ArcTanGent Festival 2023 Preview

ArcTanGent is now a staple festival in the UK music scene, starting in 2013 by James Scarlett, co-founder of 2000trees Festival, over the years it has gone from strength to strength. 2023’s edition is possibly their most ambitious yet and below I’ll cover some of the performances I’m looking forward to witnessing at the Fernhill Farm gathering.

ArcTanGent Festival 2023

Thursday 17th August

Although there is a fantastic night of weird and wonderful metal and rock on the Wednesday night at Fernhill Farm the majority of ArcTanGent devotees will arrive on Thursday morning, anticipating one of the most remarkable day line-ups seen on these shores for a long time. Writing up a preview of the Thursday, in particular, could easily turn into an instruction to just see every damn thing.

Considering the depth of the lineup Thursday is, for this writer at least, mercifully almost free of clashes although that is not to say there will be any rest as the must see sets come thick and fast. As a veteran of many absurdly busy Roadburn days, the old Tilburg adage of ‘remember to eat’ may well come into play!

From the get-go, there will be no respite as the blackened and furious sludge of Grief Ritual sets the tempo from PX3 stage. Neatly showing the range of James Scarlett’s curation, the early arrivers could head straight over to see Leeds based post-rockers Din Of Celestial Birds. Likely showcasing their upcoming release The Night is For Lovers this would be a set for anyone into We Lost the Sea or ATG alumni Caspian.

Anyone familiar with Belgian three-piece Wiegedood‘s brand of ferocity will be sure to catch their mid-afternoon Main Stage set. With Amenra and Oathbreaker members amongst them, they bring a live intensity comparable to both those bands. Last year’s There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road was critically acclaimed and marked a transformative moment for the band after the previous trilogy of releases De Doden Hebben Het Goed. Your scribe was delighted to be able to catch that trilogy live and in full in 2019 and can vouch for the full shred that Wiegedood bring.

Sticking with a Belgian theme the gorgeous post-hardcore melodies of Brutus will grace the Yokhai Stage. A nasty clash with the progressive stoner noodling of Elder on the Bixler Stage but whatever you decide, you can’t go wrong. As this non-stop first day comes to a close, the decisions don’t get easier, legendary hardcore heroes Converge kick off on the Main Stage while Bristol noise makers Sugar Horse provide a fitting finale over on the PX3.

Those with boundless energy are welcome to enjoy the famous ATG Silent Disco while the rest of us will rest up in expectation of another cracker on Friday.

ArcTanGent Festival 2023 - Thursday

Friday 18th August

As the hordes of ATG surface on Friday morning, with ears no doubt ringing from the relentless Thursday lineup, a dose of calm might be required. Instead of cowering in now inhospitable canvas, the sensible will make a break for it, source some restorative breakfast and head for the Elephant Stage in time to catch scene legends Matt Hughes and Remfry Dedman’s 3 Is The Magic Number live podcast. The pod is great on record and the live show is sure to be a blast.

Sure to start the musical proceedings with a bang are Sheffield’s Hidden Mothers. Mixing blackened post-metal in the vein of Amenra with quiet and introspective post-rock this is a great chance to see one of the UK’s most interesting up-and-coming bands.

Only really emerging for ArcTanGent, the joint forces of Conjurer and Pijn meet up for the irreverent party that is Curse These Metal Hands on the Main Stage. Belying their Peep Show inspired moniker and 6th form common room merch, you’ll get a treat of riffs, melodies and fantastic musicianship. As close as ATG gets to a house band, go along and enjoy the ride.

Ashenspire will strike a different note on the Bixler Stage. Fierce and angry on record, rowdy as all hell live, this Glaswegian mob are made for our times. In a nation of feckless government, cynical right-wing media and generational warfare, Ashenspire‘s current album Hostile Architecture should be GCSE coursework and the live show should be mandatory attendance.

This weekend gives UK fans a rare chance to catch New Zealand’s Spook The Horses on the PX3 Stage. Another Pelagic Records band on the bill, they’ll likely en-trance with their brand of percussive post-metal. Eschewing the slow build approach common in the genre, Spook The Horse are immediate and visceral that has all the ingredients to be a real treat.

A total contrast can be found with Portland’s Bell Witch on the Bixler Stage. Best know for the exceptional opus Mirror Reaper, the set will likely be parts of their most recent release The Clandestine Gate. Expect glacially slow but savage drumming from Jesse Shreibman with colossal riffs from bass wizard Dylan Desmond. Referred to on these pages by Sandy as a ‘titanic ouroboros of doom’, this is a real fix for the doomsters amongst an ocean of hardcore and post-noises.

Chaotic mathcore two-piece Death Goals are anything but glacial. Progressive in their politics and aggressive in their sound, this is surely music to pick up the weary festival goer. Even the heaviest and most stuck-in-the-mud boots will be moving to this Saturday night PX3 set.

The counterpoint to Heilung’s pagan musings on the Main Stage are Copenhagen’s dystopian sci-metal LLNN. The 2021 album Unmaker was an absolute triumph, with dread synth finding a new level of heaviness alongside more traditional metal and sludge. LLNN are the soundtrack to the cosmic end of days, let alone a great way to end a Friday night.

ArcTanGent Festival 2023 - Friday

Saturday 19th August

Without being quite so brim full of unmissable as the previous couple of days, Saturday at ATG has some real gems to be found. Local newcomers Copse have been making waves with their live show, leaving audiences walking home talking about the openers rather than their more illustrious headlining counterparts. A full EP set should showcase their talents to the highest degree on the Bixler Stage.

Briqueville are one of Pelagic’s most enigmatic bands, robed and masked on stage and playing jazz inflected post-rock and doom. This is a band that will certainly pique the interest of many a progressive music fan. They were originally due at ATG in the doomed lineup of 2020 and will be predominantly playing that year’s opus Quelle. A beautiful record, it has both heft and float and makes Briqueville one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend when they play the Yokhai Stage.

For a more traditional stoner doom experience, Domkraft of Sweden will play megaton groove on the Bixler Stage. Veterans of a PostWax records split with tone heroes Slomatics, Domkraft know how to play loud, heavy and viscous, mixing sludge and doom to a heady and potent mix.

Off the back of one of 2022’s most talked about records and a fixture on absolutely heaps of album of the year lists The Callous Daoboys provide a treasure hunt of mathcore, post-rock and pop with a burgeoning reputation as one of the best live acts on the planet. Sure to get the pit going off and mass singalongs, this promises to be a good time heavy party for all. A band on the rise.

With a choice of Devin Townsend or OHHMS, Saturday night is surely a progressive metal fans’ dream. On the smaller PX3 Stage, the Kent based OHHMS will doubtless play a range of older, longer songs mixed with the more immediate nature of their recent album Rot.

And with that, ATG will once again split into the (silent) revellers who stay up at the disco and those who retreat to their tents wondering what magic James and his crew have in store for us at the next edition. If you’re lucky enough to be going, have a great time. If you’re not, why not?

ArcTanGent Festival 2023 - Saturday

Scribed by: Ian M