Roskilde Festival 2016

author HES date 11/07/16

Once again we return to a sold out Roskilde Festival; Our writers are getting old and even though a few of our writers have deemed themselves too old to participate in this year's festival, Rockfreaks.net is still represented by five eager writers, ready to relay you the full story of the experience. I think it has become apparent by now, that even though Roskilde doesn't always produce the best line up of the festival season, the institution of the festival keeps us coming back and leaves us broken, but with great stories to tell. It's not a festival for the weak hearted - you camp here, you live here, you shower less (even though showering options have improved), you eat less, most drink more, wake up earlier than usual, and go to bed as the sun rises.

For the party animal, Roskilde Festival is the ironman of their career and sometimes it feels like the rest of the year becomes a boot camp for the short but sweet time we spend here. It's a small country with very little interference from state and parents, governed by a magical Roskilde codex that is comprised of very few rules like "don't take a piss on people's tents" and "be nice to your neighbours, they're looking after your tent while you're out partying". As a Roskilde (the city) native, the festival was a magical place bringing people in rubber boots from everywhere and you could hear the shows from your garden at night if the wind was going in your direction. I went as soon as my parents let me and I am now celebrating my 10th anniversary, having only missed one year of the magic since 2005.

CAMPING AREA

Special for Roskilde is that the camping area opens earlier than any other festival I know of, literally creating the biggest festival village where parties happen on every street for several days before the music starts. Accommodating this, the festival includes stages that open earlier, both by having their own stage, "Rising", and allowing smaller stages to scatter all over the festival grounds - however this year, either because of the weather or due to lack of effort, the activity and bookings are at a low.

On a brighter note, three areas rise above the rest of the festival, mainly because of the ingenuity and creativity that comes from the bottom-up nature of the place. First off is the "Clean Out Loud" area that expanded this year - arranged by event planners in the making and focusing on cleaning up after oneself. In return for cleaning up throughout the festival and before you leave your spot, you get a reserved piece of prime real estate ensuring you to miss out on the frantic running and reserving spots as the festival grounds open. The second area is the “Skate" area that also had concerts, albeit also less this year but also dance classes with 100+ participants. The last area is the magnificent party central of Dream City where several parties are arranged by camps that are institutions by now, including a fire station, a saloon, the “find Waldo"-camp, camps with unicorn themes, Indian style holi-parties and camps providing hammocks for chilling in between.

Crowd during Bersærk at the camp-site stage Rising

Unfortunately, the camp “Kuwomba" in Dream City ruined the party for many of the regular parties because they continuously played above "god stil"-levels, drowning out many of the other camps' sound systems. Our hope is that these areas will continue to serve as bright examples of the “Orange Feeling" - instead of buying into the continuous arms race of the speaker systems that seem more dominated by an “I am here for myself only"-attitude, creating tensions between camps and overall just ruining the cohesiveness of the festival as well as everyone’s sleep.

FESTIVAL AREA

It seems like this is the year the big festivals choose to do a makeover of their festival grounds. This was also the case for Roskilde, that decided to change a lot of the usual infrastructure of the setup - including scattering toilets for more easy access and seemingly expanding the “fashion" area that contains outlets by many Danish fashion brands. Being a Roskilde veteran it was confusing, showing how very few changes appear massive when you’ve had a couple of cold Tuborg Rå.

One stage, in particular, had a massive makeover: Avalon. The place was looking awesome with majestic theatre inspired backdrops and balconies. Unfortunately, the general visibility on this stage was not improved, still being the stage with the poorest options in regards to “good spots" both in cases of the music levels, but especially in actually seeing the stage. This year the festival also seems to suffer from general issues with finding the right “loudness" for the music, many shows actually being “quiet" enough for people to carry out conversations throughout songs. New bars closer to the “business end" of the stages (like pits and front rows) made it easier to not lose the buzz mid-show.

Hockeysmith in a cloud of smoke

In regards to food options, originals return again this year in the shape of Ski Burger, Spaghetti, Gringos Nachos (oddly without cheese on the nachos this year). The “Food Court" also offered options for the foodie, if you were willing to wait in line for popular booths like Kiin Kiin and Madklubben. Same goes for bars as the Mojito Bus, Gutter Island Bar, Piano Bar and the Jägermeister drinking holes returned in usual glory, but also with the addition of new “Gin-ial"-bar.

As for the artistic efforts, the festival offered “silent boxes" for the overwhelmed that hid you from noise. The Graf Team once again blew us away with plenty of graffiti art - an institution the festival was one of the first to allow 15+ years ago, back when graffiti was not comme il faut and the spray can playground was hidden away in a small corner as to not offend anyone. For the same reason, the festival seems to be able to attract the cream of the crop, this year including several multi-dimensional pieces as well.

Happy campers in front of Orange Stage

The technical/media level of the festival and it’s stakeholders seems to have improved as well with the inclusion of more elaborate light shows, using data-moshing, glitching, filters and the likes on the big screens of the stages. Drones were also in heavier use as they were at this year’s NorthSide Festival. It was nice to see the old giant still being able to support cementing the Orange Stage as one of the most impressive stages in regards to show-choreography. The festival’s own paper “Orange Press" was also readily available everywhere when you had a small break or needed reading material for the nicer flush toilets on the festival ground. According to the telco 3, 39.000 GBs of data was used during the festival - a 65% increase to last year’s festival. Where some of the first years of mobile internet ruined connection for everyone, this year was surprisingly smooth - making it your own drunken fault if you got lost from your friends.HES

WARM UP DAYS

Edward Snowden

The viral marketing campaign by The Yes Men promoting Edward Snowden’s appearance at Roskilde Festival in the warm up days was quite brilliant. With posters plastered across the camping area stating "Roskilde reserves the right to collect and indefinitely store all text and phone conversations (received or sent) while on festival grounds" noticed by a large proportion of festival goers, it didn’t take long until angry posts began appearing at the official Facebook event with comments like "Care to explain, Roskilde?", among others. But they made a very good point as we are all today living in a worldwide surveillance state, as Snowden tells us via a video link setup on a big screen near the Rising stage. The Yes Men are curating the show, allowing for audience questions about privacy but unfortunately none of them are really about Snowden’s actions themselves, or whether he had been approached by foreign intelligence, which would’ve been the really interesting questions. After all, you would imagine the majority of the 1000 strong crowd are already aware of Snowden’s story and his main arguments about privacy through own reading. So while most of his talk is interesting, it is also lacking in any real highlights, save for his final line, "there's a difference in believing something and standing up for something", which draws wild applause from the crowd. PP

Bersærk

Bersærk @ 18:30 on Rising (Monday)

Danish stoner rock quartet Bersærk dominated Copenhell this weekend with a banger of a performance if you are to believe our scribe Lærke and the chatter amongst the audience at Rising. Tonight at Roskilde, they are not playing in front of their core audience, and as such, their sound is exposed bare for what it is: generic riff rock with classic rock vibes. Sure, the band plays with passion and display a good amount of energy on stage, but with the gnarly vocal style (terrible in my opinion) and a questionable sound overall, it’s just impossible to see how Bersærk would ever reach beyond their core “local Danish rock/metal scene" fanbase, especially since they sing in Danish. It’s just not going to be relevant, especially because the songs are of a mediocre variety and offer few highlights to a novice listener. Sure, the pit gets going to some groovy retro styled riffs, and yes, the singer jumps into the crowd to sing at the barrier, but that’s about all you can say about their set. Anonymous, forgettable, and nondescript in every manner for literally everyone else than their core stoner/rock audience. No surprise the audience has halved in size by the time they reach their last song. [5½] PP

Childrenn

Childrenn @ 21:30 on Rising (Monday)

The second rock name of the day, the Danish rock supergroup Childrenn, start with a much smaller audience than Bersærk but take exactly half a song to convince the undersigned that this is music of actual substance over mindless headbanging. Expansive post-rock passages are seamlessly merged with alternative rock and noise rock passages, forming a wall of sound that’s easy to digest. They even venture down to post-punk during a song that echoes iceage, albeit ever so briefly. There are chilling atmospherics and progressive melodies that are characterized by awesome buildups, but also slower tempo passages where the band’s movement on stage feels more deliberate and fitting. That there is minimal interaction from the band’s side is not an issue given the epic buildups that parallel Sólstafir’s echoing instrumental landscapes in places. It’s very experimental, and not as immediately obvious to the crowd why they are good, but people are watching in a state of trance as the band traverse their solid compositions in a consistent manner. Not amazing, but good throughout. [7] PP

WEDNESDAY

Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes @ 17:15 on Avalon

First highly anticipated show at this year’s Roskilde is former Gallows and Pure Love frontman Frank Carter along with his band The Rattlesnakes. Having seen quite the performance with said performer earlier this year at Groezrock Festival, I know that he’s a highly energetic (and charismatic) character. It’s therefore with excitement I enter Avalon which this year has changed its drapes and carpet to red and is decorated with newly added balconies. All dressed up in one hell of a fancy Gucci suit (god, this is reason enough to love the man, am I right?) he delivers a blistering performance of the devastating “Juggernaut" which comes crushing like a brick stone thrown through a window as he crawls out into the crowd. Afterward, while still out amongst us, he asks everyone to sit down while as he introduces the next song which apparently is inspired by the sudden death of his father-in-law. It’s a beautiful slow-burner where people are actually really good at shutting up while sitting on the ground.

Frank Carter - not just another day at the office

The next song “Devil Inside Me" gets the crowd jumping up again, inciting the guitarist to try to walk on top of the crowd’s hands while playing a bluesy rhythm. Although he succeeds, it’s a lot more insecure than what we just saw from Carter and the song thus loses a bit of momentum, but it’s not enough to stop the performance from being impressive. At one point during the concert, I’m thinking that, due to the small crowd, Carter and co. should’ve gotten the Pavilion stage instead, but what’s admirable is the fact that he works for the crowd in such a way that you’d barely notice. During the show, the band gets everyone moving and inspires a circle pit that ranges all the way around the tent’s outer poles, which is pretty damn incredible. Ultimately, Frank thanks us all and says that this has been the band’s best show ever. Although I don’t necessarily agree, it’s an impressive performance I wouldn’t have wanted to be without. At the moment, I can think of only a few frontmen as good as this guy. [8] MIN

Oli Sykes of Bring Me The Horizon

Bring Me The Horizon @ 17:30 on Arena

Arriving shortly before the British metalcore band is about to begin, I find the Arena tent already stuffed with people just waiting to kick off their festival with some heavy music. After an intro movie that tells us to open the place up for a bigger pit before the music has even begun, the band enters to the sound of “Happy Song" that quickly has everyone singing along to its catchy cheerleader-chorus. Even in the back of the tent, the varied audience seems to know most of the songs the band play today, which is really not surprising as they pretty much only play cuts from their two latest records that have seen them becoming a mainstream success with a focus on big and electronic, arena-fitting songs. The only exception from this is the inclusion of “Chelsea Smile" early in the set for their older fans, complete with the old sit-down-and-jump-up trick that has the entire tent participating. There’s no denying that the mood is great and already come third song, “The House of Wolves", two circle pits are active on each side of the pit barrier. Vocalist Oliver Sykes is constantly telling us to “push it back, push it back" between songs, and even though some of their newer material is a little soft compared to their debut as a deathcore band back in the day, this show is definitely one of the wilder ones of the festival. Despite all this energy and the sing-a-longs, the show seems more spectacle than a show of skill, especially due to the fact that Sykes refrains from singing many of the most iconic lines of their songs, leaving sentences to be completed either by the crowd or by backing track. When his singing or growling can be heard through the massive electronic backing they use, it’s obvious that he has improved a lot through the years and that just makes the karaoke show more frustrating in the long run. The music itself, however, sounds immense and is played exactly as loud as it should be, and with catchy performances of songs like “Shadow Moses", “Can You Feel My Heart", and the rave-like “Throne", it’s hard to remain only frustrated throughout the set. [7½] LF

Slayer @ 19:30 on Arena

As classic riffs of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck" blast through the speakers, the jam-packed arena slowly wakes up to a giant SLAYER chant as is the custom before the thrash metal titans arrive on stage and tease us with their signature evil riffs. The aggressive tempo and piercing riffs of “Repentless" function as a suitable opening to get us into the blitzing solo mood straight away, as is guitarist Gary Holt’s shirt choice that reads "KILL THE KARDASHIANS" on the backside. “Disciple" is the first true highlight, however, with its echoing "God hates us all" chants that are shouted back at the band loud and clear. Behind the band, a giant tortured christ banner reveals its full graphical content as Araya hums "Hmmm…. You guys want to have some fun, huh?", before assaulting us with yet another timeless group of Slayer riffs where the spotlight floodlights King as he has some of his classic fretwork on display.

Slayer - evil as usual

As “Mandatory Suicide" is aired, a colourful and vivid light show follows with, but it’s hard to escape the fact that tonight feels oddly like another day in the office for Slayer. Usually, my reaction to Slayer sets has been roughly akin to "FUCK YEAH, THIS IS SLAYER", but tonight is the first time I’m not feeling the fire - and it appears I’m not the only one. Glancing across the crowd and even the pit, it certainly feels like Slayer are reduced to being just that metal band playing the festival rather than being a highlight for many. Last time they were here, they played Orange Stage and Araya’s primal scream was as back-chilling as it was loud and far-reaching. Tonight, it feels oddly subdued, even if the crowd does go crazy for the last two songs, which are as usual, “Raining Blood" and “Angel Of Death". But even when Slayer is having an off day, they’re still Slayer, so despite not getting top marks, this time, it’s hard to argue against the business-like consistency as the baseline of their shows. [7] PP

Cedric Bixler of At The Drive-In - like the good old days

At The Drive-In @ 21:15 on Arena

A tragicomic miniature reunion in 2012 saw At The Drive-In absolutely destroy their musical credibility as a unit in London as Cedric Bixler’s vocals were a joke, and Omar-Rodriguez Lopez purposefully played the entire set with his back turned to the crowd barely moving. This time felt different based on interviews and upcoming new music from the band later this year. We’ve all seen those crazy videos from sixteen years ago when the band were an unstoppable force on stage that inspired, among others, The Chariot and The Dillinger Escape Plan’s chaotic live shows. And although wishing for a similar sense of utter chaos was perhaps too much to ask for, explosive opening track “Arcarsenal" firmly underlined that the band came to actually play tonight. We are treated to a nostalgia trip down the memory lane with almost the entirety of 2000 classic “Relationship Of Command" on the setlist tonight, ranging from the majestic “Invalid Litter Dept." with its awesome "wishing well" segments to the amp crashing during “Sleepwalk Capsules" and the predictably crazy mosh pits during “One Armed Scissor". Bixler is all over the place, dancing in his charismatic latin post-hardcore mannerism, waving his microphone around freely while taking every opportunity to launch himself in the air, whether from the amps or from the drumset, often swinging his mic stand in the process. It’s a spectacle to watch and the band have undeniably awesome energy on stage, even if Bixler’s vocals are a far cry from the roughened screech of the album (about an octave higher if you ask me). There’s even a lengthy experimentalist version of “Quarantined" with jamming extending the length of the song considerably, creating a cool contrast between the otherwise explosive set. If anything, At The Drive-In redeem themselves tonight with a true for-fans-of set, where even older material like “Napoleon Solo" and “198d" is aired. Approved. [8] PP

Red Hot Chili Peppers @ 22:30 on Orange

Last time they were here, they played a God-awful show. I remember very little but leaving because of sheer boredom during yet another inexplicable jamming session in 2007. Granted, it was the year of the most massive flooding the festival has ever seen and tolerances were generally low after days on days of pouring rain, floating tents and rubber boots gnawing at your feet. I remember vocalist Anthony Kedis standing in a rain poncho, the rest of the band just looking cold and unengaged. So with that in mind, on one hand, tonight’s show doesn’t have to be all that great to be better - on the other hand, a lot of people carry a grudge about the show 9 years ago. In between those are a lot of people who probably weren’t here 9 years ago and probably just feel like being entertained.

So as for the good things to remark upon this shows is the fact that the band has strategized an acutely well-thought out setlist for this show: The first 3 songs are all on the casual Chili Peppers-listeners playlist; “Can’t Stop" from “By The Way", “Dani California" from “Stadium Arcadium" and “Scar Tissue" all the way back from a personal favourite “Californication", beautifully portraying how the band currently on stage has dominated charts in several decades. It is unavoidable for the band not to try to squeeze some new material in and they do so with “We Turn Red" from their newest record “The Getaway", but fully understanding that the dynamics suffer from lesser known material, the band continuously scatter hits like “Snow", “Tell Me Baby", “Californication" and “By The Way" in between to keep spirits up for both the mega-fan and the casual listener alike. Whereas other reviewers have focused on the things that were less impressive about the show, I actually want to commend the band for this - as all the other missteps seem more tolerable since the entertainment value is prioritized - especially compared to the jam-nightmare of 2007.

However, missteps there are tonight and there’s no way of getting around them. First off, the sound is causing many concerns: The overall level is way too low, which is not a show-killer, but a cold shower to the overall mood. The backup vocals by guitarist Josh Klinghoffer are also mixed awkwardly high: Red Hot Chili Peppers are known for their use of falsetto backup vocals, but Klinghoffers falsetto is first off not strong enough to carry the tones effortlessly, and on top of that, the backup vocals are mixed so high that they are just “vocals". The sound of Flea’s slappy bass also seems too flat, only half-way reminiscent of the funky album version twin.

But overall it is again a saboteur in the band’s own ranks that drags the concert down the most: Kedis is singing alright, but he seems to have no interest in talking to his audience. Flea tries to make a few jokes here and there, but the pack seems leaderless. There’s also a general sloppiness to Kedis’ performance - as I count 3-4 times where he is not timed correctly and only starts singing a few lines into a verse. Those are minor missteps, but when you reassemble the whole picture of the show, the only thing working is the planning the band has done beforehand by constructing their setlist and the things that actually happen live are just not meticulous enough, not engaging enough and simply not professional enough.

[6] HES

Sleep @ 00:00 on Avalon

When London Records signed Sleep in 1992 following the resounding success of “Sleep’s Holy Mountain", they were seen as the band to pick up the torch from Black Sabbath and usher in the next era of doom. Sadly for the executives, however, the trio swiftly transformed into a label’s worst nightmare when they blew the entirety of their advance on drugs and 70’s-style tube amplifiers, asked for more, and then emerged from the studio with a single 73-minute song dubbed “Dopesmoker". London Records deemed the ‘album’ unmarketable and refused to release it or its ‘trimmed’ edition “Jerusalem", and the ensuing frustration led to Sleep disbanding in 1998 and “Dopesmoker" not seeing its official release until Tee Pee Records picked it up and released it posthumously in 2003. Sleep thus became an enigma, the most revered stoner rock band in existence; and as such, the band was able to return to touring in 2009 with the status of legends. It was only a matter of time then until the deep-gauging Roskilde Festival would present the group as part of its program — a dream finally realized at its 2016 edition.

Sleep’s Matt Pike can’t hear you over the music

Anyone lucky enough to have seen Sleep before 1998 or since 2009 would have been aware of the fact that bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, guitarist Matt Pike and drummer Jason Roeder pay little mind to decibel limits, but as the opening track “Dragonaut" unfurls into one of the most recognisable and massive stoner riffs ever written, the sheer magnitude of the amplification nonetheless comes as a shock. The volume is absolutely deafening even with purpose-built concert earplugs shoved all the way in, the kind of sound one feels in the bones and which beckons every hair on the human body to rise toward it. And since the three musicians are perfectly happy to remain in their respective positions in a reverse a triangle formation, the sound and volume are the two cornerstones of what makes Sleep such a chastening band to watch live. You feel everything as well as hear it. It means the audience shuts up and becomes immersed in it, completely and utterly fixated by the slabs of stoning, droning, grooving jams sent bulldozing through the pavilion by a trio functioning at the height of synergy.

The simple unicolour lighting and thick plumes of dry ice smoke (plus ample puffs of cannabis smoke from the crowd) heightens this enveloping sensation and has Sleep looking like ghosts in the mist, reliving past glories such as “Aquarian" and “From Beyond" and never letting go of the mystery surrounding them. It is the ultimate stoner rock show, delivered by the ultimate stoner rock band, with the only stumbling block the inexplicable decision to play for just 59 minutes. Those 59 minutes feel cathartic in their own right, but more as a build-up to an epiphany which never arrives and thus leaves the impressive throng of attendees lusting for more. It feels like a Michael Bay movie without the finale where everything explodes in a gloriously exaggerated cataclysm. No matter: the tightness with which Cisneros, Pike, and Roeder plow through the set, the hallucinatory atmosphere, and above all the decimating enormity of Sleep’s sound means that those 59 minutes are spent in euphoria. [8] AP

THURSDAY

Elin Larsson of Blues Pills giving it her all

Blues Pills @ 13:00 on Avalon

Kicking off their set with the excellent Santana-esque “Black Smoke", Blues Pills deliver a convincing and engulfing yet also slow and beautiful start that gets the large crowd slowly grooving and shaking off yesterday’s hangover. The only thing wrong during the first songs the band performs is actually the relatively low sound that’s presented, which unfortunately makes it hard to truly dive into and get lost in the well-executed psychedelic jams that flow flawlessly as vocalist Elin Larsson gives her all while jumping around the stage, occasionally banging on her tambourine. Unfortunately for her, she’s the only one moving around as the rest of the band has a tendency of standing completely still while playing. Halfway through the set, it seems like the band’s running out of great songs, which is really a shame since the sound is finally being turned up enough to fully digest the show. The band still plays well, but as the show proceeds past 80 minutes it’s hard to stay patient as a lot of the songs just don’t have the power or the impact for things to stay interesting – only a cover of the Jefferson Airplane-classic “Somebody to Love" and a sing-along during “Devil Man" manages to somewhat catch my attention. What started as a great performance now becomes a chore to sit through, and thus the band never manages to set the tent afire, but only leaves the canvas relatively scorched. Let’s hope for a more focused set during their next Danish visit which takes place at Pumpehuset in Copenhagen. [6½] MIN

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats cementing that stoner rock has a place at Roskilde

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats @ 16:00 on Arena

Having had the chance several times but always missed out, I finally get to see Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats who I’ve heard should be quite nifty in a live setting. It’s hard to deny the fact that this band has some amazing and incredibly heavy guitar riffs, and it quickly becomes apparent that these truly shine live. Spicing up their doomy stoner riffs with hints of psychedelic now and then, the band manages to grip the listener while constantly keeping things interesting with brilliant guitar solos. Only a few times does the band address the crowd, but they seem sincere in their admiration for not only us but also for the fact that they’re actually playing on the Arena stage. Although they don’t fill it, there are still a lot of people present, and whatever space is free is being filled with dark atmosphere and virtuous interplay between the guitars and the heavy and dragging rhythm section. Something I find strange, however, is the fact that music this gloomy and gigantic is accompanied by rather light and high-pitched vocals, creating a clear contrast which helps keep things interesting. Although the band – all dressed in black on an empty stage – mostly stand relatively still, they’re good at walking towards each other, headbang a little and then disband once more, and as long as the crowd keeps throwing horns and banging along, you don’t need much more interaction. Just like Sleep taught us last night, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats put on an excellent display of how heavy stoner rock can be mesmerizing enough for nothing else to be needed. [8] MIN

Courtney Barnett cranking out the crunch

Courtney Barnett @ 19:00 on Avalon

Having only released one full-length album and a few EPs and singles, it’s quite impressive that the first time Australian Courtney Barnett comes to Denmark, she plays sixteen songs. I must admit that the first few songs she plays seem kind of lazily performed and we have to get all the way to the excellent “Depreston" (which incites a nice sing-along from the crowd) before Barnett and the band really picks up the pace. But when we’re treated to “Three Pack a Day" and the amazingly rough and crunching “Pedestrian at Best", things really start to take off with people jumping up and down and throwing back the lyrics to the band. You can tell that the band is smitten by this as they now look a lot happier and seem a lot tighter, and several of the songs now have Courtney Barnett yelling even louder than on record, creating a feeling that we’re finally watching a band who wants to perform. When the band by the end of the set performs the jamming “Kim’s Caravan", the set reaches another plateau as if they know they have to make up for a slow start, and the soli (yes, plural – the song takes about seven minutes) performed by Courtney Barnett finally brings redemption. Ultimately, a party gets started as the roof almost takes off during the excellent “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party". Barnett and company’s performance might not have launched the way I’d hoped, but both rhythm-section and frontwoman managed to create an epic finale that made it all worthwhile. [7] MIN

Black Breath @ 20:15 on Pavilion

Black Breath’s 2015 LP “Slaves Beyond Death" was found on many a critic’s best-of list last year, and that fact coupled with the band’s crusty, blackened hardcore style made them the ideal artsy extreme metal choice for the always forward-looking Roskilde Festival. There is nothing avantgarde about the Seattle, WA -born quartet’s ferocious antipathy, though; the music is very much the produce of dingy basements and violent moshpits that here have earned it the esteemed tag of ‘high energy concert’. It is a shame that J. Byrum’s drums initially take precedence over all else, as those dark, piercing tremolo melodies of opening tracks “Pleasure, Pain, Disease" and “Slaves Beyond Death" are completely lost to an inferno of blast beats and create an impression of a band perhaps not in total control of their own music. It sounds messy and untight.

Black Breath

But once the sound engineer evens out the mix (if only slightly), it becomes possible to start making some sense of the onslaught, and the nuances that keep it interesting. Black Breath may lack variety between one song and the next, but the intensity of the music is captivating, heightened by vocalist Neil McAdams’ slow yet confrontational antics, and the frequent lapses into a groovy chug section such as the one that ushers in “Feast of the Damned". The performance itself is not especially extreme, but it is hard to deny that Black Breath look the part in terms of the bellicose anti-everything rhetoric (à la "This song is about sucking Jesus Christ’s dick as he slowly dies on the cross!" before “Black Sin (Spit on the Cross)" is aired), or that they have an exceptional handle on the crowd. A pit of flailing limbs, projectile water cups and circular motion operates at the centre of the pavilion for the entire one-hour duration of the set, and the more aggressive McAdams’ diatribes become, the wilder the roaring and moshing seems to grow.

One must, however, question the sustainability of Black Breath’s music with regard to a concert of this length; the hard core of fans laps it up with little prejudice, but for the average listener the music lacks the necessary dynamics to cross the border between solid and entertaining, and truly lasting. And despite the quintet’s correct placement on the Pavilion stage, it is obvious that the intensity would better translate in an intimate club setting. [7] AP

PJ Harvey @ 20:30 on Arena

Marching into the sound of several drummers, PJ Harvey, and her band takes the tightly-packed Arena stage where I just manage to get inside the tent. A brass ensemble joins and suddenly PJ Harvey’s beautiful and delicate vocal takes over and describes the desolate and abandoned landscape presented in “Chain of Keys" off her new album “The Hope Six Demolition Project". Luckily for the show, every instrument and detail is crystal clear, and during the next song, as a thick guitar riff introduces “Ministry of Defense" off the same album, the excellent soundscape remains. Although I prefer some of Harvey’s other material to her newest album, it’s hard to deny its incredible power in this live setting where loud male hymns and an abrasive brass ensemble lies in the back and constantly creates a powerful wall of sound. Polly Jean herself also picks up the tenor sax on a few occasions and performs crafty soli before turning back to singing as beautiful as she ever has. PJ and her band quickly cement that they’re at the top of their game.

Polly Jean bursting with much deserved confidence

The only real problem during the show occurs as the beautiful “Dollar, Dollar" plays where I get the feeling that people are talking too much. But then again, I’m standing in the outskirt of the canvas so I guess I can’t really allow myself for complaining too much, and instead I just focus on immersing myself deeper into the beautiful sound of Polly’s emotional description of an Afghan boy who begs for some spare change. And once an incredible and extended saxophone solo is played by the saxman next to Harvey, it’s all too easy to get lost in the music. However, the set reaches its real climax during the last few songs which are filled with older PJ Harvey material, such as an energetic and rocking “50ft Queenie", a heavy rendition of “Down by the Water" and a dark “To Bring You My love". The set ends with another song off Harvey’s latest album, “River Anacostia", which brings back the male hymns even louder with PJ’s amazing vocal loud and clear above the mix. Ultimately, this was an incredible set and the best concert I’ve seen so far this festival, and it looks like the feeling is mutual as PJ smiles subtly yet blissfully when she hears the sound of the thundering applause. Although I’ve always liked PJ Harvey’s music, I’ve never been a real fan, but after tonight, things might change. [8½] MIN

Kvelertak @ 23:00 on Avalon

The air of anticipation inside the jampacked Avalon tent is so thick you could cut through it with a machete in the minutes leading up to Kvelertak’s third Roskilde Festival performance — the band is, after all, considered to be one of the most forward-thinking and transcendental acts in metal right now. But once an ominous, raspy voice announces the sextet’s arrival with the customary war cry "Kvelertak!", that enthusiasm is given a cold shower by the sound engineer, who seems to have forgotten to turn on the speakers. As a result, you can just barely make out a note or two of “Dendrofil for Yggdrasil" amidst a whirlwind of bassy, distorted, reverb-laden noise to which Kvelertak seems totally oblivious. And you can’t blame them: the sound quality is probably excellent in the amps and monitors. The rest of us, however, are struggling to understand what is going on while the speakers turn on and off at random, left only with the customarily wild stage antics and our own sense of familiarity with songs like “Mjød" and “Ulvetid" to derive enjoyment from.

Kvelertak’s Erlend Hjelvik oblivious to the turned off speakers

Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik is his usual Viking warrior self, diving into the audience at every opportunity, roaring into the frontmost attendees’ faces at the barrier, and surfing over their heads in what has become a customary ritual at every Kvelertak show ever. His four standing compatriots, guitarists Vidar Landa, Bjarte Lund Rolland & Maciek Ofstad and bassist Marvin Nygaard, too, are blissfully justifying the ‘high energy concert’ label as well, and were it possible to actually distinguish some semblance of detail in any of the songs being aired, tonight’s performance would likely rank just as high as the vast majority of Kvelertak’s gigs in the past. Understandably, a significant portion of the non-devout fanbase thus opts out of the proceedings after “Blodtørst", frustrated.

Free Viking hugs from Kvelertak’s Erlend Hjelvik

That, however, is a mistake. In the immediate wake of that classic crowd pleaser, “Undertro" suddenly summons a satisfactory mix, clear, crisp and heavy, heralding the start of a much stronger second half in which the brand new material off “Nattesferd" sounds especially excellent. The overt pop and prog sensibilities of this third album were met with mixed reactions upon its release, but hearing the likes of “Svartmesse" and “Heksebrann", the idea underlying the decision to push further into mainstream territory begins to make sense. The jams and big choruses that beckon lighters into the air, produce a striking contrast to older picks such as “Spring fra livet" and “Ordsmedar av rang" that have the audience bubbling in a frenzy, with the musicians aptly navigating those dynamics with their demeanour. Indeed, this second act of the show sees Kvelertak at the apex of their abilities, and the segment existed on its own, there would have been little else than praise from the undersigned. But with a 35-minute dud as the spearhead, one is left with a frustrated and disappointed overall impression and eyes firmly focused on those headlining club shows coming up later this year. [6] AP

Tenacious D @ 00:30 on Orange

Tonight’s late headliner is not hip-hop, pop, electronic or any other genre close to those. No, tonight it’s Tenacious D’s time to shine. The band consisting of Jack Black and Kyle Gass will bring their comedy rock and tribute metal to the Orange Stage, hopefully showing that other genres can dominate the darkness at Dyrskuepladsen too. After having started their set with the excellent sing-along classic “Kickapoo" (where the band member’s take on the usual guest spots themselves) from the movie/album “The Pick of Destiny", Black and Gass announce that it’s been ten years since the release of said movie. For the occasion, they’ll perform the rare “Master Exploder" – and you can tell why it’s rare, since it’s just not a very good song, and few people actually know the words. Furthermore, once we get to “Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown)", Dave Grohl’s part as Beelzebub is performed by Mike Bray who unfortunately does a poor impression of the usually fierce and powerful Devil we know. Once we reach the middle of the set, things get straight up boring as lesser-known songs are played, and people start to leave the huge field and others just look bewildered.

Jack Black hits some seriously high notes

Surely, we get some obvious and obligatory jokes: The band fails to hide the backing track they use and are thus “caught in the act" (surely on purpose), Black and Gass get into a fight before “Dude (I Totally Miss You)", and weird instruments (like a plastic toy saxophone) are brought on stage. Luckily, these aren’t the exact same jokes as you’ve seen them perform previously live, and the stage setup and setlist are different too, which count highly in their favor. Also, Jack Black’s voice is actually really good, and his high falsetto works better than expected. Unfortunately, his guitar playing often lacks skill, and especially during “Wonderboy" it gets embarrassing when someone else has to show him how to play the chords. But as previously stated, it’s good fun to hear a lot of people sing along to “The Metal", “Tribute" and “Fuck Her Gently", and luckily this factor redeems the show from being more than slapstick humor and poor performances. [6] MIN

Ghost @ 02:00 on Arena

Let me start by pointing out: I’ve never been a fan of Ghost. Although I’ve seen them perform three times prior to tonight (the first time being at Odeon back in 2011), they’ve never really caught my interest. Still, I’ve promised myself to keep an open mind and try to invest myself in the band’s performance this late night at Arena. As the band takes the stage at 02:00, I see that Papa Emeritus has gone back to his rope and miter instead if the suit I last saw him wear. But it fits the first song “Spirit" and especially the slick and groovy bassline of the following “From the Pinnacle to the Pit", and already now the crowd is rowdy and almost obstreperous. Plus, the sound presented tonight at Arena is pretty much flawless, making the sound full, dark and atmospheric. So far, I must admit that I’m enjoying myself more than expected, and especially the slayer-esque “Cirice" works well and makes me wonder why I never enjoyed the band’s performances in the past.

Bear over with me for not knowing too many song titles, making it a bit difficult to precisely say when Papa Emeritus decides to throw the liturgy clothing that’s holding him back, opening up his performance much more and giving him the air to breath and space to move. From here the set only gets better: The beautiful “He is" feels magical as everyone inside the tent chants along, and the black midnight mass reaches full circle as the melodious “Ritual" (one of the few songs I’ve actually always loved from the band) are sung back at the band as the show reaches its climax. In-between these two songs, we’ve been treated to several more rocking tracks that feed the crowd what they needed to keep them going through the night, and even The Nameless Ghouls are excellent at racing to the middle of the scene and playing against each other, constantly keeping the stage alive.

Afterward, Papa Emeritus returns to the stage and entertains the crowd with a speech that ultimately leads into the riff that is “Monstrance Clock". Call it Abba, call it Blue Öyster Cult, call it a combination, I really don’t care; as the lyrics "Come together // Together as one // Come together // For Lucifer’s son" are sung at the top of every altar boy and semi-Satanist’s lungs, they’ve gotten a hold of me. Satan damn it, this is one hell of a show, and I do believe that Ghost has finally won me over. See you next time around, hopefully in a setting as perfect as this one. [8½] MIN

FRIDAY

Biffy Clyro @ 16:00 on Arena

Having seen the Scottish alternative rock band Biffy Clyro several times by now, everywhere from on a mountain in Bilbao to out on Christiania in Copenhagen, I feel confident in calling them one of the best live bands around today. Therefore, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with the fact that their name is as low on the Roskilde poster as it is, especially considering their enormous popularity in the UK. But then again, I’ve previously seen shorter sets with these Scotts where they’ve still managed to pull off incredible shows. Well, enough about that, onto the show at hand:

Simon Neil showing how stadium rock is done anno 2016

Starting their set with the excellent new track “Wolves of Winter" (off the upcoming album “Ellipsis") which leads into the complex and polyrhythmic “Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies", things are off to a great start where the band, and especially Simon Neil, exhibits admirable energy. The next track “Biblical" gets the crowd singing along with its catchy chorus and the “whoa-ohs" by the end, promising that this show will be one to remember. Unfortunately, however, the band then chooses to proceed into another new track, called “Friends and Enemies", which feels stagnant and exhumes the adrenaline that the band had just injected us with. This becomes a tendency throughout the show where the band alternates between huge anthems and slow ballads. “Bubbles" and “Many of Horror" work really well and get the crowd singing along, but I feel that “The Captain" and “Mountains" are too overblown in comparison to some of the bands other, more technical and intricate songs. Furthermore, while I like the quiet and acoustic “Machine", it just doesn’t work when not 1/10 of the crowd knows the words and thus drowns in the sound of everyone talking. Instead, I feel like the band should’ve spent the little time they had focusing on more fast-paced and detailed songs.

Alas, ask and you shall receive: Although I’m not a fan of the band’s new rocker “Animal Style", it does get the crowd jumping more than most other songs throughout the set. The band closes the show with “Stingin’ Belle" (a good choice, I might add) which sees the band members crawling onto speakers and jumping over monitors. Combine this with a decent sound and some excellent videos displayed on the huge screens (including some spectacular data matrix effects, my colleague kindly adds), and Biffy Clyro once again underlines that they still know how to rock everyone in the house and deliver a show that most other bands would gape at. Still, I personally thought the band put too much emphasis on sugary-sweet ballads and bombastic choruses, and I really don’t hope this kind of setlist becomes a tendency. [7½] MIN

Foals performing in the rain

Foals @ 18:00 on Orange Stage

Having so far only seen this British indie rock band in the more intimate and closed Store Vega, I walk towards the huge open Orange Stage today not really knowing what to expect. As the band soon thankfully comment from the stage, the turnout for their show is bigger than expected considering the sulky rainy weather that’s constantly coming and going. Despite the band seeming a little tired themselves, they do what they can to keep us in good spirits. They start with a good energy in songs like “Snake Oil" and “My Number" that have people dancing and tapping their feet but soon move into slower-building songs. In combination with an increasingly insisting rain, this thins out the crowd all over as people seek shelter or move on to other shows. However, the band does sound absolutely amazing on the outdoor stage with loud and crisp guitars and an impeccable vocal performance so I wait around for some of my favourite songs to appear. “Mountains At My Gates" arrives a little over halfway into their set but doesn’t start the party I had hoped for, except in the pit of course. Curiously, its buildup falls flat in the sound mix instead of buffing the song up as it’s supposed to so a little disappointed, I begin making my way to the next important band on my list that unfortunately overlaps this show slightly. On my way I soon hear another favourite in the sullen “Late Night" and from the side, I later hear the winning combo of frantic hits “What Went Down" and “Two Steps, Twice" ending the set with loud bass rhythms. Unfortunately, the circumstances were not optimal for Foals that I know could otherwise have delivered one of the better parties of the festival today. [6½] LF

Blaue Blume @ 19:00 on Avalon

One of my favourite current Danish bands, the opera-like chamber pop/indie rock act Blaue Blume has drawn a huge crowd in the Avalon tent as they begin their show with a droning, instrumental build-up that evolves into the song “Thinking of Roxy" from their debut full-length. From their very first note, the band sounds stunning and their meticulously crafted songs are played tonight with a sort of loose precision that leaves space for little improvisations and dynamic changes in melodies and riffs which make the already well-written songs sound even more organic. Playing in front of a galaxy-backdrop, the band presents us with one dreamy song after the next with several of them sliding into each other through extended endings and intros, leaving us to float away in the soft, dramatic soundscapes. “Buoyant Forces" captures my attention early on before a rendition of the standout track “Sky" eradicates any possible doubt of this band’s live capabilities. The band’s frontman Jonas Smith comes across as extremely vulnerable, at one point commenting that sometimes he gets an urge to hide on stage, and this is only reflected and enhanced in his emotional singing that moves mostly in falsetto territory but also includes some very deep notes from time to time. As a lead-in to the track “On New Year’s Eve", we get a fragmented story of the break-up that inspired the song, a key sentence being how the girl told him that he loves too much. That kind of intensity of feeling is precisely what shines through in the songs, also in the instrumental parts that get even more space tonight than normally. Several of the songs build into loud and devastating guitars, contrasting with the quieter chamber-like verses of them and especially the extended jam following the EP-song “Lemon Tree" impresses. Other EP-songs like “Lost Sons of Boys" and the more optimistic-sounding “In Disco Lights" make welcome appearances around the set and in the beautiful setting of the redesigned Avalon tent, this is no doubt one of the very best shows I see at the festival this year. [9] LF

letlive. @ 20:15 on Pavilion

It says something about Roskilde Festival’s magnetism that it can convince an American band as (relatively) small as letlive. to sandwich an exclusive, one-off European show within an ongoing U.S. tour. And we should be grateful for that pulling power, because the Los Angeles, CA -based outfit delivers not just the best concert at this year’s festival, but also one of the finest showings that the undersigned has witnessed here since 2006. The spectacle starts slowly enough, with vocalist Jason Butler’s soulful voice and atmospherics taking the driver’s seat for “I’ve Learned to Love Myself", but once that piece swells into meatier riffs and more insistent percussion, Butler throws a somersault across the stage and sets it in stone that this concert, too, is going to earn its ‘high energy’ classification.

"Remember to drink water!" - letlive.’s Jason Butler

From then on the show descends into a chaotic, exhilarating performance with Butler utilising the full extent of facilities available in the Pavilion tent, and his band guitarists Jeff Sahyoun & Mishka Bier, bassist Ryan Jay Johnson and drummer Loniel Robinson engaging in rocking out that under any other circumstances would be deserving of the highest accolades in its own right. Indeed, with Butler dangling from the side speakers, moshing in the pit, singing from the mixer desk, climbing up the rafters, serial firing water cups into the audience and behaving like a pitbull on those rare occasions when he prefers to be on stage — all this while also delivering a brilliant vocal performance — the remaining four musicians are reduced to a bit of a background role — at least in the visual aesthetic. But the keen ear would have it otherwise, as even though the performance relies heavily on Butler’s frenzy, charisma and when he’s offering honest commentary in between the songs, relatability; the music is just as important in terms of explaining why letlive. is one of the best live bands on the planet right now.

The magnetic energy of the audience tugs at Jason Butler’s feet

Their unique ‘soul punk’ style utilises an assortment of rhythms virtually unheard of in the post-hardcore genre, and as such one must concede a huge amount of credit to Johnson & Robinson for giving the songs their ultra-groovy, dance-friendly foundation, and to Sahyoun & Bier for generating such unique and inventive forms of melody. The strength and energy of tracks like “Enemies [Enemigos]", “White America’s Beautiful Black Market" and “Renegade 86’" has the crowd under a spell. When it’s not bouncing like at a pop show, it’s finding release in the moshpit; when it’s not singing it’s collective heart out during choice cuts like “Reluctantly Dead", it’s pumping its collective fist in the air in appreciation of Butler’s fiery political lyricism. This is an absolutely rager of a concert, as fixating to the eye as it is to the ear, as energizing as it is cathartic. [9] AP

Neil Young + Promise of the Real @ 21:00 on Orange

Few people get to see all of their favorite artists, while others are so privileged as to get to see several of theirs within a month. The latter seems to be the case with me, as I now get to see Neil Young less than a month after I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing both Bruce Springsteen and Deftones since the middle of June. And the fact that Young is playing a marathon-length concert at Roskilde’s legendary Orange stage only seems to be icing on the cake. However, as I will experience throughout the set, this particular setting doesn’t seem to be as perfect as I’d initially thought.

A few minutes before the show starts, two women walk onto the stage to spread out seeds and corn, representing Neil Young’s (and The Promise of the Real) current state of mind where he aims a lot of criticism towards Monsanto and their use of GMO crops. Subtly walking in from the left is Neil Young (only equipped with a harmonica with a microphone) who decides to sit down at his piano and deliver a breathtaking rendition of his classic “After the Gold Rush" (politically changing the year “1970s" to “[Look at Mother Nature on the run in the] 21st century" in the lyrics), proving that he still has a voice unlike any other; he doesn’t roam within the conventions of keys and notes like others do – whether high or low he cringes out his soul, bare and honest, sounding as unique as he ever has. Afterwards, he breaks out the acoustic guitar and delivers “Heart of Gold" and “The Needle and the Damage Done" which causes much singing from the crowd, and finally he ventures to a pump organ and plays an alternative cover of “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)", perfectly displaying the diversity and skill of this 70 year old legend.

Neil Young rockin’ in the free world

Photo courtesy of Steffen Jørgensen

By now it’s time for the young band (featuring Micah and Lukas Nelson, sons of Willie Nelson) to join on-stage, leading into a cavalcade of lesser known laid back country rock songs. Amongst these especially “Alabama" and “Words (Between the Lines of Age)" impress, and especially the latter provides an excellent jam session where the young band prove that they not only follow Neil Young, but also have the ability to lead and direct. Unlike Young’s latest tour where he was on the road with Crazy Horse (who failed to show half the movement these guys do), Promise of the Real bursts with confidence where every guitar note, baseline, drum fill and vocal harmony masterfully fits and adapts to the music. The only real problem that occurs during this first half of the set is the amount of people talking and leaving the pits close to the stage, as it, unfortunately, ruins the intimate feeling that Young and the band tries to create during some of the quieter songs. I expect people to talk during a show when they’re standing further away from the stage, but this close, people ought to know when to be quiet – or at least not try to outshout the music. Sorry, rant over. As for the band itself, everything is executed perfectly.

The funny thing about Neil Young is that nothing is really perfect. Every note he plays on his guitar deviates from the original, every jam evolves every minute – and still, every song stays true to its core, keeping that fine red line that makes you recognize and bob along to it. This is especially evident during the second half of the set where the band really cranks up the amps and churn out nasty, grungy, electric guitar jams and soli: Everything from 20+ minute renditions of “Love to Burn" and the encore “Love and Only Love" to psychedelic country grunge jams “Country Home" and “Mansion on the Hill". We also get the beautiful “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" and an extended and powerful rendition of the political ball-buster “Rockin’ in the Free World", plus several others that keep us warm through the night. Suddenly, three hours have gone by, but I feel like good ole Uncle Niels could easily play for another three. Tonight, all of Roskilde (or those who bothered to stay) was taught a lesson in music history. Young doesn’t need to rant about any issues while performing, nor does he need to please the crowd with a hit single-setlist; his music speaks for itself, straight from the heart and the brain, whether it comes from one of the songs we’ve heard tonight or one of the other many classic tracks he could’ve performed. Neil Young + Promise of the Real created everything from blistering guitar lightning to sweet and soulful country folk, proving why the man’s been such a huge influence on so many people. It’s probably one of the most well-played concerts I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing live. But I guess that if you want an appreciative crowd that’s willing to digest the music, turn elsewhere – people will keep on peopling, and although I agree that it’s fair some in attendance want to chat during a festival concert, please keep it outside of the pits. [9] MIN

Kevin Parker of Tame Impala

Tame Impala @ 23:30 on Arena

Because of rain me and the gang took a quick excursion to our camp to fill our cold systems with a little magic juice - mainly jägerbombs. But as the time nears 23:00 and no one is making any effort to go back to the festival area, I make a quick decision and go on my own - ‘cause I know this show will be good. I saw Tame Impala on a non-reviewing vacation at last year’s Lollapalooza Berlin and my body is ready for more. When I arrive, a friend joins me from the Neil Young show and we try to find a good spot in the already packed tent, with very little success. The band is another in an increasingly long row of awkwardly booked artists this year that have superseded the capacity of the Arena Stage, yet being too small an act to gain access to the hallowed halls of Orange. But it all matters very little as the show is kicked off with firstly “Nangs" and then the absolutely contagious “Let It Happen", changing from style to style like a musical chameleon over the 7+ minutes long composition, the song quickly turns the brimming tent into a giant dance party - people everywhere sharing hugs, dancing closely, smiling and sharing drinks, cigarettes, and other smokables.

One of the things helping the experience along is the magnificently spaced out light show lighting the crowd up all the way to the lonely cocktail bars in the back. Kevin Parker is being his usual introvert self, but the density of the music easily makes up for it as we dance into the night with tracks like “Elephant", “The Less I Know The Better" and “Alter Ego" as songs just seem to melt into one another. Most of the crowd does not seem to know the entire catalog of the band, but the repetitive fashion the songs in which the songs are constructed allows everyone to still latch onto recognizable motifs. It’s sad to see that the band doesn’t include the brilliant “Cause I’m a Man", but I suppose we’re still served a pretty solid setlist. The show ends with the convincing “Feel Like We Only Go Backwards", followed by a less convincing “New Person, Same Old Mistakes" - however, it still doesn’t shake the otherwise rock-solid performance. Disco-psych should be the new thing this summer! [8] HES

Mutoid Man - clearly having the time of their lives on stage

Mutoid Man @ 00:15 on Pavilion

Mutoid Man, the tongue-in-cheek, hyperactive new project by Cave In member Stephen Brodsky and Converge’s Ben Koller, were scheduled to play just after midnight on the Pavilion stage. I say hyperactive because the ridiculous technicality of the riffs combined with breakneck speed tempo made for some entertaining late night experiences especially since the band clearly came in with a light-hearted, almost irritatingly happy attitude to the whole thing. "Ben Koller on drums everybody. He plays in over 4000 bands. We just counted them", Brodsky proclaims, before entering yet another groove-driven, rapid-fire riff-fest coupled with vivid headbanging. This type of humorous banter is omnipresent during their set, as they refer to us as mutants and state that it’s a horrible night for a BEAST infection. What the fuck is going on in their heads, is the expression on most people’s face in the crowd, as the group delivers arguably the weirdest metal set at Roskilde since Devin Townsend blew us away a couple of years ago. Dynamic riffs morph into Tom Jones covers translated into Mutoid Man’s sound, while the bassist is flipping the bird at us in between every riff. It’s impressively tight and definitely a completely unique sound unlike nothing you’ve heard before, and that’s why it works. Would’ve been a great success at an early afternoon set to wake people up, but felt a little misplaced at midnight on the second last day as the crowd is starting to be worn out after a long week. [7] PP

Meshuggah @ 01:30 on Avalon

I am no stranger to watching Meshuggah at festivals, but until now, those concerts have always taken place on outdoor stages in blazing sunlight. The late night setting here serves the Swedes’ futuristic djent far better, as with such technical constructs as the ‘shuggah’s songs inalienably are, the band’s concert leave little room for movement by the five musicians. Instead, the visual aesthetic is provided by the elusive sixth member, Meshuggah’s light engineer, whose preference to cue and sequence the lights manually has earned the man a quasi-legendary status. Tonight, the lighting is a little more tempered than usual, but its adherence to Tomas Haake’s mind boggling polyrhythms is nonetheless a sight to behold. And while we’re talking technical production… the sound engineer, too, has this thing nailed with a mix that emphasizes the low end so crucial to generating the desired effect from Fredrik Thordendal & Mårten Hagström’s seven- and eight-string guitars, but without drowning the eerie solo and melody bits that frequently arise from the rumble.

Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman - not someone you want to meet in a back alley

The circumstances are thus perfect for another breathtaking display of supremacy from one of the most important metal artists in the world, and with a setlist heavily focused on the band’s celebrated newer repertoire, that is exactly what happens. It is amusing to watch people’s attempts at headbanging to songs like “Do Not Look Down" and especially “Bleed" because to the untrained ear, the music seems never to follow any traditional rhythmic pattern. In a sense, the crowd’s reaction is as asynchronous as the music sounds to a Meshuggah-virgin. But you will also spot the individuals that have uncovered the secret: to follow Haake’s cymbal, which is the sole instrumental component conforming to a 4/4 time signature, and as such the beacon by which the headbanging is controlled. You could also watch vocalist Jens Kidman of course and follow his stride, but chances are that the combination of bulging veins on his shaved skull and eyes turned inside out would incite too much terror and thus throw you off the beat.

Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman looks somewhat less demonic as a silhouette

In physical terms then, Meshuggah’s performance tonight is far from wild, but the sheer insanity of the band’s music creates that impression all the same. The groove is constant and intoxicating, the tightness of the band’s synergy eargasmic. The only problem is that like Sleep on Wednesday, the length of Meshuggah’s concert is a little too compact, at an hour and fifteen minutes, to soar all the way into orbit. The long and convoluted “Dancers to a Discordant System" provides a strong finale, but the band could easily have slotted a number of choice cuts from 2002’s landmark “Nothing" album to apply the icing to the cake. A strong and beguiling show, but not on par with the band’s two most recent appearances at Danish indoor venues. [8] AP

SATURDAY

The Entrepreneurs having a ball at Pavilion

The Entrepreneurs @ 12:15 on Pavilion

Today is the last day of this year’s Roskilde Festival, and having slept at home last night, I find myself stuck in traffic, causing me to miss out on the first few songs of Danish The Entrepreneurs’ set. As I arrive I’m pleased to see that this many people have decided to show up despite last night’s nasty weather and inevitable hangover. The band’s actually doing a decent job at keeping the energy high with their take on alternative rock which ranges between Japandroids-ish noise rock and Mew-like stadium hymns, but unfortunately, most of the crowd (except for a dedicated few up front) are tired and inanimate, stopping the show from ever really taking off. However, as the set reaches its last few songs, people start to dance and move a little more, and the last two songs of the set more than makes up for a show that lasts for longer than expected. Second to last song is a long, droning track where the band finds the time to move around quite a lot, and frontman Mathias Bertelsen gets to thank the crowd wholeheartedly. On a personal note, his vocals have always bothered me a little after a few songs, but that doesn’t detract anything from the excellent performance and humility he displays today. Last song, “Brutal Summer", gets the crowd frothing and the band goes out with a bang. Ultimately, the band delivered a good show which started slowly, but managed to catch my attention by the end. And having caught about an hour of the set, rating the concert still seems legit. [6½] MIN

Rising trying to pull a drowzy crowd out of the mud

Rising @ 14:15 on Pavilion

As another Danish band, Rising, takes the Pavilion stage, their sludgy heavy metal almost makes my body come alive despite the relatively small attendance in front of the stage. The band is doing an excellent job at creating thick and tasty riffs and grooves, highly reminiscent of none other than Mastodon. But suddenly the vocalist takes the stage, and I cannot help but be disappointed. He seems distant and his vocal delivery has no power or impact. His performance throws me off from the impressive performance the rest of the band is giving where especially the bassist jumps around and keeps the stage alive while playing on a professional level. As we reach the second half of the set, sound issues suddenly occur, and several times throughout you can’t hear anything but the guitar-monitors. Although it doesn’t last for long each time it happens, it’s enough to make you disoriented and steal focus from the music. Sadly, a good show is disrupted by sound issues, an uninspiring vocalist, and a slow crowd. [5] MIN

One of the many faces of Danko Jones

Danko Jones @ 16:00 on Avalon

Okay, so Danko Jones on paper isn’t the most interesting name at Roskilde Festival. Their albums are fairly straightforward rock’n’roll with tight grooves, but few interesting tracks on their own. But what they are good at, is playing live shows. Mr. Danko himself has the weirdest facial expressions of anyone out there, which is why he tells the photographers they can stay all night long because "the poses will only keep getting better.". Apparently, we are to call him "delicious", and he baits us into shouting multiple times as loud as we can at random moments so that everyone walking by "goes like: what the fuck is going on over there?". With a hint of arrogance in his cocky and funny attitude, Danko drives home this one with a comedy-driven rock’n’roll set that’s characterized more by the jokes and the poses than by the actual music itself. I mean what else are we to believe once he starts changing words in his songs into swear words because there’s a little kid present, or tells us that he could swear we applauded louder at ourselves when asked to, than for any of their own songs. It’s a hilarious set, with bassist John Calabrese doing his absolute best at getting the crowd clapping at every opportune moment. “First Date" is good, “Code Of The Road" is a tight rock’n’roller, but let’s be honest here: the jokes and attitude are what won us over. Not a bad thing in my books. Hilarious. [7½] PP

Dizzy Mizz Lizzy @ 17:00 on Orange Stage

Despite being billed beneath LCD Soundsystem, Mø, and The Last Shadow Puppets in the running order, for many a rock-loving Dane, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy’s return to the iconic Orange Stage was no doubt high on the list of priorities given the magic of their reunion performance here in 2011. But alas, that magic has since dissipated, not least because these days, you can see ‘Dizzy multiple times a year, and at pretty much any festival in the country regardless of size. You can tell by the show they stage tonight: the interactions feel mechanical, and the trio plays entirely on the appeal of their material without bothering to reach out to us, or even attach any significant notion of emotion to the tracks they air.

Dizzy Mizz Lizzy’s Martin Nielsen: dat bass

Granted, the setlist is quite daring in that it includes no less than seven songs from their comeback album “Forward in Reverse" (our review of which you can find here), which is all fine and dandy except for the fact that outside of the two hit singles “Made to Believe" and the encore-closing “I Would If I Could But I Can’t", nobody seems to care much for them. Personally, it is these picks that form not only the highlights, but also the backbone of Dizzy’s concert this afternoon, and it is frustrating to witness the indifference of the crowd, and the ensuing indifference of the band when delivering the expected hits like “Lover is a Loser’s Game", “Silverflame" and “Waterline". None of those three classics come even close to generating the sort of euphoria that reigned over the audience in 2011, the sort of sing-alongs you could probably hear in Copenhagen if the wind was right.

This is the first time that I’ve felt a little… bored?, watching Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, with the only truly noteworthy aspect of the show vocalist / guitarist Tim Christensen’s unbelievable voice. Only Muse’s Matthew Bellamy can muster such perfection live, I had thought, but during the 14 songs that comprise the setlist here, not once does Christensen hit a wrong note nor diverge even minutely from what you hear on record. Stunning stuff. It’s too bad that the three musicians seem to have forgotten what special place they are playing today, as their laid back approach feels more fitting to Grøn Koncert or some other celebration more focused on drinking beer and getting into fights than on the music. It provides a good background soundtrack for the loud chatter everywhere in the audience but goes down as a pretty pointless, and certainly quite disappointing performance by Denmark’s biggest out-and-out rock band. [6] AP

Gojira @ 18:30 on Arena

Would Gojira be able to match the majesty of their two Copenhell performances in 2012 and 2015 in the cavernous confines of the Arena tent? That was the question on everyone’s lips when Gojira was confirmed as one of the metal headliners at this year’s Roskilde Festival, and I must admit to feeling rather skeptical about it myself. After all, there was to be plenty of material from the French progressive metallers’ latest, unusually atmospheric outing “Magma" on the setlist, and there was to be no concrete surface to kick back the weight of older songs. Predictably then, the combination of an audience worn out from a week’s worth of hard festivities, three tracks that are yet to prove their worth in the live setting (“The Shooting Star", “Silvera" and “Stranded"), and a band which looks significantly less pumped than it did last summer results in a concert which, by Gojira’s titanic standards, ends up being a dud.

Gojira’s Joe Duplantier stomping on some heavy matter

Vocalist / guitarist Joe Duplantier carries himself with a signature severity and establishes himself as the focal point of the performance; his brother Mario delivers a customarily astonishing drumming performance, and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie storms from side to side swinging his instrument at every opportunity… But nothing about the concert feels like an innovation this time. This is a standard fare Gojira show in the sense that people applaud, roar, bang their heads and mosh obediently whilst the four musicians accomplish technically sound and by all means solid renditions of tracks like “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe", “Wisdom Comes", “Backbone" and “Oroborus". There is no edge — it is neither as loud, nor as heavy, nor as humbling as Gojira’s concerts tend to be — and as a result, yours truly spends an unusual amount of time checking the time and waiting for the (predictable) drum solo and closing behemoth “Vacuity". We came, we saw and we headbanged. But no one could have been blown away by this standardized, factory generated performance. [6] AP

Cattle Decapitation @ 20:15 on Pavilion

Cattle Decapitation’s coming-of-age was completed last year with the release of their phenomenal and dreadfully relevant seventh album "The Anthropocene Extinction" — an unusual piece of extreme metal fusing together brutality, lasting value and, above all, an important message about the bleak prospects we as humans face should we continue our excess. The record’s focus on relatable socio-political issues, and the San Diego, CA -born quintet’s daring to force the point through by making it catchy (clean singing in death metal, yikes!) of course placed them dead centre on Roskilde Festival’s booking radar, so really, there was never a question whether Cattle Decapitation would be appearing at the event this summer.

Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan foretelling humanity’s imminent extinction

Admittedly, in the live setting the message component has little effect for those not familiar with said album, and when you remove that element, all that remains is the onslaught of some of the most intense, grinding death metal on the planet delivered via dizzying cascades of blastbeats and breakneck riffs that stress the Pavilion tent’s sound system to its limits. Cattle Decapitation’s music is fucking crazy on record but played live it is sometimes difficult even to make sense of it. The majority of songs like “The Prophets of Loss" and especially “Clandestine Ways (Krokodil Rot)" is sheer chaos (a fitting metaphor for the subject matter of the lyrics), yet at the same time, the five musicians appear entirely in control. You have the ‘clean’ sung chorus bits, atmospheric sections and chuggy grooves as anchors amidst the madness, but in honesty, the extremity of ‘Decapitation’s music is almost paralyzing.

Apart from vocalist Travis Ryan’s mental antics, however, the band’s performance never stretches past the standard death metal fare of brutal poses and ample windmilling, and so you are left with this cataclysmic inferno of sound to derive value from. Fortunately for us, the entire set focuses on the two most recent albums (the other one being “Monolith of Inhumanity"), so the goregrind stuff of old is thankfully kept at bay. Instead, the likes of “Circo Inhumanitas" and in particular the monolithic “Pacific Grim" woo with a lingering sense of apocalypse closing in, the dark melodic segments actually inciting more alarm than the gut-punching blasts around them. This is the ‘beauty’ of Cattle Decapitation circa 2016: you get what they are trying to say, and that the only really effective way to say it is with maximum terror. But in order to enjoy the set from that angle, one needs to know the material and its purpose inside out — for the more casual attendees today, I fear the experience might be just a tad too frenetic, too pulverizing to etch itself into the permanent memory. [7] AP

Joe Casey didn’t change his expression much, but maybe a few cigarettes

Protomartyr @ 22:15 on Pavilion

On record, Protomartyr delivers some pretty good post-punk songs with a twist of noise rock which makes it seem cool to dance around alone in your apartment either with a massive hangover or with a drink leading up to it. In a live setting, however, such a notion seems incredibly far-fetched as the band’s motionless stage presence drains you from ever wanting to do anything like what I’ve just described. I know it’s a just a stunt and a part of their performance, but the way that vocalist Joe Casey stands with his head held high while smoking a cigarette without ever moving a muscle constantly throughout the set makes him seem a) pretentious, and b) uninterested in wanting to perform for an audience. Although the rest of the band actually moves around just a little bit more than Casey does, it’s never enough to make the show engaging. Sure, the band plays their songs without any real hiccups, but the performance is so boring and tasteless that I can’t stand to be here for more than half an hour. Instead, I decide to save my energy for the rest of the night, and I thus refuse to give the show a rating. But rest assured, if you didn’t see this show, you didn’t miss out on anything. MIN

Sumac @ 02:15 on Pavilion

Due to LCD Soundsystem putting on one hell of a show and party, it was hard to make myself go to Sumac all alone at 02:15. Therefore, I only caught 20-25 minutes of the band’s performance, but I’ll try to chalk up my impression of the remainder of the show. It would seem that the rest of the attendance at this year’s Roskilde festival has decided to either watch The Minds of 99 or Sleaford Mods since the Pavilion tent is almost empty. Only a small group of people have decided to show up for what is actually a really strong and impressive performance. The trio’s huge post-metallic song-structures sound good and especially when they clash together in a gigantic crushing overflow of energy do they create some epic climaxes that hit harder than a tidal wave. The only thing wrong is the fact that it feels like a lot of the energy just ebbs out into nothing instead of forcing itself onto the crowd – but seeing as the crowd is sorely missing, there’s no one to latch onto, making the catharsis less awe-inspiring. So while this show could’ve seen better conditions – a lackluster crowd never really giving Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom) and company the fuel they need to reach beyond the edge of the stage – I’m still glad that I got to catch about half of a really well-played show, and therefore I actually dare to give it a (positive) grade since this was just what I needed to finish off a great day. [7] MIN

Final Words

And that just about sums up our experience at this year’s Roskilde Festival. Looking back, I think this year’s festival was characterized by a number of truly excellent concerts, a rare feat in itself as the much larger festival shows tend to be lackluster compared to smaller club shows. With unforgettable performances by especially Letlive and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, and a wealth of other solid performances from the likes of Neil Young, At The Drive-In and many others, Roskilde Festival was a resounding success on this front, no doubt helped by a lineup poster that actually valued great and interesting bands over the past few years of hipster-drivel that the festival has been infested with. More of this in the future, kudos to this year’s booking team!

The camping area is still what it is - there will have to be a solution for the biggest stereo competition sooner or later if you ask me - lest we face improbable odds of having big crowds on Orange ever again on the final day that do not primarily consist of 1-day ticket holders as the rest of the festival is too sleep deprived to continue any longer. Not likely to happen, so you read it here first!

Finally, let’s finish off the article with our traditional The Good, The Bad, The Ugly listing, summarizing our experience in nice bullet point form. PP

The Good

  • Expanded Clean Out Loud - less garbage, more environment!
  • Fantastic lineup for rock fans - the first time in years!
  • Still a great variety of music on offer regardless of your taste - doing it right!
  • Food Court - everything here was high quality and thanks to the price cap, also affordable.
  • Dropbucket is still an awesome idea and glad to see it spreading around the campsite
  • Avalon redesign: massive props. Theater look is really cool.
  • Allowing Letlive singer go absolutely crazy and the crowd with it. Learning from Copenhell, eh?
  • Great amount of activities and other stuff to do during the week if you don’t want to go to see music
  • Dream City is still an inspirational hub of creativity
  • Finally mobile data did not die in the middle of the festival - even at Orange Stage!
  • It seems like bands are no longer required to play full 90 minutes on all stages (or even 60 minutes), which helps bands with a weaker back catalogue and makes for better concerts.
  • Woodchop out preemptively when it looked like it was going to rain heavily
  • Snowden appearance was intriguing. Could be interesting with more politically and/or socially motivated speakers in the future - TED style.

The Bad

  • Camping area stereos are now so loud and big that even with a good set of earplugs it’s difficult to sleep. With a week long sleep deprivation and alcohol-fueled party haze, more and more people start leaving Saturday morning, even Friday for some. Proof? Half-empty field for headliners on Saturday (Mø and LCD Soundsystem), and huge queues of cars heading out early on Saturday.
  • Having to walk past the Apollo blaster stage to get into the festival from West - as it is part of the entrance now - required earplugs every time.
  • The drones may create cool aerial footage, but they are creepy as fuck.
  • Rising lineup - what a letdown from last year. What happened to international bands?
  • Non-Food Court food (mostly) terrible and overpriced, especially at the service centers.

The Ugly

  • Non-clean out loud areas still look and feel like a refugee camp
  • Who spends 120k on a stereo system at a camping area?

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