On the Afterburner, everything moves slowly – you saunter around Tilburg bordering on daydreaming, unconsciously recapping those flashy best moments you’ve lived since Thursday. Gazing every corner, every door that is now shut – see you in 2016, Patronaat my graceful –, sunbathing beneath the pleasantly mild spring temperatures. The merchandise changes its spot to Stage01, diehard noise devotees sniff around trying to hoarder those Gnaw Their Tongues invaluable goods – «I’ll take everything», says one. Many would consider it an aberrant gesture, but, at Roadburn, it’s as natural as daylight; it might turn into a problem, though, if you begin to stack those LPs and cassettes in your kitchen, as The Heads’ Paul Allen playfully said on Saturday at the Iron Fist’s “Record Collectors Anonymous” panel. Until then, you’re good, my friend, and Roadburn is your balmy womb.
Playing on their hometown, IZAH proudly flaunted their canorous post-metal at Cul De Sac. Not thunderous, far from sui generis, it was skilled enough to persuade us to stay for a beer. Sip after sip, the Dutch bevy worked as a proper warm-up for what was coming next: Bongripper. The ineluctable Chicago gentlemen have turned into Tilburg’s most reliable protégées, playing twice on each occasion they arrive at Schiphol. And if in 2012 the guys were still scouted as newcomers, for 2015 things changed fairly different, having the chance to operate on the Main Stage two times. The Sunday one ended up being a finial compendium of the very best they’ve been building these years, with headlights fixated on “Satan Worshipping Doom”. Fists clenched, necks acting as prophylaxis against inertia – you can’t just be a catatonic corpse while listening to “Satan”, you gotta move, son, along those four chaps on stage. There ya go. ‘Ripper did it again like they always do.
For quite some time, the idea of Gnaw Their Tongues playing live seemed rather unrealistic. Then, in surprising fashion and without much fuss, news surfaced of their confirmation for Maryland Deathfest and, soon after, Roadburn. With Mories being the sole member, the question was how his layered creations of horror with their multitude of instruments, samples and vocals, would be brought to life on a live setting and whether or not he would be able to replicate the extreme depths of discomfort achieved on record. The answer to the first question is Mories himself screaming and handling a bass plugged into two amplifiers, with his partner in Aderlating, Eric Eijspaart, standing next to him, taking part in the screaming frenzy and being in charge of assorted machinery, adding effects, drum machines and samples to what simply put was the bleakest, most unsettlingly sounding concert in this edition and with not that much competition from previous ones.
It’s one of those cases where the setlist ends not being that important, as the different sides of the nightmares turned sound that make up the whole of the band’s career were all there, albeit with an understandably reduced presence of sampled instruments which helped adding a live feel to the performance. There were the eerie samples, the drone assaults that just as well creep up on you or emerge as a terrible, massive wall of noise. There were screeches and screams of all shapes horrifying, machinal drums blasting with no observable mercy and disconcerting rhythms, all under as much pitch black darkness as possible in a packed Cul De Sac. In the end, we were left in a sort of cathartic state. A Gnaw Their Tongues concert had really just happened. It not only happened, it was downright memorable.
Leaving the Cul De Sac in the direction of the Green Room to catch what remained of the Bast set we were definitely not expecting what we witnessed. It’s not that their doom doesn’t hit a few good spots in the studio, but their live shows are seemingly a whole different story. Amidst a reasonably crowded and smoke-filled room, the English band delivered a sheer amount of loudness which would have made for a fine memory, had it not also enhanced every single riff as it did. Every time they pushed forward their more aggressive side, every time their drummer Jon Lee went on one of those impressive screaming sprees, you’d feel the air reverberate with the heaviness of it all. Despite the Afterburner‘s undeniably more relaxed atmosphere, this year’s edition really sends us packing with an early sequence of loud and at times very extreme music.
While the headlining Anathema show did not start, you could catch a movie on the Main Stage with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin playing its soundtrack live, just like it had happened on the day before. The first time, you’d have gotten zombies via George Romero‘s classic “Dawn Of The Dead”, while on the Afterburner it was Dario Argento‘s giallo Suspiria. After last year’s impressive show during Åkerfeldt‘s curated day, this time the Italian band took to the sides of the stage and stood silent for much longer periods, biding their time in an apparently cheerful mood to play each song at their precise moment in the film. Given how emblematic and disturbing Suspiria‘s soundtrack is and how much of a cult classic the movie has become, it’s no surprise how hard it was to find a good sitting spot in the 013 to watch it. After three days of standing around rushing from concert to concert, those who did surely found it quite rewarding.
Anathema might not be the first name that pops into your head when you think about possible Roadburn concerts, at least not when considering their output in the last fifteen years. On the other hand, having the band reunite with original singer Darren White and former bassist Duncan Patterson to play a retrospective of their whole career, that sounds exactly like the type of thing that could happen in this festival. It doesn’t come as a full surprise then when Darren White said the idea for this Resonance tour came precisely from Walter and the rest of the Roadburn team.
As part of the tour, the sets are being split into three acts, each comprised of older songs than its predecessor and for many like us of consequently increasing interest. It thus began with Anathema‘s current formation playing songs from the last fifteen years. The Main Stage was packed by a very excited audience, which took to clapping, headbanging and singing along soon enough. Then Duncan Patterson came to the stage to play songs from classics such as “Silent Enigma”, “Eternity” and “Alternative 4”. While there really shouldn’t be any complaint when hearing a song like “A Dying Wish”, the truth is that Vincent Cavanagh‘s voice is very far from what it once was when it comes to the doom songs and, as good as they undoubtedly are and as good as it feels to listen to them, they suffer from it. For the third and last part, a clearly very happy Mr. Darren White brought some much-needed screams to the game. Even if his voice is not exactly at peak level, it was an absolute pleasure to see him lead the charge with great enthusiasm through classics such as “Lovelorn Rhapsody”, “They Die”, and set closer “Sleepless”. An ending to remember for a long time.
On an Afterburner that had everything from great doom, a memorable first concert, a classic horror flick with live soundtrack and an impressive reunion, it’s hard to think of a better way to end the proceedings than the Tweak Bird rampage at the Cul De Sac. The two brothers bleed and sweat rock n roll and the audience fed from this, impressively closing Roadburn‘s 20th anniversary in a moshing and crowd surfing frenzy.