Tech Trek Europe (De Casino, Sint-Niklaas) – 01/12/2019

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What better way to spend your Sunday evening than supporting the underground technical death metal scene? Well, I say underground but headlining act Archspire has been steadily evolving into quite a sensation with their faster than light tech death. Thanks to their turning more than a few heads over the last five years, they’ve now embarked on a European tour with Inferi, Vulvodynia, and Beneath The Massacre. Tonight’s also sporting local heroes When Plagues Collide. Beam me up, Scotty, and set course for the Tech Trek at De Casino in Sint-Niklaas (Belgium) for an evening of warp speed riffs and gravity-defying brutality. Engage!

Inferi (***1/2)

It’s Inferi‘s first time on our shores y’all. With six full lengths to their name and thirteen years’ existence, you’d think a band with that pedigree would have at least played European festivals, but no, somehow it never happened. They finally made it to Belgium and I can at last cross them off my must-see list.

Warlock Steve Boiser casting necromancy spells at us.

There were some sound issues here with only one guitar coming through cleanly. Even when I moved from my spot, left in front of the stage, to the center back, next to the sound board for the second half of the show, it didn’t improve things. Malcolm Pugh‘s riffs and solos were clean though, and man, can he shred. There’s something magical about watching him play, as he’s a true virtuoso. He also provided backing vocals, which stood out a little too much due to an uneven sound, whereas frontman Steve Boiser‘s extremely varied vocal range suffered as a consequence. His extremely high pitch screams, which are the most impressive, didn’t come through enough. Nevertheless Inferi makes for a rather incredible opener. It feels like you’re watching an entire electrified classical orchestra, while wondering where seventy-five percent of the sounds come from. Their music is just that intricate. I only wish the sound had been better.

Vulvodynia (***)

Lost count of how many times I’ve seen our South African brothers of slam. This year alone I saw them thrice. The crowds just can’t get enough of Vulvodynia. Every time they play here, the pit erupts into a fun party. Doesn’t matter where they’re billed. Here they “only” held the second spot of the night but they might just as well have played before the headliner. Death metal blasts and beatdown breakdowns are center piece here. The musicians’ gangsta attitude suits the style like a glove and works wonders to whip up the fans.

My only beef with Vulvodynia is their drummer. He’s not bad, but seems to have a hard time keeping up the pace at times. What’s more, the cymbal hits are awkwardly placed and some licks seem a little off. No matter, as I’m clearly noticing some improvement since the last time, so at least I know we can expect an even better Vulvodynia in the future. In any case, the pit couldn’t care less. And that’s where most of the fun was going on anyway.

When Plagues Collide (****)

Local heroes gradually turning into local legends. This was by far the best When Plagues Collide show I’ve seen, and I’ve attended quite a few. I remember reviewing their first record ‘Tutor Of The Dying‘ last year and thinking I was curious to see what they would have in store for us in the future. I’m happy to say they don’t disappoint.

Vocalist Wouter (left) doing the chicken dance on one of WPC‘s many heavy moments.

Their set was air-tight, minus some technical issues with guitars strings. But way to pick up the pace after that small incident. Damn! People are no longer just taking notice, they’re finally starting to appreciate When Plagues Collide to a better extent. Though it may still be a bit much to ask that the room explode, I did notice a severely positive shift in the audience’s appreciation. I know I’m repeating myself but I’m most eager to see what the future holds in store here. When’s that next record release?

Set list:
Messengers of the Holy Falsehood
Fertilization With the Body of Men
Dictating Violence
Belials Archetype

Beneath The Massacre (****1/2)

Tabernac! Beneath The Massacre is back after a long period of utter silence. No, seriously, their resurgence came out of nowhere for me. One day I woke up and, bam, there they were again. Single track drop and album announcement and all. It’s actually been ten years since I’d first -and last – seen these Canadian tech death masters at work. It can get scary when a band has been gone for that long, because you never know what quality you can expect.

Bradley about to ingest the mic.

Fortunately when they started playing, they immediately set my mind at ease. Despite some minor mic issues at the beginning of the show, it felt like everything was right with the world again. Beneath the Massacre bring us technical death metal of the most brutal kind. Their show feels like one long blast beat with the occasional groovy breakdown, which offer some pleasant variation. This, paired with frontman Dennis Bradley‘s powerful demonic growls, makes for one heavy set.

Good heavens!

Archspire (****)

Coincidentally, Archspire was one of the few bands who could soothe my missing Beneath The Massacre. So it was a lot of fun for me to see them share the stage. We have ourselves another Canadian tech death setup, who has been on the up and up for the last few years. It’s actually their third time in Belgium this year alone, and every time I see them, they perform better than the last. This time, they’re headlining, and rightfully so. Although why these guys would want to play the longest time-slot is beyond me. Their songs are so technical and long it can’t be anything but bad for everyone’s health.

Fingers too fast for clean pictures.

I kid of course. Archspire is the bomb. Vocalist Oli Peters is still as funny as ever introducing all the band members by insulting them in an good-natured manner, when he’s not holding ‘applause’ signs over their heads. If you’ve seen Archspire before, you’ll know he’s not only hilarious, but also one of the most talented death metal singers ever. And that’s kind of downplaying it. The speed with which he spews out his lyrics is something you must experience at least once. Also note that the music to support said vocal speed is there. You can hardly miss it. Between the riffs that will make your brain explode like the martians in Mars Attacks or the warp nine blast beats, there aren’t many bands that will achieve this level of technicality. Archspire never cease to impress me. I’m not the only one. When the lights turn on, you can still see the amazement lingering on everyone’s face. Let’s hope they keep flooring crowds like they are doing now. Stay tech!

Set list:
Involuntary Doppelganger
Human Murmuration
Rapid Elemental Dissolve
Relentless Mutation
Lucid Collective Somnambulation
The Mimic Well
Calamus Will Animate
A Dark Horizontal
Remote Tumour Seeker

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