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Tuesday 15 August 2023

A View From The Back Of The Room: Radar Festival Day 3 (Live Review By Tom Bladen & Matt Bladen)

Radar Festival Day 3, O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester

Sunday, 30.07.23

With a line up that much more suited my colleague/brother my contribution here will be slim however I’m in agreement with most of the bands I also saw.

Tom: As Radar comprises not only the festival, music/instrument market, videogames etc etc, ther are also Masterclasses, with many of the bands, virtuoso musicians who play in bands performing. If you missed the Masterclasses, the Sunday set from Aussies I Built The Sky (9) was a bonus masterclass in all but name. Utterly phenomenal mixing and sound which was 100% required as the mastery on display deserved, nothing less. Rohan's (guitar) band were tight as all hell well allowing him to captivate the audience with his mix of melodic rifferey and shred skills. Everything about this set boasted the best of modern instrumental guitar music which can transcend almost all genre norms.

A suprise appearance of Andy Cizek for their collab The Fire Inside which also features ex-Monuments man Olly Steele (more on him later) was the icing on the cake to a superb set. They do only get a 9 because Ro actually replied to one of my Insta stories of him playing and said he fluffed the part, I had been praising, I didn't notice but now I know, shame on him and his ancestors. (Just kidding)

Next was an assault on the senses for all the right reasons as Lake Malice (9) brought pure audio chaos weaved into brutal and catchy dance infused metalcore. My first thought was they need to be touring with Shikari, and they are....this year. (Cue TikTok dance). Which is a match made in heaven. Fantastic stage presence and energy throughout, their crowd interaction was on a very high level, climbing on the barriers to deliver gutteral screams intertwined with powerful clean and melodic vocals. They were one of the few bands audibly dissapointed that they couldn't do a wall of death.  Their use of backing tapes and Drum n Bass breakbeats were done well and allowed the musical and vocal prowess to shine through. 100% ones to watch in 2023.

Matt: On the mainstage Long Distance Calling (7) made their mark with some expansive mainly instrumentals drawn from their post rock background, after the aggression of Lake Malice it was a bit of come down but back to the second stage and the insanity that was the The Callous Daoboys (8) managed to increase the tempo with their mindbending math metal. Frenzied and full of stop start riffs, samples and even a bit of Sweet Caroline, it was an impressive UK debut for the band.

Heading back to the mainstage and it was Caligula's Horse (9) that stole the day for me. Their melding of the old and new styles of progressive rock music meant that everyone could find something to love. Again the sound was a little bass heavy meaning the guitars faded in and out of being audible as they played through their five song setlist (it's prog folks). Two from 2015's Bloom, two from 2020's Rise Radiant and one from 2017's In Contact, it was the Australian band winning over a crowd that may not be as familar with them, using just their three most recent records. The vocals of Jim Grey pitched well on top of the band who are inspired by Steely Dan to bring circuses (no bread) to the Radar audience 

Tom: If there was aband who were aggression personified, then it was Ghost Iris (9). Using the limited space of the 2nd stage to its full potential, their set featured crowd surfing guitarists, vocalists, pretty much anyone who could be made horizontal and surfed was surfed. They also had very interesting costuming, almost cyberpunk esque, respirators, light up sunglasses, body armour. Very much worked with the violent technical sound layed down across the entire set. 

The energy of the entire band was off the scale, how their instruments stay together with the amount of body bang abuse the go through is a complete mystery. Almost no let up front to back which built the energy nicely going into the evening bands, although I do feel sorry for those who were bludgeoned up at Iris and then went straight into ten56. The sound was well mixed and clean where it needed to be to pick out the clever guitar work and vocal presence was very full. As with almost everyone else, bottom end could have done with a little tweaking to hear more of the intricacies. But outside of that solid all around.

Matt: We didn't get to see much of ten56, however kudos to them and the crew for actually playing as due to techincal issuses, they only arrived at the venue 18 minutes before they were supposed to be on the stage.

Matt: Returning to the mainstage it was a very healthy crowd for the 'progressive metalcore' of Volumes (8) who make full use of their dual vocal attack with both Michael Barr and Myke Terry, laying down screams and cleans well, the heavy grooves of bassist Raad Soudani (bass) and drummer Nick Ursich carrying the shifting riffs and grooves of this band that seamlessly blend breakdowns, djent start stop riffs and nu metal in the vocals especially. They perform with plenty of bluster, constantly moving around the Radar stage, creating a party atmosphere as they jumped around with organisers, as well as bringing out special guest Olly Steele (see told you he'd be back), to perform with them. One of the bands that came in that early glut of djent bands Volumes set the stage for the band that you could argue originated the genre (though they say it isn't a genre).  

Tom: It has been a hot minute since I have managed to catch Periphery (10) live. To say they haven't lost a beat is an understatement and in fact an insult to their ongoing mastery of their craft. Sadly Mark was unable to attend due to the passing of his father, of which I extend my deepest condolences.

The guys did him tremendously proud with a fantastically paced set, especially kicking off with the P2 classics of Muramasa, Ragnarok and Masamune. Only to then kick into Icarus Lives. This definitely set the tone and left myself as well as many other long term fans vying for more. Jake and Misha layed down consistently tight guitar work which was mixed almost to perfection. Matt I would almost certainly believe is an AI at this point as the crispness and sharp attack of his drum work elevates their sound to an arena worthy fullness. Spencer as always kept the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout the entire set. Ever the showman rallying energy with his hypnotic stage presence and down right unearthly vocals. Which I would say as with the rest of the band have only got better. 

A truly fantastic way to close out the festival and these forbearers of the 'djent' scene (there I said it) after countless albums are continuing to evolve for the better and don't look to be slowing down one bit.

Ash, Joe, Catherine and their dedicated team did a fantastic job maiking everything run as smoothly as possible, addressing issues, booking some killer bands and making sure that everyone felt safe and had a great time. Thanks as well to the PR and press that myself and Tom met, it was a pleasure to finally meet a few of you in person for a change. I had a great time this year so I'll be happy to travel to Manchester again for Radar 2024!

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