Roadburn Festival 2014

author EW date 20/04/14

Friday 4th April 08.30: I go to work as normal, mind free of thoughts of Roadburn 2014.

Wednesday 9th April 08.30: I'm on a plane bound for Eindhoven, ready to take in arguably metal's most artistically respected festival.

Yes, somewhere between those dates the hand of fate pointed at me, offering the opportunity to take in a festival that I had longed for years. There might be a God after all. Typing these words the morning after the traditional Hardrock Hideout warm-up show, a free entrance curtain-raiser in a bar on a street of nothing but bars, mind prepped for today's official opening and coming to terms with the fact I am even here to witness it all, the world seems a more contented place, a world where my only responsibility is to rock n' roll.

Here will be provided my diarised thoughts and reflections on the cities of Eindhoven and Tilburg, the festival itself and, of course, the bands. Enjoy.

DAY ONE

After a flight through a sky devoid of clouds that seems to last no longer than an extended toilet break does my plane land in Eindhoven, the Netherland's fifth most populous city (220,000) but one about which I shamefully know nothing more than of its famous football team, PSV. Travelling through the working morning via public transport to my airbnb abode for the next 5 nights is remarkably pain free - either the entire population of Eindhoven is chained to a desk or noone dares venture out in daylight as the streets are eerily quiet.

After taking time to acquaint myself with the concept of basement storage units with bike usage specifically in mind (all unknown concepts in England) I head to the local shops to begin fumbling through a collection of gold coins which all look identical, with the requisition of beer prominent in mind. However after failing to locate the supermarket I am left with a pound store (Euro store?) and a Turkish, dry, mini store with which to stock up on the other essentials to get me through 5 days of rock n' roll music - the things I've forgotten to pack (shower gel, notepad) and the things airlines frown on one taking aboard (eggs, mushrooms, loaf of bread). After the consumption of an ingenious combination of eggs, mushrooms and bread it is time to find my way the 20km or so to Tilburg, the Netherland's sixth most populous city (210,000), but seemingly one devoid of spare beds for late-comers like myself to join the party unwilling to pay the kind of prices that could solve Britain's debt crisis in a week. I took the courageous decision to walk the 3km to Eindhoven station, wisely deciding that having to cycle home later while tipsy on a road system alien to my British mindset might not be a good idea, although having subsequently endured one tipsy, 3km midnight walk back my mindset has changed on this matter somewhat.

Skilfully missing the half-hourly train by two minutes and thus relegated to enjoying the free wifi at the station (another novelty to a Brit) and the double-decker carriage waiting opposite (very novel) for a prolonged period, it is with great relief I arrive in Tilburg just 20 minutes after finally departing Eindhoven station. A casual wander in the early evening sunshine revealed to me another Dutch city unencumbered by the annoying presence of any humans, as all present were apparently of a metal persuasion taking up residence in one of the many bars along Heuvel, a street leading upto 013 - the festival's main venue - offering a wonderful variety of drinking establishments catering to every alcoholbanger's need, including those I observed in need of a burger and with a desire to catch the Bayern Munich v Man United Champions League tie. I suspect these following nights will show the street in all its glory but for the growing crescendo of excitement it was a great place to kill the time by people-watching from one of the many outside seating areas, before the Cul De bar magnetically attracted all and sundry to its darkened lair for the opening salvos of this five-day extravaganza.

Death Alley

Mainlining influences such as "The MC5, Blue Cheer, Blue Öyster Cult, Motörhead and Black Sabbath" so says Roadburn's site about Amsterdam's Death Alley and, well, who am I to argue after a listen to the band's "Dead Man's Bones" and "Over Under". Managing the incredible feat of starting both early and late - their soundcheck 20 minutes before scheduled start consisted of the whole band playing near-enough full songs to an empty floor, before then emerging for real 20 minutes later than planned - Death Alley earned an appreciable response from the packed hordes seemingly set on making the most of every minute available at Roadburn 2014.

The intricate riffing performance of the songs above, along with its nods to Thin Lizzy, got me into a state of excitement about their performance that unfortunately never quite materialised in the live setting but which was more than adequate as a festival opener. For more modern comparisons than the list of dinosaurs above I would throw in Christian Mistress for their up-tempo flash-rocking vibe and Orange Goblin's dirty bar-dwelling tunes and against both of these the Death Alley performance was considerably less becoming, offering little of the pure adrenaline those two acts peddle nor quite the same consistency in song-writing. The band's lead singer (who I am unable to find the name of online, natch) has a decent range which he uses to good effect to brighten their fairly uncomplicated song structures, and a pleasant but slightly-too-quiet stage presence, but as a festival opener at a free gig Death Alley did all that was required of them. Repeated listens to "Dead Man's Bones" tells me there is promise in the Amsterdam four-piece; I hope to catch them again another time to witness this progress. [6]

Evil Invaders

The Roadburn site compares Belgium's Evil Invaders to "Exciter, Exodus, Agent Steel, Mercyful Fate and WASP", another collection of acts with a combined age near equalling what those loony Creationists argue Earth to be, but this time I will beg to differ from such comparators. Evil Invaders are pure retro-thrash, nothing less nothing more, whereby I feel inclusions of Mercyful Fate and WASP are a little inaccurate. Harking back to the days of 2007 when shares in hi-tops again started to prosper, Evil Invaders take the name of a 1985 Razor album, wear the look of the 80's like nothing has since progressed and play tracks that sound uncannily like the cover version played of Exciter's 1984 demi-classic, "Violence & Force". It is no exaggeration to say I worshipped classic 80s thrash metal from around 2002 onwards and as such have found it hard to fully accept the revisionist plagiarism of the recent wave of acts from my own generation. It is certainly not that they lack any passion for the genre - it takes balls, man, to don some of the haircuts these guys choose - but that besides the astonishingly good Vektor I've yet heard an act put a new spin on the genre's well-worn template.

Evil Invaders don't make any attempt to. They are clearly enjoying themselves too much playing high-speed numbers like "Driving Fast" to care, and with the audience reaction they greeted their every note last night I can hardly blame them. From the young'uns to a couple of embarrassingly mulleted oldies who were clearly there the first time around everyone present in the small area in front of Cul De Sac's stage was going for it, moshing when the pedal was pressed and taking time out to practice air guitars when Jöe Anus and Uncle Sam were shredding it up on stage in the band's more 'relaxed' moments. With little prior knowledge of the band's material I struggled to note a best track from their performance but left satisfied that Roadburn 2014 was off to a galloping start. Following my early flight out I chose to head off into the Dutch night at Evil Invader's finish, all along wishing I had cycled that damn bike to the station through the long 3km walk back. [5]

DAY TWO

The first official day of Roadburn 2014 and what a vibe around Tilburg! If the energy contained within the collected bars on Heuvel could be tapped all the power needs of the festival would be sorted - every bar is bleeding the various guises of fan from their packed al fresco seating areas, with people-watching a high order of the day. Just walking down the street feels like a catwalk for the hirsute and hoary, with eyes cast upon the unwary on the closing stages of their pilgrimages to the mecca of 013.

Arriving at the venue to complete the ticket/wristband formalities I was awestruck by the various goings-on along Veemarktstraat, the road running between 013 and sister venue Patronaat, which for the first time in the festival's history has become the Roadburn open air market. Liberally spread along the 200m or so are the venue entrances, the V39 venue which hosts a variety of discussions and cinema screenings (more on that later), bars, a food stall and the merchandise market. Most bands playing on a given day have a stall smattered with tshirts, CDs, patches and most numerously, vinyl. There are stalls too from Relapse, Svart and Burning World Records selling an unimaginably brilliant range of vinyl from the fields of metal, psychedelic and beyond as well as an official Roadburn stall offering a great range of the festival posters you see in this article lovingly created by this year's art denizen, the brilliant Costin Chioreanu. If Veemarktstraat is anything to go by the death of the CD has already arrived - physical needs can now only be met by wax nowadays. I understand the fanbase of Roadburn is more than a mere music 'fans' - the beard ratio defines as much - but to see such a lack of CD is as ominous as the resurgence in vinyl is great.

Like a number of other festivals Roadburn operates on a token redemption policy - 1 token at €2.50 buying you a 250ml beer, 2 tokens for 500 ml etc. I have no problem with this system but perhaps a slight favouring the token purchase rate to benefit those exchanging a greater amount of cash would be nice.

Locrian

One or two drinks to whet the palate later and it's time for the opening act of the festival proper: Locrian in the beautiful Patronaat. The fine interior of this converted church makes for a very pleasant performance room with the stained glass windows allowing plenty of light during the daytime shows, allowing the full glory of the arch beam structure of the building to be admired to full effect. It really is a great room in which to watch bands.

The droning mania of Locrian took me some getting used to, a process that admittedly was still developing even as I left their performance. Early on reminding of the rural, transcendental vibe of Blood of the Black Owl, their swampy, punishing feedback-laden sound built around a dense cacophony of vibrations erupted into a post-metal direction with strongly abrasive effects on my interior. Coupled with the bleak, grey imagery being projected on the screen behind them theirs is an unsettling attack delivered predominantly from a lowly positioned, inwards facing keyboard player that left me a little cold but was being lavishly lapped up by the near full room. [6]

Sourvein

Moving from one form of swamp to another, very different type, Southern sludge lords Sourvein brought the day's first helping of American metal from North Carolina and with it an indifferent attitude to a visual spectacle. As frontman and all round band leader T-Roy prowled the stage declaring his pleasure at being here his colleagues unfortunately were less bothered about moving across the spacious 013 stage. Musically Sourvein represent to me a drier sludge sound that Eyehategod nor possess the leaden weight of Crowbar, being merely a good band for the genre and as such one which had only limited appeal on stage before I moved on for the next treat. [5]

40 Watt Sun

Time is of the essence at Roadburn with so much happening desiring of one's attention so I dallied on up to see the boys from my home city of London, 40 Watt Sun bring their melancholic, down-tempo performance to the Patronaat stage. Continuing the day's theme of minimal stage presence, the seated Pat Walker (guitar, emotional crooning) and William Spong (bass) were annoyingly difficult to see from mid-way back even for a guy of my 6'2" frame (attendees of a more moderate height I assume could only have caught glimpse of raised drummer Christian Leitch), meaning my best option was to simply stand and let their waves of emotional torment wash over me. Painfully slow, somberly constructed tomes of the most personal of doom metal, 40 Watt Sun follow strongly in the footsteps of Warning, Pat Walker's previous band and much the better of the two. To offer a word against the searing intensity of Walker's resplendent vocal performance would be a waste of everyone's time but the tracks from 2011's "The Inside Room" lack some of the magical misery of Warning's best work. While well-suited to the ambience of the room 40 Watt Sun were only part successful in translating their songs that continue to work better in the quiet confines of one's own home. [6]

Beastmilk

In need of a drink to revive my quelled spirits I went in search of some Beastmilk back in 013. Their sole LP "Climax" is my current favourite album, a release of campy Danzig proportions with a smirky spirit that sits at odds with anything else I own. A recent performance in London set the standards for this one which begun again with "The Wind Blows Through Their Skulls", a track with the most inviting of chorus refrains. Frontman Kvohst, he of British descent fronting this Finnish band, is a confident frontman, owner of a darkly curious voice and questionable dance moves, while alongside him his buddies do an admirable job of filling the space left by the minimalist equipment around them (as an aside it is rare to see a stage so devoid of the usual clutter found all the time - no unused amps or trailing cables lying around here thankyouverymuch, a situation that appeals to my innate desire for order). Uncluttered stage, uncluttered sound and it works great, although the inclusion of a couple of non-"Climax" tracks does drop at the quality level from their better album counterparts. Here's to some newer material from these guys soon. [7½]

Lord Dying

Moving straight on to try and check out Lord Dying in the upstairs Stage01 - a room I initially got lost trying to find but which then greeted me with a sea of bodies when I got there, clamouring around its entrance trying to get in. Catching what I could from this distance in the closing stages of their set, their very American sludgy doom sounded like a riff mantra, of the kind I'd have enjoyed in a larger dose than the approximate 39 seconds I caught at their conclusion. Attempts to enter Patronaat for the highly funereal Samothrace were unsuccessful - a 600 capacity room at a festival of a few thousand. Sometimes such sacrifices must be made.

Napalm Death

Next in line but not of your normal vintage. A specially curated set of primarily slow, Swans-influenced distorted material drowning in their ever-present political anger, rather than the visceral blast of death & grind we all know from these loveable Brummies. The early interjector from frontman Barney Greenway of them not being used to playing "so slow for so long" was not unexpected and though a worthwhile experiment it soon began to grate. The occasional forays into faster "Smear Campaign" material became like manna from heaven which cloaked in the experimental and the bizarre seemed enjoyable chances to let loose from the industrial hammering. Whether Napalm ever repeat this experiment is questionable and while it had its moments I struggled at nearly an hour to take it any longer. [4]

Corrections House

After failing to get into the The Cult of Dom Keller (in a literal sense, no formal application made to join the cult as yet) it was time to hit the record stores. €62 Euros poorer, but more importantly four vinyl richer (and heavier), I dragged myself off to Corrections House in the main room. Now, I have no interest in dumping on the creative talents of anyone at this wonderful festival but of all the varied and diverse acts this experimental, jazzy, droning act featuring members of Neurosis, Eyehategod and Minsk irritated me so much that I left after only a few minutes. Sorry.

Conan

Every cloud, silver lining an' all that. The less time spent at Corrections House meant more spent in Patronaat for Britain's crushing doomsters, Conan. Their bass-heavy sound brought to mind all the usual journalistic clichés - listening to their primordial rumble felt akin to being run over by a tank, driven by an elephant and commanded by an angry rhino. Their sound is more approximate with the earth-shattering rumbles of Yob on this bill compared to the more classic departures of Procession but it was this straight-forward bulldozer approach which won me over, which coupled with the simple light show and hooded appearance of the band made for an hour which seemed to last many more, and all for the right reasons. 'Conan' is the perfect monicker for such a sound and thus I fully regret not taking the opportunity to see them in London just last month. [8½]

Crowbar

Clinging on to my LP horde like most Roadburn attendees do their weed I went back to the main hall for a spot of Crowbar, easily in my mind the best sludge doom band of all time. Having had the opportunity to meet Mr. Kirk Windstein earlier in the day I can attest that his voice is just that damned croaky - his tortured vocal bellowing is no faux show. With all the band clad in shorts there is no theatrical element to Crowbar whatsoever, simply anguished riffs that ooze depression and heartache, with a crucially important dose of searing honesty about their songs which puts them on the pedestal I have given them. In many means this was no different to past live experiences from the highly experienced act, one that now has Windstein's full attention since his departure from Down, but just the variance in feel across their set is what separates your Crowbars from your Sourveins. [8]

Keen to ensure safe passage for my prized possessions in mind of a drunken cycle home on a perilous yellow bike without conventional brakes I called it a night following Crowbar, thus unfortunately missing out on the highly rated Graves at Sea. It was probably worth making it home at a reasonable hour given what was still to come...

DAY THREE

My first port of call on what promises to be a very long day was to drop in on a private listening session for the soon-to-be-released 7th album, "Clearing the Path to Ascend" (tbc) in the downstairs cinema room at V39. A truly bizarre experience, in which a small group of people sat very somberly in a forward facing formation despite the ominous blank screen before us while being crushed and twisted by the new Yob material. Suffice to say the material sounds monolithic and will be a treat upon release. Pulling myself away from the quasi-cultish experience that is a doom metal pre-release party I rounded myself to the Cul De Sac bar on Heuvel for what was billed as an industry networking session but which was in its dying embers by the time I arrived. Perhaps noone wished to network with me. Progressing onto drowning my sorrows at one of the many nearby bars, ruminating on the fact it might well be the last chance I was to be seated for many an hour, it soon became time for Mikael Åkerfeldt Day.

Magma

This day of the Opeth legend's curation bore clear the marks of his influence on the lineup. Opening on main stage was the French prog rock ensemble Magma, an act dating back to 1969 that had yet to still cross my horizon but, from the reception granted their rather unusual performance and general musings I've heard around the site, are one built upon a very strong reputation. Fronted by two ladies who one might have assumed to be mothers of attendees rather than performers at this diverse festival, the lyrical language constructed by the band has an entrancing aspect which when backed by a melange of highly skilled performances across all manner of instrumentation made them a most pleasant start to the day. [7½]

The Vintage Caravan

Attempting to make an entrance into Stage01 round the corner for youthful Icelandic psychedelic rockers The Vintage Caravan was an impossible task, a fact that was to be repeated on their second performance on day four. From the fragments witnessed here and when recently supporting Grand Magus, this trio are a brilliantly talented act that with a touch more identity to their own sound have marvellous potential.

Having desired to attend at least one of the discussion panels taking place I then headed back to V39 to sit in on a chat regarding concert promotion and the industry around it. Featuring three prominent booking agents this was an interesting experience and just one of the many reasons why Roadburn has the unique reputation it does and probably explains why so many prominent musicians can be found at the festival even when their bands are not on the bill.

Comus

Back into Main Stage for further Åkerfeldt material, Britain's own prog folk maestros Comus were another act of ancient heritage that I can only be thankful to our lord-of-the-day for bringing to my attention. Whereas I can sometimes find this style too relaxed for it's own good the energetic nature of Comus' material and ethereal beauty to the likes of "Diana" proved to be hugely invigorating. The humble attitude of female singer/percussionist Bobbie Watson was another reason of note to take away great memories from these unsung heroes. [8]

Claudio Simmonetti's Goblin

More diverse experimentation followed from Claudio Simmonetti's Goblin, one of the resulting acts from the schism of legendary Italian progressive rockers Goblin best known for their soundtrack scores. Even from the short period I was able to watch them the source of that artistic respect was quite apparent from the dramatic performance of Simmonetti's keys which he plays with a striking grandiosity and obvious classical inspiration, at times giving the impression that we should be watching a heritage Italian movie before us rather than a highly impressive group of musicians. There was plenty to admire in the talent of Simmonetti's fellow band members but unfortunately my time was limited as there was no way I was going to miss what was coming up next in Patronaat...

Procession

My number one must see at Roadburn 2014 was Procession and with good reason, for last year's "To Reap Heavens Apart" is quite simply the greatest true doom metal album I've heard in years. Now finally getting the chance to see them live, the Swedish-by-way-of-Chile quartet epitomise the greatness inherent within the genre and do this by more than just playing slow and heavy (not that there is anything wrong with this - see Conan) but through taking on the greater challenge of penning epically tinged riffs that speak of doom, regardless of the tempo played. Candlemass laid the foundations for this and Procession today are the greatest flag-bearers for that style. The presence of the band, set in that grand church venue was terrific, fully confident and possessive of their audience but significant problems affecting Claudio Neira's bass somewhat disturbed the flow and feel being created through marvellous renditions of "Death & Judgement" and the title track to last year's masterpiece. With songs averaging not far off 10 minutes apiece the five tracks aired was considerably shorter than I'd have wished for - here's to catching them headlining their own shows in the near future. [8]

Candlemass

From the apprentices to the masters. Candlemass' shadow over the genre of doom metal is a significant one in no small part due to their third album, 1988's "Ancient Dreams", here performed in it's entirety. Musically the band were fully on form but I sensed all was not perfect - the crowd reaction was stunningly muted and devoid of the levels of headbanging in which I was engaging. How could this be?! Well, vocalist Mats Levén for my ears does not have the power nor range to rival Messiah's original performance on "Ancient Dreams"; his vocals fall merely in the 'good' range while I feel the positive inflections in his delivery would be much better served into a power metal band. Nor is his frontmanship a great deal better, a point highlighted when Primordial's Alan Averill joined to sing on "Incarnation of Evil". The accapela performance of "Epistle No.81" by bassist Leif Edling was a curious aside - his vocals are hardly better suited to the job than mine would be - before the finishing duo of classic cuts "Bewitched" and "Solitude" ended a performance that was sadly down on what should be the case when the setlist is considered. Perhaps Leif's recent intimations at retiring Candlemass are for the best? [6½]

Opeth

Unfortunately Norwegian death metal upstarts Obliteration had to be missed to accommodate Candlemass into my schedule, meaning the night was left for Opeth to close out in their usual, professionally relaxed style. Mikael Åkerfeldt can always be relied upon to provide his healthy dose of stage comedy, this time stating they hoped not to ruin what for everyone had been a great day of music, before launching into "The Devil's Orchard" from my least appreciated of all the Opeth LPs, "Heritage". Having seen Opeth a great number of times now I find it hard to be surprised by many features of their performance nowadays, but the quality of their performances, and of course, their irrefutable back catalogue, are not deserving of my blasé attitude. Whether lurching back back to "Still Life" material ("White Cluster"), "Blackwater Park" from their back through record or more recent cuts like "Atonement" there is a strong red line flowing through all their music which has allowed for their gradual transition through the years to a now entirely prog metal outfit. As ever, the shining example of intelligent artistic progression. [8]

What followed Opeth could probably not be described as 'intelligent' in it's execution: a heavy metal disco, DJ'ed by that man Alan Averill again. One classic tune followed by another in the seething foyer area of 013, surrounded by countless metalheads up for a good time. I think I remember leaving sometime around 3am...

DAY FOUR

After that near 16 hour marathon day I swore to learn from my lessons as I emerged bleary eyed into the world of day four. You'll see how that went below, but by the time a quick morning meal and shower was done it was time to once again hit the Eindhoven-Tilburg train and start the process all over again.

Windhand

First up, an American act heavily influenced by Electric Wizard and one who I was tremendously disappointed with their sophomore release last year after such a good debut release. Entering the main stage just as they were commencing I found the room to be at it's most full for any act all festival, quite an impressive feat when one considers who else also played in there. I have been known to mark down bands for live shows in the past which consider of simply standing in one spot headbanging, but, oh yes, did it work well for Windhand. The trio on guitars and bass who barely raised their heads through 50 minutes of stoner doom pummelling deserve not only neck braces as part of their performance fees but adulation for setting the standard in how to invigorate live - it always feels a great deal easier to show enthusiasm for a band when the performances do likewise. For reasons that are based less on logic than sheer bloody mindedness the repetitive rhythm rumble of Windhand was one of the best moments of the festival and a nice riposte to the beatdown I gave to "Soma". [8½]

Yob

An aborted attempt to catch Papir folded at the crowded entrance to Stage01 later, it was time for the first of Yob's two performances at the festival, making them the most performed act in Roadburn's history (at six). Considering mainman Mike Scheidt's presence on a panel here discussing musical and songwriting creativity it is fair to say Yob are a bit of a 'house-band' for Roadburn, a fact which is not hard to understand considering the reverence within the doom scene of their name. Strangely this has never quite found it's way to me but I am leaning more towards the converted following their two shows.

To see Scheidt soundcheck for the perfect guitar tone is to witness a man who takes his craft extremely seriously, a point that infer to mean one can rely on his songs being very considered. Curiously, facing inwards onstage with his floor monitors creating a physical divide to bassist Aaron Rieseberg, he is marooned out on stage left and performs for the most part as if in a rehearsal room, letting the crushing abstract nature of their long, drawn-out songs do the talking during this rendition of 2009's "The Great Cessation". At times these songs come to a near stand-still as the reverberating tones of Scheidt's guitar echo around the room, dissonance growing in the utmost dead silence of hundreds of spectators between notes before crashing waves of bass and drums join, thunderously igniting a potion of spiritual alchemy. Yob are not easy to appreciate live for the uninitiated but my opinion of them only grow through this first showing of theirs of the weekend. [7½]

Tribulation

Another great Swedish act I had been very keen on seeing were Tribulation. Debut LP "The Horror" was the best dose of (modern) old-school Swedish DM I've yet heard, but it is last year's "The Formulas of Death" where things truly got interesting with the band. Taking a much more considered approach to their songwriting and in the process developing a wholly unique take on the genre, I was unable to appreciate my one previous encounter at a terrible sounding London show last spring and thus more than keen to justify my impeccable rating of the band. Sure enough as if the Devil were at the controls himself we were blessed in Patronaat with what was perhaps the best sound of an act I witnessed throughout; deliciously dirty yet with enough clarity and crunch in the guitars for the intertwining patterns of Adam Zaars and Jonathan Hultén and vocal protestations of Johannes Andersson to be greatly enjoyed. Their ghoulish look consisting of subtle black eye shadow did so much more than the millions of fully corpsepainted BM bands out there but it is musically where Tribulation hold themselves high: brilliant set closer "Apparations" spins a web of intrigue where you never know quite how it will twist next, before it "Wanderer in the Outer Darkness" a fantastical track rhythmically made great by its lead work putting into shade the more jugular material from "The Horror". All round another brilliant band from a country with seemingly no end to its creative talent (failing to bring LP copies of "The Formulas of Death" excluded). [9]

Age of Taurus

Moving back to Stage01 for a band I was able to get in and actually see for a change, it was time for London's own Age of Taurus. The band have been doing the rounds for a few years now and approximate a style part heavy metal and part doom, built around a number of decent chunky riffs in relatively short (5-6 mins) and accessible songs by the standards of the genre, but unfortunately they are let down by the weak and unconvincing vocal talents of rhythm guitarist Toby Wright. His often low position in the mix during this show was more a reflection of his own lack of gravitas than a poor sound through the PA and really became a sticking point for me after a while. The bulk of the music aired from debut LP "Desperate Souls of Tortured Times" is decent enough but there is low ceiling as to where it can take them with the current lineup. [5½]

Loop

With the rather good Swedish retro rockers Horisont clashing with Loop it was the cult English 80s alternative rock band I went with on the basis of no previous live experience. Like a good few others on the bill theirs was a new name to me yet one that comes with a great degree of respect for their late 80s alternative rock that in many ways was a precursor to the 90s Britpop explosion noone managed to avoid although with retained a sense of primordial fuzz all their own. Watching their performance felt like a throwback to the 90s too, with lead guitarist/vocalist Robert Hampson and his cohorts heralding the fashion look of Oasis circa 1995, but the complete lack of any 'show' to their efforts inhibited my enjoyment of what was rated so highly to me. The lack of visual stimuli on the screen behind, combined with the total absence of any movement or emotion, especially on the parts of guitarist Scott Dowson and bassist Neil Mackay was sorely disappointing, meaning that despite an appreciation of the likes of "Collision" and "Straight to your Heart" the temptation to find my wares elsewhere became too strong. [6]

Glitter Wizard

That initial effort went on a second attempt for The Vintage Caravan, with another impressive mid-song jamming session in the 15 minutes I caught this time only heightening previously expressed feelings on their potential. Upon their conclusion it was time for just a dab of Harsh Toke who seemed utterly besotted in their music with the kind of substances your parents warned you about as kid, before it was then time for Glitter Wizard. By this point my mind and body had been preparing for shut down mode, flashing warnings that the battery was empty and needed urgent recharging, before - quite against medical wisdom - a spot of ludicrously camp psych rock/metal energised me for a good few hours yet. Glitter Wizard are silly, very silly (they would have to be to boast such a name) but po-faced songs about "sacrificing virgins" while a singer who resembles Manowar's Karl Logan stands atop the bass drum attempting to flex what muscles his skinny arms possess is ALWAYS a good way to spend the latter part of one's Saturday night. My knowledge of Glitter Wizard's recorded matter is minimal but I already struggle to see that it could top seeing them live, especially in these circumstances. [8]

And then, a funny thing happened. The legs of jelly from three hours previous were cast aside by pillars of rock. The mind cured of its lethargy and flushed with vigour decided it was time for Averill's Metal Disco pt. II.

I think I remember leaving sometime around 3am...

DAY FIVE - AFTERBURNER

Lessons clearly not learnt. Waking a struggle. One more day of pilgrimage to Tilburg. Just one more day.

Ticketed as a separate event but with most seemingly hanging around to enjoy the full experience, the Afterburner offers a stripped down version of the previous three days with just the Main stage, Green Room and Cul De Sac in use and the market moving indoors into the vacated Stage01 area. This was not the time for a relaxing comedown, however...

Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies

For such moments was alcohol invented. With the sweet nectar of Leffe Bruin in hand I entered the Main stage, ready for the final performance of Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies. This solemn affair remained on the bill at the request of Lemouchi's family due to his strong connection with the festival before his untimely suicide a few weeks previous. Seen as a subtle mark of respect from the Roadburn devotees to the brilliant work of the man's defining act, The Devil's Blood, there were prominent backpatches of their logo aplenty, a lasting reminder to his genius in the appreciation of a band that arguably fall outside the 'metal' radar but which have managed to bridge the occult, doom, and psychedelic rock styles like no other. The Enemies was, all too briefly, his 'solo' affair. That dark progressive heart of TDB had been transformed for the Enemies as one steeped more keenly in traditional prog territories and here before us was effectively two bands on stage, facing opposite one another centred by a vacant space on the stage for one key missing figure. Two drummers, 4 guitarists, 2 keyboardists and the vocals of Farida, Selim's sister and TDB partner-in-crime. Backed by a montage of spiritual footage on the screen this was a dignified and sombre occasion, as the large cast avoided any of the showmanship that was a part of the infamously brilliant TDB live show, resulting in a fitting tribute to a man whose legacy will grow through the years. [8]

Bölzer

Time to run! I had committed to both The Enemies and Bölzer, a tricky ploy given the widespread recommendation of the Swiss duo as an act to watch, and turned up just in time to squeeze into the packed Green Room before this tin of sardines was completely full. The prolonged soundcheck hinted at something amiss early on, a fact which materialised into an at times incoherent sound coming from KzR's guitar, a problem that cannot be overstated due to a) his riffs on their "Aura" EP being of the most awesomely devilish blackened death variety, and b) him being the only one in a band of two. The aforementioned "Aura" EP has been a very regular choice of mine recently and when appearing in the murky sound it's cosmic riffing cut a scythe through the thinning audience to hint at greatness when provided the opportunity. Here's hoping for better come their London show in June. [6½]

Avatarium

Choosing to remain for the entirety of Bölzer had the consequence of missing much of Avatarium's set, which was a pity as the material I caught from their self-titled debut sounded better than any recent Candlemass material, the band's most obvious reference point. On that topic, I'm none the wiser what Leif Edling is "recovering" from, requiring his absence to be announced by frontwoman Jennie-Ann Smith. Answers on a postcard please...

Round two of Yob and a set which picked up the pace a little from their set of the previous day, all while of course never lurching above a reptilian crawl. Again I was struck by the sheer involvement of Scheidt & cohorts, their bloody-minded determination to give their very best for Roadburn which plays in the trance that settled over the audience.

Triptykon

With the end nearly in sight I stopped for a brief moment in the Green Room to catch New Keepers of the Water Towers, a band name that I had read all along as '...Watch Towers', raising hope for a heavy dose of Hendrix/Cream inspired material. Turns out I wasn't completely off the mark, with the young Swedish band melding an old heavy psychedelic sound with more modern productive leanings, all the while giving off just the merest hint of being under the influence of certain stimulants. But with Triptykon awaiting back in the Main stage there was not much time to hang with the 'Keepers, a date with Mr. Warrior always too good to turn down.

I got the impression this was Tom G. Warrior at his happiest performing at Roadburn, thus awarding the legend a miserable rating of just 8.5/10. Having bought my gatefold copy of their new album "Melana Chasmata" mere moments before their performance I was understandably not too au fait with their new material but it sounded slower, bleaker and less layered than the "Eparistera Daimones" tracks, though all resemble tidings of bleak prophecies against the much faster and jollier Celtic Frost & Hellhammer 'covers' of "Circle of the Tyrants", "Messiah" and "Winter" (recorded version played as the lights came up). Warrior remains a master in humble honesty, a trait I adore in him, and it was that the Swiss maestros were a great end to my main stage stay at Roadburn 2014. [8]

Heretic

As one final apéritif before my final soiree into the Tilburg night, and with a sadness in my heart I headed back to where it all began, four long and tiring days ago at the Cul De Sac to watch local sleazey black metal impressionists Heretic at work. As I discovered a while back what they deliver is far from pretty and far from 'true' but as a closing chapter, was well suited. One could say their final track, a cover of Turbonegro's "I Got Erection", was a fitting summation for my time in Eindhoven. [6½]

And that was the story of that. Five days, ten trains, six vinyls, countless bands, even more beers and one great festival. Speaking from the perspective of a newbie I can't speak for how the increase in stages and days has affected the overall vibe of Roadburn 2014 compared to years gone by, but there is hardly a thing I would change about it. For those of a slow and avant-garde metal persuasion fed up of, or not catered by, the giant outdoor metal fests across Europe each summer your answer lies in this quaint corner of the Netherlands. A unique bill, in a wonderful setting, populated by the very kind of people who keep this crazy ball rolling beyond the reach of the mainstream every year. You owe it to yourself to visit the creation that is Roadburn.

All artworks created by Costin Chioreanu on behalf of Roadburn Festival.

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXVIII Rockfreaks.net.