Review: RADAR Festival – O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester – Saturday

With RADAR Festival being indoors, there was none of that fear and trepidation that comes with waking up at an outdoor festival and peeking out of your tent to see what the weather Gods have cooked up for you. Come rain or shine, RADAR promises 10 hours of music each day, and when a breather is required then there is the decent-sized outdoor area offering up a break from the perpetual darkness of the warehouse settings.

Opening up the second stage, and fresh from their appearance at Download Festival the previous month, local Alt-Rock four-piece Crushed By Waves. Or to be more precise #whothefuckarecrushedbywaves. Bathed in harsh red and blue lights, at times it is difficult to make the band out, and at times it is just four shadows onstage. But led by vocalist Arran Prime, the quartet performs as if they are headlining the famous Ritz venue in Manchester city centre. New single ‘Nothing Left’ is a bit of a banger, but it is the towering pair of ‘Disconnect’ and ‘Won’t Get Out Alive’ that long lingers on after the performance and are still hanging around weeks later. The main stage – sponsored by Prog Magazine – is opened by Mathcore/Emo outfit Modern Error who are met by a studious audience soaking up every move from the charismatic pair of frontman Zak Pinchin and twin brother and guitarist Kel. ‘Separation Scars’ is a real standout moment in a set of many, and asks the question of why they were placed so low down on the running order. Shoegaze music amongst progressive and any form of music with “core” as a subtitle might seem like a baffling choice, but Graywave make it work, and are a total revelation. The recent EP ‘Rebirth’ is a stunning piece of work and it is great to hear it up close and personal. Mournful, dark, and very, very good. Deathcore nutters Harbinger are a million miles away from shoegaze, and if there are any cobwebs or thoughts of taking it easy on the early stages of the second day, then these guys blow that notion out of the skies. Circle pits become the norm and once the dust settles from their short set, a quick look at the clock tells everyone that it is only 3pm, and there are another 8 hours to go.

Edinburgh’s Tiberius (self-described as “Catchy Progressive Metal”) smash the second stage and certainly live up to the first part of their self-description. One of those fun acts where as soon as their set ends, you are online checking where you can catch them next. PUPIL SLICER are always an intense live force, and here today it is obvious that they belong on the main stage. Vocalist Kate Davies is already a rising star in the UK metal scene and on today’s performance it is clear to see why. With most recent album ‘Blossoms’ certain to land in most Metal publication’s Top 10 Albums of 2023, this is a momentous year for PUPIL SLICER. Blitzing retinas with powerful strobe lighting on set opener ‘No Temple’, what follows is carnage – sheer carnage. Finnish/English prog metal mainstays Wheel were here in the UK earlier this year opening on the Apocalyptica/Epica co-headlining tour and having spent a great deal of 2023 on the road, they have gathered up quite a head of steam. Vocalist James Lascelles brings a commanding presence with him and makes easy work of connecting with everyone gathered before him. Calm and soothing with songs that take their time to get to their destination, Wheel knock it out of the park like they always do.

The second stage is packed for the arrival of the much-loved Swansea post-hardcore quartet DREAM STATE. Having gone through quite a titanic line-up change that saw lead guitarist Aled Evans being the sole survivor, DREAM STATE could have no doubt quite easily folded but judging by the roars that meet the new line-up, Evans made the correct decision to continue. Replacing original vocalist CJ Gilpin must have been a daunting proposition for new vocalist Jessie Powell, but she seems to have taken to the role with ease. If she is nervous at all; it doesn’t show. A lot of that will be down to how strong the new material is and ‘Comfort In Chaos’ and ‘Chin Up Princess’ in particular really stand out. Equally at home performing older material as she is on newer tracks, Powell (and DREAM STATE-2023) are a triumph. Their Winter UK tour with As December Falls is shaping up to be unmissable. Check the dates out here.

The closing stages of day two at RADAR can only be described as “eclectic” and highlight just how much variety there is in heavy music today. French Synthwave composer James Kent, aka Perturbator, takes the main-stage sub-headliner slot and puts on a show to give the headliners IGORRR a run for their money. With a minimal (but visually stunning) stage set-up – Kent windmilling away behind his trademark synth, alongside a live drummer – that includes an impressive LED backdrop which of course lights up a pentagram, Perturbator are an all-out assault on the senses. Equal parts John Carpenter soundtrack, video game soundtrack, and a metal/EDM mash-up, Perturbator live in a darkened warehouse makes perfect sense and the live drummer is hypnotic to watch. An hour-long set is perfect and doesn’t give the casual fan time to get bored of the soundscapes that come crashing from the stage in waves. The long-term fans are of course lapping it up.

The second stage is brought to a close by Heart Of A Coward, and it’s fair to say that the security crew at the barrier are working overtime as all hell breaks loose as soon as the UK metalcore stalwarts launch into their set. The room is full to bursting capacity and with the throng of security at the front of the stage, at times it is hard for those not on the barrier to catch all the action. Worthy headliners, Heart Of A Coward make a compelling argument that perhaps they should have been on the main stage, and moments such as ‘Collapse’ and ‘Deadweight’ would have sounded way bigger in the larger hall. For now, though, they set out to make a statement and can consider it well and truly delivered.

The job of headlining the main stage fell to French composer and multi-instrumentalist Gautier Serre, otherwise known as Igorrr. Zero point in trying to find one particular genre to place Igorrr into because that dog will not hunt. Signed to Metal Blade, and with a rad Metal logo, it would be easy to assume that Igorrr are a normal run-of-the-mill black metal act, but the truth could not be any further from that assumption. Sure, a lot of black metal tropes are present within Igorrr’s sound, but amongst blastbeats, harsh growls (courtesy of the immense JB Le Bail), and punishing riffs, are chamber music, baroque music, trip-hop, and hardcore EDM. Everything flows through Serre and it’s incredible to watch him perched up high behind his DJ decks whipping the crowd up as all hell breaks loose, and occasionally strapping on a guitar to beef up the sound. Mezzo-soprano Marthe Alexandre commands centre stage like someone who would give the stereotypical classical music aficionado multiple seizures, and it is hard to take your eyes from her as she twists and turns hypnotically like a marionette and at times shrieks like a banshee. Martyn Clément is an insane guitarist and helps take some of the heavy lifting away from Serre, as does the octopus-like drummer Sylvain Bouvier who is hard to make out through the wall of red lights but is making himself heard loud and clear. Admittedly a marmite act to some (but judging by the circle pits, the vast majority are up for it) Igorrr needs to be witnessed in a live setting as it works so much better this way. Free your mind and the rest will follow. Insane live act and the perfect match for RADAR Festival.

Review – DGM review team

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