04.21.13 — 00.25 — Sunday morning — Hotel Mercure, Tilburg
Before Black Magician went on at Het Patronaat to start off day three of Roadburn 2013 and the final day of the fest proper (the ceremonial Afterburner is tomorrow with two stages instead of four-plus), there was a showing of Costin Chioreanu‘s animated short film, Outside the Great Circle, which made its premiere earlier this weekend. The Romanian guitarist has played with a ton of bands and did the soundtrack for the film as well with help from Attila Csihar, whose vocals were immediately recognizable, and a host of others. Pretty heavy on the visual metaphors and there were a couple points where the digital animation style seemed awkward, but apparently it was Chioreanu‘s first time out as an animator, so I’m not about to rip on the effort.
If nothing else, it made the wait for Black Magician significantly less grueling than the one for Dread Sovereign was yesterday, though sleeping later also eased some of that burden. In any case, I was there in plenty of time to catch Black Magician‘s set, which followed in post-Cathedral suit with some of what Witchsorrow got up to last evening and had me once again thinking about what it is that makes British doom British and American doom American. One of these days I’m going to sit down with a piece of posterboard and a list of bands — Trouble and Death Row here, Cathedral and Pagan Altar there — and get it figured out. In any case, the Liverpudlian fivesome belted out weighted riffs and trudging nod, earning the support of both the UK contingent in the crowd, which was sizable, and the rest.
Their 2012 debut, Nature is the Devil’s Church, which I was hoping to buy but will have to pick up next week in London, was well represented, and frontman Liam Yates underscored the classic influences while prevalent organ — Matt Ford played on the album, presumably it was also him live — complemented Kyle Nesbitt‘s guitar and offered a distinguishing factor for the band. Yates is a charismatic presence up front. As they took the stage, he announced in no uncertain terms, “We are Black Magician and we play doom metal,” in the we-are-we-play Motörhead tradition, and before a new song which he dedicated to, “all you Catholics out there,” he announced that Black Magician‘s next release would be on Svart Records, so I guess congratulations are also in order, both to the band and to Shaman Recordings in getting their name out.
No shocker, they lived up to the “We play doom metal” promise, and though Nesbitt seemed less comfortable in the extended solo that started their final song, the extended “Chattox” that also closes the record, than he did while riffing out, they still came out of that long intro and crashed into the slowly unfolding verse unscathed. Over at the Main Stage of the 013, French post-black metal trailblazers Alcest were getting ready to go on. Fronted by 2013 artist-in-residence Neige, they also played in 2011 (review here), and put up a much, much better performance than I recall the last one being. Part of it has to be the fact that their 2012 third full-length, Les Voyages de l’Âme (review here), was superb — I mean that — and gave Neige a little more space to change things up, adding screams on “Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” while also generally sounding like a stronger singer as well.
Backing him was the same second guitarist/vocalist who had been with Les Discrets alongside Fursy Teyssier while Neige played bass, and here as with the other act, he also added a lot to the lush melodies. Drummer Winterhalter set up on the side of the stage and had a laptop open for the synth parts and other ambient whathaveyous — it was, I believe, the first laptop I’ve seen all weekend — and it was put to good use on “Beings of Light” from Les Voyages and its memorable bookends, opener “Autre Temps” and closer “Summer’s Glory.” Perhaps most impressive of all, Alcest managed both to capture the serene melodic wash of their studio output and still give an engaging live show, striking a difficult balance and providing a sound follow-up/answer-back to Les Discrets‘ set at Het Patronaat. They were an unexpected highlight of the day.
While they played, Camera were getting ready to go on over in the Green Room. I only watched a couple minutes through the door, and though they had a laptop, they put it to much different use, setting a space-jammy tone and fleshing it out via personal computing. I’d get my fix of cosmic improv later with The Cosmic Dead and Endless Boogie, so I jive-turkeyed my way into Stage01 for the first time of the whole fest, managing to get in just after Raketkanon finished in order to see Texas fuzzers Wo Fat. Of everything that Roadburn 2013 has had to offer over the last three days, the balls-out stoner rock contingent has been relatively quiet (though I hear good things about Candybar Planet) in favor of doom, heavy psych, black metal and that specific kind of “other” that has become Roadburn‘s bread and butter these last few years, so I knew there was going to be a good crowd for Wo Fat, who rose to the challenge and dug right into the dirt with the title-track of last year’s excellent fourth album, The Black Code (review here), well representing their home state, American heavy rock, and well-spirited riffage. I can’t speak for everyone, but for my tired ass, they were an existential tonic. A pick-me-up like the espresso I’d soon grab from the machine in the merch area.
The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter didn’t exactly shy away from jamming on The Black Code, and their set followed a similar ethic, Stump taking extended solos while Wilson absolutely nailed the grooves underlying and Walter held all the pieces together. They were glad to be there, everyone seemed to be glad they were there — it was awesome. I immediately had “The Black Code” stuck in my head and figured that if I had to spend the rest of the night with that groove on mental jukebox perma-repeat, I had no problem with that. “Descent into the Maelstrom” from 2011′s Noche del Chupacabra was preceded by “Hurt at Gone,” which featured a few highlight leads, and they rounded out with the last two tracks from the latest LP, “The Shard of Leng” and “Sleep of the Black Lotus,” which meant they played the whole record, just not in order, plus “Descent into the Maelstrom” and “Enter the Riffian,” from 2009′s Psychedelonaut. This being their first European tour, and first real tour in general unless they went to Japan without telling anybody, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out of it a much tighter, different band than they came into it. Clearly they were relishing every second of the Roadburn experience.
And while I watched them, so was I. I felt refreshed on my way to see Victor Griffin’s In~Graved in the Green Room, making sure to get there in plenty of time to get up front. Griffin, of course, is American doom nobility as much as anyone can be, with a pedigree that traces back through Place of Skulls to Pentagram to Death Row, but as he’s joined in In~Graved by bassist Guy Pinhas (Goatsnake, The Obsessed, etc.), keyboardist Jeff “Oly” Olson (former Trouble drummer) and drummer “Minnesota” Pete Campbell (Sixty Watt Shaman and Place of Skulls, among others), it’s something of a supergroup. Their recently-released self-titled debut (review here) for sure is Griffin doing what he does best, singing and playing guitar with his unmistakable tone and professing his faith in song. He was in his element at Roadburn 2013, and said it was good to be back. I saw him here in 2010 with a Death Row reunion and again in 2011 with Pentagram, and he’s got his thing and it works well for him. He led In~Graved in such a manner as to be fitting of having his name in front.
“Digital Critic,” which also started the record, opened. My issues with the subject matter notwithstanding (because if anyone needs a good shitting on, it’s bloggers; actually, if the song was about poor syntax and needless hyperbole, I’d be down with it), they were tight, and “What If” followed, immediately establishing the dynamic of the band, with Olson‘s keys playing a major role in enriching the melodies and underscoring the grooves of Griffin‘s riffs. It seemed to me that’s where the real potential for In~Graved lies. Here Victor Griffin has this awesome band that’s out on tour. Pinhas on bass is a rhythm section unto himself, and he and Campbell were locked in from the first note, so what I’m left wondering about In~Graved is what happens next? Where do they go from here? Is it a real band or a Griffin project with a revolving door membership? Seems to me that this lineup could yield some fantastic material if they wrote together. I don’t know how feasible that is — last I heard, Pinhas lived in California, and everyone involved seems to have plenty going on besides, so scheduling could be a nightmare — but they had potential to be a real band and not just a touring lineup. We live in a universe of infinite possibility. Maybe it’ll happen, maybe they’ll do this European tour and never speak again. Who knows.
High on Fire delivered their second set of the weekend on the Main Stage. Thursday night’s headlining slot was Art of Self Defense-only, so this one replied with selections from the rest of the trio’s catalog, launching with the rush of De Vermis Mysteriis opener “Serums of Laio” and weaving a vicious blood trail through material from Surrounded by Thieves on, cuts like “Devilution,” “Frost Hammer” (Jeff Matz joining Matt Pike on vocals), “Rumors of War,” “Madness of an Architect” and “Eyes and Teeth” melding together in a career-spanning sampler that may have been missing the first album’s highlights, but in the context of the other spot still made sense. It hadn’t been that long since I had seen them do most of this material, late last year in Philly, but they never disappoint live and this was no exception. Who could complain about two High on Fire sets in one weekend? Not me, not this weekend, though I knew with Elder still to come there was much more of the day to be had, and so I took a quick break for dinner — fish, rice, salad — and to pick up some Cosmic Dead tapes from the merch area. More espresso was the right choice as well.
I sat outside Het Patronaat for a few minutes to get caught up on my notes and drink said coffee in the fresh air — actually it kind of smelled like old potatoes, but that’s still fresher than inside — but wound up going in to see a bit of UK black metal progressives A Forest of Stars, who wound up being probably the most elaborate act of the whole fest, between the double-guitars, violin, flute, keys, extra percussion, ebow, multiple vocalists, shirts and ties, and so on. It was a far cry from High on Fire, to be sure, as screamer Dan Eyre stood almost perfectly still to seethe when he had a break as the band around him continued their well-received onslaught. The people there knew who they were — Roadburn‘s a pretty hip crowd anyway — but I didn’t, so for just being something different, it was exciting even though what they were doing, black metal tinged with psych and folk influences, isn’t really where my head is at. Very atmospheric, very complex, very intense, mixing clean vocals and screams and everything else. I can’t imagine getting seven people to agree on anything, let alone be in a band, so kudos are in order.
The reason I was there, though, was for Elder, who played next. What a fucking blast. Seriously. That’s what it says in my notes: “What a fucking blast.” It’s a direct quote. Probably the best thing I can compare it to is when Black Pyramid played the Afterburner in 2011 and were given such a warm reception, but this was bigger, both in room size and in that reception itself. Similar to Goat last night, people were lined up out the door and down the alley to see Elder‘s Roadburn debut, and the crowd was cheering before they even started the first song. They waved and people cheered. It was a lot of fun to see, and as it was the 10th show on their 15-date European run with Pet the Preacher (who played earlier at another club down the way as a kind of annex to the festival), they also handed the place its collective ass. Both cuts from the Spires Burn/Release EP were included, as well as “Dead Roots Stirring” and a host of others, and for the umpteenth time in the last couple days, I felt lucky to be there. I know for a lot of people, this was the first time they’re getting to see them live, but even for the several times I have, this one was something special. I’ve got my train booked to London in time to see them in Camden Town on Monday. Fingers crossed it actually works out.
My thought was to catch Mr. Peter Hayden at Stage01, but didn’t get there in time and so missed it. Drowned my sorrows instead in a few Electric Moon CDs — there are so many! — and ran back to drop them off at the hotel before heading back to the Main Stage for Godflesh. While I’m feeling lucky, I felt lucky to see Godflesh do Streetcleaner front-to-back two years ago, so I guess I’m twice-over lucky as regards the seminal Justin Broadrick-led outfit for having now seen them do 1992′s sophomore full-length, Pure, as well. If it comes to it, I wouldn’t object if Broadrick and bassist B.C. Green wanted to go year-by-year through the whole catalog and wind up at 2001′s Hymns, but I doubt it will come to that. I had been wondering whatever became of the new record he alluded to when interviewed here for the last Jesu full-length, but nobody seemed to mind a roll through Pure — at least I didn’t hear any groans, “Oh, this again,” and so on — and from the sheer damage that material can inflict, it’s no real wonder why. Apparently one of the byproducts of being so ahead of your time is that later on your output is still vital. Go figure.
Now, I’m not going to claim to be the biggest Godflesh fan in the world. To me, they’re a band I’ve appreciated more in hindsight — hearing their records years after the fact and recognizing the parts that others have ripped off; there’s no shortage — but I don’t honestly think they would’ve worked as anything but the headliner for this final night of Roadburn. The energy and the volume they bring, Broadrick, Green and the drum machine, didn’t really leave room to be built upon. Robert Hampson, who played on Pure and the preceding 1991 Cold World EP following the dissolution of his band Loop that year and who also did a solo set on Thursday, joined them on second guitar, so that the three were spread out across the stage, Broadrick on the right, Green on the left and Hampson in the middle.
It only got louder and more pulsating from there. I made my way over to Stage01 to watch some of Mr. Peter Hayden through the open door — I had really wanted to see them — and even then, the sounds I was getting was a mixture of their heavy-as-hell psych freakout and Godflesh‘s dissatisfied industrial frustrations. Figuring that I was going to want to work my way up anyway for The Cosmic Dead‘s 23.15 start, I started through the crowd as Mr. Peter Hayden did a sort of space rocking baptism rite on the front row that involved a tinfoil-covered hand. Seemed like a great set, and it certainly ended riotous enough, but having missed them, there was no way I was letting The Cosmic Dead go unseen. I got to the front of the stage just in time to see Mr. Peter Hayden sell a DVD to the dude standing next to me for 10 Euro that I’m pretty sure was the visuals that were playing behind them and not, as I’m relatively sure this guy thought it was, a live video of what they’d just played. The day had been long for everyone.
But The Cosmic Dead were something of an arrival for me. You see, I knew this day was going to end jammy and spaced out, and so when I got up front at Stage01, it was the proverbial home stretch. My feet were sore, my back was sore, I smelled like other people’s smoke and the fish I ate for dinner, but dammit, I wanted to see the Scottish band bring their heavy space to life. I didn’t have much time, because New York’s Endless Boogie were going on the Main Stage at 23.50, but I’d get in what I could. This was fine until The Cosmic Dead made it apparent they were running on SRT (“stoner rock time”). They started closer to 23.30, which meant I had all of five minutes before I had to head out and see the last band. In my head, the voice of Lana from Archer made a “womp womp” noise, though what I saw of The Cosmic Dead was right on. The bassist set up facing away from the audience, and they were so densely fogged up from the smoke machine that one almost had to take the sound’s word for it that they were there in the first place, but they made it known that they’re in it for the jams. What little I got to see was a boon.
Earlier in the day, I was asked why I wouldn’t just go see Endless Boogie in New York. They’re from New York and I live in New Jersey, about an hour away. It makes sense. Well, the thing is some of the shows they play in New York are terrible, and I get bummed out at terrible shows. If you’re ever going to see a band live, no matter who they are or what they do, in my experience, there’s no better place to see them than at Roadburn. I’ve seen some awesome shit in my day, and when it came to me and Endless Boogie, I knew that if I was gonna run into their low-end moody improv, this was how I wanted it to happen. Asphyx were playing at Het Patronaat, but I didn’t care. I watched guitarist/vocalist Paul “Top Dollar” Major preach impromptu about whatever the hell he felt like while Endless Boogie smoothed their way into an all-flavor/no-filler groove that I think was loosely based on one of the cuts from this year’s Long Island (review here) but ultimately headed somewhere else.
The same could be said for me. I’d stayed later than the last two nights to at least get a glimpse of The Cosmic Dead and Endless Boogie, but with this ahead of me, I knew my time was limited and that I needed to get back to the hotel and start with the clacky-clacky. Tomorrow is the Afterburner — like Roadburn‘s (relatively) laid back way of transitioning its audience back into real life. There’s always a cool vibe throughout the day and from Sigh and Nihil to Golden Void and Electric Moon, I’m sure tomorrow will be no exception. First though, sleep. I lost track this morning of what day it actually was and started doing work that needed to be in by Monday — and post time after sorting through the 80 pics with this post is 06.30; I have not slept — so maybe I’m a little frayed, but nothing I’ve thus far encountered has made me regret any of this.
Thanks all for reading. More pics after the jump.