APRIL 10-13, 2014, TILBURG, NETHERLANDS
Few festivals can boast the interconnectivity, community, and top tier musical quality and variety of Roadburn. The annual doom/experimental/psychedelic/extreme festival without fail brings the weird, year after year, and 2014’s rendition was no different. Just as Noctis Metal Festival does, the festival thrives on those who help organize, play, volunteer, suggest bands, and attend, creating a positive feedback loop and strong alliances and support from within. For that reason, along with the hugely diverse music on display, 2014 year was unusually special.
Spanning four days in Tilburg, a pristine town in the south of the Netherlands, the festival began somewhat frustratingly due to accommodation issues. Sadly, this meant missing England’s gorgeously morose 40 Watt Sun, who reportedly played a largely acoustic set, as well as Finland’s Beastmilk. However, grindcore titans Napalm Death delivered a set full of their slow, trudging tracks, making the hair raise on my neck. Corrections House brought the poetic doom and gloom, then ASG absolutely leveled the Green Room with thunderous sludge that was actually interesting, harkening back to 2007 when the genre was in its artistic heyday. The evening was topped off with the hurly burly of Crowbar and crushing resin soaked grooves of Bong. Exhaustion was setting in; best to find a way back to the hotel before collapsing.
Friday’s lineup was a ‘70s prog rock fan dream come true, courtesy of curator Mikael Akerfeldt, whose love for prog has now fully steeped into the core of Opeth. First up was Magma, whose insanely odd jazz-rock flirts with bizarre time signatures and utilizes a made-up language that is outright evil as fuck. The unnerving and jangly Comus followed, their beautiful rendition of “Diana” inspired many (cough: ME) to dance jerkily along, eyes closed, hands to the sky. Due to an extremely irritating schedule overlap – which, admittedly, everyone has every year at this festival, such is life! – only about 20 minutes of Claudio Simmonetti’s insanely influential Goblin could be witnessed. The vibrant, spooky, mood manipulating soundtrack kings were in top form, but there was absolutely no way I could miss watching Chilean/Swedish epic doomsters, Procession, from front row. The band is arguably the best in their genre active today, and their live performance reflected that impeccably. It was perfectly fitting that after shooting the first three songs of Candlemass’ fist pumping, immaculate set of their incredible Ancient Dreams in its entirety,that Procession would be backstage. We proceeded to sing along for the duration of the set, fists to the sky while beer was consumed voraciously. The cherry on top was Terra Tenebrosa, whose set was a dream come true, given my teenage obsession with Swedish hardcore maestros Breach. TT is Breach 2.0; simply add bizarre cloaks and a monstrously garbed frontman. Absolutely excellent, riveting hardcore.
Saturday started out with the nihilistic punk/sludge of Noothgrush, followed by a relaxing, vocal-free, largely electronic set by Finland’s E-Musik Gruppe Lux Ohr, featuring Reverend Bizarre, Lord Vicar, and solo instrumentalist and guitarist Kimi Karkii. A lengthy break inspired me to wander into the catacombs of the venue, courtesy of a generous all-access pass. After meeting Karki, a musical and educational role model, we proceeded to get drunk on beers, as the Finnish do, determined to be front row center for English epic doomsters, Age of Taurus. We achieved our mission, and even the drunk heckler who continuously yelled, “Entombed!” at the drummer couldn’t damper the elated buzz they induced. The same heckler was in attendance, hollering for the witch-y, occult, spooky rock of, Mansion, and appeared again for the highly anticipated, A Storm of Light. After telling him in strong language to please be quiet, he attempted to plant his lips on my face, declaring, “I love you.” His attention would have been better focused on the band, who unleashed a thunderous NeurISIS set until the wee hours of the morning.
Exhausted and utterly spent, Sunday was largely a sombre fever dream for many attendees. With the passing of Selim Lemouchi just weeks prior, nearly everyone had stories to share of their time with the hugely talented and ideologically steadfast musician. As such, watching the sound check, followed by the set of Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies, was an emotional experience. It felt intrusive and strangely voyeuristic to be photographing his sister and friends shortly after his death. Although, hearing Farida Lemouchi’s gorgeous voice cascade over the songs, while seeing images of him on the massive screen was a fitting tribute.
Bölzer was a complete switch in atmosphere. 30 minutes before the set began, the Green Room was already utterly packed. The lights dimmed, smoke filled the air, and the duo unleashed their cosmic death metal, unveiling several new tracks from their upcoming EP. They were followed by the third set of the weekend by Yob, who simply cannot hold my attention. Therefore, a leisurely stroll was taken through the venue to appreciate the gorgeous art display by Arik Roeper and Josh Graham, as well as watch Roeper put the finishing touches on a Roadburn exclusive art print. Finally, the Tom G. Warrior lead Triptykon arrived on a stage flanked by Giger artwork. Both he and the band were in top form, but somewhat dull to watch. The quartet hardly moved during their pristine performance, and even renditions of tracks by Hellhammer and Celtic Frost failed to inspire a physical response in either the band or the burnt out crowd. However, the tracks from the about to be released Melana Chasmata were crystalline.
Without any prior knowledge of the band Heretic, it was unrightfully assumed such a name would result in crusty, vicious, black metal tunes in the tiny Cul de Sac venue around the corner from 013. This assumption was 100 per cent incorrect. Instead, the Dutch band played Misfits worshipping punk rock; I quickly fled, insisting that “something more Roadburn-esque” must be the final thing filling these eardrums for the weekend. Morne delivered just that, with crushing funeral doom. Finally, as patrons stumbled from the venue and collapsed unto the wooden tables, it was clear the magnificent weekend had come to a triumphant end.
Words and photos by Sarah Kitteringham
CORRECTION: Review was edited as we mistakenly identified tracks stated Selim Lemouchi’s Enemies performed The Devil’s Blood tracks. We apologize for the oversight.