Posted in Whathaveyou on May 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Over the last couple years, Roadburn has given birth to some legendary jams. Their late-night set in 2012 might not have been the first time J. Mascis (Witch, Dinosaur Jr.) kicked it off with the guys from Earthless, but in the couple years since it’s become a landmark for the fest and a model of one-off collaborations they’ve continued to refine. That set, under the title In a Dutch Haze, will be released on vinyl shortly, and it’s available to preorder from Outer Battery Records and Roadburn/Burning World Records now.
The lineup was Graham Clise and Mascis, both of Heavy Blanket, and Mario Rubalcalba and Mike Eginton of Earthless. Thus, Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket.
The PR wire has it like this:
EARTHLESS Meets HEAVY BLANKET “In A Dutch Haze” to be Released July 8
Monstrous Mash-Up From Members of Dinosaur Jr., Lecherous Gaze, OFF!, Rocket From the Crypt, Sweet Apple, Witch and More Delivers Whiz-Bang Wallop the Likes of Which the World Has Never Heard Before!!!
This July, a colossal collaborative concert, previously privy only to those who were fortunate enough to have helped fill a Netherlandic concert hall multiple moons ago, will be unleashed in awesome audio form as EARTHLESS Meets HEAVY BLANKET In A Dutch Haze. The out-of-this-world recording will see a July 8 release date via Outer Battery Records / Roadburn Records.
Back-story: an impromptu heavy psych JAM between J Mascis (DINOSAUR JR, SWEET APPLE, WITCH and one of both Rolling Stone and SPIN’s “Greatest Guitarists of All Time”) and California space rock masters EARTHLESS at the 2009 SXSW Festival left an onlooking crowd stunned and breathless. When word of the performance spread, the world-renowned musicians were asked to play the main stage of Holland’s annual international rock festival, Roadburn, to attempt to recreate the magic that revved-up an Austin audience at what was thought to be a one-time event.
Fast forward to the 2012 installment of the fantastic fest; when EARTHLESS’ guitarist Isaiah Mitchell had to back out at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstance, six-string shredder Graham Clise from J Mascis’ loud, psychedelic project HEAVY BLANKET (and who also plays with Mascis in WITCH and in the bitchin’ Bay Area band LECHEROUS GAZE) stepped in on second guitar. Backed by the best rhythm section in today’s adventurous rock world — Mario Rubalcaba and Mike Eginton from EARTHLESS — the quartet stormed the stage for what would become an incredible one-time happening, leading to almost a full hour of some of the most mind-bending heavy psych imaginable. The epic jam session gave birth to shredding psychedelia and hard rock blues underpinned by the muscular rhythmic sensibilities of kraut-rock and the unbridled energy of 70’s guitar rock. The formidable foundation laid by drummer Rubalcaba became a jumping off point for Mascis, Clise and Eighton to explore their inner cosmoi for consciousness-expanding riffs and music-induced psychedelic experiences.
Track listing: 1.) Paradise in a Purple Sky (58:34)
Now, the rest of the planet can ready their receivers and hoist headphones on high as the full live set from that magical evening in Tilburg is set to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world! Far-out, gatefold-spanning artwork by San Francisco tattoo artist and designer Tim Lehi (High on Fire, Black Anvil, Xasthur) perfectly animates this incredible audio adventure, while matchless mastering by Carl Saff (Boris, Guided By Voices), pushes this priceless performance over-the-top. Flame retardant clothing is highly recommended!
EARTHLESS Meets HEAVY BLANKET In A Dutch Haze is available for pre-order purchase now at this location. The initial LP pressing takes the form of a special, 2xLP on purple sky vinyl, limited to 300 copies. Collectors, don’t delay!
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Fucking hell, Roadburn. That’s not even fair. To take YOB‘s front to back performance of 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived from the 2012 fest and put it out as a 2014-fest-exclusive, limited-to-500 copies 2LP? You know I just lost my fucking job, right?
In all seriousness (which the last paragraph wasn’t, except for that part about being unemployed), I remember quite clearly having my chest cavity caved in by this set — one of two the Eugene, Oregon, trio would perform at Roadburn that weekend; they played Catharsisin full for the other, which felt like the universe was doing me a personal favor by making happen — and it was one of very few ultra-heavy experiences I can say in all seriousness hit me on a spiritual level. Which is why I’m going to start saving my pennies now so that hopefully in a couple weeks I’ve got enough to pickup a copy.
Having been there, I suggest if you’re going you do the same.
Roadburn to Release Yob’s The Unreal Never Lived – Live at RB 2012 On Vinyl Only at This Year’s Festival On Thursday, April 10th
The Roadburn only vinyl releases have become a tradition the last few years. Proceedings started in 2012 with the Voivod – Live At Roadburn 2011 LP and the Ulver Roadburn EP, followed last year by Dread Sovereign’s Pray To The Devil In Man EP and the Godflesh live Streetcleaner set.
This year is no exception , and we once more present a special release for you: In conjunction with their much anticipated Roadburn 2014 performances, we will release YOB’s The Unreal Never Lived – Live At Roadburn 2012 (2LP) at this year’s festival on Thursday, April 10th.
The tracklist is as follows: A ‘Quantum Mystic’ B ‘Grasping Air’ C ‘Kosmos’ D ‘The Mental Tyrant’
Mixed by Marcel van de Vondervoort
Mastered by James Plotkin
YOB‘s The Unreal Never Lived Live at RB 2012 (2LP) is limited to 500 copies, only to be sold at the Roadburn Festival 2014.
As the Spirit Caravan reunion gets underway with US touring starting this week (and a bit of drama bringing drummer Henry Vasquez in to replace Gary Isom), I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at the beginnings of Wino‘s previous reunion with The Obsessed. The three-piece was Wino‘s first band, formed as Warhorse in 1976, and seems to be a place to which the guitarist/vocalist has returned periodically throughout his career, having ended their original run around the time he joined Saint Vitus and then picked back up when he left after 1990’s V, only to put The Obsessed back to bed prior to starting Spirit Caravan. I don’t think it’s inappropriate to think of The Obsessed as a kind of thread running through Wino‘s progression, and even though the latest reunion hasn’t produced any studio material as of now, the fact that he got the band together again after performing acoustically for a few years, doing the Saint Vitus reunion and collaborating with Conny Ochs speaks to a kind of getting in touch with his sonic roots.
Because that’s what The Obsessed seems most to be: Roots doom. The songs are stripped-down and simple in their structure, Sabbathian in their stride with some flourish of Motörhead to coincide, and offer little by way of fluctuation or deviation from their downtrodden mood. Listening to an album like 1994’s The Church Withinisn’t always easy. It’s a slog to get through the 13 tracks of that record sometimes, because as much as tracks like “Streetside,” “Blind Lightning,” “Neatz Brigade” and “Field of Hours” are career high points for the band, most of the back half is a misery show, plain and simple, and after a while that kind of downer gets hard to take. Watching The Obsessed live at Roadburn 2012 was a different experience, however, and it was plain to see how much more the character of the tracks came out on stage than on record. Joined by bassist Guy Pinhas (who’d soon be replaced by Reid Raley) and drummer Greg Rogers, Wino was definitely in his element throughout the set, and it’s easy to see from the clip of “Blind Lightning” below just how at home he is in these riffs.
Posted in audiObelisk on January 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Every year at Roadburn since 2010, I’ve allowed myself to watch one set from the side of the stage in the main room at the 013. I attended in 2009 too, but too chickenshit to actually get up there and make it happen. In 2010, it was Garcia Plays Kyuss. In 2011, Acid King. Last year, it was YOB playing Catharsis in its entirety at the Afterburner — one of the last sets of the whole weekend. I held out for it, and when they started up with “Aeons,” took to the photo pit with the bevvy of far-more-professional Euro photographers, but knew that by the time they hit into the title-track (the third of three songs on the album), I wanted to be up there watching.
So I went. Catharsisis a landmark for me, an album that expanded my definition of what heavy could be, and from the opening guitar lines to the massive, earth-cracking apex and Mike Scheidt‘s deathly roar and desperate space ethereality, the song “Catharsis” is a doomed masterpiece. I got to the side of the stage by the time the band was through “Ether” and didn’t move from that spot for the rest of the hour. They’d already done 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived– the swan song of their original run — earlier in the fest (streaming here), but this one was something special. It was one of those things I couldn’t miss, had to see, was so glad to be there to see. Everything else revolved around this set. I can’t imagine anyone in the room felt differently about it.
Today Roadburn made YOB‘s Catharsis set available for streaming and you’ll find it embedded on the player below, with my gratitude as always to Walter, Marcel and the whole Roadburn crew. If I’m not mistaken, YOB are doing the album elsewhere this year, and if you can see it, consider yourself urged to do so. Until then, this:
Posted in audiObelisk on January 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Even as we gear up for the 2013 edition of Roadburn, the archive of 2012 audio streams continues to grow, this time with sets from Ancient VVisdom (they’re the spooky ones above), Huata, Kong, Necro Deathmort, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation and Year of the Goat. I like when these things come out on a Friday because that way I get to check them out over the weekend. Hopefully you get some time to take a listen, and thanks as always to Walter, Marcel and the entire Roadburn crew for making these and the life-changing festival from whence they come happen:
Ancient VVisdom – Live at Roadburn 2012
Anekdoten – Live at Roadburn 2012
Huata – Live at Roadburn 2012
Kong – Live at Roadburn Festival 2012
Necro Deathmort – Live at Roadburn 2012
The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation – Live at Roadburn 2012
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
To answer your first question, yes, I do a little bit regret not buying an LP copy of The Obsessed‘s Live in Köln whilst at Roadburn this year. If, like me, you were unable for whatever reason to get your hands on a copy, the PR wire informs of an Outer Battery Records limited vinyl issue out as of, well, right now, that will probably be of interest.
THE OBSESSED – Live in Köln collectors vinyl release streets TODAY!
Outer Battery Records is proud to announce the release of The Obsessed Live In Köln collectable vinyl LP. The album hits stores today. In collaboration with Roadburn, a limited pressing of 800 pieces on grey vinyl with new artwork designed by Guy Pinhas, is out now. An additional run of only 200 copies pressed on blood red vinyl is exclusively available from the Outer Battery website. Outer Battery Records is distributed by The Orchard. Sub distributors include CTD, Revolver and Cobraside.
Recorded in 1992 the album features the band’s line-up from The Church Within-era (Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich on guitar and vocals; Greg Rogers on drums; Guy Pinhas on bass). The concert took place at Live Music Hall in Cologne, Germany on December 29, 1992. The recording is being released now to celebrate the band’s long awaited live performance earlier this year at Roadburn Festival. Wino has been active with St. Vitus, Conny Ochs, his solo material and now performing again with Greg Rogers (Goatsnake, Sonic Medusa) and Guy Pinhas (Goatsnake, Acid King and Beaver). Mastered by James Plotkin (Sunn O))), ISIS, Pelican and Earth) this record features nine tracks:
1. “Mourning” 2. “Hiding Mask” 3. “The Way She Fly” 4. “Forever Midnight” 5. “Streamlined” 6. “Brother Blue Steel” 7. “Blind Lightning” 8. “Neatz Brigade” 9. “River Of Soul”
“There were also 300 copies of the super limited Saturday Night Special 7″ that came with the first few copies of the European version,” Outer Battery Records elaborates about the release. “We had our Dutch friends at Roadburn hold back 25 copies of the single for us, numbered for the American pressing, and they are available as a special add-on with the record. We sold out of this package in the first hour!”
Posted in audiObelisk on September 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today I’m happy to present the next batch of Roadburn 2012 audio streams. Along with Bongripper (above), you’ll find sets below from Coroner, Devil, Dragged into Sunlight, Hammers of Misfortune, Solstafir and Tombs. Thanks as always to Walter and the Roadburn crew for allowing me to host these streams (it is my extreme pleasure to do so) and to Marcel van de Vondervoort for helming the recordings.
Bongripper (Het Patronaat – Saturday, April 14th, 2012)
Posted in audiObelisk on June 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Roadburn audio stream season continues today with the next batch of sets recorded at this year’s fest at the 013 popcentrum and Het Patronaat in gorgeous Tilburg, the Netherlands. Any excuse to relive those four days back in April and I’ll take it. Thanks as always to Walter and the Roadburn crew and to Marcel van de Vondervoort for overseeing the recording process.
Posted in audiObelisk on June 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is one of my favorite series of posts throughout the year, and it’s even better now because I can actually embed the players. Thanks as always to Roadburn for documenting these sets and to Marcel van den Vondervoort and his crew at Spacejam for doing the hard work of recording and putting it all together.
If you missed the first batch of 2012 streams, they’re right here, and as always, enjoy:
Posted in audiObelisk on June 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today it is my extreme pleasure to host the first of what I hope will be many batches of audio streams from Roadburn 2012. This year, instead of links, I’m honored to host the audio streams themselves, which you’ll find on the players below. Extra special thanks to Walter and the Roadburn crew, and to Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team for recording these sets.
Alkerdeel – Roadburn 2012
Ancestors – Roadburn 2012
BlackCobra – Roadburn 2012
Bong – Roadburn 2012
Horisont – Roadburn 2012
Sigiriya – Roadburn 2012
YOB – The Unreal Never Lived live at Roadburn 2012
Yeah, I know it was just last week that I did a clip from Roadburn for a Wino Wednesday pick. Cut me some slack, man. It’s not every weekend in your life you get to see Scott “Wino” Weinrich kill it in two different sets with two different projects, and I guess until Shrinebuilder decides to go on tour with The Obsessed and Spirit Caravan reunions (which probably won’t be happening any time soon or, you know, ever), it’s about the most we can reasonably ask for. I guess you could get Saint Vitus and Shrinebuilder on the same bill somewhat feasibly for a Wino double-dose, but it’s moot, however much fun dream lineups are to put together.
And anyway, the song “Dust,” which Wino and German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs included earlier this year on their collaborative album, Heavy Kingdom (review here) has been stuck in my head on and off since I watched them play it. I thought it was a cool track when I heard it on the album, but it’s a whole different experience hearing it live, especially since, as they both noted throughout the set, they’d been on tour throughout Europe for weeks, and were extremely tight both vocally and musically. Ochs, who takes the lead vocal on “Dust” with Wino backing, kicks a bass drum to keep a beat and soulfully belts out the song with melodic embellishments. It was one of the high points of the festival.
So, on this springtime late afternoon, I hope you enjoy this clip from Wino & Conny Ochs‘ set, making the most of the old church acoustics as they open day two of Roadburn at Het Patronaat. Maybe posting it will finally get the song out of my head and I’ll be able to move on with my life, but somehow I doubt it.
Predictable? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely! This week’s Wino Wednesday clip comes courtesy of this year’s installment of the Roadburn festival in TIlburg, the Netherlands. If you’ve checked out the site in the last week, you might have heard a thing or two about it. If not, one of the highlights of the weekend was unquestionably a reunion of The Obsessed‘s The Church Within-era lineup of guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Guy Pinhas and drummer Greg Rogers.
It’s unknown at this point if they’re going to do anything else as a band — certainly Wino isn’t lacking for other projects at this point — but of course, since it’s the future, no way this wasn’t going to end up all over the TouYubes. Something like The Obsessed getting back together for a one-time-only (to date) gig is too cool to let go undocumented, and fortunately there were several kind souls there with quality video recording capabilities.
As such, it’s my hope that you enjoy this clip of one of doom’s most powerful power trios performing the song “Neatz Brigade” from The Church Within from over this past weekend. Along with the song kicking ass, you’ll note as well that Pinhas is one of the intensest-looking dudes ever.
Posted in Features on April 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/15/12 — 00.04 — Saturday Night — Hotel Mercure
When my alarm went off this afternoon, it was with both excitement and a touch of apprehension that I considered the prospect of what today would bring Roadburn 2012, Day Three. Saturday, April 14. I looked at my pocket schedule — no fancy printouts or cellphone PDFs for me — and took a deep breath, steeling myself against the truly monolithic.
I’m sure the stories differ almost on a per-attendee basis, but my version of the final day of Roadburn proper went like this: Mike Scheidt, 40 Watt Sun, Dark Buddha Rising, Church of Misery, Pelican, The Wounded Kings, The Obsessed, Mars Red Sky, Sleep. If I was still standing, I wouldn’t know how.
The noon alarm gave me a little more time to get my head around what I was going to see, whereas the last two days it’s been up and go. Time well spent, since I was about to embark on the busiest day of this entire trip, a wave-crest culmination of everything that the last week-plus has been building toward. Fitting it should end with Sleep, since without them I and most of these bands probably wouldn’t be here. What now feels like aeons before the gods ascended their Olympus, however, Saturday afternoon began at 15.00 with Mike Scheidt in the Stage01 room.
Not 24 hours after YOB laid waste to the entire city of Tilburg performing all of The Unreal Never Lived, Scheidt, the guitarist, vocalist and driving force behind that band, emerged on 013‘s smallest stage to play acoustic songs from his upcoming Thrill Jockey solo release, Stay Awake — words which are also tattooed across his two hands, facing up for him to read. He got on stage talking about how excellent Doom had been the night prior and was soon in the thick of a spoken intro to a song called “Until the End of Everything.” I’ve heard the album a few times in preparation for a review, and it takes some of YOB‘s sonic mysticism into account on “Until the End of Everything” and a few other tracks, but Scheidt was careful as well to acknowledge singer-songwriter roots, alternating between finger-picking strings and a rhythmic strum that was familiar to many in the room in its construction.
He’s still clearly working out the approach he wants to take to the form, and said on stage as well that performing acoustic was a recent advent for him and that he was very much enjoying it, but as he dug into the throatier vocals on the closing title-track to Stay Awake, there was little to no perceptible temerity or lack of confidence in what he was doing. The songs sounded better live than they do on the record, but most importantly, there’s room for Scheidt to grow and explore new ideas outside the context of YOB, which at this point have established at least in part the palette from which they continue to refine their sound. That is, they have a “sound” they continue to refine, whereas Scheidt is still finding out what he wants to be as a solo artist, and seeing that unfold on stage was engaging.
Main room openers 40 Watt Sun had been on my list to see since I missed them when they came through New York last year, so when Scheidt was finished, I took the not-at-all-a-secret passageway from Stage01 and prepared myself to get sad. That’s what 40 Watt Sun do. Their doom is as much contingent on emotional weight — if not more — than tonal, and that could be heard as well on last year’s The Inside Room (review here). That puts them in a tight spot in terms of a stage show, however, since they’re basically limited then to how much they can really get into a show experience before undercutting the pervasive emotionality of the music. To work at all, they almost have to be boring to watch on stage. You can’t have some dude doing jumping jacks and playing a song like “Carry Me Home.”
Well, you could, but you’d probably get laughed at. 40 Watt Sun relied on the music to carry their ideas across on stage, and the songs had enough presence to make up for any fireworks that may have been absent otherwise. Vocalist/guitarist Patrick Walker (ex-Warning) was visceral in his presentation of the material, or perhaps “wrenching” would be a better word. In any case, they managed to make an entire concert hall of burly beardos miss their wives and girlfriends at the same time. Maybe that’s just me projecting. Fair enough. Before they were done, and before I actually allowed myself to feel something (yuck), I made my way into the Green Room to catch the start of Finnish blackened doomers Dark Buddha Rising, whose theatrics were of a much different and more, uh, theatrical variety.
Until they came out on stage and I recognized faces, I didn’t know this, but Dark Buddha Rising shares at least two of its members with Hexvessel, who played yesterday. While that adds a level of intrigue into the initial discovery of who they are, it says nothing about how much the two acts have in common, which in turn is just about nothing. Dark Buddha Rising take the ritual Hexvessel preach and bring it to corpsepainted life, their frontman/noise-manipulator doused himself in “blood” from a chalice as he screamed and worked a wah pedal with his hand to add to the rumbling ferocity of noise from the guitar, bass and drums. I could take or leave that side of it — the stage show — but they had the doom to back it up. Lumbering, lurching, crawling malevolence came out to turn the Green Room black, and the music was more powerful than any chalice could contain. Vinyl-only to an apparent point of religiosity, it made me sad to not immediately go buy everything they had on their table in the merch area. Fortunately, I had Church of Misery to help drown my sorrows.
Drown them they did. Or maybe they smothered them. Or stabbed them. Or blasted them with a sawed-off shotgun. Whatever it was, Church of Misery‘s murderous grooves “took care of” any and all residual woes and rolled them up in a rug, never to be seen again. Unfortunately, there were a few technical difficulties for bassist Tatsu Mikami. Fortunately, they happened right during the jam part of “El Padrino,” so guitarist Tom Sutton got to just play out the “na na na” riff for about four extra minutes while the stage crew brought out a new bass head. That wasn’t the last of Mikami‘s troubles, but those things are unavoidable sometimes, and it’s not like Church of Misery have never played Roadburn and probably won’t again next year. If you’ve got to have a house band, you could do a hell of a lot worse.
Once they were up and running again, Church of Misery had the main stage crowd already well on their (meat)hook. The new vocalist, whose name I still don’t know, made an excellent master of ceremonies, and though I left for a bit in the middle to get a quick bite, I was back in time to see them finish out in riotous form, making way for Chicagoan instrumentalists Pelican, whose new EP, Ataraxia/Taraxis, is the first release from the band since 2009’s What We all Come to Need (review here) brought back around some of the escapist atmospherics that peppered their earliest works while also remaining consistently and consciously heavy. I remember seeing them on the “Champions of Sound” tour with Scissorfight at the old Knitting Factory in New York, and though I know I’ve encountered them between then and now, that will always be my frame of reference. At some point, then, Pelican grew up.
As they played, I turned my head to look at the crowd behind me, and all there was was a sea of nodding heads. They still had plenty of energy on stage, but at the same time, Pelican was a fully mature band, who’ve earned their spot between Church of Misery and The Obsessed. The main room was jammed with people, and Pelicanhanded each one a bleeding eardrum. Their grooves were huge, the sound was reverberating off the walls in a massive hum, and they didn’t let up. It wasn’t just impressive. It was landmark, and it renewed my appreciation for what they do. I wasn’t even that excited to see them, thinking there was no way they’d be able to replace that Knitting Factory show in my mind, but they absolutely did. It’s like they realized they didn’t need to choose between being heavy and being ambient or melodic. They crushed, and in a way that I didn’t think they were capable of or interested in crushing. That was the most surprising part of all.
On my list of “must” bands, The Wounded Kings ranked pretty high. I’d missed them last time they were here, and what with their having a totally different lineup now, showing up at the Green Room seemed more than prudent. Guitarist Steve Mills, who is the only founding member of the band, led The Wounded Kings through a round of songs from 2011’s In the Chapel of the Black Hand, which is appropriate since that’s the only record that four of the five in the lineup played on. Vocalist Sharie Neyland had a bit of vibrato to her voice that was well matched by the rumble of Jim Willumsen‘s bass, and Mills — who’s been through his share of trials in getting the band to this point — seemed thoroughly satisfied with the fruits of his labor. They were an interesting comparison point to Dark Buddha Rising, since both bands could probably be classified as occult doom, but each has a drastically different take than the other on what that designation might mean.
As a singer, Neyland puts The Wounded Kings on a new level entirely, and I feel now having seen them live as I felt when I reviewed the record, which is I hope the lineup stays consistent. Drummer Mike Heath and guitarist Alex Kearney only added to the potency of the other players, and it seemed the atmosphere was set from the outset and maintained the whole way through. The Green Room was full too, and then some, and considering Pelican was still going in the main stage and Leaf Hound was at Het Patronaat, it’s safe to say The Wounded Kings have made some real fans along the way on their bumpy road to this point. Mills works quick — for instance, this lineup of the band was put together and an album was released in a year’s time — so hopefully it’s not too long before we get another glimpse inside their house of horrors.
By this time in the day, my back and forth was in full swing. I’d gone from Stage01 to the main room, to the Green Room, to the main room, to dinner, back to the main room, to the Green Room, and now was headed back to the main room again for The Obsessed‘s reunion set. It takes a toll, both physically and in terms of what you see, but the tradeoff is you see more bands. Whereas yesterday I got to get more of a feel forwhat everyone was doing — I saw full sets from Wino & Conny Ochs, Conan and YOB — today and Day One were a different kind of experience. Obviously one still full of enjoyment and thrills, they just come in more rapid-fire procession. I’ll admit too that although I did a lot of running around today — I mean a lot — the weekend was beginning even early this afternoon to extract its toll on my energy level.
I’m not bitching. I hope you won’t take that to mean it that way, but I think fatigue, being worn out, is part of the festival experience and worth talking about. I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else for the duration of today — or this weekend as a whole, for that matter — but that doesn’t mean I didn’t make two trips to the espresso machine in the merch area this afternoon to gear up for the evening’s lineup. The second time, I put in two 50 Euro cents and got a double. It had to be done, because the fact of the matter is it’s not every day that The Obsessed get on stage and do a show. Roadburn seemed to know it, too, since when I came back into the main room for the set, the curtain was drawn.
This led me to wonder what they could possibly be hiding. The lineup, if I’m not mistaken, was announced beforehand as being drummer Greg Rogers and bassist Guy Pinhas alongside vocalist/guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, so I’m not sure what was to be gained by drawing the giant curtain as the gear was loaded in and line checked. I didn’t expect much of a stage show, no explosions or dancing elephants, when The Obsessed got started, and sure enough, it was just the three of them rocking out those old songs. Once they actually began playing, though, I changed my mind about the curtain. It was awesome, and the reunion was special enough to warrant it. Once they hit into “Streetside,” I thought I tore my groove muscle — not to be confused with my “love muscle,” which is pretty much my forearm (heyo!).
Pinhas thanked the audience profusely and sounded utterly sincere, and he and Rogers nailed the material. It’s been since 1995 that The Obsessed played a set, though Weinrich worked Obsessed songs into his Wino trio performances, but if reunions from the likes of Saint Vitus and Sleep have shown anything, it’s that doom ages well. Getting to see The Obsessed play was one more really special occurrences that I’ve gotten to take part in on this trip, and I followed it up immediately by watching Mars Red Sky in the Green Room. It cost me part of The Obsessed‘s set, but after being so jealous of The Patient Mrs.‘ having seen them in Portland, Oregon, I had to follow up by seeing them for myself. The three-piece was positively humble and unassuming as they came out and started off their set with “Falls” from last year’s self-titled debut.
Guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist Jimmy Kinast have a new drummer in the lineup, as of reportedly two weeks ago, but the songs were smooth as they ran through them — “Strong Reflection,” the Kinast-vocal “Marble Sky,” “Curse” and a new song they didn’t give a title for but that seemed to show them heading further in the direction of balancing weighted tones with laid back grooves. You won’t hear me complain. It was one time this weekend where I can truly say that no one in the room was there by accident. Right across the hallway, you had The Obsessed rocking out songs that are legendary in doom, and yet the Green Room was full of heads come to worship at the warm fuzz coming from Pras‘ amp. For me, I’ll liken it to seeing Sungrazer at Roadburn last year, both in terms of the warmth of distortion and the equally rich satisfaction I got from doing so. They weren’t the highest profile act of the evening by any stretch, but Mars Red Sky were a highlight of my weekend (and with a weekend of highlights, that’s saying something), and I knew going into it that they would be.
Nonetheless, they were not the cap on the night. A mammoth, feedback-drenched, earth-rattling set from Sleep would follow back once more in the main room. Matt Pike, Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder. I’m honestly not sure if anything else needs to be said than that. Yeah, they’re not the full original trio of the band (though I’ve never heard anyone who’s actually seenRoederdrum on these songs complain; some conceptual kvetching), and yeah, nobody’s as young as they used to be, myself included, but goddamn, you put these guys on a stage and you better be sure your walls are reinforced. Doing one of their several extended sections of nothing but feedback and vibrating washes of noise, I found myself looking up at the 013 ceiling to see if anything was going to shake loose and fall on the crowd. I’m not kidding. I had my escape route all planned out — onto the stage, through the side door, out the loading dock. Off to safety I go.
It didn’t come to that, thankfully, but Sleep were at a pretty high threat level. High enough so that my earplugs did me no good whatsoever and my ears are ringing now. Before they even started — before his amps were even turned on — Pike came out and just started playing to the crowd. There was no sound, and he looked a little smashed, but even on mute, he earned vehement cheers. Before long, that solo turned into a mash of noise that, in turn, turned into the start of “Dopesmoker.” “Drop out of life with bong in hand/Follow the smoke toward the riff filled land” — words that have become the granite into which Sleep‘s legacy is carved, and I don’t mind saying I got chills up my spine as Al Cisneros delivered the lines. He did smoke a joint on stage, oh yes, and got a laugh by saying, “This intermission is brought to you by The Grass Company,” which is just down the street from 013 here in Tilburg. I don’t smoke, but I did suddenly want to order five shots and down them all; the music begging its adherents to be fucked up one way or another, I suppose.
Pike teased the opening riff of “Dragonaut” and a shockwave of electricity went through the crowd, and when they actually did it, it was glorious. Likewise “Holy Mountain” and “From Beyond,” both of which were just a huge, wondrous mess of abrasive noise and painful volume. The vocals weren’t the kind of shouts one hears when listening to Sleep’s Holy Mountain, or even Dopesmoker, but Cisneros was loyal to the songs all the same, vocally and musically, playing way up high on the neck of his five-string Rickenbacker, and where after seeing them in Brooklyn in 2010, I was unsure as to how the conflicting stage presences of Pike (a drunken madman) and Cisneros (a weedian guru) might play out correspondingly in their personal relationship, tonight they seemed absolutely on the same page with each other and with Roeder as the essential third of the band. One shudders at the possibility of a new album.
They went long, as I guess one will do when one is Sleep, and I had a laugh when they finished and the 1972 Charles Bronson movie The Mechanic came on the huge screen that was behind the band. Years ago, I interviewed Matt Pike for one of High on Fire‘s records — I think it was Blessed Black Wings — in person in Philadelphia, and afterwards at a bar, he told a story of being sat down as a child, I believe by his father, and being made to watch that very film since it was, “Everything you need to know about being a man.” Of course as soon as I could I got the DVD and watched it. It’s the story of two hitmen, a mentor and his protegé, and rife with betrayal, murder and a bizarre — and indeed, inherently masculine — code of honor that bonds its protagonists. Jan-Michael Vincent was the younger hitman. Anyway, the nod to The Mechanic gave me a chuckle as I worked my way through the beaten throng of Roadburners and out of the main room.
A Heavy Jam session with members of Witch and Earthless loomed ahead, but not for me. For me, it was back to the hotel to put the cap on this three-day exercise in riff worship. I’m not finished yet. Tomorrow is the Afterburner, and that’s got Electric Orange, Internal Void, and YOB doing all of Catharsis, among others, so I’m not yet in full-on reflection mode (not to mention it’s three in the damn morning), but suffice it to say for the time being that there’s a reason people come from around the world to play and attend this festival, and it’s because there’s only one Roadburn. It’s been exhausting, but it’s been a thrill too, and I’m looking forward to wrapping things up tomorrow with one more round of getting my ass handed to me at the Afterburner. Here’s to it.
Posted in Features on April 13th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.13.12 — 00.10 — Friday Night — Hotel Mercure
Today was going to be my calm day. Yesterday was a ton of running around, tomorrow indeed will also be a ton of running around. Today the idea was fewer bands, but more full sets. I wanted to let the fest sink in a little. To savor it for a while without having to be off somewhere else immediately.
Day two of the 17th annual Roadburn festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands, was dedicated to Canadian legends Voivod‘s curated event, Au-delà du Réel (the French translation of “the outer limits,” keeping with the band’s oft-affirmed affection for sci-fi). With the likes of Farflung and Barn Owl on the bill, though, it was as Roadburn as ever, but the idea — at least according to the literature — was to blend loud and quiet around the Voivod set doing all of Dimension Hatröss, and in that, they succeeded. It was probably the most mixed Roadburn lineup I’ve ever seen.
I’d been up until about 05.00 in the morning putting together the writeup of day one, so I slept late and got up after noon to get ready for the next round. Wino & Conny Ochs provided a subdued beginning at Het Patronaat, which was welcome. They both mentioned that they’d been on the road together touring Europe for six weeks, and they sounded like it. The harmonies between the two singers were tighter even than on the Heavy Kingdom collaborative album (review here), and they opened with the first cut from that, the ultra-quiet “Somewhere Nowhere.” Cameras around me clicked off pictures, and the music was so quiet that each click of a camera sounded like someone was breaking a window.
They picked up the energy level, though, at least somewhat. “Labor of Love” was a high point, as was “Heavy Kingdom,” and they played a new song they wrote while on tour called “Hellbound Train” that was bluesy enough to earn its title. It’s good to know that their collaboration will continue, or that they’re thinking it will at this point, anyhow. It will be interesting to hear how (and see when) they follow Heavy Kingdom and in what ways they expand their approach. Wino kicked some fuzz into his acoustic guitar for a solo — it might have been during “Old and Alone,” it might not — and later, Ochs brought out a bow and started playing his guitar with that as he also worked a kickdrum with his foot to provide more of a rhythm. Not exactly fireworks, I know, but it was an unplugged set, and seeing how well Wino and the malleable-voicedOchs work together was excitement enough.
Nachtmystium was taking the main stage at the 013 just as Wino&Conny Ochs were finishing, but I stayed put and waited a short while until Hexvessel came out and delivered their take on alternately Satanic and pagan folk. Before they took the stage, the Het Patronaaat DJ — whose name was Kevin, we’d later eat dinner together — played Black Widow and Coven, and that was appropriate enough a lead-in for Hexvessel, whose sound is very purposefully in that vein, but a tad more Finnish. I give it about five more months before avant garde pagan folk is the new doom, everyone wearing forest tunics and selling the good word of Satan’s majesty made flesh in the indulgent wonders of the earth. Not that I’d care if it happens, but if it does, I’d like another band to add to the list of comparison points. One gets tired of repeating, “Black Widow and Coven” all the time.
I did not stay in Hexvessel‘s darkened forest for long. Los Angeles psych unit Farflung — who I believe are actually in the process of being legally adopted by Europe — were in the Green Room, and I stood and watched some through the door, but my main thing was hitting the merch area at that time. I know I didn’t mention it yesterday, but buying merch is a major part of the Roadburn experience, whether it’s the festival t-shirt itself, exclusive vinyls, limited CDs. Whatever itch you’ve got to scratch as regards doomly commerce, all the bands are there at V39, which is right across the alley from the 013, and they’re all ready to sell. Groups playing Het Patronaat also get to sell their stuff at the church’s downstairs room, and it was there I bought six short-run handmade CDRs from GNOD, who I’d wind up not seeing tonight but am still glad to have dealt with. The dude took me through each CD one at a time and explained what the band was doing at that point, which order the discs were in, etc. It was actually pretty fascinating.
Back at the main merch area, though, it was crowding up. Depending on who’s at what table, it can be just as hard to move through there as it is to get into the Green Room or Stage01, but the difference I suppose is the merch area is a constant flux. I got myself a much-needed espresso from the machine (could use one now; my eyelids are getting heavy as I type) in the lower room that looks out onto the little courtyard smoking area, and conducted some business, picking up discs from Farflung, Black Rainbows and Dopethrone. The same people selling The Obsessed‘s new limited live LP were also selling CD/DVD digipaks of the new Saint Vitus record, Lillie: F-65 (review here), so I grabbed that too, and a Voivod shirt specially made for the Dimension Hatröss performance at Roadburn.
The next several moves I made can basically come down to one goal, and that was to see Conan at Stage01. I tried to get into Stage01 twice yesterday and failed both times. Couldn’t even get to a point where I could see in the doorway. It was pitiful, and as a result, I adjusted the course and direction of my afternoon with the single trajectory in mind: To be up front, Stage01, 19.15 as the British megadoom trio hit the stage. Was a bit of a process, beginning with seeing J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia in the main room. I think Sólstafir at Het Patronaat was drawing a lot of the crowd away, not to mention what remained of Farflung‘s packed-out set, but I wanted to catch J.G. Thirlwell’s Manorexia specifically because I knew nothing about the project. When I walked into the main hall, there was a string quartet setting up and piano, extra percussion — bit of chamber music to balance out the Au-delà du Réel mission. So be it. Excellently performed and it was great to watch these burly beardo sludge heads in the crowd shut their eyes and did on the cello. I’d have stayed longer, but for the mission of my own.
Dinner was a necessity. I was dragging ass already and it was only 17.50. Still a lot of Day Two left. So I went and ate as fast as I could so that I’d be in time to catch some of Kong in the Green Room — but upstairs, on the balcony. You see, the balcony of the Green Room connects to Stage01 in a way that already puts you in the room. No more waiting by the door. Well, yes, you’re still waiting by the door, but it’s a different door, and you don’t have to be in the hall — ah, forget it. It made sense at the time. Let’s just say that and roll with it. I made my way through and up to the Green Room balcony as Kong were setting up. They were pretty decent, instrumental heavy stuff with a bit of electronics thrown in in a way that was satisfyingly creative without being weird on purpose or desperate for attention. I snapped some shots, most (if not all) of which were terrible, but could not linger, lest I mistime my approach to the smallest of 013‘s three rooms and blow the entire Conan operation.
No way I was going to let that happen. Danava were on stage in there, and I’ve never been a fan. Back home in the States, we call it “hipster metal,” but I guess that matters less here. No wonder the Euro scene is so strong. Some dude leaned over to me and in an accent I’m pretty sure was Italian said, “They’re good like The Atomic Bitchwax!” The Bitchwax with a marketing budget. Had all the right t-shirts — Ted Nugent, Blue Öyster Cult — but weren’t nearly as tight as the last three Bitchwax gigs I’ve seen. Nonetheless, when traveling away from home, one hesitates when it comes to engaging debate on these points. No real cause to do so anyway. I’d just be a prick who doesn’t like popular bands. Better to just save the time and realize that at the outset. Whatever. They were fine and the crowd loved them.
And I probably wouldn’t have been there at all, but Danava — who, of course, more drew Stage01 to be more-than-capacity full — were another means to the my already stated end. They still had more than 20 minutes of their hour-long set left, but during that time, I put my plan into action and slowly made my way into the crowd. I didn’t push. I wasn’t a jerk about it. As people made their way back, I made my way up, and then, when Danava were finally done, I bolted (as much as I ever “bolt” anywhere) toward the front of the room and nabbed a spot right in front of the stage. Victory was mine, and victory was sweet. Not even the carts of road cases and amps that were wheeled up to go on the stage would deter me from my position in front of it. Of course, I made room, but when Conan was done loading their equipment on and those carts were pushed away, I was right back to where I was, which was just where I’d wanted to be. It had taken me the better part of an hour and a half to do it, but I was up front for Conan at Roadburn.
Sure enough, I stayed put for the entirety of their performance. There wasn’t much choice in the matter, but I wanted to be as close as possible to that tone that’s been my litmus test for “heavy” ever since I first heard Horseback Battle Hammer in 2010 (review here). Their new full-length, Monnos (review here), proved no less uncompromising, tone-wise, so I knew it would be worth my time, and it was. They played cuts from Monnos including opener “Hawk as Weapon” and did “Retaliator” and “Older than Earth” (I think) from their split with Slomatics (review here), bassist Phil Coumbe adding metallic growls and screams to guitarist Jon Davis‘ shouts and cleaner yelling. Conan were one of my impetus bands this year — that is, one of the reasons I’m here — and there was no letdown to be had. The lights, the fog, the overwhelming crush of sound — it was all astoundingly heavy whether they were playing fast or slow.
It also gave me a new appreciation for drummer Paul O’Neil‘s work in the band, as he not only manages to keep time through their tidal morass, but does so interestingly and works in subtle flourishes on his cymbal work that maybe get lost in the shuffle because they’re not as obvious as, say, the giant riff that’s bashing your brains out. Either way, Conan were so heavy that my earplugs vibrated in my head, and that hadn’t happened yet this weekend, so it’s worth noting. I was glad too to be trapped up front the whole time, so I didn’t get the itch to go and wait for YOB to come on in the photo pit. I still had plenty of time to get there watching all of Conan, and since it’ll probably be the only time I can get in there this weekend — Mike Scheidt of YOB opens up in there tomorrow doing solo acoustic stuff, but that’s a hard one to work out the logistics on making it to, much as I’ll try — I’m glad it was for a band I couldn’t see anywhere else at this point.
I say, “At this point,” because with a band as massive as Conan, you never know what’s going to happen. Already they were too big for the stage they played on, so hell, maybe they tour the US in some future either near or distant and demolish everything in their path. Who knows? There was a time — a few years, actually — when I was sure I’d never get the chance to watch YOB play a show, and it’s been four times now and by Monday it’ll be five. I caught Midian when they came through New York, but I knew there was no way I’d ever get to see YOB, and it was a bummer. I’m sure I’ve told the story before, so I’ll spare it, but as I made my way back over to the main stage to watch the Eugene, Oregon, trio unleash the 2005 full-length, The Unreal Never Lived, in its entirety, I couldn’t help but feel glad to have the chance to do so.
Fact: In my CD wallet, there is only one disc I’ve never been able to remove, and that disc is The Unreal Never Lived. The swan-song of YOB‘s original run, it was the culmination of everything the band had built to creatively up to that point; a four-song masterwork of psychedelic undulations that capped with the 21-minute monolith that was “The Mental Tyrant.” YOB has played “Quantum Mystic” every time I’ve seen them, and usually at the start of their set, so that was familiar enough, but as they progressed through the rolling groove of “Grasping Air,” another regular, and “Kosmos,” not so much, the tension seemed to be building to get to the final onslaught. When it arrived, it was glorious. They cut nothing out of the long opening and the gradual course of the song held its flow the whole time. There was one point during “Grasping Air” where I thought the whole rhythm was going to come crashing down, but kudos to drummer Travis Foster. He kept it together and pushed YOB forward into reaches of slow so desolate they were more or less stopped.
Decked out in Iron Maiden sneakers, the aforementioned Mike Scheidt only came more alive as the set progressed, and when it finally was time for “The Mental Tyrant” to begin its galloping payoff, I got a chill up my spine. It wasn’t the first claw I’ve hoisted over the last two days, but it was the most automatic, visceral response. Bassist Aaron Reiseberg (also of Norska) stepped back to let Scheidt riff out, true to the album, but every hit, every time he played a note, the floor I was standing on toward the back of the room shook. Not to overstate it, but it’s basically been seven years that I’ve wanted to see “The Mental Tyrant” played live, and the only reason I don’t go further into hyperbole is because I’m saving it for Sunday when YOB is set to do all of 2003’s Catharsis. Worth the flight to hear those two records alone. When they were done, I had to sit down.
There were a lot of bands today I didn’t see. Some, like Dopethrone, or Gnod, or Barn Owl, or End of Level Boss, I would’ve liked to. As Voivod came on stage, though, I was glad to have held firm on the course I’d charted for myself, staying through whole sets and not volleying from room to room, only to catch the first couple songs before having to tear myself away to get to the next thing. I mean, that’s fun too, that rush, but I very much needed a day of standing relatively still, and I was glad the schedule could accommodate. Voivod — vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger, bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault, drummer Michel “Away” Langevin (also responsible for much of the visual aesthetic of this year’s fest) and guitarist Daniel “Chewy” Mongrain — come preceded by 30 years of individualistic innovation. I won’t pretend to have a grip on their entire catalog, but even if I hadn’t seen them at Roadburn last year, I knew they were a sight I had to see, and more so for their doing Dimension Hatröss.
Of course, one can hardly think of Voivod and not recall the untimely passing of guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour in 2005, but Mongrain (also of Martyr and formerly of Cryptopsy) has become more than a hired gun in his position. D’Amour having been so instrumental in constructing Voivod‘s sound and progression, I don’t know if he’ll ever be as heralded in the guitarist spot, but he was clearly playing the songs with feeling and seemed natural on stage with Langevin, Bélanger and Thériault. As they were last year, Voivod was a pleasure to watch and had a presence on stage that spoke to their decades of influencing forward-thinking heavy music. It should say something that as they continue to push their career to its own seemingly expanding outer limits, as much as one gets excited at something like the prospect of hearing Dimension Hatröss done live, the prospect of finding out what they’ll do on their next record is no less thrilling.
They were the finale of my evening. I thought I’d maybe catch some Dopethrone, but you know how that goes, with the doorway and all that, and anyhow, it was getting on time to come back to the hotel and start typing. It’s three in the morning now as I wrap this and look at the prospect of having to find images for these bands, but hell, at least I can sleep late tomorrow, since the only thing I have to do is wake up and go to Roadburn for the final day of the fest proper, which will feature much back and forth between the main stage and the Green Room for the likes of 40 Watt Sun, Church of Misery, The Wounded Kings, The Obsessed, Mars Red Sky and Sleep, among others. It’s the most packed day yet, so please, stay tuned.
Posted in Features on April 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/12/12 — 23.24 — Thursday — Hotel Mercure
It was utter madness, but I suppose that’s to be expected. At this point, that’s part of what makes Roadburn the festival it is and has become. And on the day that 2012 kicked off and it was announced that Electric Wizard will curate 2013 and that Godflesh will play Pure in its entirety, I’ll say this already feels like the most crowded edition I’ve ever been to, though they’ve all been sold out. The lesson of 2012 is “get there early,” folks, because if you wait, you’re screwed. If there’s a band on stage, the room is full. Hell, even half the time bands aren’t on stage, it’s still full of people either waiting for who’s on next or still glowing after what they’ve just seen. Both the 013 and Het Patronaat were packed from the time I walked to the time I walked out. As I said: Madness.
True, The Icarus Line technically were the first band to go on, but it was d.USK doing their set of d.ISEMBOW LMENT material on the main stage that really got Roadburn started, and in telling fashion. The semi-reunited Australian outfit straddled the line between death/doom and black metal and seemed to relish in playing the one side off the other. They were oppressively dark, which is no small feat for the middle of the afternoon, and in that they were doing something special (the d.ISEMBOWELMENT set), were from a long way away, and made it hard to classify their sound, they were the perfect selection for a fest opener, because that’s exactly what this is: Bands from all over the world in a one of a kind gathering that’s not in the slightest bit limited by genre. I watched Ulver do a set of obscure ’60s psychedelic covers tonight. These things simply don’t happen anywhere else.
However, because there’s so much of it happening — at any given moment, all three stages of the 013 and the stage at Het Patronaat could and probably do have someone on them — Roadburn also requires hard choices be made. I left d.USK/d.ISEMBOWELMENT to go next door into the Green Room and catch the start of Horisont‘s set, and it was the first of several hard choices on the day. The Green Room being the midsized spot (with Stage01 the smallest; I tried twice to get in today, for Year of the Goat and La Otracina, and no luck), it filled up quick with people eager for Horisont‘s take on the current Swedish retro sound. Someone standing next to me at the front of the stage was telling his buddy, “Yeah man, if you like Graveyard, you’ll like these guys.”
And it’s true. That’s pretty much what Horisont have going on, sound-wise, but I’m not about to start complaining about that. I’ve been through their new album, Second Assault, a couple times in advance of a review, and after seeing them live, I get it a little more. Yeah, they’re in the vein of Graveyard, but they’re not quite as boogie rock as Graveyard can be sometimes. If you’re looking for a retro Swedish comparison point, Burning Saviours might work, but at that point, you’re really nitpicking. As the room filled up (and filled up, and filled up, and so on), it also got warmed with each body, so I fought my way out of the crowd — not easy — and made my first attempt to get to Stage01, to check out Year of the Goat, but it was too packed to even get close to the door, let alone through it.
I’m no stranger to watching sets through the door at Roadburn. I saw some of Quest for Fire that way last year and wound up staying put to see a bit of La Otracina‘s free jazz freakout psych-prog this evening, but it’s not a long-term solution. Watching a band through the door, I don’t think I could honestly feel like I’d seen them. You want to at least be in the room. I can catch La Otracina in Brooklyn easily enough, since that’s where they’re from, but when it came to watching Sigiriya tonight at 00.00, I knew there was no way it would work out, and that was a bummer, since what I saw of them at Desertfest was fantastic. Nevertheless, one keeps moving. I made my way over to Het Patronaat for the first time after not getting to see Year of the Goat (still bought their record, since I liked what I heard through the doorway), and caught a couple minutes of Virus, whose dramatic experimental metal seemed to relish its own inaccessibility.
One thing Het Patronaat has over the Midi Theatre, which was Roadburn‘s initial “fourth stage” — i.e., the other large venue to complement the main stage — is that it’s gorgeous. Midi Theatre wasn’t ugly by any stretch, but it was a pretty normal theater-type venue. Het Patronaat is a converted church. It has stained glass windows (behind a protective plane, of course), and a high angular vault in its ceiling with big wood rafters that really provided atmosphere for the bands who played there. I think it’s smaller than the Midi Theatre was, but there’s also a room downstairs where bands set up their merch, and beer and food were sold. A little getaway spot, I guess, if you need to just chill for a while and drink a beer. Not a bad idea, but I didn’t really have time. Agalloch were set to hit the main stage at 17.15, and I knew that if I wanted to be there, I wanted to be there well before they went on.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to like Agalloch for a while now. The vehemence and consistency with which they’re recommended to me is nigh on overwhelming. It’s not just, “Oh, you should check this out, it’s pretty cool.” It’s, “Oh my god, you have to hear this band right now.” I’ve given their records a shot, and I even bought their The White EP, to hear if maybe them doing something different would sit any better. As turtlenecked guitarist/vocalist John Haughm set mini-cauldrons of incense on blocks made of tree trunks at the front of the stage, which also just happened to be eye level for the photo pit, I did not find my excuse to become a fan of the band. I can still smell that shit. So much for daytwoing it in my Saint Vitus shirt tomorrow. I’m starting to run out of clothes.
Once they got going, they were as I’ve always found them to be: an American band doing a decent job at playing indulgent European-style artsy black metal. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I smelled it for a while and then I went back to the Green Room for Swedish cult doomers Saturnalia Temple, who are a bit more my speed, literally and figuratively. Michael Gira from Swans was doing a solo set at Het Patronaat, which would’ve been awesome to see, but like I say, tough decisions have to be made every year, and since I dug the hell out of Saturnalia Temple‘s Aion of Drakon after buying it last Black Friday in Connecticut, I took the chance to see them as something special I’d probably only get to do at Roadburn. So off I went.
Saturnalia Temple were low end in extremis — a brutal wash of tone that vibrated the front of the stage as I stood there. Big, big riffs. I couldn’t really hear the vocals from where I was standing, but they were relatively sparse anyway for the first couple songs. Basically, Saturnalia Temple were throwing down a gauntlet of heft, daring the rest of the Roadburn lineup to match what they had to offer. Even if you take away the Lovecraftian thematics and the crushing grooves of the riffs themselves, the sheer force with which they were delivered was an act of physical violence. I knew Om was getting ready to go on the main stage, so I once more pushed my way out of the Green Room — much to the delight of my fellow 013 patrons — and made sure I was there for the start of the trio’s set.
That’s right, the trio. I don’t know what the official status of Robert A. Lowe (aka Lichens and not to be confused with Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus/Candlemass fame) is, but the dude at this point is a big part of their sound, and they showed that right from the start with the new material they played off the upcoming Advaitic Songs, but even on “Meditation is the Practice of Death” from 2009’s God is Good (semi-review here), Lowe made his presence known, and throughout the set, whether it was beating himself with a tambourine in time to drummer Emil Amos‘ rhythm, adding synth, or playing guitar alongside Al Cisneros‘ bass, he’s more a member of the band now than he was when they started touring together and it was kind of a novelty thing. The novelty has worn off, and Om make for a pretty formidable trio, though part of me misses the sweet minimalism of their earlier work. Price of progress, I suppose.
When I left Om, I went and tried to watch La Otracina through the doorway of Stage01 and then went over to Het Patronaat, with the intent of getting there early enough to get a spot up front for Ancestors. That was my goal. Ancestors, whom I’ve missed more times than I really care to count (I think it’s twice, but that’s too many, anyhow), including just last weekend, were my one absolute must of the day. I figured I’d get there super early and work my way up as people were coming and going. Thing was, I was early enough that Red Fang was still on, and they killed the place. They’re tighter now even than they were at Metalliance last year, and songs from both their self-titled and last year’s Murder the Mountains (review here) incited whatever the burly beardo equivalent is to squeals of pleasure from the crowd. Up front, there was even good old fashioned heavy metal slam-dancing, which earned some hard stares from those who did not want to be involved.
You could hardly blame them, though — the dancers, that is — because Red Fang legitimately showed that they’ve stepped up their live show to match the profile of the touring they’ve done in the past. Whether it was bassist Aaron Beam‘s nailing the vocal shifts in “Human Herd” (not to mention his snazzy new haircut) or guitarist/vocalist Maurice Bryan Giles throwing a bit of pinache into the opening lead of “Throw Up,” or the whole band locking into the punky groove of “Hank is Dead,” they were excellent across the board and absolutely owned the stage. If they can bring that same kind of energy to their next record, then all that “the next Mastodon” buzz that’s been swirling around them these last few years won’t just be hyperbole. They sound like a band right on the cusp of something really special. And by “special,” I don’t mean “slow.”
Though if they wanted to play slow, that’d be alright too. I could live with that.
Sure enough, when they were finished, I proceeded to insert myself at the very front of the stage, just to the right side of the center, where I would stay for the duration of Ancestors‘ set. Normally I’d stay there for a few songs, then push back and let other people in — because I’m a big guy, it seems like the right thing to do — but once Ancestors got started, I knew there was no way. Anyone who’s bemoaned their progression since they released Neptune with Fire in 2008 as somehow forsaking heaviness has clearly never seen the band live. They were so. Fucking. Heavy. And so fucking loud, too. Bassist Nick Long had to keep chasing down his “Depth Charge” pedal because the stage was shaking so much from his playing that it was wandering off. At one point, I noticed guitarist/vocalist Jason Maranga‘s glass of tea was vibrating close to the end of the side of the stage and pointed it out to the dude working the board so it didn’t tip over and spill on the sound equipment. Drummer Daniel Pouliot — a relative newcomer to the band who nonetheless destroyed everything in his path — started out with one brick in front of his drums to hold them in place but wound up with three before they were finished. And as for organist/vocalist Jason Watkins, I’m surprised the keyboard didn’t come apart in his hands. Yes, they were that loud.
Not only that, but crazy melodic too. The highlight of the whole set was when they closed with the 19-minute finale of their new album, In Dreams and Time (review here). Maranga had said the entire band was sick — see, that’s why you pack a pharmacy — and his vocals toward the end were a bit rough, but everything else in “First Light” was spot on, and both musically and vocally, the melody was as powerful as the rumble in Long‘s bass. I recognized that opening riff immediately and had a Pavlovian-drooling-dog response at the treat I knew was coming. Sure enough, they made their way methodically through every part of the song, Maranga taking a long solo at Pouliot accented perfectly, building tension with each measure until finally the massive payoff arrived. It was unreal, and if I was going to see Ancestors at any point in their career, I’m glad it was now just for that. Just when you think he’s got nowhere else to go on the guitar, out comes the slide and the solo becomes a noise-fest working up past the neck; raw squibblies that would’ve made Agalloch jealous. Best part about it was there was feeling in every note, and you knew it just from watching. One hundred percent the highlight of my night, those dudes were. No doubt about it.
They ended with Maranga kicking aside his pedal board, putting his foot up on the monitor and headbanging at the front of the stage, until “First Light” crashed to its sudden finish. No shit, I’ve listened to the song three times through since coming back to the hotel to start this writeup. And it’s 19 minutes long! No regrets. I wasn’t exactly lacking in appreciation for what Ancestors do (click the review link if you don’t believe me), but this was something totally different. Unreal, how good they were. I was so glad to have finally seen them.
And really, that was the cap on my night. It came early, at least as regards the fact that there was still plenty of the lineup to go, but I knew Sigiriya wasn’t going to work out, Voivod played tonight after Ulver, but they’re also doing a set tomorrow at their curated Au-delà du Réel event in which they’re doing all of Dimension Hatröss, so I figured I wouldn’t want to miss that, and though I like Justin Broadrick‘s noisemaking as much as the next guy, I clearly had a bit of writing ahead of me. I went back to the 013 after Ancestors, carrying my melted brains in my photo bag, and planted myself in the photo pit in front of where it looked like would have a good view of Krystoffer Rygg‘s braided beard. As usual, my guess was meh.
I didn’t hear Ulver‘s 2011 album, Wars of the Roses — though I loved 2007’s Shadows of the Sun — but it didn’t matter anyway, because like I said way up at the top of this post, they were doing obscure psychedelic covers from the ’60s. An odd choice, maybe, but it sounded pretty good. One thing Ulver was more than anyone else today, though, was elaborate. Two guitars, bass, drums, a Rhodes, a mellotron, a Hammond, bongos, congas, timpani, shakers, a gong, and then an electronic setup on a table in front of Rygg that no one even wanted to turn on to soundcheck. It looked — in a word — expensive, and they went on 10 minutes late because it took so long to make sure everything was hooked in properly to the 013 P.A., but again, it’s hard to find any fault in Ulver‘s execution. They made it work, though they also took the songs and put them in a more Ulverian context, so that it was more of an interpretation of Jefferson Airplane than an outright cover.
But it was one more cool, weird happening that’s only going down at Roadburn, and those who got to see it — packed in as they were — were lucky, and I count myself lucky as well. I hit the Het Patronaat merch area one more time, saw Pouliot and told him the set was killer, and then resigned myself to coming back to the Mercure and getting to work.
Tomorrow Wino & Conny Ochs open Het Patronaat at 15.00, and I’m going to try again to get into Stage01 to see Conan before YOB do The Unreal Never Lived front to back and further insanity plays out. There are fewer bands I’m outright dying to check out tomorrow, so maybe I’ll get to stick around for some more full sets, but I wouldn’t put it past myself to be back and forth like I was today either. No rest for the restless.