@ Newcastle O2 Academy, May 5 2012

The tech/djent scene is taking some flak at present, with many bands accused of simply plagiarising Swedish giants Meshuggah.

In truth, it’s a very broad church, ranging from the melodic strains of Tesseract, to The Dillinger Escape Plan-influenced Aliases, to this show’s headliners, who pack a death metal punch. Virtuoso musicianship and a progressive, ‘let’s see how far we can take this’ approach are the common denominators.

And despite the media sniping, a strong, multi-national community has developed. Bands have converged over a shared love of polyrhythms, quaking bass, dazzling leads and widened fretboards (Veil Of Maya’s Dan Hauser, for instance, wields a seven string bass) and labels such as Bassick and Sumerian have championed the cause. 

A three day UK Tech-Fest, featuring many of the scene’s leading lights, will even take place in Alton in July, and you also get tours like this, spreading the state-of the-art gospel far and wide.

This Tyneside jaunt saw Toronto’s Struc/tures attract a decent turnout for their (very) early slot, and LA quintet Volumes rule their 30 minutes on stage. The dual vocal attack of Gus Farias and Michael Barr lent the band a hardcore sheen, and tracks such as Wormholes and closer, The Columbian Faction, drew an ecstatic response.

Swedes Vildjarta didn’t fare so well. They look like a ‘proper’ metal band and they are heavy enough to dislodge a tectonic plate, but their set was too disjointed , too convoluted, to truly connect. A shame, as they’re evidently a talented bunch…  as are Paris-based six-piece Betraying The Martyrs , who followed the Stockholm quintet.

There’s plenty of hype surrounding BTM at the moment and they certainly seemed to win the merch battle at this gig.

English frontman Aaron Matts is reminiscent of a younger, skinnier and less macho Phil Anselmo, and he spent most of their slot leaping, bouncing and commanding the crowd atop a monitor. The band’s hooks were sadly buried in a bottom-heavy mix, but their passion and commitment shone through. An outstanding display.

So Chicago’s Veil Of Maya had a lot to live up to, given the quality of the supporting acts.

But the quartet were in no mood to be usurped and delivered a punishing, brutal demonstration of tech metal’s dark arts that sparked chaos across the Academy floor, shaking the building to its very foundations.

New album Eclipse was well represented, with tracks such as Punisher sparking both circle pits and frantic head-nodding among the audience’s older heads.

And although wrestling with a short time slot, Veil Of Maya still delivered a true headliner’s performance:  Dark Passenger, from 2010’s Id, for instance, was particularly devastating.

Djent, tech-prog, Meshuggah-lite, call it what you will: this music isn’t going away, and in Veil Of Maya and their ilk, it has worthy standard bearers.

Richard Holmes