ArcTanGent 2022: Review – Part 2

ArcTanGent 2022: Review - Friday/Saturday
19/20th August 2022
Words: Matt Noble, Paul Hutchings
Photos: Charley Shillabeer

 

FRIDAY

Over on the main stage, Covet put on one of the most wholesome and high-spirited sets of the weekend. Playing (mostly) as a two-piece today, and led by the iconic Yvette Young, they bring a sense of fun to the festival, the musical intricacy and technicality paired with a sense of optimism in each tune. The crowd are fantastic, happily obliging as the drummer asks them to start a 'respectful' mosh pit, which is unlike anything I've seen at a show before, but couldn't be better suited for an act like Covet. They have a musicality that allows you to check in and out as you wish. Whether you like to relax and enjoy the easy, sunny vibes, or take in the astounding instrumental performances, Covet have something for you. [MN]

Oranssi Pazazu couldn't be more different. Their avant-garde, noise-heavy, and frankly frightening take on black metal is totally enthralling and very difficult to peel your eyes away from. Only a festival like Arctangent could see Covet share a stage with an act like this. There's a sense of majesty and atmosphere to their deeply experimental music, and the use of a trombone partway through raises a few impressed eyebrows, adding more musical layers when it had seemed like we had been wowed enough already. Few bands on this bill could be accused of not creating an impression, but few bands see their crowd leave with wide eyes and open jaws quite like Oranssi Pazazu. [MN]

Up-and-coming goth rock duo Zetra put on a convincing performance on the smallest stage. Though the sound does not quite do them justice, they get their point across with catchy tunes, with a fun, nostalgic sense of darkness to them. Hidden by corpse paint, the two musicians let the focus go onto the performance, which does have a theatrical element to it, accentuated by the big screens behind them. They are a little quiet today, but with the right sound and a bigger audience - which feels entirely feasible - we could have something very special on our hands with Zetra. Start getting used to seeing this name around. [MN]

Zetra: Photo Credit - Charley Shillabeer

Although Jake Dieffenbach seemed to misread the memo slightly, greeting 'Argentina Festival' to a few wry smiles, Rivers of Nihil put on one of the undoubtedly best heavy sets of the whole weekend. Following the releases of Where Owls Know My Name and The Work, their name has really gained a weight behind it. Today proves why - their cutting-edge techdeath sounds even more potent than on record, rehearsed to the point of being beyond watertight, led by an excellent display of frontmanship as Jake climbs the stage pylon and gleefully throws inflatable projectiles back and forth to the audience during instrumental breaks. The moshes match Rivers' musical intensity and the band are deservedly hailed as heroes after every single song. It's heavy as a sledgehammer, but the attention to detail, melodies and dynamism is enough to impress any seasoned muso. [MN]

Zeal and Ardor's set has a sense of anticipation leading up to it that you can almost sense in the air. Their ascendancy seems unstoppable at the moment, and the second stage is pretty claustrophobic as the masses file in early for a good view of the set. Zeal and Ardor are simply no longer small enough to be playing anything lower than the main stage at this festival. With such an immersive performance that utilises crowd interaction in the magical way that Z&A do, it is possibly the best audience to be a part of all weekend (and with surprisingly violent moshes, too). The light show, musical intensity and sing-along moments make this set more of a ritualistic experience than typical concert performance. For all the future headliner material on this bill, you'd expect Z&A to achieve this faster than the rest of them. [MN]

Tesseract headline the main stage in style. Their polished performance utilises a dizzying light show, a crisp sound and enviable musicianship - as well as someone near the front holding up the shape of a tesseract, in case we forgot where the name came from. Playing a career-spanning set, from their earliest releases to new material, there is a real sense of triumph to what Tesseract have achieved with tonight's performance. Frontman Daniel Tompkins has the crowd eating from the palm of his hand, with a clear, clean vocal display that showcases his talent. Behind him, the band are impressively in sync with their intricate, atmospheric playing that seems effortless. Any doubters in their presence are silenced and all their fans are absolutely rapturous. [MN]

SATURDAY

Bristol's Heriot are on a frightening ascendancy at the moment. At times industrial, at times ethereal, at times brutal, they have really grabbed the UK underground by its throat over the last year, and are only just starting to reap the benefits. This afternoon's set was a triumphant statement of intent going forward, and living proof of their newfound status, with a lively, numerous and appreciative crowd. The guitar tones are thick and gritty, with a few moments of real technical brilliance from Debbie at the front. The vocal interplay between Jake and Debbie is really interesting, with the two unique screaming voices bouncing off each other effectively. Along with Debbie's floating cleans there are really many layers to Heriot - and that's not even to talk about the rest of the band! Heriot are an act that have to be seen live to be fully understood and experienced, and what a trip it is. Blistering. [MN]

Heriot: Photo Credit - Charley Shillabeer

Local stoner rockers Sergeant Thunderhoof swagger onto their stage with a confidence, as they burst into four sprawling, bluesy, riffy jams. Frontman Dan towers at the front, swinging his mic around with a grin on his face during instrumental breaks. The stage presence from The Hoof is fantastic - with the music to match it, as well. The fuzzy fan favourite 'Another Plane' opens proceedings, before the stoner swing of 'Devil's Daughter' from This Sceptred Veil gets a live run out for the first time. An appearance at a festival like Arctangent feels well-deserved and overdue for the Hoof, and the strength of this newly released record has the potential to elevate them a step or two up the ladder. The epic, contemplative 'Avon & Avalon, Part 2', that closes the set as well as their new album, is further proof of this, introducing different flavours and feels to the performance today. There's a particularly heartwarming moment when Dan introduces today's adoring crowd to his two children. The Hoof's fans wave, clap and cheer to what could be a future generation of rockers, making a wholesome, memorable experience for band, fans and family alike. Joyful. [MN]

Once more the tent was full as Rugby’s favourite quartet Conjurer launched into ‘It Dwells,’ the first of three songs in their crushing set from their recently released Pathos record. If you’ve not seen this band, you’ve missed out, for they really bring the modern feel complete with punishing riffs, harrowing vocals and gargantuan sonic landscapes that threaten to explode your brain. Such is the intensity of one of the UK’s leading lights, that it can be a challenge to try and absorb everything that is thrown into the set. As it was, the band demonstrated that their sludgy doom-laden post-metal is appreciated by thousands with a show of hands stretching the length of the tent by the time the band had caved in a few craniums! [PH]

Called in at relatively short notice, Canterbury’s Famyne grabbed their opportunity with a set that was slightly marred by a muddy mix that saw vocalist Tom Vane buried in the mix. The band’s latest album, ‘II: The Ground Below’ is likely to make my top ten of the year and despite those minor complaints about the sound, this was a rare opportunity to see the band up close and in action. Vane’s introduction left the curious amongst the crowd in no doubt about the band’s style: “We play DOOOMMM metal” he boomed as the band delivered a dark and miserable set drawn from the latest album and their self-titled debut. Thick riffs, slow speeds that ground even slower, there was no doubt that Famyne have their own sound and it’s one that appealed to many in the filling tent. By the time they’s finished, there were plenty who were intent on checking the band out. [PH]

Emma Ruth Rundle is possibly one of the softest acts on the bill, but her legendary status amongst Arctangent circles, as well as her collaborations and other projects, produces an impressive turnout to the point where it is difficult for latecomers to even get into the tent. Her music is quiet and delicate, but the audience respectfully stay silent instead of using the opportunity to get a chat in, creating an immersive and intimate experience. With nothing but an acoustic guitar, a piano and her soulful voice - plus a brief cameo from Jo Quail - it is hard to compare Rundle to any of the other acts this weekend, but this makes her stunning, other-worldly performance stand out even more. The fervent interest and applause from the crowd also say a lot about the Arctangent festivalgoer in the same respect. [MN]

A sense of majesty and grace is felt across the stage even before Pallbearer even play their first note. Commemorating a decade of Sorrow and Extinction, they treat us to a run through of the album in full. There is something deeply crushing and moving about Pallbearer's music, and today sees them wring the emotion from every note. Most spine-tingling of all is when the three at the front of the stage team up to perform triple-vocal harmonies. They affirm to any doubters or undecided how they belong at the forefront of modern doom metal, and such is the strength of Sorrow and Extinction that their fan favourites not from this album don't feel missed. They sound tight, powerful and on the top of their game. It feels like a schooling for any other musicians that may be watching. [MN]

Pupil Slicer are another band enjoying a rapid ascendancy, and to perform at the same time as the festival's main headliners is a huge statement - certainly not an undeserved one either. They have set the live circuit alight with their chaotic, intense mathy cacophony and tonight showcases them at their best. The crowd interaction makes the set feel intimate and their fifth Beatle tonight sees Pupil Slicer's very own Pylon Climber hype up the crowd with a brave display of upper body strength. As the band name suggests, this is no easy listening. The only thing more frantic than the blistering music onstage seems to be the moshpits at the front of the tent that seem to threaten its very foundations. Though Opeth are on at the same time, they pull a respectable chunk of the festival crowd. Hardly any leave with a shred of regret. [MN]

It's taken them nearly 30 years, but Swedish titans Opeth are most definitely a headline act these days. When a 90-minute set comprises only ten songs you know that there is a confidence in the music. For those who have followed Opeth since the early days, there was a welcome percentage of older songs included in their set, including a blistering ‘Demon of the Fall’ and ‘The Drapery Falls.’ Mikael Akerfeldt wears many hats these days, although his elegant fedora which he sported on the band’s last appearances in the UK in 2019 was sadly missing. Part death metal vocalist, part minstrel and part dry wit stand-up comic, the man exudes a confidence that only a select few can carry off. With Therion drummer Sammi Karppinen filling the now departed Axe’s drum stool with ease, Opeth were majestic. Slowing the tempo with ‘In My Time of Need,’ the tempo surged again with ‘Sorceress’ and the now staple ‘Deliverance,’ that brought the event to a fitting close. As the applause rang out, the only question on my mind was what set they are planning in November at Hammersmith Odeon. [PH]

Opeth: Photo Credit - Charley Shillabeer

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