PREVIEW: Roadburn Festival 2022

author AP date 19/04/22

At last. Three long years have elapsed since anyone last got to experience the fabled Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands — and although last year’s Roadburn Redux streaming event offered something of a refuge from the gloom of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been an agonising wait for thousands of people eager to find out how the festival is intending to redefine heaviness this time. True to tradition, we are sending a four-person team to cover this almost mythical event in its full glory this coming weekend, and in order to build up the buzz, we decided to put together a preview — both for those attending this year, and for those perhaps looking to attend in the years to come. What’s on the menu, then? Well, as usual, it’s a lot…

Not only have the festival’s bookers once again assembled a mouthwatering line-up for those looking to check out heavy music outside their comfort zone, ranging from hip hop and electronica to the blackest and extremest of metal — all with the common philosophy of having a uniquely avant-garde, progressive or experimental take on the genre in question. From specially commissioned performances and one-off collaborations through artists playing multiple sets, to full album performances, and secret shows still to be revealed, Roadburn’s line-up is, as always, a veritable treasure trove for connoisseurs and a fantastic opportunity to discover new music that might otherwise have fallen outside the coverage of your radar. See for yourself:

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

There is so much to watch and some of the resulting conflicts have honestly brought tears to our eyes, but we have nonetheless tried to produce a small selection of our own recommendations of which bands and artists Roadburn attendees should be watching this weekend and why. Check it out:

Aleksi ‘AP’ Pertola

Sólstafir performing “Svartír Sandar” on Main Stage at 21:10 on Thursday, April 21st

This may seem like an obvious choice, but this Icelandic outfit is yet to disappoint me on the live stage. And together with 2009’s “Köld”, the double opus “Svartír Sandar” lives in the highest drawer of Sólstafir’s repertoire, providing a masterclass of melancholic and blackened post-metal. As suggested by the album’s title, which translates to black sands, if you shut your eyes during the performance, you are guaranteed to imagine yourself wandering through the barren and grandiose, yet also unforgiving Icelandic landscape with frontman Aðalbjörn Tryggvason’s powerful, emotive singing as your guiding voice.

Wiegedood performing “There’s Always Blood at the End of the Road” on Main Stage at 17:20 on Friday, April 22nd

Forget all about the theatrics often associated with classic black metal: the Belgian group Wiegedood, whose moniker is Dutch for crib death, have no need for such frills, as their intense take on the genre is menacing enough in its own right. Their newest album, which is the subject of their Roadburn performance, is an absolutely merciless piece of music that is certain to give you the crawlies. Yet there is also an elegance about it that is difficult to put into words and I think has to be experienced in the live setting. It will be dark, it will be intense, and it will be epic.

Alcest performing “Écailles de lune” on Main Stage at 20:50 on Friday, April 22nd

These Frenchmen need no introductions, having played a vital role in developing the post-black metal sound, and no album in their repertoire is more important in this respect than their 2010 outing “Écailles de lune”, which translates roughly to scales of moon. Alcest will be sending what is sure to be a huge audience into a dark dreamland of vast, cascading melodies, intermingling icy shrieks and ethereal chants, and the experience is almost certain to be transcendental for existing and new fans alike.

Terzij de Horde x Ggu:ll in The Terminal at 14:10 on Sunday, April 24th

I have absolutely no idea what to expect from this collaborative performance that will open the Terminal stage on the festival’s final day — but having discovered both the atmospheric black metal of Terzij de Horde and the droning doom of Ggu:ll in my weeks of researching what to watch at Roadburn this year, it can only be good. Both of these artists deviate from the typical palette of their respective genre, and it is hard to imagine their fusion resulting in anything other than a mind-altering experience. If nothing else, it should at least be able to rattle the hangover out of you…

Lamp Of Murmuur at 20:10 in the Terminal at 20:10 on Sunday, April 24th

Everything about Lamp of Murmuur is a mystery. No one seems to know when the band was formed nor by whom (the sole member uses the simple pseudonym M.), only that the earthly black metal full of gothic and heavy metal influences that this project has delivered on two full-length albums thus far is worth the hype. This will be their first-ever concert on the European continent, and the fact alone should be enough to convince any fan of the genre to be in the Terminal on Sunday evening. Is there anything trver than being able to claim you watched the first European show by a band no one seems to know anything about? I think not.

Kristoffer ‘KW’ Witt

Bruit ≤ in The Engine Room at 15:00 on Thursday, April 21st

Last year, I completely missed one of the best post-rock releases in the last decade with “The Machine is burning and now everyone knows it could happen again”. Rarely has a track hit me with such power as the masterpiece of a closer “The Machine Is Burning”, culminating in one of those moments where all you can do is sit back in awe and remain speechless for several minutes after. If they can match the sheer intensity of this album in a live setting, one of the very best shows of Roadburn 2022 could be in store for us.

Year Of No Light in The Terminal at 16:20 on Thursday, April 21st

This one is going to get heavy. The French post-metallers in Year Of No Light are set to deliver a thunderous set of darkness and rumbling, sludgy guitars. The band promises “a special show, with a special line-up and a special setlist” after the covid downtime that hit us all, and I am expecting a whole lot of climactic post-goodness from these guys.

James Kent & Johannes Persson performing “Final Light” on Main Stage at 15:30 on Friday, April 22nd

With one of my favourite electronic artists Perturbator, combined with the frontman from my favourite post-metal band Cult of Luna, this can only get very interesting. With such a title for this Roadburn-commissioned show, it seems we’re in for a deliciously dark piece of art. Very little has been revealed about the show, but with these two at the helm, I have no doubts about the quality of the outcome.

Dödsrit in Hall of Fame at 23:30 on Saturday, April 23rd

My love for atmospheric black metal has rapidly grown within the last few years. Dödsrit’s brand of melodic, grandiose atmospheres combined with crust punk intensity is a cocktail matched just for me. While “Spirit Crusher” focused on long winding, droning passages, last year’s “Mortal Coil” had a more epic feel to it, like riding into battle in snow-ridden Sweden. I hope we get a little bit of both at this show.

Hangman's Chair x Regarde Les Hommes Tomber on Main Stage at 19:10 on Sunday,April 24th

This French tag-team show was originally scheduled for the canceled 2020 Roadburn Festival, but was luckily decided to be brought back for this year’s edition. The glistening, doomy soundscapes of Hangman’s Chair intertwined with the ferocious, atmospheric black metal of Regarde Les Hommes Tomber sounds like an unholy matrimony for the ages.

Lærke ‘LF’ Fenger

Although Rockfreaks.net is no stranger to Roadburn Festival, this will be my first year participating in Tilburg. As I have been diving into this year’s line-up, my list of must-see acts keeps expanding so I have had to make some tough choices for this list of recommendations. First off, I will definitely second a few acts mentioned here by my fellow reviewers, that is: Alcest, Bruit ≤, Cloud Rat, Emma Ruth Rundle, James Kent & Johannes Persson, Jo Quail and LLNN. The following six are a glorious mix of bands that I have followed for years and new acquaintances that I am looking forward to experiencing for the first time.

Messa performing “Close” on Main Stage at 17:20 on Thursday, April 21st

Finally, the group Messa from Italy is an entirely new name to me that I am happy to get to see perform so soon after discovering them. They are performing an album show, playing their newly released experimental doom album “Close” from 2022. I am especially looking forward to experiencing the strong vocal melodies being belted out by their amazing vocalist, Sara Bianchin. In their own description, they promise a one-of-a-kind performance with additional musicians to expand on the album that already features jazzy passages and great width in style - definitely not something I am going to miss!

Slift performing “Ummon” in The Terminal at 19:00 on Thursday, April 21st, Slift’s “Into the Unknown” set in The Terminal at 16:50 on Friday, April 22nd & Slift x Etienne Jaumet on Main Stage at 20:40 on Saturday, April 23rd

I was curious and somewhat embarrassed when I discovered that one of this year’s Artists in Residence, was an established band that I had no knowledge of at all. It soon made sense, as this French trio plays a resounding style of psych-rock which I have never been too fond of before. I am happy to say, though, that SLIFT have completely turned me around. The steady grooves and high energy levels of their songs are just irresistible, and they have a real diversity in their style that makes me extra excited for their several performances at Roadburn. The festival describes the group’s 2020 album “Ummon” as an ”interdimensional bullettrain” and I couldn’t say it better myself. I will definitely be found in the crowd for their performance of that whole record but they have two other sets planned as well: a collaboration with synth/saxophonist Etienne Jaumet of Zombie Zombie, and a mysterious set of never-before-played material called “Into the Unknown”.

Trialogos on Next Stage at 20:00 on Thursday, April 21st

My favorite discovery of all of Roadburn Redux was this trio consisting of three musicians with the unlikely names Conny Ochs, Sicker Man, and Kiki Bohemia. They presented us with an equal parts experimental, spacey, and eerie performance of music sliding between soundscapes and more organized krautrock, dubbed “Stroh Zu Gold”. It since came out as an album that to me, although solid and now a valued part of my vinyl collection, did not quite capture the finer chemistry and jam-like qualities of their performance. Therefore, I am of course looking immensely forward to getting to see them in person and feel the magic of their music in the air.

GGGOLDDD performing “This Shame Should Not Be Mine on Main Stage at 19:00 on Friday, April 22nd

Milena Eva and Thomas Sciarone of the Dutch group GGGOLDDD are of course the Curators of Roadburn 2022 but on Friday of the event, they will also be performing the mesmerizing commissioned piece “This Shame Should Not Be Mine” with their band. The piece became an integral part of last year’s online Roadburn Redux event as they performed it after the reveal of its topic: Eva was raped at age 19 and the creation of this performance became a way to process and deal with the emotions surrounding that. Considering the level of raw strength that hit right through the screen when we saw their hypnotizing performance at home last year, it should be even more awe-striking in a face-to-face setting. This year they will not only perform it again with a live audience but also with orchestral accompaniment that is sure to lift the music even higher.

Nothing in The Terminal at 19:30 & Nothing x Full Of Hell on Main Stage at 00:40 on Saturday, April 23rd

The Philadelphia shoegaze and loudness masters of Nothing have been on my radar since their 2014 album “Guilty of Everything”. Already then, their music somehow combined resigned melancholia with aggressive gloom and doom, and at the same time, they are up there with the loudest live performances I have ever been at. Through the years, they have only refined their craft and they are definitely a band on top of their game still. Furthermore, it has been announced that for Roadburn 2022, they will be playing a regular band set as well as a collaboration with the grindcore group and one Artist in Residence of Roadburn 2022, Full of Hell. Even though no further details abound about the latter, the imagined levels of noise are already making me giddy with excitement.

Kælan Mikla performing “Undir Köldum Noruljósum” in The Engine Room at 20:50 on Saturday, April 23rd

Another familiar name in my music library is Icelandic Kælan Mikla. At Roadburn 2022 they will be playing an album show focusing on their atmospheric 2021 release “Undir Köldum Norðurljósum”. Their synth-based songs will no doubt bring some welcome variation to my otherwise guitar-dominated Roadburn experience with their dark melodies and sharp but at the same time warm, guiding voices. I am sure they will deliver a wonderfully uneasy and bewitching performance of the fairytale-based songs of the album. 

Peter Troest

LLNN performing “Unmaker” in The Engine Room at 13:00 on Friday, April 22nd

"Obscenely heavy" - Roadburn’s own word in describing the onslaught of dread and utter heaviness. This year they will be back at the festival and will by serving us a lava heavy platter of spacey post hardcore. We get to hear their latest album, Unmaker, in full - by many critics one of the best albums of 2021. So slow and utterly devastating and at the same time fantastic live with frontman Christian Jamet Bonnesen. Maybe we even get to see one of those post-hardcore moshpits. 

Cloud Rat in The Engine Room at 17:50 on Thursday, April 21st & Cloud Rat’s electronic set in The Engine Room at 20:50 on Friday, April 22nd

What got me into Cloud Rat was the gritty and grinding songs but their transgression into a genre shattering experience is keeping me listening. Roadburn is presenting both facets of the band and they will play 2 concerts - a fast grindcore-ish concert and a more experimental one,. I’ll be there at both (if the editor allows). 

Midwife in The Engine Room at 13:00 on Saturday, April 23rd

This is one of the many bands I haven't heard much about before this festival. Madeline Johnston’s interpretation on melodic loneliness and exceptional great songs is something I will fight really hard to make room in my schedule to hear (and photograph oh so quietly)

Jo Quail performing “The Cartographer” on Main Stage at 15:20 on Saturday, April 23rd

Jo Quail will play her piece "The Cartographer" live for the first time. If you haven't seen Jo Quail and her amplified cello live before, prepare yourself for a completely different soundscape than an acoustic cello. Myriads of loops and complex structures will unite and take us on something of a musical journey. A must see for me.

Lingua Ignota on Main Stage at 17:20 on Sunday, April 24th

I've only had the chance of photographing and listening to Lingua Ignota live at the legendary Green Room concert at Roadburn 2019. Her music and message stand for themselves - a must-see concert too.

THE OTHER STUFF

Roadburn is not exclusively about music of course, and to put it bluntly, should you pack your schedule too tightly with concerts, you are going to miss out on a major part of what makes this festival special. When you arrive in Tilburg and have settled into your accommodation whatever that may be, the first thing we’d recommend is to get your bearings over the festival area, which this year is centered on two main locations: first the main 013 venue, which contains the Main Stage, Next Stage, as well as several bars and a basement area in which various afterparties are held, and secondly the Koepelhal complex, in which you wil find the Terminal, the Engine Room and the Hall of Fame stages.

Next to the 013 venue you will also find food and drink trucks, the so-called Weirdo Canyon, which is a walking street lined with restaurants and bars full of fellow Roadburners clinking glasses and exchanging banter, and the V39 building, which will house the talks included in the festival’s highly recommended side programme. Meanwhile Koepelhal and the adjacent NS16 building, a five-minute walk from the 013 complex, will be your focus points for merchandise, art installations, a skate hall and multiple bars and eateries. Further afield you will also find the newly added Paradox venue with its own programme of experimental jazz and other avant-garde music, as well as the Little Devil, Tilburg’s premier metal bar, which also tends to be chock full of Roadburn revellers into the early hours.

Seriously — heed our call and make space in your schedule to fit some of what are sure to be amazing talks such as “The Queer Side of Heaviness” at 13:30 on Friday, April 22nd, “Classical to Contemporary” at 16:30 also on Friday, April 22nd, and “Community & Collaboration” at 14:30 on Sunday, April 24th. This is a great way to expand your horizons when it comes to what heavy music is and can be, not to mention to meet some of the artists performing at the festival in a more intimate setting. And be sure to also check out the Roadburn Expo exhibit in the NS16 building, hang out with friends and strangers in the Weirdo Canyon, and attend one of the afterparties at either 013 or the Little Devil. Drink the signature Roadburn Knuffel IPA from Brouwerij Het Uiltje, and eat from as many stands and cafés as you can. In general, have yourself an experience — not just a music festival.

See you this weekend, Roadburners!

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