After some quick introductions, easy talking, relaxed walks around Tilburg and some really expensive coffee, the needed energy to continue the rest of the adventure was regained. Already familiar with all the different, wonderful and curious venues that the festival has to offer, the day had to start off with San Diego outfit Petyr, taking over the Green Room. They managed to hook the crowded room to their rapturous and hypnotizing psyche/doom rock with style, delivery and ease, while the ever present work of San Diego’s own B.B. Bastidas landscaped the background.
It’s important to mention how busy of a day the Koepelhal had on Saturday. Diversity, emotion and heavy density reigned from beginning to end. Mizmor stood as a contrasting form of energy versus a band like Wear Your Wounds, that had just played on the same stage, but in the case of A.L.N.’s (Urzeit, Hell) main project, Mizmor is a demonstration of untamed raw fucking power. Not only do they deliver some of the scariest high-pitch screams we’ve ever heard, they do not play around with distortion and density! If Yodh doesn’t showcase that perfectly, we guarantee that live, they might just clench your jaw off or bludgeon your very soul with their sound.
Their performance left a definite mark, but one moment that really left us speechless, was the threshold of the Main Stage with Boris and Stephen O’ Malley’s famous stage PA in person! It’s scary to see dozens of Orange, Marshall and Ampeg stacks building a thick immensity of presence on stage. Everyone expected it to be loud, but no one expected what followed after. Little to no words can make any justice regarding the performance of Absolutego in its entirety on the main stage. One could finally feel complete after witnessing this anatomic, mind dissimulating, powerful sound extravagance at the O13. After this, we had to see Sacred Bones’ own Zola Jesus delivering a somewhat mixed but memorable performance at the Koepelhal. She’s admittedly not the crowned pop champion but her catchiness, consciousness and inclination to interesting soundscapes really do her a lot of justice, not to mention seeing her play at a “metal” festival, not only breaking barriers but also fitting in, just like one of our own.
Back to the O13, Godspeed You! Black Emperor managed to fill the venue to its limits. While playing the entirety of the Luciferian Towers album and still giving something extra to the packed crowd, they lifted this epicentre of hopelessness to such an extent of consciousness that only GY!BE would be able to. On the other hand, one performance still remains as the absolute peak of the weekend, and that was Thou & The Body closing the Koepelhal for the festival. When it comes to heavy, these two bands are redefining it’s boundaries. Remarkable in their attempt, they manage to explore distortion, impact, sonic distress all the while highlighting the idea that the more the merrier. A day later… the afterburner is a bit different in that sense. There’s fewer bands, venues and more time to really consume the landscape.
Ironically, Sunday is church day, and we sure had our procession pretty much conveyed for the rest of our stay. One of Roadburn’s first ever commissioned pieces of music would be in plain exhibition at the O13 with Vánagandr: Sól án varma, (of Iceland’s Misþyrming, Naðra, Svartidauði and Wormlust) as a collective that would leave the entire venue, completely leveled to the bone. While showcasing a series of beautiful panoramic pictures of various suns fadingly losing radiation and light, travelling hand-in-hand with the piece’s authentic theme, the sound spoke in an untranslatable language whose only universal words would remain unconstricted, feral and unyielding.
Speaking of stellar, we were just on time to catch Watter at the Green Room. For those who aren’t familiar with this project, it includes the likes of Zak Riles (Grails) and Britt Walford (Slint) in a math-rock and experimental rock odyssey of sensations and textures. Interesting take on barbaric decibels, with large amounts of dilated and off-kilter progressions. What a pleasant surprise!
The belgian sons of the Church Of Ra collective, Wiegedood were candidates to implode the main stage to obsolete existence. While showcasing tracks from all over the De Doden Hebben Het Goed trilogy, the trio imposed intensity, suffocation and unstoppable claustrophobia, rendering a filled O13 to its knees. Later, we would see similar scenes at the Het Patronaat but in the exact opposite of the gearbox. Slower, equally abrasive and cathartic, yes you’re right: it’s Hell. Immediately on our wishlist right after releasing last year’s Hell LP, it just so happens they will be playing the same album in its entirety, at the afterburner, on a Sunday and right behind a fucking church! Everything seems pretty much aligned. Het Patronaat was completely packed with still 10 minutes to spare. The stage turned red and the public just went full-on berserk mode when the opener “Helmzmen” found its way to Tilburg. Heavy, really fucking heavy guitar tones that do not hesitate to punch anyone in the face with its immense energy and outflow of intensity. All tracks were amazing but “SubOdin”, “Machitikos”, “Wandering Soul” and “Inscriptus” were more than examples of Hell’s reigning power as underground doom lords. In the end, there was not one single body that could’ve stood still during those 50 minutes of lavish, abrasive, tormenting horror of doom metal!
To finish off on a high note, Zonal got up on the main stage alongside the tremendous Moor Mother. What began as a simple, straight forward, disco music industrial progression, quickly became a social assault on capitalist conformity and consciousness. The Philadelphia activist/poet’s distinct vocal hostility really embraces the mechanical and almost dystopian framework that both The Bug and Justin K. Broadrick designed for the project. The somewhat improbable but very functional and even effective combo of hip-hop and dark electronic, really caught every listener by storm. Easily one of the festival’s highlights to point out. What a way to finish the weekend! It’s immensely depressive having to leave all of this behind, only photos, videos, memorized conversations, the smell, colour and even weather will remain until next year’s edition begins once again.
For now… let’s value the memories and appreciate what Walter, Becky and the entire staff of Roadburn, either for sound, logistics, organization and so on, have done here. And what a privilege to witness it all, first-hand. What a weekend! Now, let’s wait for next year. There’s already some dates, write them down and don’t miss out, it will be memorable… as always.