Arctangent Festival - Live in Somerset - Day One (Cover Artwork)

Arctangent Festival

Live in Somerset - Day One (2022)

live show

After making my way to the rural West Country (just south of Bristol) I set up my tent and embarked upon my first trip to Arctangent festival. It has been running for ten years and leans heavily into complex, challenging, heavy music. Prog, post, math and more variants on both rock and metal abound. Five stages set in a relatively compact area, but allowing for plentiful food options, toilets that rarely saw queues and more besides. It seemed like my kind of place.

My first day was initially spent bumping into people, getting my bearings and crucially, seeing a great many bands. First up were Graywave. A young band, but who clearly have confidence in their music; and well they might. A street-smart quality combined with gorgeously fuzzed tones and haunting vocals. Then came Arctangent favourites, Pijn. Their new line-up (still centred around Musician/Writer/Producer extraordinaire Joe Clayton) drew a huge crowd on the main stage for their own brand of bleak, emotive post-metal that swings from the lachrymose to the pummelling. I managed to catch the beginning of Skin Failure’s set. Skin failure are a new band, with a strong pedigree of members of other bands, but this is something different. They’re a speed metal/thrash band, basically. An odd addition given the nature of the line-up, but one that brought some real levity to proceedings. Super soakers were fired into the crowd, moshing and walls of death were all present and correct. Things had got off to a mighty strong start.

One of the bands I was keen to catch were DVNE on the main stage. People had raved about the debut record from last year, but I had not spent much time with it. I will be remedying that however, because it became clear why people had got excited. Imagine if Mastodon and Spirit Adrift had a Scottish baby. That liked prog. That’s DVNE. After a swift lunch from one of the (frankly very good quality) stalls, I sat back for AA Williams. She brought a new dynamic with a full band backing her songs which on record are often wilfully sparse, but never lacking in emotional heft. There was a song on her last record which featured Johannes from Cult of Luna (the day’s headliners), but he never appeared, which was a minor fly in the ointment of an otherwise wonderful set. For a bit of a gear change, I then went to see Puppy. Just a great band, but even more so at a festival. Sun-soaked melodies and hooks through a metallic filter. Deserve to be bigger than they are. The last band of my afternoon ‘shift’ were Imperial Triumphant. Avant-garde, black metal/jazz fusion, noise terrorists from NYC in gold masks. Some people cannot get enough of this band. Personally, I’d had enough after about 20 minutes. I might be a philistine, but I just wasn’t feeling it for the first time that day.

After catching up with some bands and buds, I went to see another super-abrasive band, but this time one I really did get on with. Amenra have been doing their thing for some time now, but this is my first experience of their live show. And I know now why people fall for them in the way they do. They’re the aural equivalent of a full mental collapse with an undertone of ritual violence. Might not sound appealing, but it was magnificent. After that I went to see the last ever show of post-metal heroes We Never learned To Live. I’d seen them before, but this was better. They paid their respects to their material and fans alike and although bittersweet, the show felt cathartic and homely, somehow. Closing out Day One was Cult of Luna. I could say that given the stylistic similarities (loosely speaking) with Amenra, that this was maybe an odd piece of scheduling, but as it happens, the more uplifting and enlivening moments that CoL can summon from a catalogue bulging with classic albums, made for a perfect end to what had been an amazing day all round. Quick blast at the silent disco, then I repair to my tent to make sure I could do Day Two justice.