Saturday at ArcTanGent is headlined by Meshuggah, arguably the biggest draw of the entire weekend. The polyrhythmic titans are a coup for the festival and it’s safe to say only those with a distaste for metal will miss this set. Meshuggah are surely one of the most influential bands in progressive and extreme metal circles, and largely responsible for the whole djent subgenre, which has made its own mark on ATG. Yet whilst many peers have aped their sound, no-one has ever managed to match their brilliant blend of intensity and compositional complexity.
Over their long career, Meshuggah have successfully tweaked their sound with each release to keep things fresh. With an hour and a half at their disposal, expect the Swedes to showcase material from across the decades, with their most recent album, The Violent Sleep of Reason, sure to feature heavily. The record is perhaps their most meta yet, containing aggressive, chunky riffs and progressive song structures alongside their unique multiple-time-signatures-at-once jazzy virtuosity. ‘Born In Dissonance’, taken from this record, is a great entry point into this fascinating group’s art.
Meshuggah’s back catalogue also contains gems such as the direct, thrashy ‘Bleed’, and early effort ‘Future Breed Machine’, the latter taken from the ground-breaking Destroy Erase Improve. Both are sure to get an outing at what classes as an intimate festival set for Meshuggah, their only date on these islands this calendar year.
American post-rockers Caspian spent the entire month of May in the studio, recording the much-awaited follow-up to 2015’s lauded Dust and Disquiet. Expect to hear new material, then, debuted on this frantic burst that sees the band play seven European festival shows in eight days. Their appearance on the Yohkai stage is their only UK date on this short tour. Caspian utilise space and volume to maximise the impact of their compositions. Aside from brand new tracks, the expansive, singalong ‘Halls of Summer’, and Dust and Disquiet’s explosive ‘Arcs of Command’, show the bands’ yin and yang aptly. There’s also a line-up tweak, with Justin Forrest unveiled as the band’s new drummer.
For those who prefer their rock music more visceral, hardcore merchants Employed to Serve provide a potent alternative to Caspian’s musings on the Bixler stage. ‘Force Fed’, taken from this year’s Eternal Forward Motion, neatly hawks their wares, utilising machine-gun staccato riffing and a dual vocal attack, effectively.
Cult of Luna also arrive in Somerset with new material to air. The post-metal overlords have already dropped one track, the irresistible ‘The Silent Man’, a towering inferno of slow burn repeated note guitars, insistent drumming and impassioned vocals that subsides into something sinuous and strange before building again to a satisfying climax. Their drawn out, wandering tracks are sure to inspire awe and draw many devoted fans to the Arc stage for their evening set, although there’s no indication Julie Christmas will be making an appearance on this record or tour.
Gnod, sub-headlining the Yohkai stage, are pretty much the house band at ArcTanGent. Part of their appeal is their unpredictability, so expect the unexpected, but it’s sure to rock hard, as evidenced by ‘Bodies For Money’.
Meanwhile, on the Bixler stage, USA’s Car Bomb! debut material from new album Mordial, set for release late September. The quartet have just released the LP’s second single, ‘Scattered Sprites’, a creative peak that shows them further outgrow the Dillinger Escape Plan comparisons.
Whilst many festival goers will find the allure of a mystery special guest hard to resist, those familiar with Sweden’s Letters From the Colony may want to forgo the unknown and instead indulge in progressive death metal that’s genuinely progressive. 2018’s Vignette introduced the world to their unique aesthetic, borrowing from math metal and shoegaze. Opening track ‘Galax’ features soaring, emotive guitar playing from former bassist Johan Jönsegård. All in all, they’re too accomplished to bubble under for much longer. Catch them now before they’re elevated to the alternative metal’s premier league.
Earlier in the afternoon the quality doesn’t let up. Prog metallers The Contortionist are back with a new EP, Our Bones, from which the melodic, strident ‘Early Grave’, is taken. They’ll be playing the Yohkai stage whilst your new favourite band from Taiwan, Elephant Gym, entertain on Bixler. The trio, consisting of brother and sister Tell and KT Chang on guitar and bass, and Chia-Chin Tu on drums, produce a mathy, jazzy fusion full of intricate runs and, on 2018’s Underwater, integrated synths, sound effects and a greater emphasis on keys and even vocals.
Earlier on the Arc stage, Three Trapped Tigers bring their nigh-on-uncategorizable style, showcased here on the title track of 2016’s Silent Earthling. Fans should arrive extra early, as guitarist Matt Calvert turns in a solo set at 1pm.
Sandwiched between the two are The Physics House Band, a cosmically-inclined Brighton ensemble capable of dazzling instrumental virtuosity. Their latest EP, Death Sequence, features Stuart Lee in amongst their Soft Machine on steroids squalls. They’re a scintillating live experience and not to be missed.
There’s also Mexican math rock band DJ Perro opening the Arc stage, followed by The St Pierre Snake Invasion. The Bristol band face stiff competition from Midas Fall, who bring a more delicate, ethereal take on post-rock to the PX3 stage, captured here on ‘Blink’. Throw in a further 14 (!) bands and its safe to say there’s something for any discerning fan of heavier, alternative music to enjoy. Oh, and did we mention Meshuggah are playing?