Posted in audiObelisk on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I was especially eager to see Bongripper at the Afterburner at this year’s Roadburn. They had played a couple nights before as well (that set is streaming here), performing their 2014 album, Miserable (review here), in its entirety, but I’d had to miss that set and knew going into the fest that I wanted to see them one way or another follow-up on the performance they gave in 2012, which had been chest-shakingly heavy.
No regrets, of course. They proved to be devastating and I’m anxious to revisit the set today via the newly released live stream. Also included in this latest of the four-so-far batches is a bunch of stuff I missed, including two of the most-talked-about bands of the entirety of Roadburn 2015: SubRosa and Thou. The former outfit played the first day and I continued to hear about them through to Sunday, while Thou‘s atmosludge devastated the crowd at Het Patronaat and were bandied about as one of the highlights of the whole fest.
Along with performances by Acid Witch, Death Hawks, Mugstar (another one whose name I kept hearing), Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, and KEN mode, this makes for a pretty diverse round of streams. If you get to dig into any or all of them, I hope you enjoy:
Acid Witch – Live at Roadburn 2015
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – Live at Roadburn 2015
Bongripper – Live at Roadburn 2015 (Afterburner)
Death Hawks – Live at Roadburn 2015
Der Weg Einer Freiheit – Live at Roadburn 2015
Kenmode – Live at Roadburn 2015
Mugstar- Live at Roadburn 2015
Subrosa – Live at Roadburn 2015
Thou – Live at Roadburn 2015
Special thanks to Walter as always for letting me host the streams. To read all of this year’s Roadburn coverage, click here. For the first, second and third batches of streams, click here and then click here and then click here.
Posted in audiObelisk on June 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some good stuff here, but that’s pretty much like walking outside and noting all the oxygen in the air. Roadburn 2015’s newest batch of audio streams continues the thread from last time around in including one of the most talked-about performances at the festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands, this past April — namely Bell Witch. Many American bands head over there and make a special impression on the largely European crowd, but Bell Witch, the Seattle duo who were traveling abroad to herald the arrival of their 2015 sophomore outing, Four Phantoms (review here), on Profound Lore, seemed to earn extra acclaim from those who caught their performance. I wasn’t lucky enough to be one of them, but the response was universally positive.
Likewise the impact made by Monolord, who also feature here, but for my money, one of the highlights of the entire weekend was watching Uzala slay the Green Room. The ethereal doom trio who trace their roots to Boise, Idaho, were a surprise even though I’d seen them before, to the point that I did something I don’t often do at Roadburn, and that’s stay put for the entire set. Massive sound. Killer. Argus (pictured above) were a fist-pumping launch for the Afterburner on Sunday after the fest proper came to a close, and their classic metallurgy is no less welcome now as I pay it a revisit with the live stream.
Hope you enjoy the whole bunch:
Anthroprophh – Live at Roadburn 2015
Argus – Live at Roadburn 2015
Bell Witch – Live at Roadburn 2015
Monolord – Live at Roadburn 2015
Oozing Wound – Live at Roadburn 2015
Svartidauði – Live at Roadburn 2015
The Osiris Club – Live at Roadburn 2015
Uzala – Live at Roadburn 2015
Special thanks to Walter as always for letting me host the streams. To read all of this year’s Roadburn coverage, click here. For the first and second batches of streams, click here and then click here.
Posted in audiObelisk on May 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been more than a month now since Roadburn 2015 ended, and that means it’s time to really start digging into the audio aftermath. As always, this batch of streams was captured by Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team, and there are more than a few gems here, from Bongripper playing all of their 2014 album Miserable (review here) to The Golden Grass closing out the fest in the Green Room during the Afterburner.
I was particularly stoked this year for the Afterburner, and not the least because it meant Lo-Pan were rolling into town. The Ohio fuzz four-piece were on their first European tour at the time, capping the first leg of it with Abrahma, who played at Cul de Sac, and soon to pick up again with Black Pyramid and continue their roll, but being a fan of the band and having seen them the many times that I have, it was special to watch them take the stage at Roadburn and level the place as vigorously as they did. That set is included here, along with the devastatingly heavy likes of Primitive Man and Goatwhore, the weird stoned occultism of Salem’s Pot, and Scott H. Biram‘s one-man outlaw idolatry.
They’re all good batches, but I know I’ll look forward to reliving the Lo-Pan set and whether you hit that up or something else, I hope you enjoy:
Bast – Live at Roadburn 2015
Black Anvil – Live at Roadburn 2015
Bongripper – Live at Roadburn 2015
Goatwhore – Live at Roadburn 2015
Lo-Pan – Live at Roadburn 2015
Primitive Man – Live at Roadburn 2015
Salem’s Pot – Live at Roadburn 2015
Sammal – Live at Roadburn 2015
Scott H. Biram – Live at Roadburn 2015
The Golden Grass – Live at Roadburn 2015
Special thanks to Walter as always for letting me host the streams. To read all of this year’s Roadburn coverage, click here. For the first batch of streams, click here.
Posted in audiObelisk on April 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
You know, I went back and looked. Last year, it wasn’t until May 21 that the first batch of audio streams from Roadburn 2014 surfaced. Here we are, it’s April 30. We’re not even a full month removed from Roadburn 2015, and already eight sets are out from the festival. Kudos to Marcel van de Vondervoort, who no doubt will spend the next few months going deeper into the heart of Roadburn — at least from a musical standpoint — than anyone else as he continues to mix the live recordings and make them ready for streaming. The expediency of the arrival of the first audio is just one more example of how special this fest is. Hell, reviews are still being posted.
I’ve been kind of jealous seeing those reviews, actually. Part of covering the fest in the way I do — writing the review of the show that same night and posting it before the next day starts — sort of robs me of being able to step back and really look at the bigger picture of Roadburn and particularly what it means to me and of being able to express that, whether for fatigue or just being so close to it at the time. It’s a tradeoff, and ultimately I think the point gets across anyway perhaps even with that process as a part of it. Maybe I just feel like it all needs to be said again afterwards.
Part of the Roadburn after-experience is listening to these streams and hearing what you missed. To that end, I’m very much looking forward to digging into Minsk, Eagle Twin and Sun Worship. Whatever you caught or didn’t, I hope you enjoy:
Agusa – Live at Roadburn 2015
Coltsblood – Live at Roadburn 2015
Domo – Live at Roadburn 2015
Eagle Twin – Live at Roadburn 2015
Lazer/Wulf – Live at Roadburn 2015
Minsk – Live at Roadburn 2015
Mortals – Live at Roadburn 2015
Sun Worship – Live at Roadburn 2015
Special thanks to Walter as always for letting me host the streams. To read all of this year’s Roadburn coverage, click here.
Up until Spirit Caravan got rolling again last year at Desertfest, the Roadburn festival seemed to be the home for a Wino reunion. In addition to Wino playing there with the Wino trio and Shrinebuilder in 2009 and 2011, it was where the Wino-fronted Saint Vitus first came back in 2009 and where The Obsessed launched their reunion in 2012. I was fortunate enough to be there, and while The Obsessed has always been the most straightforward, sans-frills brand of doom, the excitement in the room was palpable for the trio’s return, Scott “Wino” Weinrich on guitar/vocals, bassist Guy Pinhas and drummer Greg Rogers coming together on stage for the first time in more than a decade and a half. I don’t mind saying it was one of the best days I’ve had at Roadburn to date.
Their tour continued on and The Obsessed continued to play shows — Doom Shall Rise, tours here and there, Maryland Deathfest, etc. — with Pinhas departing to sign onto Victor Griffin‘s In~Graved for a time and then ultimately split with that group as well. Weinrich and Rogers kept The Obsessed rolling with Reid Raley of Deadbird on bass, but the current status of the band is kind of up in the air. The aforementioned Spirit Caravan reunited in 2014, Saint Vitus continued to tour, Wino joined forces with Conny Ochs for a second time this year. Rogers, meanwhile, drums on Goatsnake‘s upcoming Black Age Blues— their first album in 15 years — and Raley and Deadbird hit the studio this past year to record a new full-length, which would be their first since 2008’s Twilight Ritual, an underrated molasses crawl of doomed Southern blues.
Not to say they couldn’t pick up The Obsessed again and get out at some point, but everybody seems pretty busy for the moment. Fortunately their live shows for the reunion were well documented, right from the start. The clip below is “Endless Circles” and “Lunar Womb” a one-two punch from The Obsessed‘s 1991 sophomore outing, taped live at Roadburn in 2012, and I think it says a lot about what the band’s straight-ahead appeal is in the first place.
Hope you enjoy:
The Obsessed, “Endless Circles/Lunar Womb” live at Roadburn 2012
I did manage to get back to sleep this morning for a little bit after I finished writing the review and sorting pictures for last night, but first I went downstairs and took full advantage of the hotel breakfast. You get one free, and I wasn’t saving it or anything, I just hadn’t been up when it was served. Well, today I was. It opened at seven, I’d been up since four, so yeah. No problem. Some eggs, cheese, fruit, juice, bacon and sausage later, I was a new man. Who needed sleep. I got maybe half an hour before I needed to be up and out again to get to the 013 office and finalize the last issue of the Roadburn ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, with Lee from The Sleeping Shaman.
We did it, put the issue out and everything. I folded paper like a champ and have the ink stain on my edge-flattening fingernail to prove it. Not the only mark Roadburn would leave on me today, but we’ll get there in a bit. In the meantime, check out the last Weirdo Canyon Dispatch of Roadburn 2015 here. Go on and give it a read.
Today was the Afterburner, which is Roadburn‘s traditional way of saying, “Sooner or later, you have to get back to real life.” It’s a transitional day. Less stages, fewer running back and forth, fewer people around, and so on. Band-wise, it’s usually a little more of Roadburn‘s roots: Heavy rock, psych, doom, though of course like the fest proper, the Afterburner has branched out stylistically as well.
One didn’t have to look much farther than Gnaw Their Tongues, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin or headliners Anathema — who, since they were playing a special set spanning their career, both fit a doomed aesthetic and pushed beyond it — to see that. Still, it was underrated New York space/psychedelic outfit White Hills who started the afternoon off at 15.00 on the Main Stage. An East Coast equivalent in my mind for L.A.’s Farflung — who also did quite well at Roadburn once upon a 2012 — they remain a much more popular band in Europe than in their hometown. So be it. For me, a little space is almost always welcome, but I wanted even more to see Pennsylvania’s Argus open up in the Green Room.
Riding the line between doom and traditional metal, the Brian “Butch” Balich-fronted Argus launched their set with “By Endurance We Conquer,” “No Peace Beyond the Line,” and “The Hands of Time are Bleeding,” the first three songs from their third and latest full-length, 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here). The crowd knew the songs and sang along to the hooks, particularly in “No Peace Beyond the Line,” the five-piece of Balich, guitarists Jason Mucio and Dave Watson, bassist Justin Campbell and drummer Kevin Latchaw making the best case I’ve yet heard for their songwriting. With the two guitars, driving, forward rhythms, roots doom and NWOBHM-precision, Balich‘s powerful voice in addition to that level of craftsmanship, it was no challenge to see the appeal of Argus, and the Green Room certainly got into it. Heavy metal might be a subculture, but it’s one that crosses an awful lot of national borders, and I doubt if there’s any fist-pumping headbanger types who couldn’t get down with Argus. They’re as classically-styled as classically-styled gets, and they delivered in force at Roadburn.
They were dug into the particularly Trouble-y “Pieces of Your Smile” when I made my way over to the main hall for Chicago instrumental four-piece Bongripper. Now, it would’ve been awfully nice to see those dudes kick the living crap out of their latest album, 2014’s Miserable (review here), way back on Thursday night, but they were going on late and, well, you know the story, with the typing and the clacky-clacky and whatnot. Fine. No way in gosh darn heck was I going to miss my second chance to see guitarists Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham, bassist Ron Petzke — with whom I shared a cab to Tilburg from Schiphol Airport on Wednesday — and drummer Daniel O’Connor bludgeon all in their path with volume and raw, plodding riffs. With a formidable stack of amps and cabinets behind them, Bongripper tore into a swath of material, a crowd having shown up early to get a good spot for the punishment they knew was in store.
Seeing Bongripper live is like being swallowed by sound. Like if sound had a mouth — maybe the mouth from the front cover of Miserable would suffice, if you need an image — and that mouth ate you. A beastly barrage of riffs and tonal thunder, all of this maddening heft pushed onto the audience in an unrelenting assault. They ended by wailing on their instruments in time to O’Connor‘s crashes, a kind of violent assault on their equipment that fed into the thick wall of noise built up, the packed Main Stage room nodding in unison. The band stopped short of taking a bow when they were done, but no one would’ve been able to say they didn’t deserve to do so. It’s a primal element of doom and sludge and stoner riffing that Bongripper feeds into, fattens, and then slaughters, but the grungus is mighty in what they do and spread out on the wide stage, it was as much an art project as a wanton beatdown. Even their feedback was a weapon.
I’d run into Ohio’s Lo-Pan earlier in the day. They’re on tour with Abrahma now, have been for a couple nights, and like a lot of US heavy bands who come to tour Europe for the first time, I think they’ve been impressed at the show culture. People show up, bands aren’t treated like crap, and it’s a generally cared-for situation, something precious done in a general public interest. The crew working at the 013 as a part of Roadburn are second to none in professionalism or hospitality, and so it seemed reasonable to me the band would be singularly impressed. All the better for the show, which is both the intent and precisely how it worked out when they went on in the Green Room at 18.30. They were clashing with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, but I’ve been itching for Lo-Pan to make a debut at Roadburn since they put out Salvador (review here) early in 2011. Let’s be clear: I wouldn’t miss them anyway. I’ll go see Lo-Pan just about any night of the week, but I knew this one was going to be special.
Of course, it was. “El Dorado” from Salvador opened and “Regulus” from last fall’s rager Colossus (review here) followed, the band immediately on fire. It was my first time seeing them with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, who came aboard in Nov. 2014 to fill the role formerly held down by Brian Fristoe. A new Lo-Pan, in a new place with new energy and even a new song in the set, there was nothing not to like. They were so tight it hurt With vocalist Jeff Martin set up in back behind drummer Jesse Bartz as per usual, Zambrano on stage left and bassist Scott Thompson on stage right, Lo-Pan were a heavy rock and roll force. Zambrano brought a little showmanship and style to the riffs and solos, and where Bartz and Thompson have always hit it hard on stage and the guitar was a more subdued presence (nothing against that whatsoever), having Zambrano headbanging away, tapping on the frets while throwing his pick-hand behind him, tossing a leg up on the monitor and so on both reinforced the energetic character of the band, as well as the material, and made it all the more exciting.
Speaking of headbanging, I did. It was among the best sets I’ve seen Lo-Pan play — lights, sound, performance, you name it — and yeah, I was getting into it a bit. I wound up banging my head into one of the monitors at the front of the stage early into the set. No blood, it wasn’t that bad, but I’ve got a bump sticking out of my forehead now and I expect by the time I get off the plane tomorrow in Boston it’ll be a good-size bruise. Easy enough to laugh it off and keep going, even if it’s a little sore when I raise my eyebrows, which I apparently do all the time. That’s how you find out that kind of thing.
Anyway, point is it was so, so, so, so good to see Lo-Pan. Not only because they’re one of American heavy rock’s best bands — I’ve called them the finest in US fuzz for pretty much the last four years — and not only because they killed it and put on a stellar show, but because they did it here, as a part of Roadburn 2015, looking across the stage at each other and challenging themselves to play better, harder than they have before. Their first European tour comes after countless US slogs and will hopefully lead to more, but it seems likely to me they’re going to remember this one, and I’m glad to have stayed through “Eastern Seas” and “The Duke” to watch them hammer down their victory. I’d been looking forward to it since they were announced, and it warmed my cold, dead heart to see them kick so much ass.
Their tourmates from Paris and Small Stone labelmates, Abrahma, were going on shortly down the block at Cul de Sac, which is right in the stretch of bars on Heuvelstraat adjacent to the 013 that for I don’t even remember how many years now I’ve been calling Weirdo Canyon (hence the Dispatch). The relatively small club is where the Hard Rock Hideout was held on Wednesday (review here), and I like the room a lot, so it seemed perfect to follow Lo-Pan with Abrahma and head over. Already they were on stage when I got there, dug into what turned out to be their soundcheck, but with the lights up, I snapped a few pictures just in case when they actually started they decided to play in the dark, as pretty much every band I’ve ever seen in that space has done. Abrahma, however, dared to be different.
In keeping, their upcoming second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review/track stream here), does likewise, pushing into moodier, somewhat less psychedelic territory than their 2012 debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here). Their set, which was actually just about split between the two records and leaned slightly toward the new one, was surprisingly heavy. Very riffy, very big in tone. Not quite to the level of Floor-syle bombdropping, but not far off either. As a frontman, Sebastien Bismuth was charismatic and engaging, banging his head harder than many and managing not to injure himself in the process unless you count an almost certain sore neck tomorrow, and joined by drummer Fred Quota for this tour along with bassist Guillaume Colin and guitarist Nicolas Heller, their sudden bursts of weighted groove hit with an impressive, genuine impact. As their songwriting continues to grow and become more complex, I’ll be interested to see how that impact evolves.
A prudent move would’ve been to stay longer, but even though it’s the Afterburner, Roadburn means time to move. Anathema would soon be on the Main Stage, playing a special set allotted 130 minutes that was being called “Resonance” and which started with the eponymous “Anathema” from last year’s Distant Satellites and working backwards through their discography. The Cavanagh brothers, Vincent (lead vocals, guitar), Danny (guitar, backing vocals) and Jamie (bass) were down front of the stage with drummer Daniel Cardoso and keyboardist/programmer John Douglas on risers behind, and over the course of their time, current vocalist Lee Douglas made intermittent appearances — a striking one for “A Natural Disaster” lit, at the band’s request, only by cellphone lights from the crowd, as seen on the cover of their 2013 DVD, Universal — and former bassist Duncan Patterson and former vocalist Darren White both showed up the farther along Anathema went, deeper and deeper still into their 25-year history.
They’re doing a short “Resonance” tour, are Anathema, but Roadburn 2015 was the first night, and the first time White had been on stage with the band in 20 years. Something special, no doubt. Here’s a fun fact, though: I love that band. Along with Amorphis, who were playing through the main hall P.A. just before Anathema went on, Anathema were one of the acts that led me into exploring underground metal, and ultimately — so the story goes — selling my soul to Tony Iommi at the expense of career, well-being and, this week, sleep. No complaints. But while Anathema are a pivotal band for me personally, a landmark act without whom I genuinely don’t believe I’d be the same person, I also fall into a rarer category of Anathema fan. It’s not their early stuff that I got into back when I was in high school. Not 1995’s Pentecost III, from which “Kingdom” and “Mine is Yours to Drown In (Ours is the New Tribe)” were aired at the start of what would be a third individual component set in the longer runtime, and not even the album The Silent Enigma, which followed it that same year, powerful though “Sunset of Age” and “A Dying Wish” were.
I have those records, and I dig those records a lot, but what got me into Anathema is their often-overlooked middle period: 1998’s Alternative 4, 1999’s Judgement, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster. When I’m reaching for an Anathema album — as I invariably do in a depressive fit as I wallow in my own filth and worthlessness because I’m just the right kind of emotional cripple that music offers comfort I apparently can’t allow myself to feel otherwise; whoops — those are what I go for, and when Vincent led the way into “Pressure” from A Fine Day to Exit and “One Last Goodbye” from Judgement tonight, those were the songs that had me tearing up. No bullshit, bringing Darren White out was incredible. Clearly charged up to be on stage with the band in the context of headlining at Roadburn 2015, he settled in and nailed the dramatic chorus of “Kingdom” — shades of Fields of the Nephilim influence showing themselves — and led the band through the finish of their professionally polished but still emotionally potent set, “Sleepless” from Anathema‘s 1993 debut, Serenades, closing out.
This was the Anathema show I’ve been dreaming of, covering their whole career, but their mid-period, pre-prog, post-doom, was what hit me the hardest, the first four cuts from Alternative 4 played with Patterson on bass to morose and atmospheric effect. They could’ve done a third hour, easily, and I might have stayed for it if they did.
As it was, time was ticking away. One more stop to make, and it was back in the Green Room of the 013 for Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass, whose 2014 self-titled debut (review here) has only grown in my esteem since it was released. They’re a reminder of home for me, the East Coast, New York and all that, so they were perfect to close out my own little version of Roadburn. Guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and bassist Morgan McDaniel are on tour with Hypnos, who’d wrapped a bit earlier at the Cul de Sac, and though I knew I wouldn’t be there the whole time, I wanted to catch at least a bit of their sunshine boogie to help make the thought of walking out of Roadburn 2015, taking off my wristband and coming back to the hotel to put this last review together not quite such a bum-out. By the time they were through “Stuck on a Mountain” and “Please Man” and into a newer song I didn’t know, a bum-out was out of the question. Nothing but good vibes the whole way as I said a few quick goodbyes and walked down the stretch of Weirdo Canyon, a little quieter Sunday than Saturday, but by no means abandoned. I owe The Golden Grass one for that.
Strange to think that “tomorrow” (read: in three hours) when I get up to shower early and head out, it’ll be to the airport instead of the 013 office to bang out another issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. Roadburn develops its own culture so quickly each year, and the more and more I’m fortunate enough to come see Tilburg in the springtime, the more it feels like home.
I’ll have another post up to close out this series and say thanks and whatnot, so until then, I’ll just say the same thing I always say: More pics after the jump and thanks for reading.
It was a misguided attempt at sleep that led me to bed after watching Coltsblood to round out my night. Didn’t work beyond the apparently standard three hours, which is what I’ve gotten give or take each night since Wednesday. When I lie down, my head hears parts of songs, David Eugene Edwards saying, “You don’t know me from Adam, down here in the lamp light,” or Sæþór Sæþórsson of Sólstafir‘s banjo in the back half of “Ótta,” among others. One day bleeds into the next. I dragged ass most of the afternoon and evening, to be perfectly honest, and given the tossing and turning I’ve just done and the fact that I’m up two hours before I set the alarm, I expect the trend to continue. Still, when you’re here, you have to keep going. There’s more to see and more to hear.
The weather, which had been gorgeous enough to boast some restorative effect of its own, has turned. I could just as easily call it “yesterday,” but for the purposes of review, I hope you’ll allow the editorial decision to keep current: “Today.” The weather turned today. As though it knew Undersmile, Urfaust, and Fields of the Nephilim were all on the bill and decided “enough of this sunny shit, let’s get down to business for real.” It cleared up later, but was still colder than it had been, and early in the afternoon, I looked outside at one point and saw waves of rain coming down. That was right after Coma Wall, which, you know, fair enough.
Playing as a five-piece with their usual two couples plus a cellist, the mostly-acoustic alter-ego of Undersmile started my day off at Stage01. I got there early, which you have to do, and I wasn’t the only one. Taz Corona-Brown, Olly Corona-Brown, Hel Sterne and Tom McKibbin, plus Tom Greenway on the cello spread out over the stage, McKibbin behind, pulling double-duty on drums and banjo. With Taz and Hel in dresses and quickly sliding into the sort of drawling dual vocals that are a trademark of both Coma Wall and Undersmile, there was a theatrical element to it, but the thickness of the atmosphere spoke for itself as they hit into “Summer” from their 2013 Wood & Wire split with, who else?, their other band. Off to the side of the stage, Olly sat on bass facing the others, kind of overseeing the whole thing with one leg crossed over the other. He looked managerial, but the low end filled the room well, and Coma Wall eased my way into the Roadburn Saturday better than I could’ve asked.
I’d still like to hear them take on “Rotten Apple” or “Don’t Follow” — something off Jar of Flies — which I think they’d nail in the vocals and really be able to darken the mood on, but wouldn’t you know they weren’t taking requests. Couldn’t argue, anyway. Over in the main hall, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin were well into a live soundtrack to 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, which played on the big screen behind them, audio and all. I saw them here for a bit last year, and sure enough parts of the score were recognizable from that set as well as the movie. Like with Sólstafir‘s live soundtrack on Thursday, there were spaces without any music at all, but of course the difference is that Goblin also wrote the score originally, so to see them do it live to the film was something extra special.
Perhaps most impressive about it was the timing, which they nailed. Keeping pace to scene changes and the film’s quick cuts, they ran through various pieces and themes, the quick bursts for tension as everything goes to crap with all the zombies at the mall, the biker gang showing up and bringing Tom Savini, and so on. It’s been a while since I saw it, and I’d forgotten how many classic lines there are in the film, about Hell being full and the dead walking the earth, and “Operator dead, post abandoned.” There were some times where the balance of audio was lopsided one way or another — hard to match up a film and a live band on stage — but it smoothed out, and I can’t imagine it was many attendees’ first time seeing the movie. That said, I’ve never watched Suspiria, which Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin are scoring as part of the Afterburner, so who knows? When they were done, the four-piece came to the middle of the stage from their spread-out positions, two on one side, two on the other, the middle open to allow the eye to watch the movie, and took a bow. A few seconds before, the credits rolled past with their name listed as The Goblins. So be it.
Next up on the Main Stage was a second go for Enslaved. I tried before they went on to calculate in my head how many Enslaved-related sets there were this year in comparison to 2010, when they were the official artist-in-residence and did sets with offshoot projects like Trinacria and their collaboration with Shining. Between their set last night, the Skuggsjá collaboration with Wardruna that followed, guitarist Ivar Bjørnson ‘s BardSpec set and today, I think they might have 2010 beat. I’m not sure if Bjørnson curating with Wardruna‘s Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik counts for double or anything — you’d have to get into percentages and it proved too much for my feeble brain to take. In any case, today’s Enslaved set focused much more on newer material. Fair after last night. The recently-issued In Times (review pending) featured heavily with “Thurisaz Dreaming,” “Building with Fire,” “In Times” and “Daylight,” but there was still room to dip back to 2001’s Monumension for “Convoys to Nothingness,” or 2003’s progressive turning point Below the Lights for “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth,” and a balance was struck between the older and newer.
Further distinguishing today from yesterday, though, were the guests. When they got to “Daylight,” bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson announced they’d be joined by Selvik, Aðalbjörn Tryggvason from Sólstafir and Per Wiberg, now in Candlemassbut known also for his work in Opeth and Spiritual Beggars. The three contributed on vocals at the beginning and end of the song, and Selvik came back out for a longer, soulful guest spot on “Convoys to Nothingness,” while Enslaved proper delivered again the kind of set that brought the crowd back from last night, “Isa” tossed in as a bonus and a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Immigrant Song” with more guest guitar included to add even more intrigue. It was not as intense as Friday had been, their newer material offering a more intricate but decidedly less raging style, but they handled it professionally, and seemed to be having as much fun as the audience while they ran through their second of the weekend’s two full sets. The Heads, who followed, are the official artists-in-residence this year, but Enslaved always seem to find welcome at Roadburn.
Particularly having missed The Heads when they played at Het Patronaat last night — Roadburn means hard choices — I knew I wanted to see them today. They were supposed to be here last year, and played in 2008, but with Walter doing live visuals and the four-piece of lead guitarist Paul Allen, guitarist/vocalist Simon Price, bassist Hugo Morgan and drummer Wayne Maskell (the latter three who played as Kandodo on Thursday and joined forces with Loop‘s Robert Hampson at Het Patronaat), it was unmissable. A righteous set boasted jam-laden takes on “Gnu,” “Legavaan Satellite,” “U33″ and “Spliff Riff,” the effect positively molten as they enacted space rock supremacy and handed Roadburn its ass over the course of 75 minutes. For me, they were the day’s hypnotic highlight, and I don’t think I was the only one. The crowd cheered as they went into and out of jams, builds paying off and starting anew. As I stood in the back and watched, next two me, two dudes were arguing in German and a third turned around and told them, in accented English, “Please, no politics while The Heads are on.” All laughed. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all Roadburners.
As with Kandodo the other night, The Heads‘ set made me want to head over to the merch area and go, “Just give me everything,” though they have enough live albums over there that to try it and I’d be broke(r) in no time flat. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them, knowing records like Everybody Knows We Got Nowhere, which was just recently reissued, At Last and their 1995 debut, Relaxing With…, but they were molten on stage, one song bleeding into the next in a consuming entirety that, even after they’d long since gone, kept the crowd howling. It was fucking awesome. I don’t know how many times I’ll get to see The Heads in my life, but I’m not likely to forget the first, in any case, and if I take nothing else away from Roadburn this year, I’ll take a new touchstone for heavy psych live performance. “It’s good, but is it The Heads good?” will prove a hard standard for most to meet.
Over in the Green Room, Black Anvil were finishing up a punishing set and I watched for a minute through the door as they pummeled away. Undersmile were on next in there, and I’ve been following them since their split with Caretaker in 2011 (review here), so I didn’t want to miss it. They have a new full-length out called Anhedonia, and while I’m a little heartbroken at not having heard it — I loved 2012’s lung-filling debut LP, Narwhal (review here), and thought I had a pretty good relationship with the band — it still seemed prudent to show up early for a dose of their grueling, claustrophobic-but-melodically-brilliant doom, especially as a crushing companion piece to Coma Wall earlier in the day, a sort of bookend with the same lineup minus Greenway‘s cello. They were heavy enough to feel the sound in your chest. I give McKibbin credit for being able to push the tones of Hel, Taz and Olly along, even at such a lumbering pace. By the sound alone, it seems like a task more suited to the crane outside working on the addition to the 013, but the drums do drive Undersmile‘s material forward, and they packed out the Green Room to the point where even the space to watch through the door was full. I felt equal parts lucky to see them, bummed I haven’t heard the new album, and glad I showed up early while they were setting up. It was quite an emotional rollercoaster. Maybe that’s why I had to come back to the hotel and go to sleep afterwards.
Or maybe I was just rendered unconscious by fucking Coltsblood who — holy shit — took Stage01, removed all its fillings and performed a root canal with a safety pin. It was fucking ridiculous. Hyperbole-worthy madness that even H.P. Lovecraft himself would stare at and be like, “Damn, that’s horrifying.” I watched the final few minutes of synth-heavy proggers Zoltan before the UK trio of bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested (also of Black Magician, who played Het Patronaat at Roadburn 2013) went on, but god damn. Even before they started, as Jemma checked her guitar and John ran the line on his bass, you knew it was going to be filthy. Their 2014 full-length debut, Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here), seemed all the more aptly named as they got underway, and even though John had some technical trouble early on, they shared a bottle of mead on stage and absolutely laid waste to the smaller of the rooms at the 013. I say in full knowledge of John‘s prior association with the band that they were the heaviest thing I’ve seen in that space since Conan made their Roadburn debut there in 2012. They were unbelievable.
And it became quite clear that they’ve earned some loyalty of fanbase as well. The front of Stage01 was crowded with UK types, one of whom took on the solemn duty of making sure that Coltsblood‘s incense (of which I was markedly downwind) stayed lit. Another dude next to me alerted John when the sound guy called for him to start checking his bass. This is a band that people are obviously taking very seriously. The deathly rumble of their extreme, dark, sludgy doom made earplugs a futile exercise, and especially in a one-two with Undersmile, they justified that reaction. With John shouting and growling into the mic while Plested slammed away behind and Jemma, entranced, riffed out a viscous, oil-thick morass, it made sense. I’d want to keep the incense lit too.
By the time I split out from Stage01, the air had more or less been driven out of the room. It was hot, sweaty, smelly — Roadburn means fart clouds — and suitably oppressive. Outside smelled like french fry grease from the food tent, but even that seemed like fresh air. I made my way back to the hotel and started to sort pictures out and get everything ready to review, but noticed after a few minutes that my head was down on the table and I couldn’t seem to pick it back up. I stared up at the laptop monitor for a little bit and decided to crawl into bed.
Wasn’t a crawl. More of a lurch. Either way, about three and a half hours later, I gave up the ghost and decided the middle of the night would be a perfect time to recount the day’s varying destructive encounters. Tomorrow — Sunday, which now that it’s after 06.00, I’m about ready to call the new “today” — is the Afterburner, also plenty busy with Lo-Pan and Abrahma and Argus and Bongripper, Anathema and The Golden Grass. Work on the final issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch starts in about four hours and it will be here and gone before I know it. At least that’s how it usually seems to go.
The curated day is a Roadburn tradition going back to David Tibet of Current 93, who was the fest’s first curator in 2008. This year, the hallowed duty was bestowed on Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, and their day took on the title “Houses of the Holistic.” I don’t know who picked what individual band for what stage, or if the two agreed on everything or what the situation was, but I know the results were pretty magical, particularly on the Main Stage, which hosted — in order — Virus, Sólstafir, Fields of the Nephilim, Warduna and Enslaved, who joined forces for the final set of the evening to perform Skuggsjá, a Norse-minded work originally commissioned to honor the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution and first performed at the Eidsivablot festival last fall. To my knowledge, Roadburn 2015 is the second time it’s ever been played in public.
I did some wandering, as one will, but the day started with Virus, who played Roadburn in 2012 and were among the most talked-about bands that year. I knew I didn’t want to miss them again, so I got to the main hall well in time for their start, which unfolded quickly in a technically intricate post-black metal from the lineup of guitarist Carl-Michael “Czral” Eide, bassist Petter “Plenem” Berntsen and drummer Einar Sjursø. They came highly recommended, and while I heard The Black Flux, their second album, when it was released in 2008, that was also seven years ago and it seemed reasonable to expect they would’ve progressed even further along their dissonant path. Sure enough, while they dipped back to their debut, 2003’s Carheart, for “Be Elevator,” it was the material from 2011’s The Agent that Shapes the Desert that most stood out to me, “Chromium Sun,” which appeared early in the set, and “Dead Cities of Syria,” which followed soon after, as well as the new song that served as their closer, “Rogue Fossils,” which Eide teased as being included in their to-be-recorded fourth record, calling it “atonal.”
A challenging start to the day, but Virus‘ avant twists weren’t impossible to track. “Rogue Fossils” was downright catchy,” and the turns of “Lost Peacocks” from The Black Flux weren’t so sharp as to go off the rails. Obviously that’s a credit to the trio, whose sound is individualized enough that it could only have grown organically. If you were to start a band and say, “Okay, we’re going to sound like this,” wherein “this” is Virus, it would fall flat. Some things just need to grow on their own. It was an impressive showing, but I also wanted to catch Ivar Bjørnson‘s ambient project, BardSpec, which was making its debut on Stage01, the smallest of the rooms at the 013. Easy enough to wander over, and I managed the rare feat of getting in before it was too packed and found Bjørnson‘s experimental side in full display, a table set up on the stage with mixing boards, guitars — Enslaved‘s Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal sat in on guitar, and I mean “sat” literally; he was behind the table, largely hidden from view, sitting on a monitor wedge — a laptop and no doubt two or three other swirl-making doodads obstructed from view.
Decked out in a shirt the homemade-seeming designs of which reacted with the blacklights in the room to look like they were glowing in the dark and glasses with lights in them, Bjørnson soundscaped and built on waves of drone from Isdal‘s guitar, manipulating a live mix while video played on the screen behind. Formative, maybe, but ambitious, and Enslaved bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson showed up to watch as well. With a primary focus on atmospherics, it was maybe more of something you’d put and close your eyes to than something to watch on stage, but I almost always find the live creation of droning sounds interesting, to think of that as part of a performance. I stayed for a while and went back and forth to watch Virus finish their set, waiting for Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir to take the Main Stage, which they did — in force, by storm, or however else you want to say it. Like Virus, they played in 2012 and were much heralded, though they also played yesterday doing the live soundtrack to the Icelandic film Hrafninn Flýgur (“Flight of the Raven“), so either way, the Roadburn crowd was familiar with their wares.
Even after playing yesterday, though, Sólstafir drew what was at that point the biggest crowd I’d seen so far at the Main Stage. There were many Sólstafir shirts in the audience, and it didn’t take long for the band — who’ve had the same lineup since the turn of the century with guitarist/vocalist Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, guitarist Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson, bassist Svavar Austman and drummer Guðmundur Óli Pálmason — to demonstrate how they earned such loyalty. Supporting last year’s fifth LP, Ótta (review here), they played “Dagmál,” album-opener “Lágnætti” and the title-track right off the bat, Tryggvason a consummate, emotive and charismatic frontman, wielding an e-bow for his guitar as if it was powered by his heart, but the whole band just dead on, through and through. I had been looking forward to seeing them for a while, and they more than justified the anticipation. The ending of “Ótta” alone was worth standing there, but I stayed put for just about the entire set and was treated to “Kukl” and the title-cut from 2011’s double-album, Svartir Sandar, as well as “Rismál” from Ótta, which was a highlight, and “Goddess of the Ages” from 2009’s Köld.
The latter showed off some blackened roots, but there was strong sense of performance running through the whole set, and as far back as Sólstafir dipped into their catalog, that tied the show together. A dynamic band, strong in mood and consistent in their songwriting, they also held down that stage, no questions whatsoever. In their energy and their presence, they owned it. Another album or two to follow-up Ótta and I would not at all be surprised to find Sólstafir return to Roadburn in a couple years even higher on the bill. I won’t get to see them on their US tour, which begins April 22 (dates here), but at least now I know what I’m missing. I can’t imagine what they’d be like in a smaller space — Reggies in Chicago, Red 7 in Austin, etc. — if Tryggvason would go into the crowd as he did for “Goddess of the Ages” before climbing back on stage to end out with more e-bow. They’re something special, and I got the vibe from their set that they’d likely be something special whatever the context in which one happened to be seeing them.
There was a break in between Sólstafir and Fields of the Nephilim, so I shuffled over to the merch area and picked up a couple odds and ends — mostly Live at Roadburn releases; Papir, Papermoon, Sula Bassana, and I had my eye on a YOB, The Unreal Never Lived Live at Roadburn 2012 LP that I might have to make mine on the morrow — and ran back to the hotel to drop off the goods, getting back in time for the legendary UK goth rockers to hit the Main Stage, carrying with them a host of classics I’m woefully out of my depth discussing, having never really followed vocalist Carl McCoy or the band. They were something unknown to me, which has an appeal on its own, and particularly following Sólstafir, it was easy to read a Fields of the Nephilim influence in retrospect, in headwear and style. I never gothdanced, but there were some shimmying shoulders to be seen for “Dawnrazor,” “Moonchild” and others, though with Dutch prog legends Focus shortly on in the Green Room, the Main Stage attendance thinned out noticeably, Fields of the Nephilim having gone on about 15 minutes late. They’re back tomorrow as the headliners on the Main Stage.
As I understand it, that’s because Walter is a huge fan, which is probably the best reason you’re ever going to see a band playing Roadburn. They don’t have a new record out, they’re not touring, but they’re here doing two sets because Walter, who is the head, figurehead and face of the festival, loves them. Who could argue? I’m not sure I’m a convert, but it gave me a chance to get some dinner, watch Focus through the door for a bit — I’d done similar with Icelandic black metallers Svartidauði earlier, and found them satisfyingly ripping — and still get back in time for the start of Wardruna, about whom I had zero preconceptions. Before they went on, two tiers were added to the stage, making room for the Norwegian outfit’s range of percussion, vocalists, and so on.
Very much led by Selvik — he was the only one on the lowest level of the stage while they played — they were nonetheless an orchestra. Atmospheres so thick you could swim in them, harmonies rang out in Norwegian, telling Viking tales of a history to which I can’t relate but set me off wondering what it might be like to be from a place with a traditionally homogeneous culture; how it might be to have a “team” in terms of nationality. Americans divide. That’s what we do. I don’t have any experience with a history like that into which Wardruna seemed to be tapping, Selvik with a variety of traditional instruments at hand. It’s easy to respect it, and the performance, if you’ll pardon my saying, was splendid. Soulful, rich, immersive and as complex and beautiful as anything I’ve heard at Roadburn in my seven trips here. But even “Americana” discounts entire portions of my nation’s population, so outside the language barrier, I had a bit of cultural wall standing between me and Wardruna‘s Viking paeans, though by the time they got around to the memorable dirge “Helvegen” from 2013’s Runaljod – Yggdrasil, I was ready to set sail on whatever hand-carved ship they might’ve had parked outside the 013. One could almost hear the lapping waves of the Norwegian Sea.
Over in the Green Room, it was a different kind of traditionalism playing out. Oslo-based trio Tombstones riffed loud, riffed early and riffed often — their tones a dense, earplug-vibrating lumber that grooved on vicious roll. I knew I liked that band from 2013’s Red Skies and Dead Eyes (review here), but I didn’t realize quite how much I liked that band. Guitarist Bjørn-Viggo Godtland and bassist Ole Christian Helstad shared vocal duties atop their own punishing low-tone and drummer Markus Støle‘s swinging crash, and with a hooded statue of Death on either side of the stage, they played some material I didn’t recognize — might be new? — but slammed home their sonic tonnage as though it was a thing to be directly hammered into the assembled skulls before them and headbanged with true doomly fuckall abandon. I hadn’t seen a band be heavy like that all day, so Tombstones were more than welcome, and the savage heft likewise. They were an act I was very, very glad to have seen at Roadburn.
Coming out of their set, I felt I had a better understanding of what they were about. Not that the album didn’t paint a coherent picture, but to actually see Tombstones made me better appreciate the intensity of their approach. “Intensity” would prove an operative word back in the main hall as well, with Enslaved getting ready to go on. Drummer Cato Bekkevold — buried, as ever, behind his kit — and keyboardist/vocalist Herbrand Larsen had already had their gear positioned in the back row, the highest of Wardruna‘s tiers, in anticipation of the Skuggsjá set still to come, but this was a special gig as well. Dubbed “House of Northern Gods,” it found Bjørnson, Kjellson and Isdal down front of the stage, leading the way through a setlist spanning all the way back to 1993’s Hordanes Land EP, with “Allf?ðr Oðinn” one of the several cuts chosen to represent Norse deities or their archetypes as the band tore through their discography with spoken samples between each song, and runes appearing and disappearing behind them on the Main Stage projection screen along with animations by the artist Costin Chioreanu.
No doubt there were many in attendance who’ve seen Enslaved more than I have, but I’ve seen Enslaved six or seven times by now — including at Roadburn — and this was hands-down the best show I’ve ever watched them give. Also the best setlist. For how tight they were, for the fact that after opening with “Frøyas Smykke” from 2000’s Mardraum (Beyond the Within), they launched into “Fusion of Sense and Earth” from 2006’s Ruun. Kjellson‘s rasp was in top form, and all five of them were raging full-on. It was, yes, intense, and it only became more so as “Fenris” from 1994’s Frost led into the more chorus-centered “The Watcher,” the closer from 2008’s Vertebrae, a one-two that brought to mind not only Enslaved‘s intended focus on Norse mythology for the set, but the progression they’ve undertaken in their 24 years together. For his part, Larsen now sounds better live singing the clean parts on a song like “The Watcher” or “Path to Vanir,” which followed, than he sounded in the studio when they were recorded, his confidence and prowess as a vocalist an ever-increasing factor in Enslaved‘s growth.
Put it this way: I saw Enslaved in New York about three weeks ago. Not only did I stay put for the entirety of their “House of Northern Gods” set, but I’m planning on watching them again tomorrow as well. They wrapped by bringing out an acoustic guitar for “Axioma,” which seemed intended to serve as a transition to Skuggsjá, though there was a changeover necessary and one of Selvik‘s stringed instruments had some technical trouble, so there was an added delay there too, the members of Enslaved and Wardruna both on stage at their appointed start time of 00.15, or thereabouts, but not actually getting going until after 00.30.
When they did start, Skuggsjá was both modern and deeply rooted. With Bjørnson and Selvik at the front of the stage, and a total of 11 people participating, they blended elements from both bands as well as some experimentalism and grand choruses into something beautiful and unique unto itself. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it gets released as a Live at Roadburn album, because it deserves it. To describe the bare parts doesn’t really do justice to what was happening on stage. It was a moving late-night performance that, knowing it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, I was glad to stick around and see.
With the second day down, there’s still plenty of Roadburn 2015 to come. More tomorrow, but until then, there are some more pics as well after the jump.