Roadburn Festival 2016 - Day 1: The Overload
|Event:||Roadburn Festival 2016|
|Written by:||Apothecary, X-Ray Rod|
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You were with us in 2014, even though you weren't. You were with us in 2015, even though you weren't. And now, from afar, even though you weren't with us when it actually happened, you're about to take the journey through Roadburn Festival once more this year through the personal retellings of Apothecary and Mr. Doctor. Strap on the Big Boy undies: we're entering the portal yet again.
Che: Tic tac toe, three in a row! This year was my third time going to Tilburg for this quirky, four day festival, and I came with high anticipation as there were a lot of seriously good bands on the line up this time around. Things got a bit different for our Metal Storm crew for this installation: not only was our generous host in Utrecht, Marcel, not with us during the festival (work obligations!), but we were also accompanied by Roadburn newcomer Zaphod, who was a pleasure to hang out with. On Thursday, April 14, the trio of myself, Rod, and Zaph set out for the beginnings of the odyssey. Arriving at the 013 venue in Tilburg (which has been significantly renovated for the better) with a huge smile on my face, I was ready to get the ball rolling again with four more days of awesome food, drink, friends, and, of course, bands.
Rod: Roadburn is a musical pilgrimage. Meeting familiar faces as if we met yesterday is a ritual on its own since this is my sixth year in a row. We are a family that loves music. No one is here for anything other than their own musical desires. One of our old time crew members, Marcel, couldn't make it. Luckily, Che and I were accompanied by first timer Pieter (Zaphod in MSspeak), and I had the pleasure to meet Bernabé (Vombatus), another first timer, a couple of times as well. Honorable greetings to you both and I hope to see you again!
Since 2011, I've seen changes: the birth of three stages (Het Patronaat, Extase, Cul De Sac), the death of two (Midi Theatre and Stage 01) and two renovations (Main Stage and Green Room). All these changes are motivated by the expansion of the festival with its ups and downs. The Main Stage can now hold 3,000 people, but the second biggest stage only holds 700, so during a gap in Main Stage activity… all those 3,000 people will go to other stages, resulting in HUGE lines to see a band or grab your merch/cloak at night! Overall the changes are positive, but extra thought can be given when the drop in size is so big.
THE POISONED GLASS
Che: Roadburn 2016 officially began for both Rod, Zaph, and myself with The Poisoned Glass. This duo is new on the block, but their members have been around for a while, being none other than Edgy 59 and G. Stuart Dahlquist, from the legendary doom band Burning Witch. Gathered very close to the stage in the Het Patronaat, we were subjected to some very painful, dark ambient-influenced drone, not too far off from the sound of Khanate, in fact. With no guitar, the band conjured sound from the bass work of Dahlquist, Edgy's tortured vocals, some keys for atmospheric effect, and... ONE drum, which Dahlquist and Edgy took turns pounding on to maintain a steady, imposing beat. While this performance started off strong, for one reason or another it began to fade about a half hour into their set, and became very dull, monotonous and unentertaining. It is not so much that the music itself is bad, but simply that its effect, being very eerie and meditative, is much better enjoyed in personal solitude than in front of a mass audience. I left the set early suspecting that the music would probably be a lot better on album than it is live, and, having now listened to the band's debut album 10 Swords, I can confirm that for me at least, this is indeed the case.
Rod: We kicked off the festival with a short display of pain. The Poisoned Glass are a drone duo involving the former bassist and vocalist of sludge legends Burning Witch. With such pedigree involved, it's no surprise they've got a harrowing sound to present. The heavy, ambient-filled music was a proper match for Edgy's vocals, which are as insane as they were in back in the 90s. Synths and the occasional drums were used, but it remained mostly a bass/vocals affair. Aside from the entertaining visuals (with horror and esoteric themes), the project wasn't that exciting. I enjoyed the 20 minutes I spent there though (out of the full hour they had). I quickly ran off to the main stage for the first big band of the day…
CULT OF LUNA
Rod: As I entered the Main Stage, Cult Of Luna's status became obvious as the masses were silently standing while the delicate chords of "Marching To The Heartbeats" were hit. The classic Somewhere Along The Highway was going to be played in its entirety. The members have said that the album revolves around "male loneliness," and by the sound alone you can tell there is some truth in it. A primal display of emotions. Raw, naked, proud and hard hitting melodies accompanied by excellent double drumming and intense vocal delivery. At first I was disappointed by the lack of visuals but the decision turned out in their favor. Cult Of Luna chose a subtle and delicate light show, hiding most of the band members while illuminating the audience as if the musicians were the spectators all along. I must admit that I wasn't that excited at the start (Vertikal is their best album if you ask me), but the Swedes blew me away. In a genre filled with copycats, they are one of the few masters left.
Che: After leaving early on The Poisoned Glass, I hung around the festival grounds for about another half hour before making my way to the Green Room for the blackened doom of Usnea (bonus: I actually had the pleasure of meeting all the band members on my way to Roadburn; they were on the same flight from Reykjavik to Schiphol Airport that I was!). Suffice it to say, this was the change of pace I needed after being slightly disappointed by The Poisoned Glass. The brand of blackened doom these Portland metallers employ leans way more towards the doom than towards the black metal, and is very darkly melodic and drenched in occult influence, but thankfully not to the point of being overly cheesy. They hypnotized the Green Room with heavy riffs, awesome twin guitar melodies, and occasionally picked things up into heavier, black metal territory that was equally as crushing and entrancing in its own right. Overall, a fantastic performance from a relatively young, but incredibly promising group of musicians. These guys have been getting invited to many festivals lately both in their native U.S. as well as overseas, and from this set it was easy to tell why that is.
Rod: I headed to the Green Room, which was slowly but surely getting an audience. Usnea play a meat and potatoes type of blackened doom. What you'd expect from the genre you will get. Slow riffs with the growls and some high pitched scream which I really enjoyed. Once the pace was picked up with black metal-inspired tremolos, things were really cooking. The set was solid and the band clearly got a positive reaction from everyone. My biggest complaint though was that I expected a more balanced and less disjointed mix of the genres, as you could sometimes tell when the next section was coming, which usually suggests a lack of original songwriting.
FULL OF HELL
Che: The next band on my "to see" list was Full Of Hell, and the best part of it was... they were playing in the exact same location, the Green Room, so I didn't have to move a muscle for them! I had seen these guys twice in my local neighborhood of South Florida previously, and while at Roadburn I generally go for a rule of "see the bands you haven't already seen"... I was willing to make an exception here, because I wanted action. And it was action I most definitely got. After Usnea's set, the antics of these violent grindcore hooligans were just what I needed to get the adrenaline really going. Shortly after all the members came onstage, the Green Room exploded into insanely fast, bludgeoning guitar and drum work, which occasionally transitioned into heavier, almost doomy sections, the painful vocals and interesting electronic work of frontman Dylan Walker, and... mosh pits, which are not entirely unheard of at Roadburn despite the festival's generally more laid back, relaxed atmosphere. These pits would be first of the fest for me. But they certainly wouldn't be the last.
Rod: The insanity behind Full Of Hell's blasphemous mix of powerviolence and noise kickstarted the very first mosh pits of the festival. To say that these guys are intense is a huge understatement. Everyone that had the (mis)fortune to witness the carnage was in awe, either staring at the chaotic violence shown by the vocalist and co. or by participating in the mosh pits. The band tore us all a new one every time they changed the tempo from sludgy slow to blitzkrieg blastbeats with harsh noise on top to tie all the sections together. 40 minutes of this kind of music can sometimes be too much, even if it sounds this amazing. So after enjoying 25 minutes of the set, I decided to catch some fresh air and go to the next stage, but not before picking up the first two full lengths of these maniacs in order to relive the action at home!
Che: Though I would have loved to have stayed for the entirety of Full Of Hell's set, I had to leave a bit early, about 20 minutes in, to secure a good spot for the start of the next band on my list: Oranssi fucking Pazuzu. One of my favorite metal bands at the moment, period, the hype was through the roof for this one. Heading on over to the Het Patronaat again to see them, the place was pretty jam packed to see these guys. Even using my skills of b̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶ ̶d̶i̶c̶k̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶p̶e̶o̶p̶l̶e̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶y̶ crowd maneuvering, I still ended up with a spot that was a good distance from the stage, and pretty far to the left at that. Nonetheless, what I managed to catch from these guys was incredible. Thick, luscious bass lines and dreamy, psychedelic guitar copulated with pounding drums and black metal intensity for truly spectacular results. Most of what I heard was from their current and last albums, but, as I'm a huge fan of everything the band have done to date, this was no problem for me. I would have preferred to have stayed for the entire set, but obligations made me have to leave early, as I didn't want to miss any moment of what was coming next.
Rod: Last time I saw Oranssi Pazuzu was in 2012 when they only had two albums out. Personally, I prefer those over the two albums that followed. That doesn't mean I would miss them though! Like the previous experience, I went to the balcony of the Het Patronaat where I could enjoy the view but also sit down on the carpet and relax. With these orange demons, everything is extra big in a live setting. Their black metal is more extreme, their bouncy moments are even more danceable and the psychedelic aspects are trippier. I even saw some people dancing around the venue! I could only catch the first four songs, and all of them were from the last two albums, which is understandable considering they are promoting Värähtelijä. Someone told me they played "Korppi" near the end though. Shame! It's probably my favorite song. Having already seen them live before (and that song as well) made it easier though.
Che: I've been getting more and more into hardcore punk lately, primarily through the avenue of sludge, which has always had a strong relationship with it. When it was announced this year that Converge would be playing Jane Doe in its entirety on Thursday, I didn't care much, as I was unfamiliar with both the band and that album. But, taking a shot in the dark, I listened, the music stuck, and it stuck hard. By the time of the festival, I was about having a nervous breakdown in anticipation for this set. I remember saying to Rod beforehand that "if no one starts any pits, we should do it." But I should have known better with this band. Not even half a minute into opening with "Concubine," pits broke out, raging mercilessly, and only stopped for the slower songs of the album. Audience enthusiasm, which I always love, was sky high for this set, and frontman Jacob Bannon took full advantage of it, throwing the mic down towards the crowd on multiple occasions to have people shout out lyrics. Incredibly heavy and neckbreaking, yet also strangely serene and uplifting during the slower parts of the album, this was a truly special set that was quite likely the most fun one of the day. I'm truly thankful that I managed to catch it this year.
Rod: Ten seconds. It only took ten seconds for a mosh pit to form as the frenetic riffs from "Concubine" destroyed the main stage. Converge celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of their modern classic, Jane Doe. These guys are one of the reasons metalcore should never be looked down upon. At its best, the genre can be a catalyst for bottled emotions. Rage, frustration, despair, passion, love… all is packaged in a violent album that was based on a messy breakup. The sound couldn't have been better as all instruments were perfectly clear and the vocals were at the right level, equaling if not surpassing the sound of the album. Special mention to Jacob Bannon for being one hell of a performer, jumping, running around and encouraging the crowd by passing the mic a couple of times. Without a doubt my favourite set of the day!
Che: The Body were another band at this year's Roadburn that I had seen live already, but that I was willing to make an exception to the "see bands you haven't yet" rule for. I'd never pass up a chance to see this duo of the monstrous (and quite friendly in person!) Chip King and Lee Buford, and, having greatly enjoyed their newest album, I wanted to hear some new stuff live anyway. Moving back into the Green Room from the Main Stage after Converge, an absolutely abysmal atmosphere soon took over. For anyone who doesn't particularly care for this band on album because of the harpy-like vocals of King, their truly bizarre mash up of genres, or whatever else, I'll be the first to tell you... it is so much better live. Try it live, if you get the chance, before making your final judgment. From the deranged shrieks of Chip King, the pounding drums of Buford, plus all the electronic effects and occasionally nihilistic audio samples played by King, it's a downright frightening experience, but one that is nonetheless strangely attractive and mesmerizing, if for nothing other than the alluring power of how truly hypnotic and idiosyncratic this band is. Live it somewhat becomes difficult to pick out what they're playing; one can't really say "oh, that's X song from X album!" (I am pretty sure I heard some new material though). Things sort of all just melt together into one massive ritual of darkness, but that certainly isn't a bad thing.
Rod: I'm gonna drop some knowledge right away: Do not diss this band because of the vocals until you listen to them live and let them destroy your spirit. As The Body have become more known with their latest albums and collaborations, I've read more and more negative comments regarding the vocals. Granted, they are high pitched and impossible to miss. Not exactly like those of Silencer, but I can see how it is a love it or hate it affair. But live? Holy shit. The madness is real, all too real. To think that just two guys can make some of the heaviest and bleakest mixes of sludge, black, drone and noise… it was a truly massive set which I sadly had to miss the last 15 minutes of. The claustrophobia felt through the harsh noise and vocals did stay with me for far longer though.
Rod: A nostalgia trip… as I was leaving my power metal roots (yeah, I admit it!) in my early teens, Paradise Lost's Gothic was one of my first encounters with growls and doom metal. I prefer their debut nowadays, but Gothic remains a personal album. I was excited to hear the band play their classic in full, but I wondered if they could pull it off. Instrumentally, they are alive and kicking. Mr. Mackintosh's guitar abilities are brilliant, with great leads and solos that bleed melancholy. Nick Holmes had some problems with his growls but was surprisingly decent at singing the old songs. Since Gothic is barely 40 minutes long, there was time for other classics and two songs from their latest album. Songs from Shades Of God, Icon and Draconian Times received a great response from the audience, and Nick's vocals clearly sounded at home with tracks like "Embers Fire," "Hallowed Land," and the mighty "As I Die." Looking back at their set, the second half was probably my favorite as their mix of classic tracks and the two new songs felt fresh, and Nick stepped up his game during these songs.
Che: After The Body, I still wanted to see one final band before closing out the night, but I was unsure of who it would be. I wasn't really interested in Paradise Lost and their set, which I knew would be crowded as hell anyway. Behold! The Monolith were a possibility, but after having my soul shredded by The Body, I wanted something a bit more laid back and relaxing. So I decided to make it on over to the Extase, Roadburn's newest stage, for Chrch! This band used to have a U in their name too, but there was some drama about some other established band called Church threatening them with a lawsuit, or something along those lines, and they dropped it (how petty, I think the name looks cooler without it anyway, personally). Having greatly enjoyed their Unanswered Hymns debut from last year, I figured I'd give these doomsters a listen. They essentially play a slow, well paced brand of doom metal that, while heavy as hell, can occasionally get quite mellow and atmospheric as well. They employ harsh vocals, yet also the beautiful, serene cleans of frontwoman Eva, who, dressed in the traditional doom metal garb of a hooded robe, was an absolute joy to watch. I'm pretty sure the band's set was an entire play through of their debut, as I recognized many moments throughout it that I had heard previously listening to them. It certainly wasn't a problem, though: it's a powerful debut that went down even better live than on album, and the performance overall greatly piqued my interest in keeping an eye on this young band and what they do next.
Rod: These Finns marked the ending of my first day. Tired yet hungry, I went to the Green Room. I stared at Abyssion trying to figure out what I was watching. Whatever it was... it was pretty cool. Cool is the adjective for them, even if it's a simple one. Abyssion consisted of one sunglasses-wearing, big beard-having, beer drinking and burping guitarist/singer with a drummer and two other guys working on synthesizers. An unusual sight for black metal! Sheer curiosity made me watch their set which consisted of trippy black metal with psychedelic undertones, not unlike Oranssi Pazuzu, yet Abyssion focuses way more on black metal, making the psychedelia aspects more subtle. The echo effects on the vocals and the magic behind the synths certainly helped in getting a grand, galactic vibe. A nice little discovery on my first day!
Rod: Both excited and ecstatic, we ended our journey. Unfortunately we missed our chance to get a ride and the trains were gone... so we had to pick a cab that fortunately was not as expensive as it could have been. Getting back to Utrecht around 3 in the morning, sleep came down as a blessing.
Che: The first day of Roadburn this year was perhaps the best first day I've yet had at the festival. I saw seven bands (overload!), and it got me totally hyped and ready to go for what was to come. The "highlight of the day" was probably either Oranssi Pazuzu or Converge, but, really, getting right down to it, it was all just so damn good, even the set from The Poisoned Glass that may have been slightly disappointing. I'd also like to stress, once again, the diverse nature of Roadburn Festival and the bands that appear there. On this Thursday, I went from drone to blackened doom to violent hardcore, to psychedelic black metal, back to violent hardcore again, over to some freaky sludge/industrial/noise shit, and then ended the night with some atmospheric doom. I wouldn't bet money that there are many other festivals out there that one could say that for. Unfortunately on this first night, our crew's ride back to Marcel's place in Utrecht fell through, and we had to get a cab. Fortunately, however, the ride was far less pricey than it could have been, and making it back to Marcel's weary, Rod, Zaph, and I were nonetheless in great spirits and ready to get some well needed R&R before the next day.
Check out our Day 1 Gallery for some more pics, and stay tuned for Day 2!
||Written on 01.05.2016 by Comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable since 2013.|
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