Roadburn Festival 2019

author AP date 03/05/19

Roadburn has become one of the most anticipated events of the year for (at least some of) the personnel behind this webzine. Having attended these festivities four times in the past, you could be forgiven for assuming that our curiosity about all things avant-garde, experimental and progressive should have been satisfied by now, but no — even the prospect of poor weather (including actual fucking snow showers) has not phased our resolve to feast on all that this legendary Dutch happening has to offer once again. True to tradition, we catch the morning flight from Copenhagen to Eindhoven on the festival’s opening day accompanied by lots of likeminded individuals, and then endure the short bus and train rides to Oisterwijk, where our hotel is situated in the middle of a forest. There isn’t much time for rest, and after we’ve checked into our rooms and had a ceremonial first beer in the bar, we head for the city of Tilburg in a taxi right away, butterflies fluttering in our bellies in anticipation of another year of musical discoveries, friendships rekindled and indecent quantities of alcoholic beverages consumed.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

LINE-UP

For me, the months leading up to Roadburn are always busy with diving into the line-up in a quest to unearth the next discovery. While a superficial perusal of the poster is unlikely to reveal a throng of well known artists — I only recognise perhaps a third of them, for instance — the one thing you can always count on is that no matter which venue you stumble into at any given moment during these four days of music, the show taking place in there will almost certainly expand your musical horizon and quite possibly also strike you with awe. Even the artists who on paper might seem like fairly ordinary choices are anything but in the context of Roadburn, often choosing to play a full album or multiple concerts, litter their setlists with deep cuts, rarities, covers and guest appearances, or melt together with other artists for collaborative and/or specially commissioned performances you will never have experienced before, and probably never will again. Although a number of the artists on the bill are of course more established than others, there are no strict headliners at Roadburn, and this is a huge advantage for some of the lesser known and upcoming artists hand-picked by Walter Hoeijmakers to perform at this iconic festival, almost all of whom get to play in venues filled to their maximum capacity and some of whom even manage to gather crowds 10, 20, 30 times the size of what they can realistically expect at their ordinary club shows. Everyone attending the festival is in search of new experiences and as such they are far more willing to slide out of their comfort zones in favour of something challenging, and as ever, Mr. Hoeijmakers has catered to that kind of appetite with a line-up that continues to push the boundaries of what a metal-focused festival can be like. Both myself and my colleague KW thus did our best to embrace the chief booker’s philosophy and took leaps of faith galore, only to be rewarded with some of the most spectacular concerts either of us has ever seen… more on that in the Reviews section.

One thing I do want to highlight about the 2019 line-up is that where the likes of Primavera Sound Festival in Spain and the Forbrændingen venue in Denmark have been extremely vocal about blowing their own horn in the media when it comes to introducing a greater balance between male and female artists on their respective programmes, Mr. Hoeijmakers appears to have quietly done the same without making a big fuss about it. This year, Roadburn is quite simply chock full of ultra-talented female (and some queer) artists and bands with strong female leads, yet they have been given no more attention than any other in the build-up to the festival. This is how change is brought about — not via positive discrimination but merely by not making any distinction; letting it become the normal by organic means. And as such, I really have to applaud Mr. Hoeijmakers and his team for staying ahead of the curve in this regard as well.

FESTIVAL AREA

Roadburn is an urban festival centered on two clusters of venues roughly 500 metres apart, so in essence there is no strict festival area other than Tilburg itself. As ever, it is truly a pleasure to witness how the city comes together to celebrate this iconic event, with especially the so-called Weirdo Canyon (a walking street lined with bars, cafés and restaurants) really embracing the spirit of the festival with special offers and signs welcoming the attendees inside. There is somewhat less life on the terraces of these establishments this year due to the cold and unstable weather conditions but once you pop inside any of them, it feels like the place exists because of Roadburn, if only for this particular weekend. They are all filled with festival goers, journalists, photographers and celebrities all rejoicing in the special atmosphere that keeps people returning to Tilburg year after year.

Regular Roadburners will have noticed a number of differences this year — most notably the elimination of the tiny and dingy Cul de Sac venue from hosting any concerts. Instead, the Hall of Fame, which made its début last year, is now charged with hosting a greater number of artists. This is both good and bad: the Hall of Fame is quite a bit bigger than Cul de Sac, meaning that less people will have to be turned away from shows, but on the other hand, it does not have that cosy, pub-like atmosphere that made gigs at Cul de Sac such intimate experiences. Another shocking revelation is that the beloved Het Patronaat venue with its triangular roof, ornate stained glass windows and altar-like stage is playing its swan song this year, having been acquired by the local creative society AVEC for conversion into an office space. This will be a huge loss for the festival in the years to come but on a more positive note, this news means that every concert at Het Patronaat this year gets to have a special, celebratory vibe about it. Whether the space beneath the venue — V39 — will still be used to host the listening sessions and artist talks that are so integral to the Roadburn experience remains to be seen as well.

Elsewhere the festival takes place in the Poppodium 013 building, which hosts the main stage, the Green Room, as well as a basement locale used for afterparties every night, and in Koepelhal, which is a raw, industrial hall in the same complex as the Hall of Fame. In between these two venues, the festival has introduced a new indoor area called the Pitstop — presumably with the intention of transforming the Hall of Fame / Koepelhal complex into the new convergence point of the festival after Het Patronaat is no longer. Inside it there is a craft beer bar to satisfy those of us for whom the standard lager just doesn’t cut it anymore, a number of food trucks and a large seating area for resting your weary legs. On top of these things, both Emma Ruth Rundle and Marissa Nadler have art displayed in this space, while the Full Bleed exhibition features a wealth of coveted prints from the likes of John Baizley and Jacob Bannon that are available for purchase — and there are even demonstrations of how this type of print is created by the artists themselves.

If you wandered further into the hallways of this complex, there was a hidden bar with billiard, foosball and — most crucially — heating to be discovered, and if you followed them even further, you will have happened upon the Ladybird Skatepark, which Roadburn has harnessed for the purpose of hosting most of the surprise shows that have become a staple of the festival, such as the one by Great Grief pictured below. It is a pretty unique and rewarding experience to be able to watch these sets with skaters doing tricks all around you, and if you were an adrenaline junkie yourself, it was also possible to rent a board and helmet from the aforementioned hidden bar. There is huge potential in the Hall of Fame / Ladybird Skatepark / Koepelhal / Pitstop complex for becoming the new focal point of Roadburn now that Het Patronaat will no longer be available, with so many different halls in all shapes and sizes opening up a world of possibilities for the kinds of unique concert experiences the festival prides itself on being able to deliver.

Speaking of experiences, Roadburn of course also features an extensive side programme of primarily artist talks and listening sessions, with those looking to do something else than watch band after band blow their mind able to listen to and ask questions for people like Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski, Tomas Lindberg and Walter Hoeijmakers, who were only a few of the artists, musicians and industry insiders discussing a myriad topics inside the V39 space. With a packed schedule to attend to, we unfortunately did not manage to explore this aspect of the full Roadburn experience, but both myself and my colleague KW did agree that next year, we would not forego the opportunity to diversify our visit to Roadburn by attending some of these things as well.

FOOD & DRINK

Although Tilburg offers a wealth of drinkeries and eateries to quench your thirst and satisfy your hunger, there are a number of very reasonably priced options attached to the festival as well. These only accept the tokens that are available for purchase around the venues, meaning that queuing for neither food nor drink was never an issue. While it can be annoying to carry around bags full of these tokens, they really are the smoothest way to cater to so many people, most of whom are perpetually in a hurry to catch the next concert. And as a result, our reporting party almost exclusively ate and drank at these establishments, never growing bored of the surprising amount of variety available. There were the tangy spare ribs and chicken wings from a barbecue / smoker joint, Indonesian vegan dishes, sweet and savoury crêpes, various kind of fried rice, gourmet pizzas, hot dogs and kebabs — to mention only a few. Most of the venue bars also have a satisfactory selection of beverages on the menu, some of them even serving cocktails not to mention the dank produce of microbreweries. Other than the fairly high prices, there really is nothing to complain about when it comes to treating your tastebuds at Roadburn regardless of your dietary preferences or ethical convictions.

Just like in the previous years, the festival had also struck a deal with the authorities so that the dopesmokers among the Roadburn crowd (of which I presume there to be many) would be able to shop at the two branches of the Grass Company within the city limits — a privilege normally only afforded to citizens and permanent residents of the Netherlands. Anyone over the age of 18 and in possession of a valid photo ID could thus get their haze on without having to resort to criminal means, and judging by the lingering smell of marijuana pretty much anywhere you walked, this arrangement is quite popular with the Roadburn crowd, most of which has probably never tried to experience such a liberal, relaxed attitude toward cannabis culture.

REVIEWS

THURSDAY, APRIL 11TH

Myrkur: Folkesange @ 15:20 on Main Stage

Where last year, this festival for me began with a whirlwind of noisy, psychedelic black metal, this year it does so on a rather more lowkey note: with the Danish avant-garde black metal artist Myrkur offering us her interpretation on old Nordic (and some Celtic) folk music. Seated behind a candlelit grand piano, she is flanked by an ensemble of acoustic musicians from Heilung and the Jo Quail string quartet as she sends a chill through the venue with a beautiful rendition of “Skøgen skulle dø” off her 2015 album “M”, stripped of its usual black metal trimmings, yet lacking none of its evocative character in this more atavistic form. And the same is true of the following “Ulvinde” (taken from 2017’s “Mareridt”), which — in case anyone was still in doubt — underlines just how talented a singer Amalie Bruun really is, her fragile, angelic voice summoning a total silence among the couple of thousand spectators gathered here in enchantment. The two choir singers to her right also harmonise with her voice perfectly and always in the right moments to leave songs like “Himlen blev sort” and “Crown” resonating in my mind long after the set has concluded. But despite the elegance of the performance, it also feels quite intimate, thanks to Bruun’s soft and at times amusing narration and the audible tuning of the myriad traditional instruments being used in between the songs. In fact, having seen Myrkur in her main metallic incarnation multiple times now, I am tempted to say that she seems much more comfortable in this format, when she is able truly to embrace her fascination with traditional folk music. And as such, it comes as no surprise to anyone when she announces that her next album — due out later this year — will fully focus on that, as also confirmed by the world premiere of the shamanic “Leaves of Yggdrasil” from it near the end of the set. As ever, I find myself spellbound by both the music and the muted performance in a way Myrkur’s post-black metal has never done for me, leaving me more convinced than ever that her dabbling in that genre will soon be a thing of the past, as will the unfair criticism that has been heaped on her for years. Truly, Myrkur is coming of age. [8] AP


Great Grief @ 16:45 in Hall of Fame

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” serves as a juxtaposing intro to what I have heard is going to be some sort of ferocious hardcore show from Icelandic band Great Grief. And surely enough, the attitude prevalent of the genre is definitely there from frontman Finnbogi Örn who paces from side to side on the stage before breaking into some great emotional screams with a lot of force behind them. Musically, Great Grief plays a kind of schizophrenic post-hardcore giving some clear nods to some older Underoath material along with some At the Drive In-esque parts but Great Grief is clearly not a band that focuses on just one sound. “We’re at a festival that celebrates doom and stoner metal… Well, I used to listen to Black Sabbath, so this is as close as we get to something like that!”, Örn cheekily proclaims with a grin on his face before a much slower, sludgy jam comes on all the while the expressive frontman proceeds to swallow his microphone and writhe on the ground. I can’t help but shake the feeling that he might look up to Alexis Marshall from Daughters a bit, judging by his stage antics, but incredibly entertaining it definitely is. Great Grief also turns out to be a band that isn’t afraid to get aggressively political and in your face with song introductions such as ”This goes out to the catholic church. There is no God, I refuse to bow to anyone,” and after dedicating a song ”to all my queer friends as a proud bisexual male,” during some fiery d-beat hardcore to the words of ”Well you can suck my dick,”, Örn proceeds to intensely make out with guitarist Gunnar Ágúst, showing that this certainly is a band more about showing rather than just telling, which is refreshing; it feels genuine rather than just some attempt to score some political points. Some parts of the sound mixing could’ve been better to me, mainly the vocals sitting a little too high in the mix for my liking, and while Great Grief didn’t exactly perform the most original post-hardcore I’ve heard, it was one hell of an effective and memorable show. [8½] KW


Commissioned music: Molasses @ 17:20 on Main Stage

Commissioned music has, in recent years, become one of the defining aspects of Roadburn, and this year is no exception. In 2018, the focus of these special performances was on Nordic extreme metal, but given the location of the festival, it only seemed appropriate that most of them should focus on the local scene this year, beginning with Molasses. Molasses was envisioned by the surviving members of The Devil’s Blood to carry on the legacy of the late Selim Lemouchi (who died by suicide in 2014), and they are bolstered in this endeavour by Marcel van de Vondervoort (of Astrosoniq), Bob Hogenelst (from Birth of Joy) and Matthijs Stronks (of Donnerwetter) to create original music that is yet to be heard by anyone. Still, with so many musicians from The Devil’s Blood featuring in the line-up, it was to be somewhat expected that Molasses should dwell somewhere within the occult rock genre. And quite right, the ‘70s-style soundscape is familiarly eerie, reminding me at once of Coven and their ilk, albeit without the same instant appeal as Jinx Dawson’s music has. Not until the third song — a dense and atmospheric piece with a killer main riff — does any of it make sense to me, but from then on it gets easier to become lost in this stuff. The strange and sinister, David Lynch-esque vibe of the following track is especially striking, as Farida Lemouchi (aka. ‘The Mouth of Satan’) lets her booming voice sweep over us like a witch’s sermon before the song unfolds in a quasi-improvised psychedelic jam not unlike what we witnessed here in 2018 when Damo Suzuki and Earthless joined forces for a collaborative performance. Admittedly, however, some of the other songs presented do feel somewhat long drawn and leave you anxiously waiting for a climax or crescendo that may never arrive, which might explain why the crowd has thinned quite a bit as Molasses enter the final segment of their show. With a bit more direction, this darkly psychedelic constellation might have blown us all away, but even in this early form, there’s plenty to lose yourself in and at the very least, the seductively expressive antics of Farida Lemouchi on stage are extremely captivating to behold. [6] AP


Lingua Ignota @ 18:45 in Green Room

Having had the pleasure of witnessing Lingua Ignota perform a week earlier at Royal Metal Fest, that show was simply so intriguing that I had to go see her special solo performance once more here at Roadburn Festival, a festival where her eclectic avant-garde music is, expectedly, more at home than at Royal Metal Fest, drawing a gigantic crowd at the Green Room stage even before Molasses next door at the Main Stage have finished their set. Lingua Ignota seems to value the intimacy of her performances very highly as she has once again not placed herself on the actual stage but rather right in the middle of the crowd. The room is in complete darkness with a creepy, seemingly authentic recording of a city on fire projected behind the stage to further cement the thick atmosphere of her show. I am instantly touched as she begins her absolutely masterful vocals behind some mellow sounding synths, performing some kind of tribalistic ritual by placing lights inside different parts of the audience, actually appearing right in front of me at one point with a tortured expression on her face. It is simply captivating and every part of this art installation draws you in, even though the music might not be that memorable in a traditional sense of the word. A harrowing cover of Dolly Parton’s turns the lover’s qualm of the original country song into pure desperation with a single piano as instrumentation, once again showing what a one of a kind talent she really is with her voice, chillingly beautiful in one moment, possessed demonic screaming in the next.

The show evolves into unimaginable horrific synth bass as she proceeds to swing around this contraption of ropes and light bulbs, menacingly causing the shades of the audience to crawl around the walls. I can’t stress enough that to me this is art more so than music, as I probably wouldn’t pop this type of disorienting noise on at home, but man is it effective in a live setting, though the placement of Lingua Ignota in the middle means that it can be really hard to see what’s going on at times, and I can only imagine what it would be like to be all the way in the back. There is one moment where I think the extreme is probably pushed a bit too far, as there is a point where it actually sounds like a speaker has been blown out (though I later find out that the broken sound was on purpose), causing the beautiful melancholic vocals to be buried in crackling noise, which takes me out of the trance a bit. The show is ended off in a heart-stabbing manner after that little hiccup though, as I can’t hold back a tear when the haunting words of “Holy is the Name (Of My Ruthless Axe)” is sung beautifully but also emotionally broken: ”All my rapists lay beside me, all my rapists cold and grey.” I notice that I am far from the only one in the crowd visibly touched by this cathartic ending to a mesmerizing show, and I really feel lucky that Lingua Ignota is brave enough to share her pain and suffering through her music with the rest of the world, cause something really special is emanating from her. Go watch her if you have the chance and a bit of an open mind. [9] KW


Hexvessel performing “All Tree” @ 19:20 on Main Stage

Time for something way more laid back than the mostly really high intensity gigs I’ve been watching so far. Hexvessel is largely unknown to me, and what I am greeted with is some acoustic-focused folk rock with a seemingly large focus on nature, as the band is playing their latest album “All Tree” in full to some beautiful sceneries of birds, rivers, woods etc. projected behind them. And while the sound is nice, the singing emotional and talented, the acoustic melodies easy on the ears, it’s also all just pretty dull. There is almost no action going on on stage, as the musicians mostly just look down on their guitars with no real interaction with the crowd and it seems like no real climaxes or conclusions are reached in these songs; it’s all just feeling flat. Some big string arrangements does help at one point that for some reason reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean. Later, some darker tones make it more interesting and almost sound like the mellow passages found in between the explosive death metal of older Opeth, and I feel like these melancholic folk verses would probably work better for me if something exciting would happen from time to time to give it more dynamics. In the end everything just starts to blur together for me, concluding in a show that was certainly beautiful, but a boring beauty nonetheless and judging by the dwindling crowd I wasn’t alone in this sentiment. [5] KW


Slægt @ 19:20 in Het Patronaat

I remember registering my hope that Slægt would be booked for Roadburn 2019 on the festival’s Twitter account when I was watching the Danish blackened heavy metallers live last year, and soon thereafter feeling delight as my wish came true. The band is the perfect fit for the church-like Het Patronaat venue, which is just the right size so as to not smother the intensity of their performance. And if people were not familiar with the quartet yet, they will no doubt have been awestruck by the energy and intimacy of their showmanship when they unleash “Perfume and Steel” off their third and latest album, “The Wheel” — the title of the track perfectly capturing the appearance, antics and sound of this stellar live act. Whereas many other bands consider Roadburn to be the opportunity of a lifetime, Slægt seem to feel right at home on the altar here, exerting themselves with the same visceral spirit that most Danish metal fans now recognise as their ‘thing’, with guitarist Anders M. Jørgensen in particular filling every moment of the 50-minute set with his signature heartfelt moves in best hair metal fashion. During the older “Move in Chaos” (from the band’s 2015 EP “Domus Mysterium”) for instance, he gleefully rubs his back against that of guitarist/vocalist Oskar J. Frederiksen whilst the two whip out a glorious, harmonised, ‘Maiden-esque guitar solo. Both Frederiksen and bassist Olle Bergholz are completely lost in the moment, too, resulting in a performance that remains just as captivating and invigorating to watch as the first time, and as a result, once the brand new single “Black Bombs” steers the set toward its conclusion, the audience is all smiles, yours truly included. Great things lie in store for Slægt — of this there can be no doubt — and the heavy metal excess they showcase here will have done nothing to stem the band’s thunder. [8] AP


Heilung @ 21:15 on Main Stage

Despite countless opportunities to do so, I am yet to experience the phenomenon that is Heilung live. As you can understand then, my expectations for the collective’s brand of ambient folk (dubbed by themselves as ‘amplified history’) are towering, and once the constellation of musicians meets center stage in a circle to initiate the ritual, I am confident that those expectations are about to be met in some style. Heilung’s performance is like nothing I have ever seen, and judging by the astounded faces all around me, I am not alone in harbouring this sentiment. The music is creepy, shamanic and entrancing on its own, but all of these sensations are amplified by the group’s stage presence, which involves druidic outfits, atavistic percussion, a girl being tied to a stake and freeing herself from the knots, and even a band of heathen warriors who pound their spears against the ground and issue battle chants in between Maria Franz and Kai Uwe Faust’s mesmerising vocalisations. Their heads adorned with giant antlers, the two main singers employ an impressive range of vocal techniques from throat singing and growls to almost operatic howls, beguiling us with their tales rooted in the Iron and Viking Ages in the midst of hypnotic, percussion-based instrumentation. Other than that, it is not very easy to describe what the experience of seeing Heilung live is like — although words like mesmerising, otherworldly and terrifying should offer some degree of explanation. I myself remain in the band’s thrall for the duration of the performance, happily foregoing the chance to see some of what is apparently an equally spellbinding performance by Bliss Signal next door in order to drink deeply from Heilung’s well. Indeed, Heilung should figure on the top of your list of artists to see, in particular for those who are looking to experience something completely unique. [9] AP


Bliss Signal @ 22:00 in Green Room

It seems to be the norm that the stages at Roadburn are absolutely packed no matter how obscure the act is, and Bliss Signal at the Green Room stage is no exception. There is a single candle flame present on stage, wrapped in complete darkness, as two figures walk on stage, one behind a guitar, another behind his synth desk, to the sound of eerie ambience and some staccato retro synth notes which are all punctuated by brief strobe flashes, a kind of dystopian yet soothing signal to really set the mood. And that’s when I’m overwhelmed by a wall of noise and electronic blast beats, a tsunami of synth noise like the synthwave equivalent to the blackgaze movement. It’s wild and noisy but also very melodic actually and I can’t help but be incredibly impressed with the creative and wholly unique sound design at play here, it vividly gives off mental images of a dystopian, Blade Runner-esque future, all the while the strobe lights seem unending, following every beat of the blasting music perfectly and every world-ending sub-drop that seem to shake the very foundation of the stage. This definitely isn’t a show for the epileptic, as I don’t think I have ever encountered this much strobe usage before but it just works in the context of the beautiful trance soundscapes and psychedelic beats. An epic, grandiose journey that could’ve worked as the soundtrack to the next violent, existential sci-fi flick. Brilliant. [9] KW


Ovtrenoir @ 22:50 in Hall of Fame

Thunderous toms lead the way into this next act. Hypnotizing visuals of transforming geometry in black and white lights up behind Ovtrenoir, as their take on post-metal begins with a mostly droning one note riff backed by a nice, low-end focused mix. The vocals are almost clean, more like a sort of yelling that sounds like coming from inside a cavern due to the excessive amounts of reverb, with frontman William Lacalmontie expressively living and breathing the music on stage. And while their undeniably heavy post-metal in the vein of ISIS and some of The Ocean’s less proggy passages is effective, it’s also just a tad too standard for my liking. The low-end focus of the mix also has the downside that some of the riffs and chords in the high end department just completely drown, leaving it all a bit muddied but still crushing when it needs to. Ovtrenoir’s show was ultimately pretty good, but needed more standout moments like the fantastically heavy and sinister outro riff of “Inherit the Dust”. Still, I do believe there is a lot of potential to be found in this band who are still in the relatively early stages of being a band. [7] KW


Mono & The Jo Quail Quartet performing “Hymn to the Immortal Wind” @ 23:20 on Main Stage

When I finally got to watch Mono live in 2016, the experience of it was something bordering on life-changing. The Japanese band’s take on post-rock and shoegaze was unlike anything I had heard before, so naturally the prospect of their union with the Jo Quail string quartet for a performance of their revered “Hymn to the Immortal Wind” album, considered by many to be a classic of the genre, was one I had been looking forward to with keenness. And once the beautiful intro to “Ashes in the Snow” gets afoot, I can tell it will not be a disappointment. The way the guitars of Takaakira Goto and Hideki Suematsu intertwine with the cello and violins of Jo Quail and her companions would bring a tear to a glass eye and once the song hits its crescendo, it honestly feels like watching a symphony orchestra. The fact that all of the musicians apart from bassist Tamaki Kunishi remain seated for most of the performance only strengthens this impression, the moody lighting and the emotive power of the music alone succeeding in holding the audience captive. Honestly, I am not sure I have ever heard something so beautiful as “Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)”, which, wave after voluminous wave, not only sends shivers down my spine, but also manages to induce a tear or two in the corner of my eye. It is truly amazing how this band is able to convey so many feelings by instrumental means alone, leaving the crowd utterly humbled and applauding long after “Everlasting Light” has concluded the proceedings. And it seems like the four musicians that comprise Mono are keenly aware of the drama and majesty of their efforts here as — in an unusual turn of events — both Goto and Suematsu decide to stand up and unleash whirlwinds of energy multiple times during the concert in its most intense moments, giving rise to a sharp contrast between the tranquil shoegazing segments and the deafening storms of bittersweet, melodic noise that have earned this record so much acclaim. When the aforementioned “Everlasting Light” has delivered its tantalising build-up and eventual cathartic release, I feel like crying out of sheer happiness (or is it the melancholy atmosphere?), and my colleague KW looks like he is in agreement: this is one of the most stunning concerts either of us has ever seen. [10] AP


Crypt Trip @ 01:10 on Main Stage

The hour is late but there is one more artist to check out before turning in for the night: Crypt Trip. It comes as no surprise to anyone that the power trio hails from San Marcos near Austin, TX — the mecca of psychedelic music — with both their look and their sound capturing that distinct late ’60s / early ’70s feeling immaculately. There are no unexpected twists or turns to be detected in the likes of “Boogie No. 6” (off the band’s 2018 album, “Rootstock”) and “Wordshot” (off this year’s “Haze County”), but the trio plays them both tightly and with gusto, enough so to keep me moderately entertained. Still, I cannot shake the feeling that I have seen this classic rock revivalist stuff executed with much more creativity before, which results in these Texans having real trouble getting me actually excited. As anyone who regularly reads this webzine will know, I have an affinity for psych, but there needs to be more to it than replicating the ideas of the past greats to get me off my seat. And judging by the scant and dwindling turnout, there are many others who feel the same way about this disappointing end to day one of Roadburn. I thus stay long enough to confirm my initial impression but shuffle out for a good night’s sleep about two thirds into the concert. [5] AP

FRIDAY, APRIL 12TH

Gold @ 14:00 in Het Patronaat

Het Patronaat descends into total silence as the six musicians who comprise the band Gold enter without fanfare and remain eerily still while a 1920’s-style crooner melody rings from the speakers. At the centre of it is vocalist Milena Eva, standing shut-eyed and donning what looks like an oversized trench coat and tactical gloves, creating mystique around a performance that has been earmarked as one of the absolute must-sees at Roadburn this year. As such, it is no surprise they have drawn an enormous queue outside the venue, one which we were thankfully able to circumvent in our quest to experience this Dutch phenomenon live for the first time. The set is dominated by content from the group’s newly released album, “Why Aren’t You Laughing?”, but nonetheless the first track they air is “Servant” — the opener to their 2015 sophomore outing “No Image”. Although I am not familiar with the song, it follows a similar formula as the new material, mixing post-punk with elements of avant-garde pop in the vein of Björk and M.I.A.. What it and the following new track “He Is Not” also have in common is their presentation of Eva as a phenomenal front-figure not only by virtue of her evocative showmanship, but also her singing, which seems to know no bounds in terms of the spectrum it covers. She moves effortlessly from an apathetic baritone to girlish singing à la Julie Christmas and even a Jonas Bjerre-style falsetto — often in the space of a single song, as evidenced by the likes of “Old Habits” (another cut from “No Image”) and the new song “Please Tell Me You’re Not the Future”. She truly is a pleasure to behold, cementing herself as one of the most expressive, intimate and quite simply talented vocalists I have ever seen, and her outfit — which, it turns out, I mistakenly took for a mere trench coat — plays a big part in making it so, morphing and evolving into something new with each passing song, just like the music itself.

But while Eva inevitably becomes the centre of everyone’s focus, one should not discount the efforts of her five compatriots either. As guitarists Thomas Sciarone, Kamiel Top & Jaka Bolič, bassist Tim Meijer and drummer Igor Wouters lay down the soaring, intensely melancholy soundscapes that sometimes verge on classic post-hardcore and even blackgaze in the likes of “Taken by Storm”, the quintet spares no energy in trying to replicate the madness of seminal bands like At the Drive-in on stage. Seldom does one get to witness such an electrifying performance from every member of the band, and needless to say, when “Mounting into Bitterness” brings the set to a conclusion after 12 captivating songs, Gold are sent off to the tune of euphoric applause and cheering and their concert immortalised as one of those truly special occasions in the history of Roadburn Festival. [9] AP


Secret Cutter @ 15:30 in Hall of Fame

“You guys ready?” frontman and vocalist Ekim enquires before a bit of awkward silence as Secret Cutter have taken a no bullshit approach to their show, with no intro music, just a calm before the storm. ”Enjoy yourselves!” he continues in very friendly manner, before breaking out into unholy, male banshee screams in true contradictory fashion of his friendliness to the sound of complete grindcore chaos. I immediately notice that the band has no bassist, and this is not doing them any favours at first, due to the pretty bad sound mix to boot. The guitar is muddled; there is no clarity in the mid range which makes it really hard to make out anything but sludgy chugging and breakdowns. Off to a pretty bad start but luckily, the guys in Secret Cutter are incredibly quick to make my opinion of the show do a complete 180. This next song is way cooler, sporting sporadic melodic math riffs and badass breakdowns to the incessant sound of Ekim’s impressively high pitched screeches. The sound seems to be under control now as well, and the initial distaste for the lack of a bassist now turns into awe of how incredibly heavy they actually sound in spite of not having one. For something so evil and chaotic, they seem really down to earth and have some light hearted banter with the audience, instead of running with the tiring macho-bro theme that is prevalent in the hardcore scene. Secret Cutter blends a lot of different extreme metal genres to great effect, which is definitely one of the strengths of their music. This next song reaches Rotten Sound levels of disgusting grind noise before the next massive chugging breakdown comes along to try and break my neck, while the vocalist menacingly walks from side to side on stage, hunched over. One song provides this really cool intersection of doom chugs and blazing blast beats, while the next turns way more straight-forward with its melodic post-metal atmosphere. In the end, it was not a show without its flaws, but luckily flaws that were quickly corrected and I enjoyed their show a hell of a lot more than I thought I would during the first 5-10 minutes. [8] KW


Commissioned music: Triptykon & Metropole Orkest performing Celtic Frost’s “Requiem” @ 15:45 on Main Stage

By far the most ambitious undertaking in Roadburn’s 21-year history is this attempt by Celtic Frost legend Tom G. Warrior, the rest of his current band Triptykon, and the Dutch Metropole Orchestra to both resurrect and complete the unfinished “Requiem” trilogy that began as “Rex Irae” on Celtic Frost’s 1987 album, “Into the Pandemonium” and concluded as “Winter” on their swan song, 2006’s “Monotheist”. Famously, the second instalment of the saga never saw the light of day, but today, the composition is to be brought to life in full splendour on the festival’s main stage which, despite its large size, can only barely accommodate the number of instruments and musicians involved in the project. On paper, it seems unthinkable that something so grandiose would be anything other than a resounding success, yet as “Rex Irae” gets underway, it is at once hampered by a gridlocked sound mix in which the myriad instruments all seem to have trouble breaking through. What is emanating from the speakers sounds like a total mess, with only really Triptykon bassist Vanja Šlajh’s instrument, as well as the contrabass and tuba, managing to stand out. It pains me to admit it, but it is nigh impossible to find head or tail in the proceedings, and the fact that there are so many musicians on stage also means that there is no obvious focus in the show itself either. Tom G. Warrior is tucked all the way to the right behind a keyboard, from where he occasionally delivers some vocals, leaving guitarist Victor Bullok and a female singer (from, I assume, the Kobra Ensemble) to function as the central characters.

After the transition into the previously unheard second part of the trilogy, entitled “Grave Eternal”, things do begin to sound a lot more harmonious, however. I suspect this is because the piece was actually written in consultation with the Metropole Orchestra, allowing the gargantuan constellation of instruments to find a more balanced union and to better sync with one another. Some 15 minutes into it, “Grave Eternal” unfolds almost like a funeral doom piece with a majestic symphonic backdrop, focusing not on dissonant bombast but on subtlety and atmosphere. The mournful lead melody played by Bullok here is especially striking, cementing “Grave Eternal” as the definitive highlight passage in the overall composition. This is unquestionably due to the fact that it was written as a full-fledged song rather than an interlude or outro like “Rex Irae” and “Winter”, both of which honestly lose all of their purpose when taken out of their original context as is the case here. One cannot blame Tom G. Warrior for trying, but alas, with much of the ride so uneven, his vision for “Requiem” ultimately fails to convert into a satisfying resolution, leaving many a fan pouring out of the venue with disappointment glaring from their face. [6] AP


Deaf Kids & Petbrick @ 17:30 in Het Patronaat

One of the more intriguing prospects on the 2019 line-up was always going to be the experimental collaborative performance by the Brazilian noise-punks of Deaf Kids and the legendary ex-Sepultura drummer Iggor Cavalera’s side project Petbrick. On stage, none of the musicians are facing the crowd, suggesting at once that this will feel more like a jam session than a proper concert and once the music gets underway, my suspicion is confirmed. It is true that many of the songs aired are taken from Deaf Kids’ discography, but they assume a whole new character from the additional tribal percussion that Cavalera brings to the table. Throughout the show, he and Deaf Kids’ own drummer Marian alternate between playing a traditional drum kit and a set of bongos and tom-toms, yet they always seem to be in a kind of subliminal sync with one another, bolstering and complementing each other to produce some of the coolest percussion I have ever heard in music. But while this is mesmerising enough on its own, the music is rendered even more trippy by the wealth of bass, guitar and vocal delay effects deployed by the remaining musicians (Douglas Leal on guitar & vocals and Marcelo on bass guitar). It is impossible not to become completely hypnotised by this ultra-loud, intense and psychedelic séance, which makes it very difficult to leave a couple of songs early in order to catch the next show on the menu. This is something I’d like to see again! [8] AP


Anna von Hausswolff @ 17:50 on Main Stage

Having heard what magic this Swedish woman possesses in a live setting from both friends and my reviewing partner-in-crime at Roadburn this year, Anna von Hausswolff is definitely one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. Can she really live up to all that ridiculous hype and deliver this allegedly mind-blowing experience at the Main Stage of this year’s edition of Roadburn? Well, as it turns out, the spell takes about 10 seconds to kick in when she starts playing and I am almost certain that every single thing I’ve been told is about to come true. I’m strapping myself in for this ride.

Hausswolff is a mere silhouette behind her keyboard from the blue hued light emitting from behind her. Like a sinister church player, the layered organ intro of “The Truth, The Glow The Fall” fills the room with a thick miasma of sound supported by silky smooth vocals, before leading way into a more rhythmic section with added drums while the smoothness of the vocals are replaced with a much more powerful and evocative performance. This is the first of many points where my jaw hits, and proceeds through, the floor. The complete control Hausswolff has over her voice is a gift not many possess, hitting these completely mesmerizing high notes and adding little touches of pure, unadulterated emotion that gives her voice so much depth and so many layers. The track ends with some incredibly blissful ambience as the vocals start to sound raspy and intense, like the beauty is peeling away to reveal a darker underside. It took only one track, one track (albeit a 12 minute long one), to leave me completely dumbstruck at what I am so very lucky to be witnessing.

Another mastodon of a track, running in at 16+ minutes, “Ugly and Vengeful”, rejects the more embracing nature of the first track and welcomes in the darkness. It fully sounds like being stuck in the middle of a coven on the mission to opening up a portal to hell with its mantras and occult sounding synth soundscape. Hausswolff sounds fragile and almost childlike in between possessed groans like the demon in her is leering out. The ritual continues and is now full blown satanic doom backed by blasphemic organ playing, until she starts banging her head and pounding her fist furiously when the track fully takes off into its tribal beats to the sound of dissonant and disorienting organ sounds and spine-chilling wails straight out of a horror movie. You can almost hear and feel the vengeful spirits being released into the crowd at this point. Moreover, she isn’t just otherworldly talented musically, but lives and breathes every track with her whole body and soul and is just so captivating and powerful to watch perform. The album “Dead Magic” might be a great listen on record, but this is its true form, magnificent to every degree in a live setting and the fantastic rendition of “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra” further solidifies this with its acoustic folk doom or whatever I am supposed to call this, with some more astounding use of voice, like a witch-form Dolly Parton at one point and screaming like being stabbed by a dagger in the next. “Come Wander with Me / Deliverance” provides some 70s psych vibes to the mix with yet another completely hypnotizing vocal performance before thanking her whole band and the crowd for joining her to the biggest applause I’ve heard at the festival yet.

I tried my best to describe what the gig felt like in this review but to be honest, it is one of those rare things where you simply have to witness it to believe it. None of these stupid words can do it justice. Anna von Hausswolff has the voice, the creativity, the musical vision of a generation. The main bulk of the songs played come off the album that might have gotten the name “Dead Magic” but to me, the magic at this show felt very much alive. It touched me to my very core. It is quite simply one of the best shows I have ever watched in my entire life and therefore it would be a crime not to give it my very first perfect score as a writer for Rockfreaks. Truly transcendental. [10] KW


Conjurer @ 18:30 in Hall of Fame

That Conjurer is seen to be one of the most conventional artists on the bill this year says a lot about Roadburn’s line-up. The Rugby, United Kingdom-based sludge / post-metal group have a distinctly modern sheen about their sound that has led some people to dub them a metalcore band, albeit the heaviest variant, and while this might be off-putting for some of the connoisseurs at this festival, the enormous queue snaking out of the Hall of Fame after the four-piece has already begun its onslaught tells a different story. Thankfully, I manage to skip it with my press wristband to find bassist Conor Marshall windmilling like a madman to the tune of “Hollow” (off the band’s 2018 album “Mire”), while guitarist Brady Deeprose is laying down some seriously crushing riffs bordering on djent. The music remains extremely heavy and noisy throughout, yet there are also some calmer, atmospheric passages to be discovered in the likes of the standout “Scorn” (the only song on the setlist representing 2016’s “I” EP) that diversify the listening experience. Still, I would be lying if I claimed it wasn’t the savaging voice of Dan Nightingale or the sledgehammering riffs churned out by Deeprose that leave the greatest impression on me in the absence of material that is immediately catchy. Songs like “Of Flesh Weaker Than Ash” and “Hadal” are skilfully composed, but without prior familiarity with the group’s output, it is admittedly not something that leaves me breathless. Both the music and the intensity of the quartet’s showmanship nonetheless inspires me to make a mental note to check Conjurer out again on record as well as live when the next opportunity arises, because this kind of raw yet also melodic post-metal tends to be exactly my cup of tea. [7] AP


Young Widows performing “Old Wounds” @ 18:50 in Koepelhal

Next in line for me is another band who come highly recommended: the Louisville, KY-based trio Young Widows, who certainly seem to have their ‘90s and early ‘00s post-hardcore references in order. As the band kicks off with “Took a Turn”, the raw and noisy sound that hits me instantly reminds me of Drive Like Jehu, while the barren stage setup and boorishly glowing pale yellow lights are also telltale signs of an artist looking to that era for inspiration. The group’s back-to-basics-style performance has failed to attract an audience worthy of justifying their placement in the Koepelhal venue, which unfortunately means that most of the passion and intensity that are no doubt the hallmarks of a typical Young Widows gig seep through the cracks, causing the attendee numbers to dwindle even further with each passing song. It also feels like songs like “Old Skin” and “The Heat Is Here” do not have what it takes to invite people onboard purely on the basis of a live set, offering just coldness and dissonance and anguished singing by the two frontmen, guitarist Evan Patterson and bassist Nick Thieneman. I remember listening to Young Widows’ 2014 album “Easy Pain” and getting a completely different impression, with the likes of “Godman” and “Kerosene Girl” bringing more memorabilia into the mix and it would perhaps been to the band’s advantage if they opted for a career retrospective set rather than this full-album performance of “Old Wounds”, which to me seems hampered by a zero-hooks policy. There is nothing wrong with the swagger of these songs, but on the other hand, nobody on the floor seems to be ‘getting it’, resulting in indifferent reactions all around me. [5] AP


Svalbard @ 20:00 in Hall of Fame

Time for some more hardcore at a packed Hall of Fame stage. Svalbard came on my radar last year with the release of the politically charged “It’s Hard to Have Hope”, so I was very much looking forward to this performance. Serena Cherry’s rough, desperate screams take center stage as the band starts blasting out their emotional blackgaze-infused post-hardcore about central political hot topics in this day and age such as feminism, revenge porn, abortion and animal rights etc. Fittingly heavy topics to their heavy, hopeless sounding music, carried out with conviction and great force from everyone on stage and the energy is buzzing in the front of the crowd. The mix of post-rock tremolo twinkling guitars and fast punk d-beats is something I am personally a great sucker for, and while this is definitely delivered in droves, Svalbard is unfortunately hit with one of the first average sound mixes of the festival, which has otherwise been spot-on for nearly every band. The instrumental side is way too bassy for this type of music in my opinion, which causes some of the really beautifully melancholic melodies and atmospheres to drown in bass rumbling. In the end what you can mainly make out is power chords, bass and vocals, any detail and intricacy is lost in the pursuit to make it sound as heavy as possible. A real shame but Svalbard’s energetic performance and convincing stage presence keeps it from being bad, just a personal disappointment to my high hopes. [7] KW


Thou & Emma Ruth Rundle @ 20:30 in Koepelhal

Arriving in the cavernous Koepelhal somewhat delayed, the hyped collaboration between sludge metal cult icons Thou and the avant-garde singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle is already underway and immediately, I am struck by the impression that this concert is going to be special. With the combined might of two bands on stage — including four guitarists! — the sound emanating from the stage is nothing short of monolithic, making it difficult to discern whose songs this constellation is playing at any given moment. This is not really important, however, as the tracks they have selected from one another’s discographies (plus a number of covers, such as “Hollywood” by The Cranberries) are rendered into a completely different format than what their fans will be used to hearing, ensuring that regardless of how avid a fan one considers oneself, the show is full of surprises. What strikes me the most about it are the stark contrasts created by the savage growling of Thou vocalist Bryan Funck and the smoky, evocative singing of Rundle. But as mesmerising as this is to behold, I can’t shake the feeling that neither of the two artists actually manage to improve each other’s material. They are innovating on it to be sure, but the devastatingly grimy sludge riffs of Andy Gibbs & Matthew Thudium never seem comfortable within the gloomy soundscapes of Rundle’s songs, just as Rundle’s understated singing seldom brings any benefit to the slow dirge of Thou’s ditto. It is cool to watch these two talented outfits synergising so well on stage and putting on such an intense performance, but with the exception of the aforementioned cover track, there just aren’t enough moments that truly stand out from the set to leave me raving about it afterward. [7] AP


Mono @ 21:20 in Het Patronaat

As though one journey into cinematic post-rock weren’t enough, early in the morning the festival revealed that Mono would be playing a second concert in the evening, one which would focus on the darker aspects of their music. Needless to say, with the splendour of their initial set still giving me chills today, it was never a question for me whether I would be checking out this one as well, and as such I am quite surprised to discover no queue and a rather limited turnout at this venue in spite of the more intimate setting. “God Bless” and “After You Comes the Flood” (both taken from Mono’s newest opus “Nowhere Now Here”, which came out early this year) are perfect as the openers to a drabber set, though of course in the context of Mono’s universe, drab still translates to a tsunami of scintillating melodies that hit you right in the ‘feels’. The colossal “Death in Rebirth” from 2016’s “Requiem for Hell” is a good example, slowly picking up the pace and evolving into an epic crescendo as the two guitarists — seated as always — stack layer upon layer of noisy, reverberating melody onto Dahm Majuri Cipolla glacial rhythm. As with the performance of “Hymn to the Immortal Wind” on the previous day, it really is difficult to imagine music more beautiful than what we are witnessing here during the likes of “Dream Odyssey” (off the band’s 2012 album “For My Parents”), and it only heightens the experience that the four musicians deliver them with so much nerve. It takes special talent to create intensity out of such an inert stage performance as this, but with a combination of moody lighting, impassioned expressions, and a level of volume that constantly teases the decibel killswitch, the band manages exactly that. It pains me that I am unable to watch all of this concert due to a tight schedule, but based on the 20 minutes that I have seen, it seems unthinkable that this performance would not have once again been a triumph. [8] AP


Pijn @ 21:30 in Hall of Fame

A troupe of very humbled brits enter the Hall of Fame stage with “Loss” (the title of their debut full-length record) written in cursive behind them, thanking everyone for joining them for some, hopefully, serene and heavy post-rock. Moody chords and arpeggios start from the guitars with the underlying drawn out melodies of the accompanying live cello providing some nice depth to the mix. And it’s great to hear that the problem with clarity in the sound department that has been a little bit prevalent at this stage is all but gone, it’s all very clear, leaving room for each instrument while not sacrificing any heaviness in the process. At first it might seem that it’s just some fairly standard, dark post-rock that Pijn is presenting, but the band brings much more to the table than that. In the next moment, the groove is turned up a notch to really get those neck muscles going, and the guitarist also pulls off the occasional post-metal yell resembling Cult of Luna a lot, though most of the show is carried out instrumentally. Now a sinister lead melody with awesome offbeat cymbal play from the drummer is introduced with the wonderfully chaotic atmospheres of “Denial”, which pretty accurately paints a picture of both anger and isolation correlating to the first stage of grief. See, while I don’t necessarily think Pijn are reinventing the wheel, they do have a meticulous ear for painting a tapestry, which is of course of utmost importance when there is the bare minimum of actual singing. “Distress” really nails this aspect as it does really sound like the deterioration of a grieving mind, with its creepy clean riffed, odd-time signature middle section where the drumming once again really shines and the cello gets completely enveloped in eerie effects and screechy noises. The show just generally flows really well between a lot of intensity points from both the beautiful and the heavy bleakness of the topic of “Loss”, so even though Pijn are not exactly doing anything I haven’t encountered before, the show was a rock solid performance of depression-inducing post-rock/metal. [8] KW


At The Gates @ 22:00 on Main Stage

Under ordinary circumstances, At the Gates would probably not have been high on the list of artists Roadburn mastermind Walter Hoeijmakers wanted to book. But with vocalist Tomas Lindberg curating a significant portion of the line-up this year, it was inevitable that the legendary Swedish band would also be playing in spite of not falling under the avant-garde, experimental or progressive labels. And in keeping with the spirit of this festival, the group has of course compiled a special setlist for the occasion, kicking things off with a cover of King Crimson’s “Red” and delivering a good handful of surprises during their lengthy concert. As the classic “Slaughter of the Soul” off its namesake 1995 album erupts from the sound system, it also becomes blatantly obvious that Lindberg and his cohorts are in an euphoric mood, the aging frontman storming from side to side, waving his arms and imposing himself on the audience with a mortifying authority. The rest of the band looks just as hellbent on turning this into a legendary occasion, mustering up every bit of energy their bodies have to give to make sure the intensity of the show never dwindles. The song is followed by “The Burning Darkness”, a rarely aired deep cut from the band’s 1993 offering “With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness”, which earns a rapturous reaction from the audience, and soon thereafter the band is joined by Anna von Hausswolff for their interpretation of the hugely influential minimalist composer Philip Glass’ song “Koyaanisqatsi”, which also sees guitarist Martin Larsson trying his skill at throat singing — hardly something anyone would have expected to experience at an At the Gates concert. And while the subsequent “Colours of the Beast” is not a rarity per se, featuring on the Gothenburg act’s latest album, 2018’s “To Drink from the Night Itself”, its slower and doomier disposition has kept it far from their setlists until tonight, rendering it a welcome addition for those of us who have watched At the Gates live countless times by now.

Later on, long standing fans also surely rejoice in witnessing both “Windows” and “The Scar” off the band’s 1992 début album “The Red in the Sky Is Ours” played live, the former for the first time since 2015 and the latter for the first time ever. It is these kinds of inroads coupled with covers and guest musicians like Matt Pike (of High on Fire and Sleep), who is wearing a shirt for once and joins in for the band’s take on Trouble’s classic “Tempter”, Rob Miller (of Amebix and Tau Cross), who is invited to sing on both “Daggers of Black Haze” and “The Mirror Black”, and the Jo Quail Quartet, who introduce even more drama to a number of songs near the end of the set, that make what could easily have been just another day at the office for At the Gates into a singular, unforgettable experience for their fans, yours truly included. If there is anything to complain about, it is that the encore proves to be somewhat of a dampener, spitting out a pair of tracks from the group’s two latest albums in lieu of a proper, triumphant sendoff. It is unlikely that At the Gates will ever repeat a concert of this nature though, so in the end it is euphoria, not disappointment I feel when the proceedings are finally brought to a conclusion at 20 tracks in total. [9] AP


Craft @ 23:40 in Koepelhal

Dashing over to Koepelhal, another one of Lindberg’s choice picks has just gotten started with discharging black metal with a rock’n’roll edge not unlike some of Taake’s material. Craft is not a well-known outfit but they do have some stardust in the shape of guitarist Joakim Karlsson, who just recently quit his role in Bloodbath in order to focus on this rawer and less technical style of extreme metal. The musicians certainly look and act the part — especially vocalist Mikael ‘Nox’ Pettersson, who wears leather sleeves adorned with ominous-looking metal spikes on either arm and carries himself with a militaristic clout as he growls and snarls his way through the likes of “The Cosmic Sphere Falls” (off last year’s “White Noise and Black Metal”) and “Come Resonance of Doom” (taken from the band’s 2011 outing “Void”). Apart from Pettersson’s imposing manner though, the rest of the band’s antics are neither as wild nor as confrontational as would befit music of this nature, leaving me with mixed feelings about the band overall. I am a sucker for their attitude and bluntness, the groove of songs like “Fuck the Universe” (off its namesake 2005 album), and the band’s utter disregard of what some traditionalist might feel black metal ought to sound like. But at the same time, I want to be rattled to the core by an equally belligerent performance, and this is sadly where Craft still need to up the ante somewhat. Solid, but never amazing stuff. [7] AP


Bosse-de-Nage @ 00:20 in Green Room

Bosse-de-Nage isn’t a band very familiar to me before today’s performance, but I’ve heard there’s blackgaze on the menu, and I always have room for some more blackgaze. And sure enough, blast beats, tremolo-picked guitars and lofty melodies are served but I do quickly catch a tint of a punky vibe in both the screaming and mathcore-ish, chaotic drumming. It’s all very intense, with frontman Bryan Manning’s raw screams and desperate stage presence being a focal point, living every word he spews out, writhing on the floor and almost constantly wearing a tortured facial expression. However, I am missing some general memorable moments and grandness to the set. I can’t really pinpoint whether it’s due to the sound mix or not, but the atmospheric melodies just aren’t soaring as much as I’d hoped and at one point the clean guitar parts even sound louder than when everything is blowing away on all cylinders? Very strange, but the high-tempo intensity of “The Trench” and the screamo intro of “A Faraway Place” definitely leave a lasting impression. Bosse-de-Nage unfortunately didn’t really capture me throughout the entire set, but is in the end saved by a captivating expression of emotion from a great frontman and some pretty fantastic drumming. [7] KW


Loop @ 00:20 on Main Stage

While the two other members of our reporting party are in the Green Room finding out what Bosse-de-Nage is all about, I am struggling to keep myself awake. Therefore, I see no other option than to wander into 013’s main room to watch at least some of the British space rock pioneers Loop’s much recommended concert. But after only a few minutes of the veterans’ opening track, “Precession” off their 2015 album “Array 1”, my weariness disappears and is swiftly replaced by enchantment. Unlike Crypt Trip last night, these Britons have a penchant for hooking the audience in with immediate effect with their hypnotically iterating bass lines, space age melodies and megaphonic vocals. After that song is brought to a conclusion, guitarist/vocalist Robert Hampson asks, “Can we get a lot more strobes? Like, a lot more?”, and what follows is an absolutely breathtaking light show to accompany his band’s mesmerising rendition of the classic “Straight to Your Heart” (taken from 1987’s “Heaven’s End”). His request for more strobes is well and truly met to generate an otherworldly flicker around the projected backdrop, which displays twelve multicoloured orbs in constant, mesmerising movement… a spectacle which is then promptly surpassed by the production during the following “Black Sun” (off the group’s 1989 record “Fade Out”). The best way to describe the visual aesthetic here is to liken it to exploding rainbows, with kaleidoscopic imagery and every light available in the venue’s rig combining in a glorious celebration of colour. Yes, in terms of the visuals, Loop deliver one of the most dazzling performances at the festival this year, and if you like your music shroomy and jammed out with a kind of tongue-in-cheek “We know we’re good” attitude, then musically, too, it goes down as a definitive highlight. Having personally never stumbled across Loop before despite their renown, for me the show is an unexpectedly captivating way to hammer the nails to another day full of new musical experiences and surprises, and when I emerge from the other end after the standalone single “Burning World” from 1987 in the encore, tiredness is the last thing I feel — I feel revitalised and overcome by euphoria. [9] AP

SATURDAY, APRIL 13TH


Witte Wieven @ 15:00 in Het Patronaat

It’s time for some home brewed black metal from the Dutch underground, of course blasphemously played at the church stage of Het Patronaat. Witte Wieven has brought 3 lit orb lamps on stage to the backdrop of a secluded walk through a dark, grim forest at night. Can the band live up to this evocative stage setup? Let’s find out. First impression is pretty good, we got some melodic yet evil sounding blackgaze arpeggios spiced with some drawn out female vocals from guitarist Carmen. They aren’t really stand-out vocals, mind you, but does the job of adding an extra layer to the sinister soundscape. No words are spoken after the end of the song, to not break the spell of the seance in progress. And that’s when the next filthy song hits like an absolute truck with a heavy as all hell black metal riff interconnected with earth-shattering chugs and grim dissonance. What a blow to the face this is, the sound is just ridiculously heavy and the track ever evolving, now turning into some horrific doom-like atmospheres before ringing out. This all leads way into an utterly beautiful, trance-inducing intro and while I at first wasn’t blown away by the vocal performance in the first track, Carmen steps up completely from the held back melodies and delivers some absolutely spine-tingling high notes in some transcendental, massive atmospheres. Everything culminates perfectly right here and the oppressive, yet beautiful darkness of the music clashes amazingly with the Christian stained glass windows of the venue. These next couple of tracks get way more into post-metal territory and one fantastic offbeat chugging riff and pounding drums definitely gives off some The Ocean vibes, much to my approval. Witte Wieven seems to really have a knack of juxtaposing beauty and thoroughly unsettling sounds and while generally this type of music is very much the zeitgeist of the underground metal scene of the moment, the band has a whole bag of standout moments to avoid falling into redundancy. One of the biggest surprises of the weekend for me personally, Witte Wieven succeeds in delivering a memorable and crushing performance and lives up to the unnerving visuals of the stage. You’ve officially got yourselves a new fan. [9] KW


Gore @ 16:10 in Koepelhal

“Do you know what the best part about being an instrumental band is? We have no singer.”, tries Martin van Kleef in a misguided attempt at dry humour and is met by complete silence in the scantly populated Koepelhal. His band Gore, which originally existed from 1985 to 1997 and was resurrected last year, has just staggered through a piece of avant-garde crossover thrash without garnering any sort of reaction from the audience in spite of the fact that the trio is on home ground here in the Netherlands. But for me the lacklustre response makes perfect sense, given how uninviting, not to mention unrewarding the trio’s songs are. The music seems to consist exclusively of intros and bridges haphazardly stitched together, resulting in a disarray of strange time signatures and stop/start dynamics, as well as the most elementary of riffs that never seem to go anywhere. In between the stops and starts the soundscape is filled with birds chirping, roosters cuckooing and dark, elusive spoken word samples that seem to serve no other purpose than to wrap Gore into an artsy veil. When the three musicians play their songs, they do so with plenty of energy however, slamming, swinging and touting their instruments like a band with something to prove. But this one redeeming factor is not enough to stop the perplexed crowd thinning with each passing track, nor myself from wondering what Gore are hoping to achieve now they’ve just delivered “Revanche”, a reimagined version of their cult 1992 album, “Lifelong Deadline”. Sometimes things should stay in the past where they belong. [4] AP


Noisepicker @ 16:50 in Hall of Fame

Only two people present on stage, a guitarist and a drummer, that’s surprising! A self-proclaimed ‘riff’em and blues’ band, you can definitely understand why right out of the gate. Noisepicker grimes their way through exceedingly overdriven bluesy psych rock, but does come off somewhat thin sounding due to the lack of a bassist. Frontman Harry Armstrong convincingly yells his way through one groovy blues track after the other and at times gives off some clear Tom Waits-inspired low register gargles, but none of it is really grabbing my attention firmly. By this point it’s basically just your standard blues band with some added metallic fuzziness. The riffs are pretty by the numbers, not bad per se, but not all that interesting either. Luckily, they somewhat turn it around with the introduction of this next track: ”This song is about shit that sucks!” and the stoner vibes are turned all the way up, including a really cool groovy chugging part, followed by some really noisy shit that finally lives up to what I was expecting from a name like Noisepicker. The two members are enjoying themselves a hell of a lot and starts yelling away from the microphone in unison “I hear you talking but it sounds like bullshit to me!” in a fun little punk gimmick, before this next track is almost just straight up old-school fast heavy metal. Enjoyable, but heard a million times before which is my general consensus with this gig as a whole. A raw little change of pace from the experimental outbursts of the festival, but not exciting enough in its simplicity or unoriginality. [6] KW


Morne @ 18:00 in Koepelhal

Rumbling noise and foreboding toms lead the way for Morne as they enter the stage of Koepelhal before breaking into stoned post-metal riffs backed by the signature angry yells of the genre. The sound I’m getting is fairly traditional post-metal in the vein of Neurosis and Isis, long build-ups and sludgy tones and sure this is all here but the rather introverted stage presence makes it a rather uninvolved experience to watch and it seems that there isn’t really any real development in this track apart from the occasional thunderous double pedals. This first track just turns out a bit to drone for my liking, but luckily the next couple of tracks turns up the grit and heaviness, with the octave-riffed, evil lead melody of “Not Our Flame” being complimented powerfully by the grand sound mixing. “I Will See You” turns the mood way more somber and almost sounds like old-school Mastodon in its sludgy middle section. These cuts definitely help lifting up my initial impression, even though the general stage performance still hasn’t become more enticing. Don’t get me wrong, they perform their instruments well but right now they aren’t really giving me any solid reason why I should be listening to this live instead of just on record. And a general gripe I have with some of these songs is that they don’t always lead up to that big satisfactory payout from testing your patience by listening to the same rumbling, repeating riff over and over again, which is usually what makes the genre work. Morne definitely had the sound, instrumentals and powerful screams going for them, I just hoped something more exciting would’ve occurred on stage and in songwriting. [7] KW


Cave In @ 18:50 on Main Stage

One of the most anticipated concerts this year on my list was without a doubt Cave In’s return to the stage after a long pause, which was exacerbated by the tragic passing of the band’s bassist Caleb Scofield in 2018. The band’s guitarist/vocalist Stephen Brodsky has been a regular visitor to Roadburn for many years, however, and with a new album from Cave In (“Final Transmission”) recently announced, the time was indeed ripe for the group to return to European soil, with Nate Newton (of Converge) wielding the bass guitar. The show is preceded by an unusual, but cool soundcheck during with Converge briefly joins the band on stage for a cover of Zozobra’s “Emanate”, leading many in the audience to believe that the actual performance, too, might feature some cameos. Unexpectedly, this does not actually happen during any of the 12 songs on the setlist, which takes us on a journey through all of Cave In’s six studio albums (including the upcoming “Final Transmission”) as well as a couple of their EPs. And even more surprisingly, none of the humour that has been so integral to Brodsky’s stage persona throughout his career is present either; the quartet seems satisfied with delivering the tracks tightly and not interacting with the crowd in between them. It must be an emotional moment for Brodsky, guitarist Adam McGrath and drummer John-Robert Conners to be standing here without their fallen comrade, which no doubt explains the serious mood of their set — there is even a deliberate empty space on the left side of the stage where Scofield would normally have stood, with the entire setup of amplifiers and instruments shifted ever so slightly to the right in his honour.

But while the mood is not as congenial as it has been at past concerts by Cave In, this does not stop the quartet from performing with their customary energy and grit. And there are moments when the four musicians converge into a bundle in the centre of the stage, as though drawing strength from one another in order to render songs like “Joy Opposites” (off 2003’s “Antenna” LP) and “Big Riff” (off 2000’s “Jupiter” LP) into the best possible tribute to Scofield. It seems to work, with all four of them then erupting into a séance of wild rocking out when their famed mixes of alternative rock, post-hardcore and progressive metal reach their noisiest climaxes. It is a heartwarming and life-affirming concert then, though nonetheless one that also feels a little distant compared to what fans will be used to experiencing from this band. [8] AP


Orchestra Of Constant Distress @ 20:00 in Green Room

Onwards into the Green Room, where another one of Tomas Lindberg’s apparent must-haves for the festival have already begun their set. Formed by ex-members of Brainbombs and Skull Defekts — two artists I have never, ever heard of before — Orchestra of Constant Distress live up to their moniker with a barrage of caustic instrumental noise-rock that I refer to as minimal techno played with real instruments in my notes. I suspect that the rationale behind my dubbing them as such is that their music is very iterative and rhythmic in form, inspiring not only some of the spectators, but also the band’s guitarist to show off some rave moves during some of the segments when he is not striking his chords with violence. I also note that there is something quite vile about the sound of these songs that seem purposefully designed for discomfort — yet at the same time, they are so captivating to listen to. Unfortunately, in order to secure a good vantage point next door for one of the main events at Roadburn this year, I am forced to leave this hypnotic performance early, making a mental note for giving the group’s début album “Cognitive Dissonance” a spin when it is released the following weekend. [7] AP


Sleep performing “Holy Mountain” @ 20:50 on Main Stage

The aforementioned main event is of course Sleep’s full performance of their 1992 classic “Holy Mountain”, which is generally regarded as one of the cornerstones of the stoner rock genre. The mood is perfectly set by the Apollo 11 moon landing radio transmission before the three musicians emerge from backstage and set loose the familiar swagger of “Dragonaut”, sending a roar of approval resonating through the maxed out venue. True to this band’s style, the stage production is quite barren except for the two monolithic stacks of cabinets towering on either side of drummer Jason Roeder, while the smoke effects are willingly provided by the audience, which is (expectedly) in blatant disregard of the no-smoking rule in effect. Spliffs exchange owners all around me, with even one of the bartenders to my right having a toke during the droning, anodising riffage in “The Druid”, indicating that the first of the two ultimate stoner rituals Roadburn has in store for us is now in progress. Those of us who are not partial to smoking up need not worry either, as the hypnotically repeating riffs and bass lines laid down by guitarist Matt Pike and bassist Al Cisneros — delivered at an astonishing volume of course — not to mention the mantric singing of the latter, are just as haze-inducing on their own.

Speaking of Cisneros: the aging bassist seems to be in high spirits today, carrying himself with far more energy than I remember from my previous encounters with Sleep. The likes of “Some Grass” and “Aquarian” sound so good I feel like bending the knee and bowing to these gods of the riff, and when you combine them with the ubiquitous stench of marijuana lingering inside the room, it all starts to feel like a ritual rather than a mere concert. Indeed, Sleep come across as so quintessentially stoning here that the show almost feels like a caricature — especially when the trio engages in a 25-minute jam segment extracted from their 1998 offering “Dopesmoker” after bringing “Holy Mountain” to a conclusion. I am convinced that Sleep would happily continue dishing out their drugged up stoner doom for another couple of hours had they not been given a time slot limited to ‘only’ 150 minutes… but then I remember there’s another set of equal length planned for the following evening, focusing on their latest album “The Sciences” from 2018. Without uttering a single word during their concert, the band eventually exits the stage after busting out their standalone single from 2017, “The Clarity”, no doubt pleased by their ability to send more than 3,000 people on a psychedelic trip with only music as their weapon. [8] AP


Dodecahedron @ 21:20 in Het Patronaat

Het Patronaat is surprisingly jam packed for these Dutch black masters, even before the hyped show with Sleep on Main Stage is over, but I guess this can be somewhat attributed to their home turf status and with this gig being, unfortunately and tragically, special tonight. In terrible news, their original singer and founding member Michiel Eikenaar passed away merely a day before their appearance at Roadburn and nobody would’ve expected them to actually carry through with their show. Nevertheless, the members of Dodecahedron have decided to pay their respects to their fallen brother with this one show, a final parting gift. The emotional impact of it all is definitely tangible in the air and as the intro-rumble cataclysmically makes the walls shake in the dark void that is the room, one of the guitarists walks in front and replaces the usual devil horns gesture with a single index finger in the air. The emotionally multi-faceted instrumental “Interlude” kicks things off with its sinister black post-metal and an impossibly heavy chugging drone that really solidifies how absolute gigantic the sound is, before the chaos finally takes form in “Tetrahedron”, an almost anti-melodic wall of sound and unsettling chord progressions à la Deathspell Omega or Portal, almost mentally distressing to listen to in its complex wormhole of crazy dissonance, reverb-drenched gargling vocals from William Von Der Voort and blast beats enough to feed a thousand thirsty metal fans. It’s just absolutely insane from the get go, played with surgical precision from everyone involved, while still impressively having the surplus energy to fiercely headbang.

“Hexahedron” continues the trend of blowing me backwards but also includes some slower unnerving passages to give a brief sense of safety before hitting the crowd with another wave of noise. At times I think it almost becomes too dissonant for me, too ugly and unforgiving, but what really makes this gig shine is the surprising amount of variation found in both sound and instrumentation. Jasper Barendregt’s drumming ranges from the blistering speeds of blasting, to more Danny Carey-esque tom interplay and even some, dare I say, djenty modern grooves. The guitar layers even turn nightmare-jazz on the perplexing middle section of “Allfather”, with the main driving force behind Dodecahedron’s writing seemingly being about embracing the terrifying aspect of dissonance, through many different styles. The self-referentially titled track “Dodecahedron” finally shines some light through the abyss with bright synths and groovy drumming. It could’ve seemed misplaced to put such a weirdly melodic track after all that cacophonous brutality but it just works so well, perhaps also given the sad context described earlier. This track really captivates and strikes me, and people are visibly tearing up around me. The gradual slowdown of “Icosahedron” provides the last assault on the ears, disintegrating more and more into unfathomable noise before instantly cutting out to end this tour-de-force of hideousness and occasional blissful beauty. Coming through the tragedy that is losing a dear friend and converting it into such a fantastic show cannot have been easy. I can’t really speak for anyone in the band or the late original frontman, but I believe he would’ve been proud. [9] KW


Commissioned music: Maalstroom @ 23:00 in Het Patronaat

The build-up to the third and final specially commissioned performance at Roadburn Festival this year has been underway throughout the day at Het Patronaat, with Dutch black metal outfits such as Witte Wieven, Turia, Laster and Terzij de Horde all delivering individual performances in advance of joining forces beneath the Maalstroom banner for this late night spectacle. As well as musicians from those four bands, the project comprises members of Fluisteraars, Folteraar, Grey Aura, Project Nefast and Verwoed to bring the headcount to more than a dozen in total… which naturally raises the question: how will they pull this off on the small-ish altar of a stage in this venue? It turns out that — unlike the Waste of Space Orchestra and Vánagandr: Sól án varma projects of 2018 — this collaboration operates not as a horde of musicians all on stage together, but on a rotating basis with no more than five musicians performing at any given moment. These rotations occur surprisingly seamlessly, never troubling the continuity of the set, which encompasses a myriad styles of black metal from the avant-garde to the atmospheric. Some of the compositions are staggeringly well written, yet with so many tangents to follow, it is sometimes hard to follow the red chord flowing through the entire performance. Unlike the commissioned performances of 2018 mentioned above, Maalstroom consists of individual tracks that both complement and contrast with one another, and while a good number of these juxtapositions are very successful, there are definitely also moments in which it feels there is need of a clearer focus. If you have been watching any of the individual concerts from the bands involved during the day, there are no surprises to be had in terms of the showmanship either, which remains very much a still-standing, albeit still quite imposing affair throughout. One must commend the masterminds behind this undertaking for ensuring it is executed without seams, but at the same time, one might have hoped for some more grandiose, or better yet, transcendental moments to really lift this thing off the ground. [6] AP


SUNDAY, APRIL 22ND

Daughters @ 16:10 on Main Stage

The intimidating, smokey face from the album art of “You Won’t Get What You Want” hovers over the Main Stage. Another gig I have been highly anticipating after becoming aware of the band through the madness of the aforementioned album, I had heard of how mental a Daughters show could potentially be. And frontman Alexis Marshall definitely doesn’t waste any time in showing his rock ‘n’ roll confidence: walks on stage, removes the mic from the mic stand, drops it loudly on the floor and slowly drags the stand off to the other side to remove it, before returning to pick up the mic before letting out his signature, deluded, rambling vocals to the noisy “The Reason They Hate Me” - a song that sounds like Queens of the Stone Age on a bad acid trip with it’s driving bass and overt use of high pitched dissonant guitar riffs. Marshall is more animal than man when he roars ”I’ll cry about it because I want to!” on “Lords Song” with its icy atmosphere and punk drums. It’s thoroughly uncomfortable and thoroughly fantastic in every regard. The sound is insane, every band member gives it their all even though it’s hard not to be completely swallowed up by Marshall’s mad antics on stage, swallowing the mic, clawing at his chest, spitting on himself - a pretty perfect personification of Daughters’ music as a whole really. “Satan In The Wait” is definitely still as unsettling as the other tracks but mixes it with astonishing beauty in the guitar department through the otherworldly use of pitching and reverb effects to the sound of Marshall exclaiming alongside a shouting, excited crowd ”Their bodies are open. Their channels are open. This world is opening up!”. The insane layers and heavy bass playing of the outro here completely blows me away, it’s just such a unique sound of glistening leads, grimy bass, schizophrenic vocals, played to such a masterful degree that I’m basically one big smile constantly - maybe both an excited and concerned smile at the same time.

Daughters also give something for old fans in a couple of high intensity tracks from their “S/T” album, the insanely loud and brutal breakdown of “The Dead Singer” and the chaotic yet melodic “The Hit”, with Marshall proceeding to jump off the Main Stage into a crowd-surf. A wild Alexis Marshall appears right in front of me, much to my surprise seeing as I was currently looking down to take notes, and I’m not sure if I should be scared for my safety at this point, there is quite literally a madman straight in front of me. Then he decides to climb up on the bar in his animalistic rampage, smashing his mic against his forehead until the blood begins to pour out, strips off his shirt, gags himself with his own fingers, then heads back to the stage, drools on his own monitor, only to kneel down and lick the saliva up again with a wild expression on his face. The insanity at play here is quite hard to put into words, but my god it is one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever witnessed, without sacrificing any actual musicality for the antics.

The toms of the drums are getting the same treatment as the locked door in the raging “Guest House”. “I’ve been pounding and knocking and knocking.” Marshall screams with the crowd screaming back at him ”Let me in!” in the most feral vocal performance of the gig thus far, switching up the cleaner yelling with a massive, gargling scream. “Ocean Song” ends off this one of a kind gig with unimaginable noise and incredible, lofty atmosphere to the image of Marshall taking off his belt to perform self-flagellation while stood towering above the crowd on his monitor. The noise disintegrates more and more as one band member at a time starts to leave the stage, leaving only Marshall left, still whipping himself with his belt, before smashing the mic into the ground several times by violently swinging around the cable, then leaving the stage without uttering a word.

What Daughters delivered was nothing short of outstanding. It really was one of those gigs I’m going to remember until the day I die. Not only is Daughters visionaries within the noise rock sphere, they can actually deliver the same intensity heard on record in a live setting, and them some. Usually, intense and intimate gigs to this degree are only found in smaller venues, but Daughters clearly didn’t give a shit and completely conquered the Main Stage and made everyone submit. I simply haven’t experienced anything quite like this madness before and therefore I can only give the highest accolades. [10] KW


Mord'A'Stigmata @ 16:50 in Het Patronaat

Still reeling from Daughters’ chokehold, the first review on my agenda for this bittersweet final day is the Polish avant-garde black metal crew Mord'A'Stigmata, of whom I must admit to having little prior knowledge. Joining the long list of Roadburn artists opting for full album performances each year, the band is focusing (albeit not exclusively) on their fourth and latest offering “Dreams of Quiet Places”, which explores such a wealth of stylistic directions that even without the terrifying manner of the quartet’s showmanship, the concert would present plenty of rewards to be reaped. Whether by virtue of the dissonance of “Exiles”, the psychedelic and post-punk-ish touches to “Spirit into Cristal” or the eerie, ringing melodies in the doom ridden “Stain”, Mord'A'Stigmata ensure that there is always something for your mind to latch onto — and if there is one thing the band excels at, it is their fooling their audience with periods of lull and musical experimentation only to then deliver a rude awakening with blastbeats and icy tremolo melodies in true Norwegian style. The bellows spewing from the throat and mouth of bassist Łukasz Dziamarski during tracks like “The Tomb from Fear and Doubt” (taken from 2017’s “Hope”) are straight up ungodly, succeeding in raising the hair on my arms multiple times, while the constant interchange between calm (if always unsettling) atmospheric passages and ferocious, wintry onslaughts keeps me on my toes throughout. Truly, Mord'A'Stigmata embody the spirit of Roadburn in the best possible way, though I feel the music deserves a somewhat less ordinary demeanour by the four musicians. [7] AP


Thou @ 17:40 on Main Stage

Next up, the time has come at last for this year’s artist-in-residence Thou to deliver their own proper concert, as opposed to the collaboration with Emma Ruth Rundle, the acoustic performance and the secret covers set in the Ladybird skatepark in the past three days. Against my expectations, the main concert hall of 013 is nowhere near its maximum capacity for the séance, the main visual component of which is a series of timelapses projected onto the backdrop that sort of capture the essence of Thou’s music: stuck in a moment, yet always moving forward. If even possible, the vocals of frontman Bryan Funck sound even more abrasive today than they did two days ago, creating some interesting contradictions to the beautifully funereal melodies of guitarists Matthew Thudium, Andy Gibbs and a third session guitarist whom I do not immediately recognise — not to mention to the haunting singing by the band’s longtime collaborator Emily McWilliams in “Transcending Dualities” (off last year’s “Magus” album). As soon as she withdraws from the stage, however, the track transforms into a beast, unloading a riff so heavy that my colleague KW and I both turn to each other with raised eyebrows and O-mouths. In spite of the fact that the turnout is not what it could (and should) have been, Funck pauses at one point to express his gratitude, apparently feeling amazed that so many of us are “[…] in this room just to watch a bunch of hillbillies from Louisiana.” His casual sweater-and-trucker cap look certainly fits the description, though with the exception of the band’s birthplace and the caveman antics of the two main guitarists, nothing about this fusion of doom and sludge metal sounds like the brainchild of rednecks or simpletons. No, this is an extremely solid plate of southern groove that leaves me eagerly awaiting the band’s recently announced concert in Denmark this coming summer. [8] AP


Marissa Nadler @ 18:30 in Het Patronaat

“This is like a dream yet almost like a nightmare,” singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler says behind her guitar alone on stage. The intensity that has been prevalent at the Het Patronaat stage almost all day is getting turned all the way down for a nice depressive breather as Nadler leads way with “For My Crimes” with her very touching, soft and fragile voice. The nervousness is definitely very apparent, but in a charming way. Her voice breaks a few times but it just instills a more human vibe to the gig. Armed with a loop station and a guitar she brings us through many intimate songs about love and betrayal to a spellbound crowd, and one thing that leaves a mark on me musically is some very bold flows of notes where drawn out tensions in the chord progression almost sound grating before resolving nicely. This keeps it from just being another melancholic acoustic gig, aside from her beautiful voice of course. Knowing that Stephen Brodsky is present at the festival both with Cave In and Old Man Gloom, and the fact that the two have very recently released a couple of collaborative tracks, it was no surprise that he would grace the audience with his presence for renditions of “Estranged” and “For the Sun”. This is actually a really welcome addition to the show, seeing as a full show of somber siren song could’ve maybe worn thin. The two tracks feature Brodsky on distorted guitar and they almost have a horror score like quality to them, with some unsettling, ghost-like harmonies and doomy riffs adding a lot of depth to the music. “Blue Vapor” provides another haunting highlight of the show and I am getting really absorbed by her evocative vibrato and light falsetto but can’t help but get extremely annoyed by a couple of drunk dickheads who can’t seem to shut the hell up, even though they’ve been told off by the crowd several times. Talk all you want through the loud metal outbursts of the other bands where it’s not even audible, but talking through this kind of toned down, intimate experience is just all sorts of insanely disrespectful and I wish these people would just go ahead and jump in the sea. That little rant aside, Marissa Nadler overcame her nervousness and delivered a great change of pace and was a perfect little moment for just closing your eyes and listening to a beautiful voice singing about tragedy. [8] KW


Old Man Gloom @ 19:20 on Main Stage

Having played sets with both Cave In and Marissa Nadler, it’s time to see Stephen Brodsky for a third time no less, though he has now switched out his 6-string axe for a bass guitar. Old Man Gloom, backed by red lights behind them, start it all out slow and doomy, before everything is smothered in filthy sludge and offbeat riffs. The sound is mountainous, just as it should be with a band of this level of heaviness, but Old Man Gloom definitely spices things up with a lot of interesting melodic choices, groove and odd time signatures, keeping it from just sounding like any other random sludge band. The slugging breakdown of “Common Species” is just completely ridiculous with its ape-like chugging and noise, to the sight of all band members almost head-butting the ground in their incessant headbanging. “A Hideous Nightmare Lie Upon the World” sounds just like the title leads you to believe, with its creepy, crackling middle interlude of some voice recording, before another impossibly heavy sludge section. The last four or so songs of the set are all Zozobra covers: similar in sound, and also closely related to Old Man Gloom (being another Caleb Scofield project originally) but with a bit more hardcore edge to it, which makes it all the more fitting that Jacob Bannon of Converge joins the fray with his legendary screaming in a fantastic surprise of events. I could feel myself getting a bit fatigued by the misanthropic heaviness and insanely loud sound of it all by the end, but nevertheless Old Man Gloom delivered so much filth that I feel like I need an hour in shower after this. To give a more raw summation of what some of these riffs sounded like, I thought this unedited quote from my notes sums it up pretty well: ”Beard man almost attacks his guitar during this part.” [8] KW


Sleep performing “The Sciences” @ 21:20 on Main Stage

In spite of the classic status of Sleep’s “Holy Mountain”, it is the stoner metal legends’ second concert focusing on their latest album, 2018’s “The Sciences”, that piques my interest the most, having thought that record to be one of the absolute highlights of last year. Somewhat unexpectedly, the set is once again preceded by the Apollo 11 moon landing transmission, and instead of proceeding from the feedback riddled title track with “Marijuanaut’s Theme” just like on the album, the trio splices the droning b-side “Leagues Beneath” into its place. Its druggy character does have the advantage of conjuring a hazy atmosphere for the songs to come, many of which present a relatively faster and more progressive facet of the band. In a déjà vu from yesterday, the venue is once again filled with spliff smoke as the stoners of Roadburn drink from this riff horn of plenty, forced into submission by the endlessly repeating song structures and the sheer volume at which Sleep like to deliver their music. Apart from the setlist, the concert thus proceeds in very much the same way as the first one, with both bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros and guitarist Matt Pike finding their most energetic selves for the likes of “Sonic Titan” and “Giza Butler”. In comparison to the “Holy Mountain” set, however, the one member who really shines this time is drummer Jason Roeder, which was to be expected given that these super textured rhythmic patterns beefing up the soundscape of “The Sciences” were actually written by him and not his predecessor Chris Hakius. Not only is the drumming here sublime from a technical standpoint, Roeder also plays his kit with a vengeance we did not see during the previous set, and when the time comes to bolster the set with a number of classics in the end, he adds his own personal touch to songs like “Dragonaut” and “Cultivator” as well. Indeed, the Sleep one hears in the live setting is always subtly different from the Sleep one hears on record, and it is thus no wonder that people in the audience are closing into their own zones, rocking out as though they were briefly transported into another dimension. I, too, am having my own little trip of this kind and when the concert ends after some two hours at last, it goes down as yet another ultra-solid showing from these legends. [8] AP


Birds In Row @ 22:00 in Het Patronaat

Second to last show at the beautiful stage of Het Patronaat.. ever. But who better than these exasperated, pissed off French guys, with an artistic contorted lady projected behind them, to provide the stage with another fantastic show of the festival - well hopefully at least. Right out of the gate we’re dealing with some desperate sounding, atmospheric post-hardcore, and desperate is definitely the first word that comes to mind when you hear the vocals coming out of their guitarist, switching between very high pitched belts and throat shredding screams. The guitar is unfortunately too low or too unclear in the mix, making it sometimes hard to make out what is actually being played over the towering bass when things get heavy, but so far I am digging the emo sensibilities at display here. The d-beat hardcore and blackgaze sounding passage of “Love is Political” gives off some clear Oathbreaker vibes. The fast and brutish power and incredible vocal delivery at the end of the chaotic “You, Me & The Violence” definitely floors me. “Fossils” delivers one of the more impressive drumming performance of the festival, fluently interchanging blasting and technical hardcore drumming in first half, and intricate details in the gorgeous, slowed down soundscapes of the outro, sending chills down my spine in its Underoath-esque emotional weight. Birds in Row humbly and kindly acknowledges the fact of how lucky they are to be one of the two last bands to ever play this fantastic stage before the soulful punk tune of “I Don’t Dance” end off the ball with fierce mosh pits happening in front. Birds in Row could’ve actually been among my favourite sets of the weekend I believe, had the sound not lacked that overwhelming quality/clarity in the heavy guitar parts and I also think the high pitch yelling vocals can be a little grating in the long run. Nevertheless, Birds in Row definitely did the venue a lot of justice and did not disappoint. [8] KW


Imperial Triumphant performing “Vile Luxury” @ 23:30 in Het Patronaat

It is pretty fitting that it was Imperial Triumphant who were bestowed with the honour of sending this venue into the annals of Roadburn history. There have been rumours all day that their performance would involve ceremonial masks akin to those worn by the trio being handed out to everyone in the audience as well, and even though this turns out to be untrue, the concert nonetheless has a ritualistic, mass-like quality about it. The music, an aberrant form of avant-garde black metal, sounds dissonant and eerie and the liturgical appearance of the three musicians only heightens the terrifying, yet captivating atmosphere of their performance. “Tonight you have the honour to bask in the glory of Imperial Triumphant”, announces a mantric voice after the opening track, “Swarming Opulence”, before the next maelstrom of demented growls and jagged riffage arrives in the form of “Lower World”, its might always blowing me off my feet. It is a good thing the venue is packed to the brim then, to prevent people like myself from falling backward in sheer awe of the ‘Triumphant’s conjurings that at times become so bizarre in style they actually have me worried that Satan himself might emerge from beneath the floorboards. Although I am feeling very exhausted after four days of live music, the bombast, not to mention diversity of this New York City, NY-based group’s latest album “Vile Luxury” (released in the summer of 2018, and the focus of tonight’s concert) drive me to find the last shreds of energy and remain in situ until “Luxury in Death” releases us all into the night at last. A fine sendoff for Het Patronaat, and one which certainly lives up to the band’s imposing moniker. [8] AP

CLOSING REMARKS

Usually, our festival features end with lists of the positive and negative takeaways from that specific year, but in the case of Roadburn, there is seldom anything to complain about. While the weather prevented us from enjoying the outside facilities of the festival to the same extent as last year, and consequently drove us to watch even more concerts than usual, there was still no escaping the unique atmosphere that always reigns over Tilburg during the Roadburn weekend. We met lots of familiar faces as well as some new, ate and drank well; were blown away by countless unforgettable performances and had our minds broadened by others; and laughed and cried enough to carry us through another year of anxious awaiting the next edition.

One thing that does deserve to be highlighted however, is the sound production that accompanied virtually every concert we watched. It beggars belief that the technicians at Roadburn are able to nail the mixes of such a broad variety of styles and venue types time after time to bring a smile to the lips of us audiophiles. And speaking of the technical aspects, both the lighting and the visuals were also enchanting for almost every artist, underlining the fact that at Roadburn, even the shows that should be fairly ordinary are bestowed with a unique vibe you are unlikely to ever witness at club venues, let alone other festivals.

To avoid risking accusations of fanboy-ism, it might also be prudent to mention one negative aspect that we did notice this year. It is an issue that has existed at Roadburn for many years now, but nonetheless one that seemed only to have been exacerbated for the 2019 edition: namely the queues. Those endless queues. We were lucky to be wearing press wristbands that, in most cases, allowed us to skip the lines snaking out of the Hall of Fame and Het Patronaat in particular, but also occasionally from the fairly large Koepelhal — but it is easy to understand the frustration of those that were unable to do so, and who ended up missing many shows either because they turned up early to ensure they could get into one of these venues for one they had been looking forward to, or because they turned up late and were unable to enter due to a one in, one out policy. I understand that the festival cannot press more people into a venue than its capacity allows, but could it be that Roadburn is selling too many tickets? It certainly seems that way. It remains to be seen what size of venue will replace the disappearing Het Patronaat, but it is our hope that it will be one capable of accommodating a four-figure crowd. The pressure for the Green Room and Hall of Fame to host artists that are expected to draw much larger audiences than they have space for might then be eased, and these more intimate venues could instead be used for the least known and the truly upcoming bands.

Whatever the case though, there is very little that can convince us not to attend this unique celebration again next year, and with that, I guess there is nothing else left to say than:

THANK YOU AND SEE YOU IN 2020!

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