ArcTanGent 2022 – Twelve Unmissable Acts

ArcTanGent 2022 - Twelve Unmissable Acts

2022 will be my first Arctangent. One look at the first announcement and I knew I had to be there, on the basis of several, well, unmissable bands. It seemed that every time I looked at the festival social media pages, another one of my favourite bands would get announced. This has seemingly continued indefinitely, even into the most recent festival announcement.

I have to keep checking the lineup to remind myself who’s on the bill and pinch myself that I’m going to have the chance to see such a wide range of talent, all within one place.

What’s more exciting for me is how many bands on the lineup I haven’t heard of, or listened to before. How many of my favourite bands of tomorrow will I discover when I go there? I’m counting down the days with tantalising anticipation.

It just feels like complete sacrilege to only choose twelve bands from the list, and I’d like to use this opportunity to apologise to any representatives reading from Covet, Tesseract, Leprous, Intronaut, Pupil Slicer, Enslaved, Amenra, Godflesh, Bossk, Cult of Luna, Pallbearer et al…

Opeth - Well...duh? I’d be surprised if many Arctangent festivalgoers wouldn’t see Opeth. They might not be as in-your-face heavy as twenty years ago - well, their new studio releases aren’t, anyway - but they’ve aged like a fine wine. I’d defy anyone who says that their most recent record, In Cauda Venenum, isn’t absolutely masterful. But if it’s not your cup of tea - and each to their own - you can still go and see them and know that there will still be a generous helping of the prog-death bangers that saw them originally rise to fame, all delivered with Mikael Akerfeldt’s trademark dry wit.

Opeth ready to take ArcTanGent by storm!
Opeth ready to take ArcTanGent by storm!

Zeal & Ardor slowly seem to be becoming a household name in metal circles. With their formula that has to be heard to be believed - mishmashing African-American spirituals with black metal - their sound is truly unique and unforgettable. Coming off a tour with Meshuggah, the Swiss avant-garde troupe is poised to leave 2022 a step higher than they came into the year. For this reason, it seems absolutely vital to catch Zeal & Ardor at Arctangent, to see a band in rapid ascendancy, and with their stunning new self-titled record still hot off the press.

Boss Keloid - The weird, whacky and wonderful 'Family The Smiling Thrush' has been out for a full trip around the sun by now, so if you haven't had the chance to hear these tracks in their full glory then you've got your chance at Arctangent. For the uninitiated, Boss Keloid may take a few listens to begin to truly appreciate, but they're one of the most rewarding modern bands going when you begin to get beneath the surface. Get yourself warmed up with the recent Family The Smiling Thrush: Live at Foel Studio, recorded when they had a day spare at the end of their planned studio time. The band are probably sick of people telling them this by now, but they sound strikingly similar live as they do on record. Not long to go until they’re bossing it… okay, I’ll stop now.

Conjurer - The Daventry bruisers have risen stratospherically over the last few years, playing anywhere and everywhere in the UK and even in the US a couple of times. Their sophomore record Páthos, which most of us here will be hearing live for the first time, has seen them expand their sound, with more prominent shoegazey, atmospheric moments than on Mire. The breakneck-paced Suffer Alone will still ignite plenty of pits, though. Don't be surprised when they eventually headline the fest.

Sergeant Thunderhoof - The Hoof have steadily established their place in the British live circuit over the past decade, with rich, soulful prog-tinged stoner psych, but the Bath quartet really seem to have gone up a rung or two on the rock n' roll ladder with their latest album This Sceptred Veil. From the soaring Absolute Blue, the swinging Devil's Daughter, to stunning epic Foreigner, it's become an instant classic and I'm very excited to hear these songs live for the first time. Full of mystic English folklore, the lyrics are also fascinating and insightful throughout. A late addition to the festival, they'll surely prove to be a worthy choice.

Tuskar make more of a racket than bands with two or three times as many members. Their progressive sludge/doom, with a sprinkling of hardcore, has taken the UK by storm over the last few years. The duo have been seen on tour with Boss Keloid, and will join Conjurer later this year, but it's a matter of time before they headline such dates themselves, and go beyond even that. Tuskar pack a considerable punch, with enough energy to erupt a hungover crowd into a rowdy sea of flailing bodies, but both members boast impressive technicality and intricacy in their playing that would turn the heads of any seasoned musician. Time to find out why there’s such a buzz around Tuskar.

Tuskar hitting ArcTanGent stage next weekend.
Tuskar hitting ArcTanGent stage next weekend.

Dvne - I first heard the Scottish prog-metallers shortly after Asheran was released. In my eyes, there'd be no way they could top it. They followed it up with 2021's Etemen Ænka, which seemed effortlessly to blow it out of the water. Bigger, bolder, more expansive and more mature, it boasted more grandiose compositions, stronger vocals, and more convincing performances all round. It earned them critical acclaim, a coveted opening slot at the Roundhouse at Desertfest London in May, and the opening up of seemingly endless opportinities for Dvne (pronounced ‘Dune’). Their live shows are truly special at the moment and the potential exists for them to become one of this island's greatest exports.

Famyne - There are a lot of bands in the UK underground following in Black Sabbath’s musical footsteps that combine the grit of sludge, the punch of doom and the swing of stoner. Plenty of these are exceptionally good, but few stand out as well as Famyne, who deliver a much more considered and graceful take on doom metal than many of their peers. With operatic, clean singing at the forefront that evokes Candlemass, harking to the sound of a time when the genre was still developing, though not under-developed, Famyne proudly do things their own way. Of course, this also includes bringing in a few modern influences instrumentally - often in ways that their scene peers neglect. And they’re brilliant. Seriously worth a watch.

Heriot - Talk about such excitement and hype around a new UK band. Before even releasing their debut EP they’d been shared by Machine Head, and seemed to already be in the conversation of everyone and anyone who keeps up to date with the heavy underground. The contrast of floating clean vocals and atmospheric soundscapes with ultra-distorted guitars and skin-melting vocal roars gives them their unique edge on record. I have not seen them live (at time of writing) but I am repeatedly told that they are an entirely different beast in concert. The strength of Profound Morality was enough to turn my head (and ears), so I can barely imagine how this set is going to go down.

Heriot ready to unleash their demon at ArcTanGent
Heriot ready to unleash their demon at ArcTanGent

Rivers of Nihil’s evolution over the last decade has been truly staggering. Their first two albums were good helpings of modern techdeath, but they really came into their own for 2018’s Where Owls Know My Name. Last year’s The Work took that a step further still. Today, Rivers of Nihil are a true contemporary force of progressive metal, with influences ranging from an incredibly diverse range of genres, suggesting that the band really know how to appreciate their music, and have given back their own high-value gift of music in return. My lasting memory of seeing them a few years ago was when an audience member brought an inflatable saxophone into the moshpits for the jazzy breaks during their lighter moments. If you’re reading this, sax man, I’ll see you at the front.

The Hyena Kill - It’s almost been eighteen months since A Disconnect dropped, which means there’s something not right with the world because I haven’t heard any of it live yet (perhaps something about a pandemic? maybe my own lack of movement?). However, there’s now light at the end of the tunnel. The Hyena Kill sounded bigger, badder and better than ever on their sophomore release, mixing soundscapes from Deftones and Muse to make an atmospheric and unashamedly modern-sounding rock album that still carves its own path. Energetic ragers contrast with emotive, pensive songwriting, and the album is full of colour, getting better with every listen. My wait is finally almost over.

Alcest - It’s a real treat to see Alcest on a UK bill again, who I feel are criminally underrated. 2019’s Spiritual Instinct was a real tour de force by the French outfit, and the follow-up has recently been completed. Perhaps we’ll hear a sneak preview at the festival? Even if they don’t, that would be no good reason to skip their set. Alcest are one of those bands who I seem to forget how good they actually are until I press play. Living, breathing proof of how effective the blend of heaviness and beauty can be, you can expect rich melodies, a full palette of emotions and textures and a potent post-gig high when they draw to a close.

Words: Matt Noble
Photo credits: Tim Finch Photography

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