The Smashing Skull Sessions

The Smashing Skull Sessions is a podcast, interview and review website, set up to showcase and support the underground rock and metal scenes. Our goal is to promote artists and bands from right across the globe, giving them another voice and another forum in which to get their music out to a greater audience. We also have a new review series, The Review Room, which is another unique way of getting bands and artists some extra coverage and promotion

ARCTANGENT 2023 - Friday

When I wake up, I realise 2 things. The first is that I'm impressed I can fold my clothes up and put my glasses into the side pocket of my tent whilst being in a state of complete drunken stupor, and the second thing, is that I'm still a little over stimulated from yesterday’s astonishing musical odyssey and I desperately need something to eat to calm myself down. So, I drag myself out of my sleeping bag, grab a wonderful brekkie burrito and head down to the Elephant stage to catch another podcast. This one has an impressive amount of people attending considering it's 10 o'clock in the morning. The reason so many people are here, is to listen to the irrepressible Damnation festival supremo Gavin McInally talk to ATG organiser James Scarlett. Fascinating and informative, they talk like old friends and the crowd really do appreciate the lifting of the veil on some of the intricacies of running a festival, great stuff.

Hidden Mothers – Now this was just what I needed to wake me up. The Sheffield lads blow the cobweb away with a complex maelstrom of blackened post metal. A surprising amount of tenderness is on display too, with the new material in particular making great use of the astounding dynamics, the push and pull of quiet and loud to form a devastating assault on the senses. The stunning vocal triumvirate of guitarist Luke's blissful cleans bassist Liam's guttural growls and the emotive, almost beautiful screams of vocalist Steffan make for a spine tingling show. When Steffan climbs down from the stage and bellows vocals from the middle of the crowd, everyone in attendance is swept along for the ride and is in no doubt that we've just witness a sensational set from a band which has unlimited potential.

Curse These Metal Hands – Apart they are strong, together they are unstoppable. When you amalgamate parts from the bands Pijn and Conjurer, some form of alchemy takes place and magic happens. Packing out the main stage at this time of the day takes a special band, and this band are special. This is the musical equivalent of a hug from a long-lost friend. It's an utter joy from start to finish and when the first notes of High Spirits rings out, the crowd is in raptures. They really don't take themselves too seriously (as proved by the intro to High Spirits being performed by an otamatone!) but this only adds to the sense of joy, it takes a lot of talent to make something this good. Quite silly, and absolutely astounding.

Holy Fawn – Some band sound better live than they do on record. Holy Fawn are one such band. They seem genuinely blown away by the size of the crowd and the emotions which are being reflected back at them. The perfect intersection of heavy and beauty, this is an absurdly good set.

Ashenspire – Do you like listening to ungodly heavy music whilst being shouted at by an angry Scotsman? Well, you are in luck, this is what Ashenspire sound like, and I for one lapped it up, astonishing in every way, these guys should be propelling their way up the billing sooner rather than later. Intoxicating, very odd, very left field and incredibly brilliant, this is why I love ATG.

Project Mishram – One of the joys of ATG is walking around and discovering bands which you didn't know beforehand. One such band were Project Mishram who played a glorious mash up of sludgy metal with traditional Indian sounds. It sounds like it shouldn't work but it did, in the best way possible. The tent was visibly busier by the end of their set, filled with people like me who were bowled over by the positivity and sheer happiness emanating from the stage. Wonderful.

The Ocean – Eager to hear songs form the stunning new album Holocene, I arrive early to get a good spot for German masters The Ocean. And boy, they do not disappoint. I've seen this band countless times over the years and to my ears, they've never sounded better. A real showcase from one of the best bands on the planet, simply stunning. Loic Rossetti is one of the best frontmen in the business at one point, he finds himself sat on the shoulders of someone in the middle of the packed tent with a rather expensive looking camera filming the crowd, what a show.

LLNN – What a way to finish the day, it's like being sat on by a mountain, but in a good way. New frontman Victor Kaas slots in seamlessly and the band don't miss a beat. Devastatingly heavy in the most glorious manner, this is almost a religious experience with the sound battering me into submission, and I have the biggest grin plastered across my face because of it. Mind. Blown.