For the second time in a row, the ArcTanGent festival (ATG for short) added a pre-party day on the Wednesday where attendees can see bands that have played there the year before, which is a brilliant idea for those who couldn’t make the trip to Compton Martin, a tiny Somerset village, the previous year or their annual warm-up party which takes place around May in Bristol.
Also, having bands playing at the Bixler Stage is perfect to get the party started, especially when you have to travel cross-country and settle your camping stuff, which explains why I was so bummed to have missed the first bands on the list – namely Ogives Big Band, Five The Hierophant and Bicurious.
But I made it just in time for the second half of Skin Failure, a speed-metal/hardcore band that I was aware of since a few of their members were part of the beloved Brighton hardcore band, Black Peaks, and are based between Bristol, London and Brighton. So, I had a lot of expectations with this one, considering where I’m from. I must admit that although the set was pretty fun and high-energy, I was more impressed by what was going on in the tent than what was happening on stage as there were a lot of two-steps and circle pits going off sporadically as the tent was getting busier by the minute.
Musically, it was very reminiscing of early Mastodon, Municipal Waste and Powertrip, so should this piece of information tickles your fancy, I’d recommend you to give them a listen and in all honesty, it’s pretty good heavy speed metal, but for the love of Tony Iommi, can we stop saying ‘fuck’ every three words said on stage? It kind of ruined the vibe for me, but again, I can be fussy when it comes to stage presence. I’m a Mike Patton fan, I have standards.
Hippotraktor, on the other hand, were far from anything I expected from them. The post-metal proggy quintet from Mechelen (lovely Flemish town between Brussels and Antwerp, you should pay a visit sometime) really delivered on an impressive, albeit short set. I loved how the vocalist was also playing drums standing, along with another drummer, but also how smooth the transitions between clean vocals and growls were. And since their debut album, released in 2021 on Pelagic Records, it only makes sense to see them at ATG and get so much appreciation from those who were in the tent with me. I can see them going places whenever they release their follow-up album, and it’s going to be a good one.
Next up was Pupil Slicer for which I also had high expectations for after having been somewhat lucky to have seen them at Roadburn but left a little disappointed due to the stage having terrible acoustics. I can tell you that this time around, they sounded so much better, and it wasn’t as hard to really enjoy their set. The audience seemed to really be rooting for them – as they should – which is always lovely to see. They live up to the hype around them now, and it’s about time. Having seen them perform a lot of new material from their latest album, Blossom, you could tell that ATG was the perfect place to reintroduce themselves as one of the UK bands to watch. Sure, there wasn’t any crowd-surfing taking place, but the occasional circle pit and two-steps were super fun to watch from a distance.
Just enough time to fetch some food then it was time for DVNE to make their entrance to the Bixler Stage. Another rising star from the UK prog-metal scene who have kept growing since the release of their critically acclaimed sophomore album, Etemen Ænka, two years ago. It was a really impressive set, probably better than I expected, and the audience were really there for it, they were cheering them a lot, they were headbanging a lot and DVNE gladly returned the favour. I thought this would be hard to top in terms of sets on that day, and yet, there were two other bands left on the bill to play for us, mere mortals with an extra day-ticket, and the excitement could be felt from all corners as Conjurer – a band who needs no introduction – were about to start.
If you know me, you know how much I love this band. The Warwickshire-based force of nature that is Conjurer were expected like messiahs at this point, everybody wanted to see them for the umpteenth time, knowing they would be there for a treat. Well, it wasn’t the treat that I expected, but it was as delicious and greasy as the deep-fried Mars bars that were sold at the food stalls. They gave everything they had and then some more, the whole tent was enthralled and overjoyed by their set – making plenty of room for songs from Pàthos (2022) and Mire (2018). It must be my sixth or seventh time now and this set might have been my second favourite (their Brighton gig last year still ranks first in my heart) show of theirs. One can only expect the best coming from one of the finest post-metal bands in the UK, if not the world. And knowing that we would see them again over the weekend, as they will play with Pijn on Curse These Metal Hands 2 Electric Boogaloo on Friday.
Last but certainly not least, Scalping, now known as Scaler, gave a hell of a show. It was a very interesting mix between noise, post-punk and electro, think The Prodigy and 65daysofstatic having some ‘punani action’ and it would be Scalping. It was the kind of rave that everyone in Fernhill Farm needed at this point before any silent disco party could actually take place. Their hypnotic rhythms and heavy guitars were doing it for a lot of us in the tent, everyone was dancing or at the very least, would jump up and down every so often. It was such a brilliant way to end the hostilities for the day as the rest of my friends decided to give the silent disco and their world-renowned Mars Volta channel a shot.
After a day like this one, it could only get better with more bands to discover and cheer for during this glorious weekend of August. You know what they say, it’s always sunny in ArcTanGent.
Scribed by: Nessie Spencer