We only arrived at Stealth as AN EMPIRE WILL FALL were in the last 30 seconds or so of their set unfortunately, so whilst it did sound eye-wateringly heavy, a verdict wouldn’t be fair either way. It did sound bloody heavy though! ASHES (6) followed with a decent if uninspiring set of electro-tinged metalcore. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t particularly great either. Conversely, ZOAX (8) played an intriguing half hour of eclectic heaviness. Adam Carroll’s facial expressions and unconventional stage moves seemed natural and complimented the multi-faceted sounds brilliantly.
Over in Rock City’s Basement, BAD SIGN (7) played to a room full of nodding heads. Joe Appleford’s (vocalist) appearance is as imposing as his bass guitar sounds pant-wettingly powerful, so his ability to scream and sing some fantastic melodies over the sludgy trio was a welcome surprise to anybody that hadn’t seen the Londoners before. DEAD HARTS (7) are like a rabid dog in musical form; no matter what situation they are in, they’re gonna lose their effing minds. Did it matter that there were more than a few technical issues or that the Stealth crowd barely moved for the first half of the set? Did it heck, Bax & co still smashed out songs from ‘Born Into Rags To Die No Richer’ and C’ult For The Haggard Youth’ with unsettling canine ferocity.

For those of you who wish Bring Me The Horizon would go back to having straightened black fringes across their faces whilst kicking out some headache-inducing deathcore, your yearnings will obviously not come to fruition but take solace that a band like OCEANS ATE ALASKA (7) exist. The technical deathcore they blasted out was performed solidly and lapped up by the near-capacity room.
HACKTIVIST (7) might not be everyone’s cup of tea but even those that despise rap couldn’t argue with the energy that these guys possess on stage. Rock City’s main room was constantly bouncing along with the rap-infused metal that the MK boys delivered and if there’s one cover that absolutely slays the original, it is these guys’ groove-laden take on Jay-Z & Kanye West’s ‘Niggaz In Paris’, which was the highlight of the set.

Continuing with the immensely downtuned groove, MONUMENTS (8) gave a masterclass in technical wizardy, neck-destroying riffs and a sublime blend of intensity and majesty. Chris Barretto’s screams were beastly and his singing just as ear-pleasing as on record. ‘Degenerate’ sounded great and they closed their set with ‘The Amanuensis‘ opening track ‘I, The Creator’ which, as we predicted, was absolutely epic.
With ‘Searching For Zero’ only being released at the beginning of last month, you might think that the crowd for CANCER BATS (8) would not be as receptive to new material as the classics. You’d be dead wrong though. Songs like ‘Arsenic in the Year of the Snake’ went down just as well as older tracks such as ‘Pneumonia Hawk’, ‘R.A.T.S.’ and, of course, ‘Hail Destroyer’. It wouldn’t surprising if it came to light that Liam Cornier has a personal masseuse in standby after every show because the guy just doesn’t stop moving and those movements are far from gentle. Truly energetic and inspiring stuff.
ROLO TOMASSI (6.5) started off so well in Stealth, but after issues with equipment (aka technical difficulties) brought them to a rather long halt, the momentum that they had built never really came back. A massive shame really, because they’re normally utterly amazing.
We’ll spare you the story because you probably already know it, but we aren’t half glad that Loz Taylor got his throat sorted out. WHILE SHE SLEEPS (8.5) have risen through the ranks of UK metal at a staggering pace without sacrifing an inch of integrity. Their music has stayed as ballsy and in-your-face as it was when they formed in Sheffield in 2006 and since we first saw them opening for Silverstein in March of 2011, their live shows have not lost one drop of excitement and fury. Taylor et al opened with ‘New World Torture’ and ‘Brainwashed’ (from the new album of the same name), and also played a couple of other fresh tracks whilst the room legitimately shook from the stupendous bass drops. The jam-packed room went insane as the more popular tunes from This Is The Six’ made up the rest of the set and although it would’ve been nice, one track from ‘The North Stands For Nothing’ had made it in there, the quality of the rest of their back catalogue means that the omission of a track like ‘Crows’ didn’t make it any less enjoyable.
The final set of Hit The Deck that we saw was southern post-metallers DEVIL SOLD HIS SOUL (8.5) headlining Stealth. The room was three quarters full when they kicked off with ‘Devastator’ but within a few minutes, maximum occupancy was achieved as the metalcore fans finished watching While She Sleep’s set. DSHS played staple tracks such as ‘Crusader’, ‘VIII’ (both from third album, Empire of Light) as well as the aforementioned ‘Devastator’, ‘Unveiled’ and ‘Time’ from their most recent EP, Belong ╪ Betray. Unlike Rolo Tomassi and Dead Harts earlier on in the day, the technical hiccups during DSHS’s set were thankfully barely noticeable and totally forgotten when they unleashed live rarities such as ‘The Starting’ from ‘A Fragile Hope’ and the title track from their 2005 debut EP, ‘Darkness Prevails’. Stealth erupted with applause as Devil Sold His Soul closed their extended set (they went over their allotted time by nearly 15 minutes) with ‘Hope’ and although saying it was the best gig they have ever played would admittedly be stretching the truth, it was easily tied with While She Sleeps’ performance as the best of the festival.

Written by Matt Bradley.

Photography:  Chris Clough.