I managed to retrieve some chili in a baguette for breakfast (Bunny Chow) quite easily. However, things changed soon after we caught the first bands. After one hour of continuous downpour, the well-trodden dirt paths soon turned into a foul brown custard; two hours later, they were swallowing your feet completely. As the stages to the right of the arena both lie at the bottom of a hill, navigating your way to the shows there was the trickiest, having to wade through seas of bootprints filled with water.
Whilst it was a struggle, the metal walkways and the stages on the left of the arena were not as badly affected, but anyone wanting to pit was unlikely to be gretted too kindly. When the deluge finally stopped just after the last bands, it felt like a real relief. I changed my socks for the third time that day and headed down to the silent disco for a great rest of the night. Even better was when Saturday yielded copiuous amounts of sunshine, and helped dry out many weary punters who were still cold and wet from the night before. Damages were assessed and tents drained of water, before going after another awesome day of music.
There was only one power outage that I caught during the storms, which was unfortunately mid-song for Toska. I arrived there late, however, and apparently there was anothert cut-out earlier. This was at peak intensity of the storm, when the rain was absolutely lashing down, so you have to commend the organisers for only having this happen once during such a frightening barrage. The TV screen on mainstage didn’t seem to get much use after the storm, so part of me wonders whether that was too dangerous to use. A damn shame, because bands like Bossk and Nordic GIants utilised it really well.
Anyway, enough talk of the weather – lets take a look at the quality artists we got to check out!
I’d been looking forward to seeing We Never Learned To Live since their incredible album The Sleepwalk Transmitions debuted earlier this year, and what better way to wake me up before midday than some high-end melodic post-hardcore? Damn these guys were good! Their great stage presence and crisp sound charged the crowd with early morning energy. The vocals are as endearing live as they are on record, and their instrumentation was emotive but hard, giving you something to really bang your head to. Check them out!
As if We Never Learned To Live wasn’t a dreamy enough start to the day already, Slow Crush were playing straight after, ready to sweep you up in a blanket of fuzz. Another anticipated band with a recent killer release under their belts, I was more than impressed by Slow Crush‘s really great shoegaze-meets-doom-and-punk sound. I wasn’t expecting the fuzziness of their tracks and the softness of the lead vocalist’s voice to come out so well on the stage, yet both certainly did. I almost felt like I was in a lynchian dream sequence at times. This exciting Belgium-based band are worth your time, check them out touring with Pelican around Europe in October.
Admittedly I had not planned on seeing Thank You Scientist, due to the fact their last two albums simply didn’t feel great to me. However, I went along with some mates, and had a surprisingly good time. I knew the majority of my beef with the band laid with the uninspiring and boring vocals of the lead singer, and found myself loving the band every time he finally stopped singing. Their instrumentals were packed full of vibrant energy; the jazz mixed with the pop-punk prog got everyone moving, and the band put on a great show. I loved how they commanded the stage, and whilst I wouldnt pay to see them headline a show, I’d certainly catch them again.
A friend and I joked minutes before The Ocean were due to hit the stage how everytime we’d seen them together, they’d been late, or hadn’t managed to make the show at all. They seem to have the most horrific luck when travelling to the UK, and again started their set twenty minutes late. Given the strict stage timings, that meant they could only play fourty minutes of tunes, which was a damn shame on that front, considering their extensive back catalogue. Nonetheless, they smashed their set, playing a Phanerozoic and Pelagic-heavy playlist, including the absolute stormers Bathyalpelagic I & II.
Loic never stops impressing me as a frontman. His energy is infectious, and his voice sounds ludicrously great in the live setting too! The band’s overall live sound is one that seemingly casts a net upon you, enveloping your senses and focusing you wholly on them and their show. Their signature flavour of post-metal is much more raucous live than on record, with extra fury unleashed in abundance. They have more dates coming up this year, so be sure to check them out before they get back to the studio for Phanerozoic II.
Yes, I went to see Toska again, so what? My third experience with them this year did not disappoint, the Brighton-based post-rock/metal trio decimating the audience with riff after riff once again. They were unlucky to be playing during the worst of the weather, with the electrics for the whole tent even cutting out at one point. Neverless, the armageddon outside the tent was a perfect backdrop for the suitably apocalyptic metal on offer from Toska. Each member brings a high level of quality to the band, and in my opinion they can only get better.
One of the best ways to stay warm and happy after a semi-sprint through ankle-deep mud-sludge is to stock up on beers and get sauced. 65daysofstatic were the perfect pairing for a session, their trippy post-rock and experimental electronic sound ideal to zone out to and regain your strength. It had been nearly ten years since I last saw the band, and I felt like they really commanded the stage, their music rising up and down in energy, hooking people in. They played songs from the No Mans Sky soundtrack and much more from their extensive back-catalogue. New album replicr out now!
Russian Circles continued the onslaught of post-related music in the early evening, dropping furious riffs upon the audience in insatiable volumes. They were a must-see band for me, especially after reviewing their incredible new album Blood Year. The record of course translated exceptionally live, with an oppresive atmosphere to match or even best The Ocean‘s earlier in the day. Huge US tour coming this fall, make sure to catch them!
Frontierer are a band I find boring on record, but absolutely elating live. Their energy and obscene extreme metal is brilliant in the live setting, and their place at the headline slot of the Bixler stage was thoroughly deserved. For the majority of the gig, at least one band member was in the crowd – sometimes more – getting a very wet and tired audience banging their heads.
Battles were one of the biggest draws of the line-up, the two-man band gracing the stage of ArcTanGent for a display of high-end experimental rock. That was certainly delivered over the course of their set! After a day filled with lots of bleak post-metal, this was an ideal ender, warming the spirits. I fell in love with “Atlas”, which was arguably my song of the festival. I’m really excited for their upcoming album Juice B Crypts, out on October 18th.
DJ Perro had been highly recommended, so we missioned over on Saturday morning to catch their set. And damn, I think everyone who showed up was really glad they did! The mexican math-rock band put on an amazingly energetic performance, helping everyone to forget the fact their souls were washed away in the rain the day prior. Definitely one of the best instrumental bands of the weekend!
Having caught Curse These Metal Hands at ArcTanGent 2018, I had an inkling of what to expect. Despite that, Pijn & Conjurer nevertheless blew me the fuck away with an absolutely barnstorming set. Since the show, I’ve spun their new record at least twice a week, such is the impact the show and record had on me. The fusion of Baroness riffs with highly intelligent song structures on offer is simply too good a combination to ignore. Please consume this album and catch the band(s) on their next tour dates!
Arguably the hardest clash of the weekend was between LLNN and The Physics House Band, two titans of their craft. Having caught something heavy before, I decided upon The Physics House Band, and what a choice it was! Another band that completely draws you in and bombards your senses with high-level instrumentation, I was intrigued by the sounds the sax was making, and was focused on how well it fit into their sound throughout the set. I missed them playing a local show recently, a mistake I’ll be sure not to repeat.
The ‘secret act’ wasn’t much of a secret by the time Saturday rolled around, because the organisers decided to print their name on the clashfinder lanyards sold at the festivals. Nevertheless, that didn’t detract from ASIWYFA‘s show, with the math-rock legends driving out a performance to remember. The band have an amazing chemistry on stage, imbuing you with energy whilst at the same time letting your mind wander to the stars. Quality pick for the secret act!
Topping off the deluge of post-metal at the festival were the immense Cult Of Luna. I was taken aback by their sound, and the ferocity of lead singer Kristian Karlsson, who just tore the audience a collective new one. They played a mixed bag of content, debuting new songs from their latest release A Dawn To Fear on top of dipping into their incredible back catalogue. Looking forward to seeing them again.
Meshuggah are another band I really couldn’t care less about on record, yet I was very excited to see their set and witness these gods of metal on stage. Much like Car Bomb and Frontierer, they blew me away live. Not only was the stage transformation and intense lighting a huge positive, but the music just so fucking great I didn’t want it to stop. ArcTanGent gambled by booking and announcing them a year early, yet I would absolutely say it worked out. Not only did it diversify the crowd, it exposed regulars to music that might be considered extreme by some. Meshuggah were extremely good, and I might have to try their records again soon.
So there you have it – another year of ArcTanGent complete! We’ll certainly be back for the next one, but who will be on the bill next year? We can expect the regulars to show up, and another strong showing from the Holy Roar and hopefully Pelagic Records camps. I cannot stress how brilliant the campsite and arena is, even buried under nearly a foot of mud. This is a festival to learn, explore, and enjoy yourself at, with a brilliant audience who are only there for one thing: the music. Ticket links below, make sure to pick one up!
Photo credit: Carl Battams