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

Arctangent Festival

Live in Somerset - Day Two (2022)

live show

After the inevitable period of rolling around the floor of my tent, bleary-eyed and incredulous, I did my best to make myself feel human and then set about the 10-minute walk to the arena with a couple of cans weighing down my backpack reassuringly. Though the music starts before midday at Arctangent, I was 100% certain that I was not going to miss MOL under any circumstances. Last year’s Diorama was up there in the fight for my album of the year and this, being the first time I’ve seen the songs live, was one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. My enthusiasm proved well-founded. Blast beats, gorgeous twinkling lead guitar lines and Kim’s pure black metal melodrama vie for prominence, but the result is a beguiling, enlivening amalgam that, at the time, I felt it unlikely would be beaten that day. There was a long way to go, however.

Next, after a break (for some sensational paella) was a wildcard band of the day for me. Oranssi Pazuzu. Their music is even weirder than their name. Being honest, I struggled with this on record but on the main stage (a huge, big top-style tent, so darkness still reigns) in the afternoon, it almost made sense. The soundscapes this collection of musicians can conjure is nothing short of nightmarish. It has a raw, folk-horror ambience, but seamlessly incorporates methods of sound manipulation which are both modern yet retain an archaic, anachronistic character. Wild, bizarre, but always incredibly powerful. I’ll be giving the record another go, that’s for damn sure. Something lighter was in order, so I was delighted to wander over and catch some of Alpha Male Tea Party. An Arctangent band through and through; instrumental, mathy, heavy, but always playful with it. A band who are probably more cult than their output deserves. I then dashed over to catch some of Rivers Of Nihil. I am, after all, a death metal guy. I really wasn’t sure how much of a crowd there would be for these guys, but it turns out a lot of people wanted to get involved. In one of the smaller stages, the band commanded every person in there. Tight, technical and the set was littered with legitimate moments for people to go nuts to. If they come back, I foresee a larger stage and a higher slot.

The evening promised an eclectic mix of styles and it got off to a flyer with Stake. A band who I only know a little about, but what I do know, I like. I don’t know if ‘Doomcore’ is a thing (it probably is), but that’s what came to mind watching stake. Mammoth-heavy, littered with huge riffs and crushing breakdowns. Given the amount of individual head-banging that goes on at Arctangent, it was nice to see a good old fashioned mosh pit again. I now consider myself a fan. But a band who I have been a fan of for a good few years now were up next and about to play one of the standout sets of the weekend. Zeal and Ardor have, at this point, way more A-grade material than you need to fill a festival slot, so there was a real sense of excitement throughout the entire set. It’s also clear to see how far they’ve come as a band in the last few years. Manuel’s voice is as impressive when engaged in the chain-gang chants as it is when delivering the visceral, icy rasp of black metal. But how they fuse those things together at this point sounds less like an experiment and more just the result of a singular, insanely talented band.

Having caught up with them earlier in the day for a chat, I was never going to miss Palm Reader headlining one of the stages. And I’m very glad I didn’t as it was incendiary stuff. Over the last two records, Palm Reader have become far less a hardcore (or even post-hardcore) band and maybe closer to an experimental heavy rock band with hardcore flourishes. But the lineage of the band is laid bare in the live environment. Crushing but capable of moments of diametrically opposed fragility and tenderness. This band have come far; and tonight showed just why that is. From there I managed to catch the last 30 minutes of Tesseract on the main stage. I’m not a huge fan of Tesseract, but they sounded immaculate and had the best laser setup of the weekend by some margin. I retired to my tent, bewildered and happy.