Posted in audiObelisk on May 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This invariably happens every year. I’ll grant that the audio streams from Roadburn 2016 seem especially quick in arriving — the last batch was only 10 days ago — but at some point every year there’s a round during which the majority of the bands are ones that I didn’t see. The catchphrase here is “Roadburn means hard choices.” You can’t be everywhere at once, and usually my agenda involves trying to focus on things I’ve never seen before and might not again. Fortunately there’s always plenty of that to go around.
Out of the seven bands included in this third batch of Roadburn 2016 streaming full sets, I only caught one band, and that was CHRCH. Frankly, if it was only going to be one, I’m glad it was them. The West Coast extreme doom powerhouse made their debut through Battleground Records in 2015 with Unanswered Hymns (review here) and received due praise for their efforts, and they were among my most gotta-see bands for this year’s fest, playing in the smallest venue, Extase, around the corner from the 013 proper. They packed that room out through the hallway and just about out the door and closed out my first night of Roadburn 2016 with resonant, swirling darkness that I’m glad to have the chance to revisit.
And of course, getting to hear some of what I missed elsewhere is always part of the fun of hosting these streams, so if you need me, I’ll be digging in. I hope you’ll enjoy doing the same.
Much audio follows:
Bliksem – Live at Roadburn 2016
Chaos Echoes – Live at Roadburn 2016 (Transient in its entirety)
CHRCH – Live at Roadburn 2016
Hell – Live at Roadburn 2016
Naðra – Live at Roadburn 2016
Daniel Payne – Live at Roadburn 2016
Yodok III – Live at Roadburn 2016
Gratitude as always to Walter for letting me host the streams. To hear the first batch of Roadburn 2016 audio streams, click here, to hear the second one, click here, and for all of this site’s coverage of Roadburn 2016, click here.
Posted in audiObelisk on May 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
As always with these Roadburn streams, some of this stuff I got to see and some of it I didn’t. I’ve said many times and I stand by it: Roadburn means hard choices. Do I watch an American act make a triumphant European debut or go see a local Dutch band I’ll probably never have the chance to watch again. Once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime black metal or another psychedelic jam session? These are hard choices I’m fortunate to be making, and you certainly won’t find me complain about making them, but they’re hard choices all the same.
Roadburn 2016 had a few can’t-miss acts for me though, and two of them are represented here in this latest batch of audio streams in Buried at Sea and Hexvessel. The reasoning behind the former should be obvious to anyone who’s experienced their tonal (and total) doom onslaught either live or on record, and as for Hexvessel, I was curious to find out how they’d bring their new album to life while also doing justice to their last two, executed in a different style. As you can hear in the below, it wasn’t an issue.
I didn’t get to watch them, but I also heard that Beastmaker, Full of Hell and Iceland’s Misþyrming killed, and this round also features Epitaph, Hair of the Dog and Hangman’s Chair, all recorded and mixed by Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team from Torture Garden Studio.
Beastmaker – Live at Roadburn 2016
Buried at Sea – Live at Roadburn 2016
Epitaph – Live at Roadburn 2016
Full of Hell – Live at Roadburn 2016
Hair of The Dog – Live at Roadburn 2016
Hangman’s Chair – Live at Roadburn 2016
Hexvessel – Live at Roadburn 2016
Misþyrming – Live at Roadburn 2016 (Söngvar elds og óreiðu in its entirety)
Special thanks as always to Walter for letting me host the streams. To hear the first batch of Roadburn 2016 audio streams, click here, and for all of this site’s coverage of Roadburn 2016, click here.
Posted in audiObelisk on May 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some good shit here. I was bummed to miss Atomikylä and Oranssi Pazuzu both at Roadburn 2016, but having caught the likes of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, The Skull, Bang, Tau Cross and Repulsion, it’s not like you’re going to find me complaining. Even less so now, since though we’re not yet a month out from when the festival actually took place in its home of Tilburg, the Netherlands, the first round of the traditional audio streams have arrived. All of the above mentioned are included, as well as Sinistro, Dark Buddha Rising and Abyssion, making it a pretty succinct summary of the breadth of the fest as a whole, from warm-toned classic rock to raging grind and black metal to the dreariest depths of doom. Yup, that about covers it.
As always, these streams were captured by Marcel van de Vondervoort — who also played this year with Astrosoniq; can’t wait till their set gets posted — and I’m thrilled to host them both for the memories they bring back and for the chance to hear stuff I didn’t get to see. I don’t mind telling you and I don’t think I’m giving away any state secrets when I say it was a hard transition back to real life this year, so to have a bit of escapism in the form of these sets is most welcome.
I hope you also enjoy digging in:
Abyssion – Live at Roadburn 2016
Atomikyla – Live at Roadburn 2016
Bang – Live at Roadburn 2016
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – Live at Roadburn 2016
Dark Buddha Rising – Live at Roadburn 2016
Oranssi Pazuzu – Live at Roadburn 2016
Repulsion – Live at Roadburn 2016
Tau Cross – Live at Roadburn 2016
Sinistro – Live at Roadburn 2016
The Skull – Live at Roadburn 2016 (Thursday, April 14)
The Skull – Live at Roadburn 2016 (Friday, April 15 – playing Trouble’s Psalm 9 in its entirety)
Special thanks as always to Walter for letting me host the streams. For all of this site’s coverage of Roadburn 2016, click here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Among the many things I love about the Roadburn festival is that it is always moving forward. Case in point, I’m barely in the door back from Roadburn 2016, still very much basking in the glow of this year’s excellence, and here comes the official announcement of the dates for Roadburn 2017. I don’t know what the next year will bring — I didn’t know what the last one was going to bring either — but I have indeed got April 20-23 marked on my calendar and I’m very, very hopeful that I get back again next year. It is someplace I’ve come to feel at home and a community that, at this point, I’d miss dearly if I didn’t get to be a part of it again. Fingers crossed.
The first of many Roadburn 2017 announcements to come, from the PR wire:
Roadburn Festival: The Aftermath. 2017 festival dates announced
Another edition of Roadburn Festival is in the books – and what an incredible one it was!
Roadburn would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to all the artists, crew, production team, volunteers, staff, and of course every single attendee who spent the weekend with us. We never take the support and appreciation for granted and are sincerely grateful to every individual that helps to make Roadburn what it is.
The festival played host to incredible sets including: Neurosis – celebrating their thirtieth anniversary by playing two special, career spanning sets Converge – playing two sets; one with their expanded Blood Moon line up including Chelsea Wolfe, Stephen Brodsky, Ben Chisholm, and Steve Von Till; and one never-to-be-repeated Jane Doe in full. Paradise Lost – performing Gothic in its entirety Diamanda Galás – a rare and unique performance, plus a screening of Schrei 27 and live interview session With The Dead – as well as being our 2016 curator, Lee Dorrian also performed with his own band for the first time outside the UK G.I.S.M – this legendary band played for the first time in 14 years, and for the first time ever outside of Japan Cult of Luna – opening the festival, playing Somewhere Along The Highway in full, to a packed out main stage Misþyrming – Roadburn’s Artist in Residence, these young Icelandic black metal torchbearers played three times over the weekend.
Among these bigger names were many more special moments and incredible collaborations. This year, musicians from Finland made their presence felt with incredible sets from Hexvessel, Dark Buddha Rising, Oranssi Pazuzu, Arktau Eos, Abyssion and Atomikylä. Roadburn continues to push the bar ever higher, always aiming to create something unique, artistic and always very special.
The full list of artists that performed at Roadburn 2016 is as follows:
Abysmal Grief, Abyssion, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alkerdeel ft. Gnaw Their Tongues, Amenra, Arktau Eos, Astrosoniq, Atomikylä, Bang, Beastmaker, Behold! The Monolith, Black Moon Circle (ft. Dr. Space), Black Mountain, Bliksem, Blind Idiot God, Blood Ceremony, Der Blutharsch and the Infinite Church of the Leading Hand, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Buried at Sea, Carousel, Chaos Echoes, CHRCH, CHVE, Cocaine Piss, Concatenatus, Converge, Crumbling Ghost, Cult of Luna (Somewhere Along The Highway in its entirety), Cult of Occult, Daniel Payne, Dark Buddha Rising, Dead Neanderthals, Dead To A Dying World, Death Alley (& Friends), Diamanda Galás, DOOL, Ecstatic Vision, Epitaph (Ita), Full of Hell, Galley Beggar, Gentlemans Pistols, G.I.S.M., Gomer Pyle, Grafir, Green Carnation, Grimmsons, Hair of the Dog, Hangman’s Chair, Hell (USA), Hemelbestormer, Herder, Hexvessel, Hills, Inverloch, Jakob, John Haughm, Jucifer, Kenn Nardi (of Anacrusis), Klone, Kontinuum, La Muerte, Lugubrum Trio, Lychgate, Mantra Machine, Mirrors For Psychic Warfare (Scott Kelly & Sanford Parker), Misþyrming (Artist in Residence), Moloken, Mondo Drag, MPH (Formerly known as Mr. Peter Hayden), Naðra, Neurosis, New Keepers of the Water Towers, Nibiru, NYIÞ, Night Viper, Noctum, Obese, Of The Wand And The Moon, Oranssi Pazuzu, Paradise Lost (Gothic in its entirety), Partisan, Pentagram, Peter Pan Speedrock, The Progerians, Repulsion, Russell Haswell, Scott Kelly, Sinistro, Skepticism (Fan-picked set list), Steve Von Till, Syndrome, Tau Cross, Terzij de Horde, The Poisoned Glass (ft. G. Stuart Dahlquist and Edgy 59 of Burning Witch), The Body, The Skull, Usnea, The Vintage Caravan, We’rewolves, Witch Trail, With The Dead, VVOVNDS, Yodok III.
Alongside the acts that performed, we also had a side programme featuring listening sessions of new albums from Nothing, Alkerdeel, and Virus, live interviews with Neurosis, Converge, Paradise Lost and Cult of Luna, panel discussions, talks and much more. Roadburn’s 2016 poster artist, Becky Cloonan curated an exhibition of artwork throughout the 013 venue.
We welcomed more visitors than ever to Roadburn this year; approximately 4,300 attendees each day descended on the 013 venue and it’s surroundings to celebrate all things psychedelic, heavy, and obscure! The Roadburn family continues to spread all over the world with people joining us from as far afield as Australia Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, Afghanistan, and India – as well as our friends from all over Europe.
Roadburn 2017 will take place at the 013 venue, between April 20-23, 2017. Announcements for the 2017 edition will start in the coming months.
More than any other Roadburn in recent memory, this one has gone quickly. It never quite drags, but Roadburn 2016 has been a sleepless blur of tonal impact, furious creativity and walks down 013 corridors that on Thursday were strange and new and by today were as though nothing about the venue had changed at all. Like the marathon and the sprint decided to join forces. Today was the last day, the Afterburner, which drops from five stages to three — the Main Stage and the Green Room at the 013 and the space over at Cul de Sac — and generally features a more chilled-out vibe, though particularly over the last couple years, its stylistic reach has become no less broad than Roadburn proper.
To wit, today’s lineup. In keeping with this year’s Icelandic theme — most of that is black metal, but still — The Vintage Caravan played a special 2PM set at Cul de Sac, last minute. They were here hanging out and so got a slot on the bill. I didn’t get to see it because we were finishing up the final issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch (you can read it here), but to see that kind of spontaneity in action — hey, you’re here, so play — exemplifies part of what makes Roadburn so genuinely exceptional. My understanding is the band’s new drummer wasn’t with them yet when they played here last year, so wanted to be able to say he’d played Roadburn as well. Sure, why not?
My day began a short time later with Mirrors for Psychic Warfare starting in the Green Room. The two-piece is comprised of Scott Kelly of Neurosis and Sanford Parker, who also played today with Buried at Sea, and I guess it’s fair to call it a Corrections House spinoff, since they both operate in the same roles as in that band, with Parker on electronics and synth and Kelly providing guitar and vocals, but without Eyehategod‘s Mike Williams as frontman or Bruce Lamont‘s sax, the effect is vastly different. Progressions were slow and lurching as they emanated from Kelly‘s guitar, and waves of loud-as-hell drones oozed forth massive from the stage. At one point, Parker played a line of bass through his laptop or sampler, whichever it was, and the low end was such a physical presence I could feel it vibrating my nose hair. It’s not like I have a lot of it, either. It was a sensation I’d never felt before. Earplugs vibrating, sure. Nose hairs? Kind of tickled, actually.
Vocals were sporadic but well suited to the grueling mood, and the set as a whole seemed to be working on a gradual build in intensity until, as they were finishing, Kelly was throwing his shoulders as he might headbanging during one of Neurosis more riotous parts. Needless to say, they closed loud. Green Carnation were on the Main Stage playing Light of Day, Day of Darkness, which is a cool record to be sure, but I didn’t want to miss the start of Blind Idiot God, the New York trio playing the fourth show of their maiden voyage to Europe. Their latest album, Before Ever After (review here), has just had its worldwide release, and in addition to the notable reggae nod in “Night Driver,” the instrumental three piece played “Antiquity” and a host of others from what was their first LP in 23 years, their focus on blurring lines between NY aggro noise crunch, proggy brilliance and heavy atmospheres.
Add to that drummer Tim Wyskida‘s winning for most elaborate drum kit of the weekend — at least of the ones I saw — and Blind Idiot God offered intrigue and dissonance in kind. Their stage presence was progressive, led in that regard by guitarist Andy Hawkins, but still had a bit of pre-Giuliani Manhattan noise rock grit about them beneath that came out here and there in their sound, which was wide open stylistically, but delivered by Hawkins, Wyskida and bassist Will Dahl with precision and due emphasis on the complexity in the material. There were people in the crowd who’d waited 25 years to see the band. You could say the response was solid. Respected scribe and all-around hyper-passionate supporter of music Stefan Raduta gave me the hard sell on catching Jakob, though really all he had to say was “they’re from New Zealand.” Anyone who’s traveled that far to play Roadburn must have a good reason.
Complemented with visuals by Jérôme Siegelaer, the three-piece’s set found its reason in a lush post-rock, full in tone and l-o-u-d loud, but still evocative enough to keep the crowd in its grasp to the point where, after applauding, the room quickly fell into silence as those in attendance waited to hear the first notes of whatever it was Jakob were going to play next. Their fourth album, Sines, came out in 2014, but this was my first exposure to them, and it was a recommendation I was glad I took when they were finished, the vibe setting itself up for a departure into the darker post-metallurgy of Belgium’s Amenra. But first, Ecstatic Vision in the Green Room. I’ve seen them before and they’re from Philadelphia, which is much, much closer to where I live than New Zealand, so I stayed through the end of Jakob, but managed to poke my head in the door of the packed out smaller stage and find the trio’s blend of heavy psych and space rock intact from when I last left it. Their debut, Sonic Praise (review here), was right on for Roadburn from the outset, so there was little surprise when they were added, but they’ve put in some considerable road time already, so good to see them doing well, even if I’m seeing it through the doorway instead of in the room itself.
The sense of presentation back in the Main Stage began even before Amenra actually started playing. A large white curtain was brought out and raised in front of the stage so that the band’s video background could cover even more territory, and after everything was ready to go, vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout — who also has a solo record out called Rasa (review here) — came out first, knelt down in front of the drum riser, facing away from the crowd as he did for yesterday’s acoustic Amenra set and as is apparently his wont, and started beating two sticks together, slowly and ritualistically. He was joined soon by drummer Bjorn Lebon, who had his own sticks, and followed soon by the rest of the band, guitarists Mathieu van de Kerckhove (also Syndrome, which played Cul de Sac earlier in the day) and Lennart Bossu and bassist Levy Seynaeve, and there began a set of some of the most intense post-metal I’ve ever seen outside of Neurosis themselves.
On par with Isis at their angriest, but crisper in their songwriting and use of ambience, Amenra were further distinguished by their direct affinity for “Times of Grace” but more so by the flashing strobes, high-energy delivery and their obvious mastery of the form. What I learned at the Roadburn 2016 Afterburner was that people go apeshit for that stuff. I can’t argue it wasn’t cohesive, but the power of Amenra‘s aesthetic and the force with which they drove it at the assembled masses earned them the night’s second biggest response, and the Main Stage was crowded enough that I had to go all the way up top just to find a place to stand, and even that didn’t come easy. It was an impressive showing, and while I’m not sure I’d count myself in the getting-it camp — or in a parish of the Church of Ra, as it were — much of their set was undeniable. One would not win a debate arguing against it.
There was a considerable break before Neurosis came out for the second set of their two-night 30th anniversary celebratory stint headlining on the Main Stage. My first Roadburn was 2009, the year they curated, and I can still remember standing in the balcony of what’s now the old-013 big room and being awed. It wasn’t my first time seeing them, but it was something special, and the same goes for last night and tonight together as well. Yes, partially because they broke out older, not-really-played-anymore songs like “Blisters,” “Grey” and “Double-Edged Sword” from The Word as Law, “The Web” and “To Crawl Under One’s Skin” from Souls at Zero and Pain of Mind‘s “Life on Your Knees” and “Pollution” from 1989’s Aberration EP. They went as far forward as 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) and touched on all the ground in between, guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly having some technical issues — the first time I’ve ever seen Neurosis have tech problems — with his guitar after opening with “To Crawl Under One’s Skin,” but sorting it out with guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till and the crew as Noah Landis covered for them with a huge, kind of abrasive drone, and drummer Jason Roeder and god-damn-it’s-a-joy-to-watch bassist/backing vocalist Dave Edwardson sat tight.
When they got going again, it was “Locust Star,” and, you know, the universe collapsed on itself and folded into the deeper reaches of subspace, so whether or not the guitar was working didn’t really matter anymore because all existence was wiped out. At least that’s how I remember it. Pretty standard for Neurosis. In all seriousness, I don’t know if there’s a heavy band of their generation that’s inspired so much wax poetry — I’m guilty in this regard as well, in case you didn’t click that review link above — but it seems to me that speaks to the level on which Neurosis resonate with their audience. It’s often credited as this cerebral, arthouse phenomenon, but it’s not that. It’s rawer, from the gut, and it captures an experience that isn’t necessarily universal, but which this crowd — the Roadburn crowd, here and worldwide — relates to like it doesn’t relate to anything else. As they wrapped with “The Tide” and drew the tension out to cruel extremes before Kelly started the opening riff of set-finale “The Doorway,” it occurred to me again how special this band is, how much it derives from the players that comprise it, and that however much others try to capture the same sonic spirit, they only wind up with a fraction of it at best. It was a two-hour set. If they’d decided to do a third, I’d have stuck around for it.
A lot of people stuck around anyway, as it happens, to see PH — formerly MPH, formerly Mr. Peter Hayden — in the Green Room. The Finnish band is a cosmic wrecking ball and I managed to catch some of their set last time they played Roadburn, but Buried at Sea were also coming on the Main Stage, and if you know Migration, you know why it was the back and forth between the two that it was. The Chicago four-piece released that LP, their only one, in 2003 and though guitarist/vocalist Sanford Parker (also Corrections House and Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, as well as War Crime Recordings) has gone on to become a household name in the underground for his production work for the likes of Blood Ceremony, YOB, Pelican, etc., it was the band as a whole that really made an impact. They were among the first to consciously proffer tone worship in US doom, and that’s not something that’s easily forgotten for those who were there to hear it the first time around or who’ve caught on since.
Even following two hours of Neurosis, which has to be one of the least enviable festival slots in the history of recorded sound, Buried at Sea kept the crowd there and delivered the vicious heft with which they’ve become synonymous, largely in their absence — their last EP, Ghost, came out on Neurot in 2007 — and while I don’t know if they have any plans to do more or maybe put a sophomore album together, but with the lineup of Parker, bassist/vocalist Chris Sowell, guitarist Jason Depew and drummer Brandon Pierce, they sounded vital. Gave me hope where previously I’d sort of figured they’d do a couple shows and then go back their separate ways.
It was getting late. My feet were telling me. With pain. Always bittersweet to say goodbye to Roadburn, and 2016 having gone so quickly, all the more so. Death Alley were rounding out the fest at Cul de Sac, so after hanging for a while at PH, I made my way over there. It was too packed to get up front for pictures or anything like that, plus everyone around me was smashed and I didn’t want to feel like a dickhead American invader, so I hung in the back and listened as a bass-heavy take on “Over Under” started off their set. The place was immediate into it, even where I was, and rightly so. How far that band has come in just a couple years, they’re legitimately one of the Netherlands’ most exciting acts going, and they just have one record, 2015’s Black Magick Boogieland (review here). It’ll need a follow-up sooner or later, but still, that’s a considerable accomplishment starting out.
They played the title-track “Black Magick Boogieland,” and standing back by the door of the Cul de Sac with my earplugs in, drunken revelry on all sides of me — I got told tonight my face radiates love; mostly I think I just look tired — my camera bag on the floor to give my shoulder a rest, I thought back to the interview I did with the band for the album last year prior to the release and their talking about the concept of what the title meant and about the power of music to draw people in, to change minds, to shape lives, excite and inspire. How lucky I am to have been here this week and the seven years prior. For me, Roadburn has become that sacred space that I keep trying to live up to, to be worthy of, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to cap it than with “Black Magick Boogieland,” because that’s what it’s all about. That was how I wanted my night and my Roadburn 2016 to finish, on that feeling of warmth and belonging.
And so that’s how it ended.
I’ll have another post to wrap up the coverage series, but I need to be up in three hours to go to the airport and fly home and there are still pictures to sort, so I’ll just say thanks for reading for now.
We were done with the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch folding ritual early this afternoon. Third time’s the charm. The issue was finished and printed and put online (you can read it here) by a little bit before one o’clock, so I decided to head back to the hotel to have a drink of water, get my head around the day, dick around on my phone, etc.
En route, something caught my ear wafting out of the Cul de Sac. It was Rotterdam natives Dool soundchecking, and from outside, they sounded pretty damn good. Their name had come up in the office since they’re this year’s “Roadburn Introduces” pick, and I decided pretty quickly that I’d have to check them out even just going by what I heard on my way by, so I got back in time to get a spot up front and attended their arrival. They’ve got members of The Devil’s Blood in bassist Job van de Zande and drummer Micha Haring and Gold‘s Nick Polak on guitar along with Reinier Vermeulen, and guitarist/vocalist Ryanne van Dorst, and maybe since they’re not brand new players out of the gate it shouldn’t be a surprise they were in such command of their sound, but for a band who doesn’t have more than a single out, they were impressive in their presence on stage and in the cohesion of their aesthetic, copping elements of goth rock to darken up heavy grooves for an early crowd.
When they got to “Words on Paper,” van Dorst switched out her electric guitar for an acoustic one, and the effect of the added resonance to Polak‘s and Vermeulen‘s guitars was palpable. Every Roadburn brings a pleasant surprise. Dool were definitely mine this year. This morning, I knew nothing about them. Now I’ll be keeping an eye out for news about their debut album. They’d wrap up in time for Skepticism to start on the Main Stage. The Finnish funeral doomers hit the quarter-century mark in 2016, and they marked the occasion with a special fan-selected set that focused heavily on their 1995 debut LP, Stormcrowfleet, with “Sign of a Storm,” “By Silent Wings” and “The Everdarkgreen,” as well as their 2003 third outing, Farmakon, with “Farmakon Process,” “The Raven and the Backward Funeral” and “Shred of Light, Pinch of Endless.” They had “The March and the Stream” from 1998’s Lead and Aether in there as well, but whatever they were playing, it all crawled, gruelingly, further into a deep, black abyss of church-organ-laced doom, heavy on drama and impassable in tone.
Frontman Matti Tilaeus added to the drama, the bowtie of his formalwear undone — as apparently it will be — and the white roses he carried out with him when he came on stage laid on the tops of the monitors for extra funereal effect. They played mostly in the dark, and were a reminder of just how much what we think of today as death-doom owes its crux to what Finland conjured in the mid-’90s. It was a surprise to walk out of the Main Stage room when they were done and find the sun was still up. How could daylight still even exist after such a thing? I’d ponder the question during an initial loop through the merch area while waiting as I have been for months, years, to see Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, also playing the Main Stage. The Tad Doyle-fronted outfit released their also-awaited self-titled debut (review here) on Neurot Recordings, and though they toured to support it — with Neurosis, no less — I didn’t get to go to that show and my soul has had a dent in it ever since.
Well, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s sheer tectonic heaviness took that dent, bumped it out and polished it up real nice. And by that I mean that, while the video screen behind them showed suitably-themed images like the earth as a ball of fire, volcanoes, arcane rituals and so on, they played so furiously loud and with such heft of low end that the floor of the big room actually shook. They had a second guitarist on stage right with bassist Peggy Doyle, and drummer Dave French was in the back, but as a whole unit, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth came together to hone pure aural destruction for the duration of their set, Tad‘s seething rasp and screams placing him at the center of the churn, not nearly as morose as Skepticism had been, but viscerally angry and geared for maximum impact. When the asteroid hits planet earth in whatever year that is — could be tomorrow for all I care; I’m at fucking Roadburn — it will sound like Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. I own two of their t-shirts. When they were done I felt like maybe that’s not enough.
Aside from the fact that Astrosoniq drummer/producer Marcel van de Vondervoort is deeply involved with recording and mixing the audio streams of each Roadburn that so often become groups’ live albums, and aside from the fact that after I first dug into their last studio LP, 2010’s Quadrant (review here), I decided I needed to hear every record they’d ever put out — 2006’s Speeder People (review here), 2005’s Made in Oss EP (review here), 2002’s Soundgrenade (review here) and 2000’s Son of A.P. Lady (review here) — I have been waiting years to see Astrosoniq play Roadburn, and their set was made all the more special by the fact that fest organizer Walter was doing live visuals as he did for The Heads last year. The band hasn’t had much if any live activity over the last few years. It’s now been seven since Quadrant was first issued in Europe. I knew it was going to be something special. I knew I was lucky to see them. I don’t think I knew just how much that would be the case.
On record, they hop genres with attention-deficit regularity, but in the Green Room, the band were much more fluid. They jammed out with the best of anything I’ve seen at Roadburn 2016, and I’ve seen a few jams. Guitarist Ron van Herpen had guested the other night with Death Alley, but really stood out during “As Soon as They Got Airborne,” an extended take that was only part of the larger highlight that was the set as a whole. “You Lose” from Son of A.P. Lady was another standout, that album having just received a limited vinyl reissue that’s caught my eye in the merch area downstairs at the Patronaat. May or may not get to pick its deluxeness up to take home, but Astrosoniq made an easy case with what I’ll hope is a return to activity that results — eventually; doesn’t have to be this week; next week is fine — in a new full-length. Their native Oss is about 35 minutes from Tilburg by car, just on the other side of den Bosch, and they got the hometown greeting from a strong Dutch contingent represented in the crowd. I knew they would be a hard act to follow.
I watched a bit of Tau Cross — with Away from Voivod on drums and Rob Miller from Amebix on vocals — on the Main Stage before heading over to Het Patronaat to catch the start of Beastmaker, as Lee Dorrian‘s curation was continuing over there. I miss-timed it and didn’t actually get to see them apart from their soundcheck, blowing my chance at Carousel in Extase at the same time, and routed back to the 013 proper to watch Converge do their special ‘Blood Moon’ set comprised of their slower and more experimental material. After their Jane Doe set the other night, which I caught the tail end of, the vibe was almost completely different. Yeah, Jacob Bannon still writhed and paced back and forth and whatnot, but there were more clean vocals — giving Stephen Brodsky (Cave In) another chance to shine, which he did — and they brought out Steve Von Till of Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe to add their voices to the mix, and Ben Chisholm fleshed out textures on keys, resulting in a rich sound that pushed away from hard/metalcore in favor of something less stylistically hinged. Even for being selections from past records, ‘Blood Moon’ set its own context, and even in the parts that didn’t feature Von Till, one could hear a strong sense of influence from Neurosis in what they were doing.
At that point, I decided to do something I hadn’t done since I got to Tilburg: I stopped and had a meal. I left Massachusetts on Tuesday evening. Today was Saturday. Since then, I hadn’t had time to actually sit down to a dinner, lunch, breakfast, anything. I bumped into Weirdo Canyon Dispatch photog extraordinaire Paul Verhagen and we grabbed a bite, with Exile on Mainstream‘s Andreas Kohl joining later, before Amenra went on the Main Stage. I had mixed veggies — broccoli, brussels sprouts, string beans, some other green thing chopped up — a boneless chicken thigh, a spicy chicken wing and a considerable amount of green salad, dry. It might as well have been birthday cake.
Amenra are something of a fixture around Roadburn. The Belgian atmospheric sludgers played in 2007, they played when Neurosis curated in 2009, they played in 2013 and they’ll play again at the Afterburner. That’s nothing to complain about, I’m just noting it because perhaps it was part of what drove them to do something different this time around, performing mostly acoustic with seven players seated arranged in a circle on the stage to stark lighting and deeply melancholic reinterpretations of their songs. Of course, they also have a new LP out, Alive, on Consouling Sounds working in similar forms — it features a faithful cover of Tool‘s “Parabol,” which they also played — but even in this different incarnation, it was plain to hear the impact of Neurosis on their methods and of Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till‘s solo works on their dark-folk and minimalist (if you can call something with seven people on stage minimalist) brooding.
Vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout said from the stage they were nervous and doing their best, possibly after someone shouted “Slayer!” in the crowd. If they were uncomfortable, it was hard to tell from the harmonies. When they were done, they left one at a time until only a single guitarist remained, his back to the crowd. Then he got up and walked away and the part he was playing kept going. It was a loop, obviously — that’s not exactly a magic trick at this point — but it made for a striking visual all the same and said something about the resonance of their material, being brought down on a slow fade as the crowd erupted again. There would be a 40-minute break before Neurosis came on, which, to be completely honest, felt like an eternity.
From Brothers of the Sonic Cloth onward, everything on the Main Stage at Roadburn 2016 today was building toward the Neurosis 30th anniversary set. From Tad Doyle‘s grunge roots to Tau Cross‘ own in crust and progressive thrash, to Converge and Amenra having both — in very different ways, granted — found inspiration in their work, Neurosis was at the core of what the whole day was about, and the push forward was leading inextricably to their set as the culmination. Not to say it was seven-plus hours of setup and nothing more, just that the clearly purposeful flow of the day was designed with its direction in mind. It was not an accident.
They opened with “Lost” from 1993’s Enemy of the Sun, and among the you-were-never-gonna-see-Neurosis-play-this highlights were “Pain of Mind” and “Self-Taught Infection” from 1988’s Pain of Mind debut, “To What End?” from 1990’s The Word as Law, a cover of Joy Division‘s “Day of the Lords,” and, gloriously, “Takeahnase” from 1992’s Souls at Zero, arguably the point at which they really started to branch beyond their beginnings in crust and hardcore punk and move into the various forms of aggression that they continue to develop now — the easy word for it is post-metal, but it’s post-metal because Neurosis made it that way. With more recent inclusions like “At the Well” from 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) and “Water is Not Enough” from 2007’s Given to the Rising, along with “Times of Grace” from the 1999 album of the same name, “Left to Wander” from 2004’s The Eye of Every Storm, as well as the closing pair of “Through Silver in Blood,” from the 1996 LP of the same name, and “Stones from the Sky” from 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets.
Between all of that and “An Offering” from the Sovereign EP, there was not one record in their discography unrepresented. That made the event even more special — they’ll follow-up with a second installment for the Afterburner tomorrow — but the truth of the matter is that anytime Neurosis shows up, it’s special. I know they’ve done more touring in the last year than in the decade prior, but still, I don’t think there’s a band on the planet that captures the same measure of intensity, of raw passion, of volume-assault-as-spiritual-refuge that Neurosis does, and whether it’s Noah Landis using the entire universe for source material for samples and manipulated transitional drones for between songs, Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly complementing each other on guitar and vocals as one might expect for two guys who’ve been fronting a band together for 30 years, Dave Edwardson‘s continued ferocity on bass or Jason Roeder‘s cyclical drum patterning, everything they do is a lesson in the ethic of putting creativity first. They have a new record coming out at some point. I don’t know what it sounds like or what it’s called, but I feel comfortable in the knowledge that it will step forward from where they were with Honor Found in Decay, because they’re Neurosis, and that means no compromising.
I kind of lost my shit during that especially blistering rendition of “Takeahnase,” and I expect tomorrow and Monday I’ll be good and sore. Who cares? Not me. I’m back at it in the morning for the last issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch and more bands for the Afterburner, which basically is just another day of Roadburn at this point. Fine by me. It’s gone quickly in 2016 — how do you pack a year’s worth of living into four days? — so I’ll take everything I can get.
When I got in from the show last night, I triumphantly tore my wristband off in accomplishment of having put down day one of Roadburn 2016. Then I looked at the thing and saw it was for all four days. So first thing this morning, obviously enough, was to get a new pass. Needless to say, sheepish grins abounded, but as ever, the Roadburn crew was nothing but delightful and accommodating in the extreme. For the hours of fretting I did about it, was done in about five seconds, then off the finish putting together the second issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, which you can read here.
That process was less smooth, but better than yesterday, and I got excused from folding pages in time to catch the beginning of Hexvessel and Arktau Eos‘ collaborative set at Het Patronaat. On the Main Stage, it was the Lee Dorrian-curated ‘Rituals for the Blind Dead Pt. 1,’ but that wouldn’t be starting up for a while yet, so Hexvessel & Arktau Eos felt like it was snuck in as a bonus for anyone who showed up early. Plenty of people did, and were greeted by robe-donned, incense-burning ritualism, the group performing a special set called “Mirror Dawn” in honor of Arktau Eos‘ debut album, Mirrorion, and Hexvessel‘s debut album, Dawnbearer, from which it drew its source material.
Flourishes of ritual bowls, keys, violin, acoustic and electric guitar, synth, various bone-looking rattlers and percussion instruments, a carved horn of some sort, but the shrouded Arktau Eos, it was a deeply ambient beginning to the day, patient on the cusp of droning but with stronger currents running under the still-seeming waters. It was clearly a work of passion — I’d be interested to hear it recorded; will attend the hopeful arrival of the audio stream — and distinct completely from what Hexvessel brought to the Main Stage with their set yesterday (review here) in a way that only made it more engrossing to witness. Something special for Roadburn to start the afternoon.
When I left Patronaat, it was to begin a succession of one band into the next that would define the better part of a remarkably busy day. Mondo Drag were going on in the Green Room. Diamanda Galás would follow shortly after on the Main Stage, so I headed across the alley to the 013 and hit the Green Room on the quick to get a feel for what Mondo Drag were up to, and was struck almost immediately by the clarity of their tones, but the weight they still carry. I felt fortunate to have been familiar with their new RidingEasy album, The Occultation of Light (review here), since it features the current lineup of keyboardist/vocalist John Gamino, guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard (the latter also synth), bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia, and the live versions of songs like “The Eye” and “Out of Sight” mirrored the chemistry the band as they are today showcased on the record.
It’s almost like a second debut for Mondo Drag in that, but as they melded those cuts with “Zephyr” and “Plumajilla” from last year’s self-titled LP (review here), there was no less ownership of that material, which featured on record what would become the rhythm section of Blues Pills when it was recorded in the Midwest, where the band lived before moving to the West Coast. Either way, Mondo Drag have clearly worked out their niche sound-wise and are engaged in the process of developing that in the textures of the dual guitars and keys and the classic feel of their songwriting. I’d see a lot of psychedelia as the day went on, but catching Mondo Drag for the first time was a thrill for sure. They sound like a band that is going to keep growing.
During the latter portion of their set, I popped over to the Main Stage to bear witness to Diamanda Galás. The grand dame of the avant garde has a few ground rules for playing. They included: No photos (signs were posted), no bars open (they even turned off the lights), and no leaving until the song in progress was finished. Far more free-thinking in her creative spirit, Galás took the stage alone, with a baby grand piano and proceeded to tear gaping holes in sonic convention, her astonishing range matched only by her will to push it to its limits, pulling elements from folk-blues and moving into and out of language for roughly 70 experimentalist minutes. It may have been one of the bravest sets I’ve ever seen at Roadburn — or at least the bravest since Wovenhand in 2011 (review here) — but she kept an impressive portion of the crowd with her for the entire hour-ten, while others waited for the song to end so they could switch out with those waiting on the other side of the door.
I myself went back and watched Mondo Drag finish their set, visited the merch area again when they were done, and still made it back in time to catch the end of Diamanda Galás. All of this was done in anticipation of the next stage in the afternoon/evening’s back and forth, which would see me push from Repulsion to Death Alley to With the Dead to Hills with nary a breath between before catching some of G.I.S.M. and closing out my night with Black Moon Circle and Peter Pan Speedrock, one into the next. There were moments of respite between some sets, but most of it was right in a row. Beats stopping, I guess. No regrets, in any case, though I did sacrifice catching solo sets from Neurosis‘ own Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly in the process, but I saw Kelly in Chicago back in November (review here) and I did some quick math and decided I’d be way likelier to run into Von Till again before Repulsion, so went that way.
Bassist/vocalist Scott Carlson was kind enough to let me have a look at the setlist, which consisted almost entirely of cuts from Repulsion‘s 1989 debut, only album and mega-classic, Horrified. You know why? Because when you fucking have Horrified, you don’t need anything else. Repulsion was most definitely not closing any bars. In fact, I think a few new ones opened as they tore into the fleshy bits of classics like “Eaten,” “Slaughter,” “Six Feet Under,” “Repulsion,” and “Horrified” itself. Carlson remarked from the stage that Horrified was recorded 30 years ago (in 1986), and he and guitarist Matt Olivo seemed to relish the opportunity to bring them out again. Does it still count as nostalgia when the songs are about cannibals? These and many more important questions were answered.
With Chris Moore (formerly of Magrudergrind, among others) on drums, Repulsion was as filthy and raging as one could’ve possibly hoped, Carlson noting before “Bodily Dismemberment” that he and Olivo wrote the song in Death guitarist/vocalist Chuck Schuldiner‘s bedroom while Evil Chuck was out working at Del Taco. Easily the best story I heard from the stage today. When they were done, it was time for Death Alley in the Green Room, which was probably my most anticipated set of the day, foremost because I so very much dug their debut LP, last year’s Black Magick Boogieland (review here), but also because it was billed as Death Alley + Friends, which signaled to me a high potential for some psych weirdness to go with their driving heavy rock and proto-thrash. Add to that the fact that the first time I saw the band was at the Hardrock Hideout in 2014, and basically I wasn’t missing them for anything.
After a line check with all six parties on stage, they started the set with just the core four-piece lineup — vocalist Douwe Truijens, guitarist/backing vocalist Oeds Beydals, bassist/backing vocalist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Ming Boyer — and dove headfirst into their cover of Hawkwind‘s “Motorhead” (premiered here) to begin a kinetic thrust that would only increase in energy as it went along. They were fucking awesome, flat out. I could go on and on in overindulgent language about how righteous Death Alley‘s take on heavy has become, and how expansive, in the two years since I last saw them, but it boils down to the same thing. After the title-track from Black Magick Boogieland, “The Fever” and “Stalk Eyed,” they brought out guitarists Ron van Herpen (also of Astrosoniq, formerly of The Devil’s Blood, currently of ZooN) and Jevin de Groot, who was a bandmate of Duijnhouwer‘s in the wildly underrated — remind me sometime to tell you about how frickin’ underrated they were — cosmic doom outfit Mühr.
The resulting sextet incarnation of Death Alley brought extra fullness of sound and all-out swirl to two cuts that seemed newer, “II’s On” an “Feeding the Lions,” before rounding out with a triumphantly spacious rendition of “Supernatural Predator,” the band three-guitar, pull-the-earplugs-out psych-jamming their way farther out and out and out into the cosmos, utterly hypnotizing the Green Room as they went, Beydals, Truijens and Duijnhouwer sharing the vocal duties that Farida Lemouchi performed on the record — before, with nothing more than a few snare hits from Boyer, they masterfully turned the jam on its head and dug back into the space-rocking-push of the song’s central riff to finish out. A surge of electricity went through the room. They’d wind up being my band of the day, hands down, and the really good news is they play another set on Sunday, closing out the fest where it all began, at Cul de Sac.
As Death Alley were spacing out in the Green Room, With the Dead took the Main Stage for what I think was their third show ever, the four-piece including the day’s curator Lee Dorrian, of Rise Above Records and Cathedral fame (to start with) as well as new drummer Alex Thomas (ex-Bolt Thrower), and new bassist Leo Smee (formerly of Cathedral) in addition to guitarist Tim Bagshaw, whose tone was as grime-coated as I recalled it being when I saw him with Ramesses here in 2011. They played the bulk of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), including “Living with the Dead” and “The Cross” and “Nephthys.” Come to think of it, it might’ve been the whole record. They had an hour and only have the one album, so, you know, you have to make the most of the time.
Even apart from their pedigree — and I’ll readily admit that it’s difficult to separate these guys from their pedigree — With the Dead‘s material is devastatingly heavy, and Dorrian‘s sneer was as true to the dirt coming from Bagshaw and Smee‘s amps as the riffs were raw and oppressive. Seemingly on the other end of the spectrum entirely, but really only back in the Green Room, after Death Alley finished with the aforementioned jam, Sweden’s Hills followed-up with ultra-groovy heavy psych of their own. The poorly kept secret is that they’re the same band as Goat (though whether all or in part, I don’t know), but if it’s Hills‘ brand of laid back kosmiche or Goat‘s afrobeat-inspired costumed throb, I’ll take the former every time. Sans pretense, they were in a fully molten state by the time they got around to the title-track from 2011’s Master Sleeps, having brought out Svensk Psych Aften label owner and promoter Sven Kruppa for a guest vocal spot earlier in the set that felt kind of random, but in such an open context could hardly be considered out of place.
There was a lot to dig about them, from the trance-inducing aspects to the custom visuals, but it was the peace-through-jam serene atmosphere they proffered that most struck me. At the same time, they weren’t quiet — or at least not all the time — and they had energy in their delivery. A lot to dig, but sadly no merch to buy. I was hoping to pick up a CD of last year’s Frid, which is sold out online, but no dice. Apparently you can believe what you read on the internet. While a take-home version of their mesmeric, pulsating and still definitively laid back space rock wasn’t forthcoming, the vibe they set was enjoyable in the moment, though it would soon enough be back to extremity as I got a sampling of G.I.S.M. on the Main Stage.
Granted, it was somewhat obligatory. G.I.S.M. were formed 35 years ago and this marked first show in 14 years and their first show ever outside their native Japan. Showing up wasn’t really optional. I didn’t have quite the same nostalgia factor as I did for Repulsion, but many, many others certainly did, and I watched as G.I.S.M. showcased punk extremity that underscored just how broad Roadburn‘s spectrum has become. I was waiting to close out the night with Black Moon Circle, at Extase, and Peter Pan Speedrock in the Green Room, so I went up to the balcony in the Main Stage room and sat back for the end of G.I.S.M., which of course was no less furious than the start had been.
I knew I was missing Pentagram, and that’s not nothing. But every Roadburn means hard choices, and since Black Moon Circle are Norwegian and Peter Pan Speedrock are playing their last shows — allegedly — ever on their current European tour, priority was given. No regrets. With Roadburn regular Scott “Dr. Space” Heller joining the trio, Black Moon Circle were a more grounded answer to Hills, but still plenty jammy when it came down to it. Dr. Space, whose synth is a swirl factory in itself, always helps in that regard — one recalls his set with Carlton Melton a couple years back — and while I was only there for a short while, and I spent a goodly portion of that trying to get my camera to focus in the mostly darkened Extase, which turned down its lights to allow for Black Moon Circle‘s psychedelic oil lightshow, as well as thinking about how I need to get a review up for their new album, Sea of Clouds, they were a pleasure to watch. I had a hard time pulling myself away.
Motivation in the end, though, was that Peter Pan Speedrock, the Eindhoven trio who’ve been blasting out mission-in-the-name heavy punk for over 20 years, are preparing to retire. They’ve got fest dates booked into the summer and more shows in the fall announced, so I don’t know when they’re actually doing that, but from what I hear, it’s true nonetheless. I’d never seen them before, but in about 20 seconds, the sprint was at full speed and guitarist Peter van Elderen seemed to be out to earn the two-decades of reputation again as quickly as possible, manic in his motion from front to back of the stage, foot up on the monitor, standing on the barricade to play directly to the audience, whatever it might’ve been as drummer Bart Nederhand and bassist Bart Geevers locked in grooves with no room left for questions.
Songs came and went in short, intense bursts, and if this, as my first indoctrination to Peter Pan Speedrock live, is also to be my last, then I’m glad at least I got to see the band once. I was clearly in the minority in that, by the way. Granted, Eindhoven’s only a few towns over from Tilburg, but between singing along to the Hank Williams track that served as their intro to starting a mosh pit in the Green Room, it was abundantly clear that the majority in attendance were more experienced than I when it came to seeing the band. Fair enough for the near-hometown heroes. The last shows I saw booked for them are in November. Never say never, but if they are done, that’s a loss.
Hardly a bummer ending to the night, though. They were far too upbeat and kick-your-ass for that. There was more going on afterwards, but I needed to get back and get writing, so I made my way through the crowd and out, down a busy Weirdo Canyon and back to the hotel. Tomorrow starts bright and early and ends dark and late, but promises plenty of incredible sights and sounds between. Fortunately I kept my wristband on this time.
Posted in Features on April 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
04.14.16 – 11:51AM – 013, office
Some issue with the printer in the office here at the 013. Doubt it’s anything major, but it’s just holding up the proof of the day’s issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. I’m not worried. It will work out. It’s hard to be worried with such a professional crew working here. Shaman Lee is on it as well, so while I have a couple changes to make in the copy, and the deadline is/was noon to start printing, we’ll get there.
In the interim, I got to catch a minute of Paradise Lost’s soundcheck. The new Main Stage space is huge — holds 3,000 people — and I expect it will be full. When I showed up to the loading dock (also suitably cavernous) this morning, I got a tour of the redone 013. There’s a photo pit in the new Jupiler Stage (former Green Room), which makes me feel like the universe is doing me personal favors, and space downstairs for the panels and this and that. I don’t know of anything in the US that compares to it. It’s a big country, I’m sure there’s something in a similar class somewhere, anywhere, but nothing I’ve ever seen. That was true before it was redone as well, and now it’s brand new.
And of course the sound is incredible. The space is both familiar and not, and I expect it’ll take some getting used to going from room to room, then down the way to Extase or Cul de Sac — I’m already nervous about missing CHRCH later tonight owing to the crowd; they’re among the most anticipated bands for the fest from people here and playing the smallest space — but it’s Roadburn. Everything will be fine. It’s so good to be here again. I saw Walter and Becky and Miranda and Gijs and a bunch of other familiar faces from the 013 crew, and it’s been nothing but warm feelings since I walked in. I even met the general manager of the 013, who is responsible for bringing me over again to do the WCD. I felt like I should’ve brought him a gift basket. Here sir, please take these fruits and cheeses as a minimal token of my appreciation. Would be hilarious to try to get that through customs, standing like a dope on the non-EU passports line.
Just a couple hours now until the start. We’ll get the margins for the ‘zine sorted and then get to folding, and maybe I’ll have some more coffee before the day begins in earnest, or that tea that I put in the office fridge to cool off, and then take a deep breath before the big plunge. Definitely felt like it after last night, but Roadburn 2016 starts now.