Each year ArcTanGent provides music lovers with a genre-bending line-up, pulling together a mix of bands suitable for a whole host of different tastes. This year is no different and in 2019, the festival has collated what is arguably its biggest line-up to date.
Catering to music connoisseurs of all types, the friendly environment of ATG is one focused around seeing some of the best musicians in the world of alternative music. With more than 100 bands spread across four stages, there is something to whet everyone’s appetite, from the acts people may not have necessarily heard of before to the UK exclusive performances, ATG is once again set to be huge this year.
With a jam-packed line-up across three days, the Already Heard team are on hand to help pick out a selection of must-see acts at this year’s festival.
It isn’t often that a festival can announce one band and it causes such a divided opinion. But that is exactly what happened when ArcTanGent announced Swedish djent masters, Meshuggah, as one of its headliners. Formed in 1987, the band have been hailed as one of the heaviest bands in the metal genre.
Seen as pioneers of the djent sound, if people attending this year’s ATG festival were looking for a chilled-out Saturday headliner they may have to look elsewhere. Meshuggah‘s experimentation, stylistic variation and changes during its career cross several musical subgenres. Heavy metal subgenres experimental metal or avant-garde metal are umbrella terms that define the career of the band in general.
Since their formation, Meshuggah has released eight studio albums and six EPs, so there is a vast catalogue for the band to pick from and it will no doubt leave many a fan with a sore neck from headbanging so much. (TB)
Where & When: Arc – Saturday
If post-rock is your thing you really won’t want to miss Russian Circles. Based out of Chicago, Illinois, the three-piece have been creating forward-thinking post-rock for the best part of a decade. All that experience translates fantastically to the stage. They’re a well-oiled machine and a leviathan of crushing atmosphere and beauty.
With a critically-acclaimed discography to their name, they have plenty of material to draw from. Dark and heavy when they need to be there is so much scope to their music, there really is something for everyone. You can bet they’ll be playing from genre classics, ‘Station’ and ‘Geneva’. In fact, recent sets have included songs from their whole discography, offering a sweeping range of style.
Their appearance comes off the back of the recently released ‘Blood Year’ LP. So they’ll be keen to show off what they’ve been creating. You know what you’re getting with a band of this calibre, and it’s no surprise they’re due on stage just before Friday’s headliners. We’ll definitely see you there. (IK)
Where & When:
Zeal & Ardor
Zeal & Ardor were one of the highlights of last year’s festival, and the group led by Manuel Gagneux will once again no doubt provide the experience they have come known to produce. The band produce an almost religious feeling to their live performances, giving their audience a sermon in avant-garde metal.
Initially starting as a solo project by Gagneux, the Zeal & Ardor experience has evolved and has become a more rounded musical trip as they mix negro spirituals with black metal. (TB)
Where & When: Arc – Friday
Cult of Luna
Known for their post-metal music, Cult of Luna has become one of the juggernauts of the genre. With an ever-changing soundscape, the Swedish metallers have gone from a more doom influenced band to one which creates a beautiful yet harrowing sound.
Imagery has always been a big part of what Cult of Luna has done, whether that is playing in complete darkness or the artwork of their albums, everything adds to the overall experience of what the band produces. Cult of Luna‘s sound has progressed from early material being heavily doom metal influenced to one much less aggressive and more concerned with orchestration.
With a new album, ‘A Dawn to Fear’, on the horizon, Cult of Luna will certainly be a band not to miss at this year’s ATG. (TB)
Where & When: Arc – Saturday
There is an aura around Sleep Token. Partly because of their enigmatic presentation, and partly because we have a feeling they’re on the cusp of becoming a very big-fucking-deal.
In recent weeks they’ve been drip-feeding us tracks from their long-awaited debut full-length, ‘Sundowning.’ Songs such as ‘The Night Does Not Belong To God’ and ‘Levitate’ have captivated us with the versatility of the band’s vocalist, known as the Vessel, ideally serving as the band’s magnetic core. With a sound that varies from atmospheric ballads to trip to distorted passages, Sleep Token are considered one of the most exciting bands right now. While somewhat diverse on the surface, each song is threaded together by an emotional outpouring; fear, horror, anguish, pain, happiness, joy, anger, with a dark cloud constantly casting its over.
Their appearance at ArcTanGent is sure to draw a big crowd. As you can guess from their secrecy, live shows (aka rituals) are sparse with two headline shows this Autumn already sold out. So we advise you go and see Sleep Token because you may not get another chance. After all, as the Vessel has says previously, “nothing lasts forever”. Worship. (SR)
Where & When: Bixler – Friday
Curse These Metal Hands
Last year, members of Conjurer and Pijn got together at ArcTanGent to form a group called Curse These Metal Hands. From what was supposedly a one-time performance, has now become a fully formed collaboration with a four-track EP set to be imminently released. And by pure coincidence, CTMH will be celebrating its release by returning to ATG.
The aforementioned EP is a sonically stunning 30-minute journey of sprawling, atmospheric metal with sludgy grooves and plenty of riffs being neatly timed throughout. While both bands have achieved plenty acclaim over the past 18 months, together they’ve created a compelling collection of songs that don’t directly sound like of their other bands.
Curse These Metal Hands‘ return to ArcTanGent is sure to be a celebration of what is likely to be a rare outing for the group. Expect to get lost in their expansive musicianship one minute, then helplessly headbanging the next. (SR)
Where & When: Yohkai – Saturday
We Never Learned To Live
Months removed from delivering from what is perhaps one of the year’s most underrated albums so far, We Never Learned To Live arrive at ArcTanGent with plenty to prove. ‘The Sleepwalk Transmissions’ thrived with sonic dexterity and captivating craftsmanship. Wrapped in a conceptual sci-fi skin, investigating the significance of reality and the effect technology has had on us, it allowed WNLTL to produce a complex and dynamic record.
Set to open the Yohkai stage on Friday, the Brighton based band are certain to deliver an engaging, concise set. With a cinematic hint, both lyrically and musically, be prepared to be captivated by the post-hardcore band. We’re confident that WNLTL will be as effective live, as they are on ‘The Sleepwalk Transmissions’. (SR)
Where & When: Yohkai – Friday
An act often cited as one of the best in live music today, Belgian noise-rockers Raketkanon will be hitting ArcTanGent at full force after decimating its sister festival, 2000trees, a month prior. It’s easy to see the band going down even more of a storm with fans of more experimental (and downright weird) music.
With lyrics in their own made-up language backed by bouncing, off-kilter synthesisers, punchy, minimalist drumming and intriguing guitar lines, Raketkanon relish in messing with their audience’s heads. Off the back of the release of their third album, their live show is more must-see than ever.
Newer tracks like ‘Fons’ and ‘Hannibal’ are more involved and musically ambitious than the band’s tried-and-tested bangers but are just as curiously chaotic. At the forefront of it all, frontman Pieter-Paul Devos is a whirling dervish, and you can expect him to throw himself around the audience as much as he commands the stage. The musicians around him will attempt to batter their instruments to a pulp, and ArcTanGent will undoubtedly have one of their most talked-about sets of the weekend. (JH)
Where & When: Bixler – Thursday
When Frontierer were last at ArcTanGent, they absolutely levelled the festival. So why organisers have invited the mathcore and back once more is pretty clear.
With frantic guitars top off with visceral vocals, the Scottish-American quintet represent the more hardcore element of ArcTanGent but one where audience members are along for the ride. Since the bands debut album, ‘Orange Mathematics’, grabbed the attention of many music fans, Frontierer’s stroke has been on the rise and it is a safe guess that the band will once again provide one of the sets of the weekend. (TB)
Where & When: Bixler – Friday
One of the UK’s hottest commodities at the moment, Ithaca make their first and highly anticipated appearance at ArcTanGent. Having released their debut album, ‘The Language of Injury’ earlier this year, the band has been on a huge wave of momentum, picking up fans from their raw live performances along the way.
With the band not being one to shy away from social issues, Ithaca feels very much like a band for the people and being given a platform at ATG will only solidify this.
Blending together dark hardcore, metallic fury and absolutely annihilating riffs, the London group will appeal to the hardcore fans as well as those who like their music a bit more technically proficient. Ithaca are a band who play by their own rules and look set to make ATG theirs. (TB)
Where & When:
Finding the balance between gentle and sorrowful is where you will find A.A.Williams. The solo artist has already been compared to the likes of Emma Ruth Rundle, and rightly so. A.A.Williams crafts a profound sense of melancholy submerged in gothic influence.
Having already had a number of UK festival performances under her belt, there is a sense that ATG will be a coming-out party for the musician. With anthemic and passionate melodies, but there is still a heavy sense to her music A.A.Williams my be a welcome rest bite from some of the other heaviness which is on offer over the three days. (TB)
Where & When: PX3 – Thursday
Wild Cat Strike
ArcTanGent could be a big moment for Wild Cat Strike. Fresh from dropping a fantastic first album at the tail end of last year, the Brighton quartet are stepping up to prove their worth as ones to watch in the British alternative underground.
2018’s ‘Rhubarb Nostalgia’ was a step up from the band’s debut EP (‘I Want To Be the White That Sleeps Inside Your Bones’) in that it managed to better capture the same bittersweet feeling and grand sense of scope, but in songs half the length. It means that WCS can now lay claim to some gorgeous, catchy, alt-indie tunes laden with brilliant lyricism and impressive instrumentation.
You’ll find no better hangover cure than ‘Satellite Towns’, ‘Good Looking’, and ‘Another Round’ ringing out from the Yohkai stage on Saturday morning. Wild Cat Strike will kick off the final day of the festival in perfect fashion, and it’s more than likely they’ll pick up a whole lot of new fans along the way. (JH)
Where & When: Yohkai – Saturday
The 2018 record from Rhode Island four-piece Daughters – ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ – catapulted them to a level of infamy that not many could’ve predicted. Though it’s a far cry from their earlier material (grinding, Botch-influenced mathcore), the downright terrifying grasp on tone demonstrated on the band’s latest release led to near-unanimous critical acclaim. With their amalgam of violent, brain-scrambling guitarwork, punishing, repetitive rhythms, and frighteningly inhuman vocals from frontman Alexis Marshall, ‘YWGWYW’ is emblematic of a band at the peak of their career.
Don’t be surprised when Daughters pack out the Yohkai tent for their Thursday evening slot. Their live show has become just as talked-about as their most recent record in many circles, marked by an intensity and a level of commitment to their art that not many of their peers can hold a candle to. Marshall is a rabid creature at the eye of an intimidating musical storm, and his performance alone should be enough to drive you to see this band at Fernhill Farm. (JH)
Where & When: Yohkai – Thursday
If you prefer your music mellow and haunting, you won’t want to miss Midas Fall. Last year they gained huge critical praise with their fourth album, ‘Evaporate’. It’s a beautiful, unforgeable record and you can bet they’ll want to show off their newer music alongside their impressive back catalogue.
Mixing delicate guitar, electronics and the atmosphere of a serene night sky their music is slow-burning and powerful. It creates an ideal canvas for Elizabeth Heaton’s beautiful voice to soar over, prickling every hair on your neck in the process. It’s melancholy music for sure but it’s also rich, textured and holds something for everyone.
In the live arena, the duo rounds out their line-up so you get the full-band effect. It makes songs like ‘Glue’ and ‘Bruise Pusher’ sound expansive and they’ve got enough gravitas to really hold your attention. So definitely mark their set down, it’ll be a must-see.
They’re also playing a stripped back set on Saturday morning, so any early birds can catch them twice. (IK)
Where & When: PX3 – Saturday
ArcTanGent Festival 2019 takes place at Fernhill Farm near Bristol from Thursday, 15th August to Saturday, 17th August.
Words by Tim Birkbeck (TB), Sêan Reid (SR), Ian Kenworthy (IK) and Jack Hardiman (JH).