Officially speaking, Roadburn lasts three days. However, it’s hard to think of a third day of the festival as being the last. First, because no one who’s actually there wants it to end and secondly because the Afterburner has become such an integral part of the festival – a buffer to the real world if you will.
This time around, the “last day which isn’t really the last” began with black metal, not only with Botanist‘s being the first band of the day (hey! Metal-Archives people, this is metal, who the fuck cares what instruments they use?) but also with a panel discussion on the history of Norwegian black metal taking place earlier on, with no less than Enslaved‘s Ivar and Grutle joining Harald Fossberg and Dave Sweetapple to share their views on the topic. In a very well spirited conversation, amongst other things they mentioned that not only was black metal more about rebellion than a formulaic approach, but that had you have been a part of that scene and someone told you that it would grow to be associated with any kind of right wing, you’d have dismissed the statement as being ludicrous. As for Botanist, their immersing and original take on black metal seemed to translate well to a live setting and the venue and live visuals couldn’t be better either. However, the time proved not to be as ideal, with the forthcoming sequence of King Dude, Acid Witch, Tombs, Urfaust, and Fistula demanding something different to start with and the concerts of Goblin and Coma Wall to consider. Here’s hoping there will be a next chance to fully enjoy.
One cannot just expect to sojourn at Roadburn without tasting the Dutch showers of spring rain. Were you overwhelmed by those warm sunny days on Thursday and Friday? So take these piercing crosswinds in your face while standing on Veermarkstraat trying to pick the best possible sheltering gig. Coma Wall seemed a fairly good choice to bulwark oneself and, indeed, it was. Undersmile’s acoustic persona, although not particularly cheerful and radiantly, handed out forty minutes of enticing mid-paced delicate rhythms. At times, you could even project Earth playing right there at the cosy Stage01, engorged with silvery feminine voices and a very suiting cello. It was the calm before the storm that would happen later on Green Room.
Last time we saw King Dude in Tilburg TJ Cowgill had his usual band backing him. This time around, however, he stood alone with his guitar on the stage of the Het Patronaat. It turns out he’d dropped his guitar a few nights before in Finland, which meant he needed long tuning breaks between songs and, as unfortunate us that was, there was the upside of seeing how good of a communicator he is, and usually we’d rather having a lot of people talk less on stage. Due to being by himself, songs like “Jesus In The Courtyard” less of a neofolk vibe, which could have been a downside had they not retained their balance between their sombre and wild natures. They did and it felt like seeing a really good singer / songwriter who just happens to mention Lucifer quite a lot – and damn, it felt good to sing along to “Lucifer Is The Light Of The World” again.
Judging by the line to enter the Patronaat when we left to go check out Sun Worship, we were clearly not the only ones thinking that King Dude in a church was a must-see show. As for the Germans, who have on “Elder Giants” one of the most interesting atmospheric black metal records of the last few years, their show in the Green Room was intense and overall very good, but if you happened to have caught them on their small tour last October, perhaps a bit underwhelming. While perhaps an even more blasting outing, somehow the band looked less comfortable and the atmospheric side of their compositions suffered from it. The relentlessness of the performance and the sheer quality of those riffs still made for a very good hour, but it could have been memorable.
So, Gaz Jennings had a not-so-brilliant night on Friday with Lucifer’s balking performance. Death Penalty was fairly better, at least for those who enjoy a good heavy metal display. It was an old school spectacle, punctuated by Michelle Nocon’s stinging voice and, this goes without saying, the nasty guitar hooks shouted by Cathedral’s riff master – take a bow, son. Upon returning to the Patronaat, we got good and bad news. The good one is that Acid Witch is as popular with the Roadburn crowd as they should, the bad takes the shape of a huge fucking line to get in, which means we watched less than twenty minutes of it. Thankfully, with their simple yet highly effective songwriting, it doesn’t take long to get into their celebration of old horror movies and weed. That’s why so many wanted to be part of it, there’s something very appealing in their take of death and doom metal, in the way they keep it both extreme and filled with groove and good humour instead of not serious in a stupid way. The type of band that really fits Roadburn well.
But if Acid Witch shook Patronaat’s foundations, what in the lord’s name can we say about Tombs? What a consuming performance it was, since the very minute. Let it be all clear, plain and simple: we’re talking about one of this year’s highlights. The coffee entrepreneur, and master of all heavy crafts, Mike Hill has been building such a behemothic organism that we had a tough time processing how Tombs can easily keep everything under control on stage. The wall of sound is a pogrom: ear-splitting riffs hailing from left and right, blast beats that evolve into noisy post-punk cadences – a cavalcade of precision and skill able to preserve a noble truthfulness. “Savage Gold” adds up to it, casting an extra dimension of forthrightness to Tombs identity as “Edge Of Darkness” powerfully revealed; the same goes for this 2014-15 incarnation: Batillus’ synth-guru Fade Kainer, for example, with his nothing-but-shattering voice, turned this late afternoon at Patronaat into something really, really unique. At the end, our friend José Carlos Santos, told us that it was even better than the 2012’s performance at the very same place – and we ought to believe him, since in that year we opted to watch Sleep. #roadburnproblems
We straight followed Hill’s’ last advice about seeing their Brooklyn long-time pals in Black Avil wrecking the Green Room later on. Indeed it was a vigorous and a dominant concert, because, you know, Black Anvil is a pretty good band even if you do not enjoy that much “Hail Death”. Their despicable show of fast-rudeness black metal was squarely what that stage is all about: pulverizing audiences while enclosed in gleams of red and green. Simultaneously, and in a totally contrasting fashion, Kayo Dot were proving how sterling “Coffins On Io” is. Far from their post-everything years, Toby Driver now pedagogues a progressive convoy, a loud early Genesis prog-rock entourage that remains skilful and wise. We all know how Roadburn loves a good display of psychedelic patterns, but this kind of psychedelic was distinct: much more down to earth, not particularly escapist, but certainly hypnotizing as a good sci-fi flick must be. Thought-provoking and… Did we say it was loud?
Amidst all this, Fields Of The Nephilim were reading their second show in two days. We didn’t watch the first and, considering we were told that it was beyond prodigious, there we were right at the main stage to have a glance on what probably was the biggest band ever, all-around fan-base wise, to play at Roadburn – perhaps Hawkwind can contest that. You could clearly attest that with a quick look around: many carrying their Fields t-shirts and the Saturday only wristband. And it surely was a headlining show of its own, straight to those long-time followers – a best-of setlist covering a thirty-year span, from “Moonchild” to “Mourning Sun”. Not what we can call intense, but, god almighty, McCoy’s baritone growl is probably still echoing at the 013.
Given the known association between King Dude and Urfaust, it’s interesting that Undersmile played right before the latter while their acoustic counterpart Coma Wall did the same regarding the former. On purpose or not, the sequence worked, as just like Urfaust‘s black metal is rather unique, so is the doom of Undersmile. Guided by the wailing voices and lamenting guitars of Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown, the Oxford-based quartet played a pretty much flawless show, where even the switch to red by their frontwomen suited the atmosphere, adding either a sinister vibe to the slow dirges or a menacing one to the screaming bursts with which they occasionally crushed us. At the pace of funeral doom but with a completely different albeit equally despair laced atmosphere, their show stands as one of the most devastating ones of this year’s edition when it comes to slow, bleak doom.
Not even ten minutes had passed since Undersmile finished and the Green Room was already packing at a strikingly fast pace, leading to one of its more crowded and surely intoxicated incarnations. Not surprising, given Urfaust‘s home country status and how talked about their 2012 Afterburner show was. The duo appeared in their characteristic entrancing form and the crowd’s heads soon swept the air of the room in a zombified manner. Probably both in due to one’s own perception at the time and to their ritualistic, fully absorbed take on their own live appearances, they are never exactly the same. The difference in a song like like “Unter Töchtern Der Wüste” from its original studio version to its current live form is very well documented in the live album “Trúbadóirí Ólta An Diabhail” and is a good example of the ever-evolving nature of these shows. A very good reason to keep seeing them no matter how many times you’ve done it before.
It’s been a week since Fistula and we’re still cleansing ourselves from what we’ve sickeningly witnessed. Sweet Jesus, that was NASTY. You know, this Portuguese website has been loving sludge since its inception back in ‘08, and to be a deponent of what was the closing show at Het Patronaat was a dirty, dirty honour. If we had told you, before the weekend, to choose a band from this year’s lineup most likely to leave the stage under «We want more! We want more!» warbles, you’d probably pick Eyehategod, The Heads or Bongripper. But no, man, it happened with Fistula on their very first European gig! It was Saturday late-night – meaning: alcohol and THC savaging your blood vessels –, the most suitable lodge for an obnoxious sludge showdown; washing ashore, a fauna of drug-induced minds, Roadburn’s lowest of the low (of which we are proud members of!), ready to feast upon malodorous riffs and greasy basslines. Dan Harrington, on top of it, delivered some pretty quotable moments such as «Until the day you die, you will always be shit» or «This song is about the effects of smoking acid» right before… “Smoke Acid, Shoot Pills”. A non-friendly (inRoadburn’s criterions it was still pretty friendly, to be fair) moshpit environment stirred up and we can’t even think about a more perfect goodbye to Patronaat than what Fistula did right there. Bless those dudes!