Review & Photography by Sian Connolly for MPM
Attention all metal lovers, Radar Festival is back and is absolutely better than ever. After moving from Guildford all the way up North to the city of Manchester, this year’s lineup is definitely one for the books.
We’re talking nothing but the best of progressive metal bands from all over the world, coming together to put on the most iconic three-day fest of our lives. With a heavily stacked bill of headliners such as Sleep Token, Igorrr, Periphery and Loathe, this is easily a metalheads lineup to die for.
With the sun finally starting to make an appearance here in Manc land, I knew today was going to be something special. You could feel the energy buzzing as endless queues of people lined the streets around the o2 Victoria Warehouse, ready to burst through the doors and let the day begin. As the clock struck midday, the chaos commenced. It was like a black band tee convention. Honest to god there was not a single speck of white to be found and I loved it, like one big metal family coming together to get lost in a mosh pit. I couldn’t wait to see how this weekend panned out. With an ingenious “no clash” schedule ahead of us (huge thanks to the organisers), this means that everyone gets to see everyone, no excuses. So let the games begin.
After walking into the venue, I straight away get goosebumps. The main stage looks incredible already. There’s just something about standing in an empty venue knowing that within the next few hours, this place is about to be packed to the brim with people having the time of their lives. It’s such a weird, wholesome feeling. Especially for me, standing there knowing that in 9 or so hours, I’m about to be seeing my favourite band… wow. Pinch me moment.
The first band for me this weekend, opening up the main stage are Playgrounded. A good, solid start to ease everyone into the day, bringing their unique blend of energy and musicality to the growing crowd.
With an electrifying stage presence and a set filled with catchy tunes, these guys managed to get the audience up and moving from the moment they hit the stage.
Up next on the second stage are Manchester’s own grunge punk outfit, Forager. Now these guys made my top three of all weekend, easy. The was a certain vibe about the lads that just exerted “coolness” and I absolutely loved it.
Lead singer Oli, owns the stage or more correctly, the whole room. Straight off the bat, he wastes no time jumping into the pit with the moshers and it’s safe to say, everyone loved it.
Aside from the incredible performance and memorable energy, the music was bang on. It’s not often you get a perfect combo of awesome stage presence and head-bang-worthy tunes.
I 100% recommend seeing them live, this is what gigs are made for.
The third band of the day are one I saw only a few weeks back at Tech Fest so I already knew these guys were gonna deliver. Is it possible for a band to get even better the second time around? Well, The Five Hundred put on a proper good show.
I love it when band members come down and get involved with the audience and lead singer, John Woods-Eley, certainly did as he came down and crouched on the barrier, singing face-to-face with the crowd.
After being described to sound like “Meshuggah with Killswitch choruses”, these guys have a very unique, heavier sound with many classic breakdowns. Again, another one I would recommend seeing live.
Next, we have German duo, Floya. After stating that this was their first UK show, I’m certain that this won’t be their last. The crowd absolutely loved them.
With a carefully curated setlist filled with melodic and pulsating rhythms, this performance felt like we had been transported to a different realm. It was such an immersive experience with the band clearly displaying their tight musicianship and talent. Really good.
Unleashing a sonic storm on the main stage, German metal band, Unprocessed turned out to be one of the best performances of the night.
With a perfect combo of prog instrumental and modern metal, these guys played a highly impressive set with a presence that dominated the room.
Straight away, all I could think was Polyphia. Tim Henson in disguise anyone? Little did I know, they actually toured together, which now makes complete sense. Instrumental isn’t my typical go-to but these guys rocked and the crowd definitely agreed.
As the day continues, we have Irish post-rockers, God Is an Astronaut. Unlike the others, this band keeps crowd interaction to a minimum, you could say the music is more the star of the show.
As another solely instrumental band, lighting plays such a big part in making the performance immersive. Without the likes of Pyro, these guys had to be explosive in other ways and they sure put on one of the best shows yet.
It’s always special seeing music in its raw state like this, God Is an Astronaut delivered.
Back over to the second stage is a band that I’ve been dying to see since the lineup was released. Hailing from Sweden, metalcore act Aviana is here to bring the roof down. I’m a sucker for masked bands, the anonymity is just too captivating and I love it (hence the love for ST).
A unique twist on the masks though as lead singer Joel Holmqvist doesn’t actually wear one, he is just his own incredible self. I can honestly say these guys were awesome.
They were “proper heavy” as I’d say. We’re talking the type of stuff you’d pull that heavy metal breakdown face too… the real deal of metal. Definitely a main stage performance, easy. Can’t wait to see these guys again.
With only a fair few until tonight’s headliners, English prog metal band, Haken shows us why they’re returning to Radar once again. At first glance, Ross’ (lead singer) shirt got me. I was like, wow okay, far from black like the rest of us but that’s cool. He rocks up in this “Hawaiian holiday, chilling in the sun” vibes with birds, chameleons and tropical plants printed all over. It was definitely iconic, especially with how it perfectly matched the huge identical tapestry backdrop. Anyways, enough of the shirt… the crowd absolutely loved these guys. On a weekend where any band could’ve been worthy of a headline slot, Haken continues to show us how capable and worthy they are of a place at the top of the prog metal table.
As I wait at the second stage for the last time today, the crowd are treated to a Monuments drum sound check and well, that was certainly a performance in itself.
Playing the drum intro from 20th Century film productions, the crowd were singing along and cheering to every note. It was brilliant, the best sound check by far. Once finally taking the stage, Monuments got one of the biggest roars I’ve ever heard.
The crowd went wild before it’d even started. It was obvious that without even playing, you could see just how excited the band’s fanbase was to be here right now.
Lead singer, Andy Cizek has such an incredible stage presence it’s hard not to love these guys. Again, another band that could’ve easily played the main stage.
So, it’s the moment pretty much every single person here has been waiting for. The reason Friday sold out in an instant. The reason why people have been gripping onto their spot at the barrier since lunchtime. The reason I’m sitting here with a “weird, nervous, excited, scared, what’s happening” feeling in my stomach.
Prepare for THE best show of your life. You can say I’m being biased but I promise you, fans or not fans, nothing can top the show that’s about to happen. As I wait in the pit, cameras at the ready, there’s something so beautiful in the air. Like a feeling of warmth, a true feeling of euphoria. It felt like a movie moment – so unreal.
The stage goes dark and I’m deafened by the screams of the crowd and I mean deafened. Never mind the bass damaging your hearing it’ll be the screams that have just erupted from these fans. It was something else. The screams told stories in themselves. Knowing how long some of these people have been waiting for this moment, I’d scream too (internally, I was). Appearing on stage all masked and gowned up, Sleep Token are here to finish Friday off with an absolute bang.
There’s something indescribable about this band. Something, outstanding yet unfathomable. These guys have more or less skipped a whole stage in their career. They’ve gone from a little, unknown band playing in small venues to the most sort after, arena sellout band in the UK, if not, the world.
Who would’ve thought that a band made up of Roman numerals would have such a chokehold on people (pun intended). All I can say is, I’m speechless. What can I say? Sleep Token are taking the music industry by storm, they are absolutely a force to be reckoned with. I stand by this when I say, their recently released album “Take Me Back To Eden” is a beautifully curated masterpiece. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone, even themselves to even top it.
The way each song is composed is just phenomenal never mind how they’re performed. Wow. If you could bottle something and keep it forever, it would be a Sleep Token gig. I’ve seen some insane bands, but nothing and I mean nothing compares to the performance and the feeling at a ST show.
Part of me is sure they’re aliens and they quickly abduct us all into a whole new world… or maybe they’re just crazily talented masked musicians, who knows. If you haven’t seen them already, good luck fighting for tickets because it’s absolute mayhem trying. But, it’s worth it. Worship.
Well, I absolutely did not want to leave my bed this morning. Post gig blues and tired feet but, I could not miss this band. I’ve been wanting to see them for months and after realising they were on the lineup, I had to see them.
Four-piece rock band, Crushed By Waves are here to open up the stage for the second day at Radar and boy did they deliver. The crowd was much bigger than anticipated after last night’s show and the energy was still running high. Lead singer Arran Prime is 100% a force to be reckoned with.
This guy knows how to run the stage, especially for an up-and-coming band, he has such a natural flowing stage presence.
I loved it, the crowd loved it, what more could you ask for on a Saturday lunchtime? Cannot wait to see these guys again.
Now this next one, well I felt very stupid. I’m there, in the pit, with my cameras ready to take some photos, the band come out on stage, as they do and I start snapping away, completely oblivious. Until post gig, I’m flicking through my photos and I’m thinking to myself, gosh that singer picked up a guitar fast… how’s that singer gone from this side to that side… they were twins…. How did I not realise this? I had just been bang in front of the guys and nothing clicked until I googled it. Maybe that’s what 4 hours of sleep does to you, I don’t know. Anywho, the music was great, the crowd loved them and I actually think having twins in a band is pretty cool unless you think you’re seeing double like myself. They got the crowd up and moving with their classic low-tuned guitars, synths and a little metalcore. Another great start to the day.
Up next on the main stage is a band I really wanted to catch at Tech Fest a few weeks back so I was super excited about seeing them today. Full of thick riffs and shredding guitar solos, UK metal band Harbinger are about to show us who’s boss.
These guys went straight onto my “best of the weekend” list and into my Spotify playlist. They rocked. Huge Lorna Shore vibes and I loved it. It was mosh pit after mosh pit, circle pits, crowd surfers; Harbinger had the lot.
They knew how to rile up a crowd and when lead singer Dilan Alves, asks for a mosh pit, the crowd will deliver a goddam moshpit. Would absolutely recommend seeing these guys live because it. was. awesome.
ALLT, a progressive metalcore band from Sweden graced the main stage with their dark and emotive sound and the crowd were here for it. From the moment they stepped onto the stage, the band’s energy was infectious.
Their passion for music was palpable which quickly translated into a great connection with the audience. Despite playing on a larger stage, it was clear that ALLT could naturally keep an intimate connection with the crowd, constantly engaging throughout the set.
This performance was definitely a resounding success.
Back over to the second stage and up next are the Bristol trio, Profiler. With the unique sound of Nu-metal mixed with metalcore and rap, I was very excited to see this band perform live.
Straight away, the band set the atmosphere ablaze with their electrifying presence as the crowd is immediately taken by the performance.
Along with a great stage presence and tight musicianship, it was evident throughout their show that Profiler has this incredible musical ability to be able to effortlessly blend different genres and sounds to create a setlist that captivates the crowd as they all bang their heads together in unison. Really great show.
Soon enough, we’re back at the main stage and with a band name that is just too enticing in itself, Pupil Slicer are about to put on a furious set.
Lead singer Katie Davies, is definitely one of the most talented vocalists I’ve heard in a long time; the growls, the screams, the utter rawness in her voice is incredible yet terrifying.
With a mixture of blistering riffs and heavy riffing, Pupil Slicer knows exactly how to cause some chaos. The crowd loved them. The pure talent that these guys have is definitely a reason to be keeping them on your radar (pun intended).
As it’s getting closer to the end of the day, we still have some pretty cool bands left to see. Next is one that I haven’t originally heard much about but from the vast amount of merch being worn and hearing from the crowd, Thornhill seems to be one of the most highly anticipated bands of this weekend.
When the band hit the stage, at first glance I got major cinematic vibes. Like I was watching an old 80s film with a little grain and warm street lights… what I’m trying to say is this performance felt a lot different to the blinding strobe lights and screamy vocals, it felt more reserved, more put together.
Either way, the audience was won over in seconds. Lead singer Jacob Charlton, is just oozing with charisma and charm which, it’s safe to say, there were definitely some wide-eyed girls there in the audience.
With soaring vocals and amazing musicianship, the Auzzie Lads are definitely one of the most intriguing bands on the scene today.
Dream State are up next on the second stage, performing an exceptional set of post-hardcore with a hint of modern rock. I don’t know why but they remind me of a doughnut, specifically a Simpsons doughnut but make it a black doughnut with pink sprinkles, that’s the vibe they give; heavy yet fun and sweet.
I think the hunger is starting to get to me now… but anyway, what a show. Lead vocalist Jessie Powell, is an exceptional performer. We’re talking dominant and powerful, a voice that makes you stop and think, Jesus. The whole set was just an explosion of noise and energy and chaos. Amazing show from Dream State.
My second to last of the day is here and we have the incredible, Heart Of A Coward. Again, another band that should’ve been on the main stage.
The room was bursting at the seams and the moshpits, well, they were crazy. Sadly, no photos of these guys as I was in and out of the pit in a flash due to too many crowd surfers in such little space but all in all, it was still an awesome set.
I’ve never seen such a big circle pit in such a small place. It was mental. The heavy guitars, pounding riffs mixed with the growls and screams were insane. Definitely need to see them again in the future.
Shutting down Saturday night is mind-boggling, multi-genre masterminds, Igorrr. Probably a band I should’ve done more homework on as the look of “what on earth” on my face must’ve been amusing to see.
Opening up the set is the main man, Gautier Serre, behind a DJ desk, blasting dance floor-ready beats which at first, was very confusing for me trying to put a metal fest and dance music together… but soon enough, that swiftly came to a halt.
We’re talking opera, screaming, singing, heavy riffs, every genre you could ever imagine was happening right in front of my eyes. Before I knew it, pits were opened, people were crowd surfing, this crowd absolutely loved it. Vocalist JB Le Bail is an absolute beast on the stage. His whole presence is captivating. You can’t help but feel entranced.
There’s so much going on, it shouldn’t work, but it does. I don’t know how but it just works and I loved it. The only way to describe Igorrr is if you took a group of friends, one with classical music taste, one with metal, one with rave and one with pop and played their favourite songs at the same time, it sounded like that but much more curated.
Igorrr are definitely something and yet I would 100% recommend seeing them because they were pretty awesome.
So it’s safe to say I’m definitely feeling the tiredness now but another band from Tech Fest are playing so I just have to see them. Where Oceans Burn recently played on the small stage down in Newark a few weeks back so to see them on the big stage now is awesome and of course, I’m just as impressed as I was when I first saw the guys.
Lead singer Alex, is such a great performer that I can’t quite understand how they aren’t huge yet. Guitarist Ben, again, another great performer; ducking, diving and spinning, really fun to watch. The whole band just exert this confident energy which is always great to see. Here’s to hoping that these guys get the big break they deserve.
Up now is a band that the crowd absolutely adored, an instrumental, tech-metal band, I Built The Sky hailing from Melbourne, Australia.
The whole performance was beautifully composed, with open chord arpeggios and incredible finger-tapping, the crowd could only watch in awe. Like I said previously, instrumental isn’t my typical vibe as I feel it can sometimes be hard to maintain concentration but IBTS have this ability to captivate the fans. It really was a great set.
All weekend, all I’ve been hearing is “Lake Malice this”, “Lake Malice that”. So obviously, the universe wanted me to see Lake Malice and they were sensational. Easily another one to add to the “best of the weekend” list, they were incredible.
I don’t know how it’s possible for music to sound even better in person but Lake Malice went above and beyond my expectations.
This felt like more than just a gig, it was a journey. A pretty darn good one too. With the band’s melodies, immersive stage presence and phenomenal compositions, Lake Malice is the epitome of live music today.
Not only are they insane performers in themselves but the light show to accompany is top tier, it felt like I was floating through space. The lighting was mesmerising which only amplified the awesome experience. Definitely a MUST-see band live.
The Callous Daoboys are our next stop and what a wild stop it was. Obviously, the first eye-catcher was lead singer, Carson Pace’s outfit.
It was definitely… something. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life but hey ho, every man for themselves plus, it was rememberable so I guess that’s a good thing. The whole set was filled with immaculate vibes, the crowd was in high spirits and so were the band.
One standout moment for me was the sound of Sweet Caroline blasting over the speakers before diving straight into a screamo version. That was pretty cool. Not to mention when Pace shouts “Why don’t you show me how free your healthcare is?” as the crowd mosh themselves into oblivion. Iconic.
Right, this band left me speechless. This band, are THE band. Hailing from Denmark, Ghost Iris put on the show of the weekend and I mean THE show. I left this set and my head couldn’t comprehend what had just happened.
They tore the roof down with no remorse and we were here for it. Only a few seconds into the set, guitarist Daniel Leszkowicz, jumped onto the barrier and crowd-surfed, whilst still playing the guitar and boy did he look cool.
However, all good things must come to an end and for him, it was quite an abrupt end and by that I mean the people holding him up dropping him onto the barrier and into the pit… that was excruciatingly painful to watch and I don’t know how this man did it but he jumped straight up and continued to spin-kick, crowd-surf (again) and shred his way through the whole set.
He truly deserves a medal, especially after learning he had sprained his knee and his wrist… damn. But apart from that little hiccup, these guys were absolutely insane. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before but I tell you now, I will be seeing them again and so should you.
So next up is a metal French frenzy treat from ten56. However, there was a little rocky start to the set as it felt like it was 10:56 by the time the band got on stage.
After breaking down on the road and having to hitch a lift, which would be anyone’s nightmare never mind a band with all that gear, they arrived at the venue a lot later than they intended and I mean, quite a bit later, twenty minutes almost? But it was interesting watching them trying to quickly set the stage up in a panic, bless them.
It’s safe to say I have never seen a drum kit be assembled so fast. Kudos to them. Once they hit the stage, they did indeed put on an awesome show. After leaving their fans waiting, they had big boots to fill and they certainly did fill them. Great stage presence and incredible talent from each band member, another band I would recommend.
After the little problem with ten56 arriving late, you could say the problem was easily “resolved”. Literally. Up next are more French metalheads, Resolve. I can honestly say, French metalcore is on another level.
These guys know how to put on a bloody good show. It wasn’t long before the crowd were going wild, moshing along to the onslaught of heavy riffs. It would be worth flying over to France just for a taste of this. Amazing.
This next one, I’m going to say right now, had THE craziest crowd I have ever seen. Not just this weekend, I mean ever. Volumes quite literally had a sea of crowd surfers to the point we weren’t allowed in the pit to shoot because of how many were coming over the barrier.
It was absolutely insane. The energy was unmatchable, the chemistry between the band was amazing, the whole performance was like I’d been teleported away from Radar into Volumes’ world because they were sure as hell running the show.
What a performance. You have to see these guys live and if you don’t want to take my word for it, ask anyone who was in that crowd because the atmosphere was something else.
Our final co-headliner of the weekend is here and I will never understand why they have been put on the second stage. After just seeing them at Tech-Fest on the main stage, they needed an even bigger room than that so the sheer size of this room tonight just seems crazy to me. The lovely Liverpudlian lads, Loathe, put on one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while. They not only deserved that main stage but they bloody needed it.
The air was hot, sweat was dripping down me and I was just standing there. Every single person who could’ve been in that room was in that room.
The crowd were insane. They could even be a joint top with how crazy it was for Volumes. Endless crowd surfers throughout the whole set.
I even spotted the lead singer from Harbinger having a little surf which is always good to see. The highlight of the night has to be when Olli Appleyard of Static Dress runs out on stage and begins to perform together with Kadeem (lead singer of Loathe).
Now that, was iconic. The crowd went wild as I just stood fangirling in the corner. The whole performance was magical, if you’ve seen Loathe, I don’t even need to explain.
But if you haven’t, you need to. It feels like one big family has got together, it just feels like love. Loathe are true titans of the music industry right now, what an incredibly talented bunch of lads.
Well, the moment is here. The final band to bring a close to Radar Fest 2023, the finale we’ve all been waiting for. Please welcome Periphery to the main stage.
Kicking off the show, already you can see these guys give nothing less of a tight, slick performance. Again, another crowd that was going absolutely wild. That wild, the security ended up saying no to letting us togs in the pit, luckily I managed to snap like 10 photos, not my best work but hey ho, at least it’s something.
It was just crowd surfer after crowd surfer to the point I was wondering how they all still had the energy this far into a three-day festival… metal heads are crazy, right? Realistically, they probably just had a beer and powered through and I don’t blame them because this was a show worth waiting for.
The vibes were amazing, the whole room was full of smiles, especially the band. Seeing their faces light up as this huge crowd sang their hearts out, what better end to the weekend could you ask for?