Between the cities of Wells and Bristol lies the UK Summer’s math-rock central festival, Arctangent. Since it’s opening in 2013 the festival has put on massive amounts of diversity and brilliance within and around the genre. Dillinger, 65daysofStatic, Russian Circles, just a few to be named. 2018’s lineup is a mixed bag of bands that have played before and new ones yet to embrace the stage but relying heavily on the oddity bands from around the world.
Opening the festival on their second stage is the mighty Boss Keloid (9). A band I wasn’t familiar with to start with but soon grew to become of my festival highlights. Fusing hard rock elements with fucking massive riffs had every early attendee banging their heads, especially with how catchy the powerful vocals of Alex Hurst boom across the busy tent. Their 2018 record ‘Melted On The Inch’ has been on repeat since my return from the event. A surprising choice of “first band on” as Boss Keloid are the future definition of big riffs. That’s not to say that OHHMS (8) struggled to keep up with said riffs, as if anything, their later set was even busier and the amount of Ohhms t-shirts spotted across the festival was an impressive sighting, and well deserved. The first band I caught on the smallest stage was local noisemakers Svalbard (4) who struggle to pack their tent but pummel through tracks from their new record ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope’. Whilst their performance certainly lacked something, vocalist Serena Cherry enchanted her audience about their latest record and the meanings behind the tracks. Her vocals aren’t nearly as powerful as Eva Spence of Rolo Tomassi (8) as they smash through their exciting show, proving they’re truly Arctangent legends, playing mostly tracks from their latest 2018 record, ‘Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It’. Eva’s vocals soar from angelic and pop-based material to full on chaotic screams and barks that leave their hungry crowd raging for more as she dances across the stage. It’s a short set for what the band deserve, but no doubt they’ll be back on this festival for years to come without hesitation. Foxing (10) are truly a peak of brilliance at this festival. There’s enough emotion setting throughout their set to bring tears to the most macho of men, as proved through set favourites of ‘The Medic’, ‘Night Channels’, and ‘Rory’. The set is humbled by their captivated audience, as tracks from their new record ‘Nearer My God’ are played – baring a more indie-rock vibe than their earlier saddened post-hardcore sound. Lifting those emotions and turning them into party mode is none other than Jamie Lenman (7) who is clearly having the time of his life at this show. Jamie’s on stage banter is utterly brilliant as he engages his fans with the comedic approach whilst also stunning new and old fans with not only his charisma, but also that every track he played sounded like an absolute banger. An artist who surely knows how to bring the fun to a festival, although it’s back to the sorrow and gloom as USA’s Pianos Become The Teeth (8) hit the stage, soaring through saddened songs from their new album ‘Wait For Love’. PBTT are an incredible and captivating act to watch with brilliant stage presence and plenty of woeful melody. Lyrically beautiful and enchanting to listen to, just like their almost-counterpart La Dispute (8), who similarly baffle their crowd with raw emotion and often puzzling them with poetic like screams. Tracks like ‘Women (In Mirror)’ take a steadier approach, softening up their dedicated fans before enraging them with the mighty build-up of fan-favourite ‘King Park’ where many of the crowd became engaging in repeating back lyrics in excitement.
London’s Modern Rituals (4) fail to wake their hungover crowd as pretty much every attendee seems uninterested in their dad-rock styled sleaze whereas Natalie Evans (8) does quite the opposite. Baring a harp during some of her songs, this multi-instrumentalist literally has the voice of an angel. The crowd love her as her innocent vocals soothe the early festival attendees in preparation of what’s to come. God Mother (9) from Sweden literally tear up their stage and probably become the most bonkers band of the entire event. Their frontman barking like Converge meets Dillinger whilst engaging the crowd with a massive lingo mosh-pit is the most intense thing I’ve ever seen. And if that wasn’t happening then they were climbing about the stage like rats frantically trying to escape a a cage. God Mother are about as mental as they come, unlike Bearfoot Beware (6), who provide a wacky riff ridden performance over a wide diversity of vocal styles from the math-rock genres. Despite a completely unimpressive performance, the band are still capable of significant stage presence but lacks originality and pride when compared to other bands in their league. Heading back to the smallest of stages is the brilliant Mr. Marcaille (8) from France who completely took me by surprise. His set consisted of an electric cello, drums and a form of throat singing I was not familiar with that could only be compared to the sound of many fog horns. The drunken legend won the comedy awards from his crowd as possibly the weirdest but wonderful thing they’d ever witnessed as he played the entire set in his pants drinking many alcoholic beverages and just generally waffling on. Whilst the music was definitely not to everyone’s cup of tea, you had to agree this man had talent. Conjurer (7) are deserving of their midday set and had possibly the highest count in t-shirts throughout the festival. Impressively they laid waste to their crowd, shaking the tent as songs from their debut album ‘Mire’ are belted out. This is a band on a mission and with their recent successful rise, who really knows how far Conjurer could progress the metal genre. All I know is that I don’t want to miss out when the time comes for them to take the crown after already having great praise from Trivium‘s Matt Heafy on becoming the next biggest metal act to come from the UK. Vennart (5) are boring and forgettable as they play their soft-pop styled rock, but the vocals are refreshing after a heavy day of metal so far. Halo Tora (8) however, really shake things up with their uplifting modern rock genre, full of character and energy. Having played an early set at the festival last year, Halo Tora’s recent challenge was stepping up and it really paid off as each member is honoured to be playing to an exciting crowd of new and old fans. Pelican (7) enlighten the main stage as they promise the fans they’ll be hearing new material soon, as their instrumental self-described “nice rock” gets things moving on this podium. Zeal & Ardor (10) are the ultimate festival experience, and no doubt band of the festival for myself and many others. There’s something very unique about their whole sound as it essentially comes down to being something new and refreshing to the rock and metal scene as Manuel Gagneux and his brilliantly epic band cover everything from catchy blues to black metal. It appears the band are fit to play and succeed at any festival or future lineup, as it comes to mind that there’s no stopping how far Zeal & Ardor will take their bizarre but successful project. Back at main stage and Anathema (8) are having a terrible time with many sound issues, often disgruntling members onstage. Despite their technical problems once the band are on track and engulfed by smoke, they captivate the audience with their more recent songs as gentle vocals are paced back and forth by all members. Watching Anathema is truly an experience, more so than Tides Of Man (6) who’s instrumental-based rock lacks a vocalist to take them higher. All leading to the festival’s Friday night headliner, Glassjaw (8). Much like their peers in Deftones, Glassjaw carry a similar genre if not something a little more grunge based. The band play to an impressive full-to-the-brim tent of fans chanting back lyrics to the well known ‘Ape Dos Mil’ and ‘Cosmopolitan Blood Loss’, aswell as playing a decent array of new tracks from their 2018 album ‘Material Control’. Despite only three records to show for and a massive gap between them, the band submit an overall staggering performance of energy and engagement that is helped by their loyal, yet crazy fan base.
Main stage openers is none other than Bradford’s very own Trigger Thumb (8), combining the best elements of System Of A Down meets Dillinger Escape Plan. Trigger Thumb are essentially how to describe ADHD as the band are determined to be wacky, technical, but also highly entertaining with their boastful, comedic approach. There’s a great atmosphere for such an early slot as the band embrace this set with much appreciation, definitely proving to be a band to catch at a later date. Dual female fronted three piece Soeur (7) from Bristol, stun their fourth-stage audience with their take on pop meets grunge. Their vocals are delightful to hear, often gentle compared to Irish mentalists in Ilenkus (7) on the third stage. Ilenkus wreck havoc through their set of monstrous noise-grind meets progressive hardcore. It’s not only the sounds that are igniting their live performance, as members fling themselves between the crowd and stage demanding crowd participation and receiving it in full. It’s probably not the best fitted band on the lineup in terms of what they’re up against but you have to appreciate them for giving it their all as London’s ambient duo VLMV (6) offer their gentleness onto a fairly packed crowd. Bad Sign (6) on the second stage surprisingly struggle to fill their audience despite bringing back the thundering riffs and massive rock choruses. Their tracks are memorable and unique but often not as solid as their predecessors. Still a great watch as they eagerly open for a full day of cracking artists to come, including the magnificent festival highlight of MØL (9). MØL are a wonder to watch as emotion and passion is battled through the facial expressions of vocalist Kim Song while the band ignite a shoe-gaze meets black metal genre combination that you wouldn’t quite expect to work so well, but it honestly does. The genre is unique and fascinating, leaving Denmark’s MØL definitely worth seeing again and again. Heavy instrumentalists Telepathy (8) really do bring the thunder, igniting a blistering crowd of headbangers with their post-metal ocean-sized riffs and immense drumming. Shortly following them on the second stage is none other than rising UK stars, Black Peaks (8). With a second album soon to release, the band cater to their undying fan base with all the hits from their debut record ‘Statues’, as well as teasing a few of their brand new songs. Black Peaks sound bigger than ever, deserving of their audience yelling back every lyric from vocalist Will Gardner. It is saddened they’re on too early as clearly this is a band of even greater things to come, destined for that main stage hype. However Myrkur (8) are given the chance to prove themselves on the big stage and everything sounds awesome. The eerie, clean vocals of Amalie Bruun are beautiful and welcomed by her crowd of enchanted fans captivated by beauty and peculiarity. Often heavy, the instruments backing her vocals are phenomenal and erupting, completing the initial sound and determination of Myrkur to be something absolute mesmerising. Part Chimp (7) play some of the biggest riffs of the festival with their thundering rock and droning vocals. A pleasure to continuously bang your head to despite perhaps too much alcohol consumption from their fans. Main stage once again and we are greeted by the megalithic Alcest (8), enchanting their crowd with their modern approach to delicate atmospheric post-rock. The music is largely beautifully landscaped as the entire stage is fixated in the band’s charm and often brutal vocal approach. London’s Arcane Roots (8) couldn’t be any more different as they successfully play to a packed fan-build crowd fuelling them with their well-known rock ballads. The band are on fire as their fans embrace each and every lyric and riff. Having played the festival before, once again Arcane Roots have showcased that they’re ready to take it to the top. Headlining the fourth stage at the end of the night is the amazing Scalping (8) from Bristol. Introducing a crazy stage-lighting show that shadowed each member well as they played their instruments with intensity and passion. Closing the evening is no easy task but filling their audience with a sea of dancing and excitable fans certainly helped, as the band offered their fresh take on instrumental electro-based rock. The set was perhaps close to an hour in length and arguably too short, leaving all festival attendees desiring more. This is not the last time you’ll hear of Scalping, as they end this festival with a powerful welcomed reception despite being relatively new