ArcTanGent, the Bristol based, independent festival takes place August 16–20 2023. It’s moved on so much from its early days as just a math rock festival, it’s far more varied than that, with over 50 acts ranging from big hitters like Converge, Heilung and Devin Townsend to young and upcoming artists and everything weird and wonderful in between. The beauty of the festival is its small and accessible nature; they have resisted the urge to build a giant temporary town and keep things low key. This means it is possible to take in a lot of bands in one day and even dart between sets for those annoying clashes. The vibe is also very friendly.
Things kick off on the Wednesday afternoon and highlights include:
If you like your metal a bit more old school then Skin Failure, which include members of the ill-fated Black Peaks and current members of Memory of Elephants, will make a great opener.
Pupil Slicer, noisy young upstarts who after only a couple of years have burst onto the British heavy music scene; although only two albums in, their angular and aggressive sound blended with some more melodic sections make for an energetic live show
Echoes and Dust favorites DVNE will also feature. An absolutely stunning live band, the songs are long and complex but just let it wash over you. I promise it is worth it.
Unless you have been living under a rock you will know east-midlands based Conjurer, their uncompromisingly heavy, doomy and sometimes sludgy metal will be sure to blow away any remaining cobwebs.
Finishing up the main bands, local boys Scalping will be playing their own brand of electro-infused heavy metal.
Early on in the day, London instrumental three piece Mountain Caller are a good bet to check out with a good coffee. With touches of prog, post-metal and a smattering of doom
For those who love dark and very intense black metal, Belgian trio Wiegedood brings some rage and intensity to the normally peaceful Somerset countryside.
Local quartet Svalbard will sonically slap everyone in the face with their lively and energetic set..This band are unafraid to deal with difficult issues, are uncompromising in their approach, and are great live.
Straight after, venerable Salem-based metalcore pioneers Cave In take to the stage. Singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky is a long-time master of his art and along with Converge bass player, Nate Newton and the rest of the band, will certainly give a good show.
Next stop, and requiring a dash over to the Yokhai stage, it’s Chat Pile. After only one album that band have gained wide-ranging plaudits for their brutal, edgy, noisy metal. Named after heaps of mining spoil the band paint a picture of a world falling apart around their ears. Easy-listening it is not, but highly recommended it is.
Now, a tricky decision: on PX3 stage French DIY punks Birds in Row will play what will undoubtedly be an intense show; the band eschew the usual trapping of fame, cropping their faces from promo shots and only referring to themselves by initial; instead they let the music speak for them.
At the same time on the Arc stage will be Empire State Bastard, brainchild of ex-Oceansize frontman Mike Vennart; he teams up with Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro) and Slayer co-founder Dave Lombardo who will play a far more extreme flavour of metal. I think I am going to have to try and see both, somehow!
Without much time to recover, Belgians Brutus are on the Yokhai stage. Now on their third album the power-trio, led by drummer and vocalist Stefanie Mannaerts, move seamlessly from post-metal and shoegaze to riff-heavy punk.
You’ll probably need a beer after all that, but before headliners Converge you can check out veteran post-rockers Russian Circles, and there’s chance to maybe take a seat at the back for a slice of Newcastle-based stoners Pigs (x7)
One more decision needed for the day: Bristol-based noisy chaps Sugar Horse – a band that lurch between genres with ease, ranging from the melodic to the jarringly heavy– are on PX3 but overlap with the headliners.
It’s likely that a few cobwebs will need to be blown away at this stage of the festival. Opening the PX3 stage are Sheffield natives Hidden Mothers with their own brand of blackened post-hardcore. On the cusp of their debut album, the band have picked up some supporting slots for Portrayal of Guilt and Callous Daoboys, and are one to watch for the future.
A band born out of ArcTanGent, Curse These Metal Hands, are on the Arc stage at midday. Consisting of members of both Pijn and Conjurer, although not really sounding like either, it’s fun, fist-in-the-air kinda rock.
Phoenix post-rock/metal quartet Holy Fawn bring their nature-inspired, dark blackgaze style to ATG. A band that doesn’t neatly fit into any genre, they have slowly but surely gained a fan base since their 2018 debut.
Black metal anarchists Dawn Ray’d will take to the PX3 stage; mixing english folk and more traditional black metal, the band plough their own furrow.
Over on the Arc stage, Northern Irish post-rockers and veterans of the live scene And So I Watch You From Afar are sure to bring a lively and entertaining live show from their wide-ranging back catalogue.
Berlin’s celebrated prog metallers The Ocean bring their epic sound to the proceedings. The brainchild of guitarist Robin Staps, the collective have a 20-year history and a directory of influential former members. Expect long, complex and multi-layered songs, and a spectacular stage dive from singer Loïc Rossetti. Also, they are the only band I have ever come across to have a fossil named after them!
If you’re in need of a bit of a livener, Brighton feminist electro/pop/punk/noise trio CLT DRP should provide a wake-up call in the bar and merch area; their unique, unapologetic music has gained a lot of fans recently, and is likely to gain a few more. And you won’t need to walk far to buy a t-shirt or CD afterwards!
In a similar vein, and if Heilung are not your thing, Death Goals are on the PX3 stage. They have become a cult favourite for their hectic live shows and unflinching “fuck you” attitude.
Closing out the live music, Denmark’s LLNN bring their particular brand of dark, Nordic Noir metal that sounds like it belongs in a post-apocalyptic bunker. Dense, suffocating but exhilarating.
On Saturday morning you’re forgiven for being a bit jaded; but get out of your tent and go and see Cultdreams, a band that has somewhat flown under the radar, but their punky, layered pop with added noise is just what you need to ease yourself back into the day. [Charlie Gardner adds: And their merch is amazing. I am the proud owner of one of their football shirts!]
A little later, Sheffield heavy mathcore merchants Rolo Tomassi will be on the Arc stage, blending abrasive mathy-riffs and dreamy melodic passages. Despite being around since 2008 the band have kept things low-key and DIY, and the urgency in their music seems to come from choosing their own path.
One of several highlights of the weekend, Atlanta natives Callous Daoboys will bring what is likely to be a noisy, chaotic and possibly dangerous live show. New to the scene, their debut album Celebrity Therapist gained them a cult following towards the end of 2022, and this is their first time in the UK.
High point of the day for many, and a completely ATG exclusive, Deafheaven will be playing Sunbather in full on its tenth anniversary.
Another unmissable – the insanity that is Igorrr. A mix that, on paper, shouldn’t work – a combination of blast beats, chunky metal riffs, operatic singing and breakbeat – its intense, visceral fun is dazzling. It’s crazy but embrace it and have a dance! (And get there early if you want to be near the front.)
Finally, on PX3 sludgy post-metal band Ohmms make a very capable alternative to Devin Townsend. Another band that somewhat avoids the limelight, they are sure to give a good show – sweaty, raw and riffy. It’s good to see ATG giving them a bigger stage to play on.