To Denmark: Northern Discomfort

After a long, long weekend of Roadburn, I encounterd a cool sticker in the toilet at the Cul de Sac during the Turia show. Northern Discomfort on April the 28th and 29th in Copenhagen.

Now, as it happens, my lovely wife has given me a weekend trip to Copenhagen so you can imagine how pleased I was to find some underground music fest going on. So a little preview it is.

DIY Festival

I’ve gathered that the festival is a DIY event. This means it’s been put together by someone who loves music. This means also that anyone in Copenhagen should come down to support it. Setting up a festival like that is hard, costs lots of money and time and depends on the willingnes of the local scene to show up. This is the second edition, so I imagine the first one was good!

Ungdomshuset

I might be wrong, but this is the name of the venue where the fest takes place. Undomshuset appears to be a sort of artistic commune, which holds five simple principles: No racism, no sexism, no homophobia/heterosexism, no violance, no hard drugs. So as you can imagine, I already love the place. The location seems to have quite a history as a democratic house with activist tendencies. I’m very curious now about visiting this place, more info can be found here.
Oh, and vegan food!

Who’s playing?

I’m not going to describe every band or list all of them, just let me highlight some.

Alaric played Roadburn last weekend, like quite some bands that’ll be rocking Northern Discomfort. This American group released an excellent album last year, titled ‘End of Mirrors’ (check out my review on The Sleeping Shaman). Cold, emotional and with a little hint of goth, they’re a pleasure.

Come to Grief plays some of the dirtiest, nasties sludge you’ll ever find. Seriously, this band sounds nasty. The group was started by two former members of Grief and they play classic material from the band. This one hits like a sledge hammer.

Horse Latitudes will simply drown you in their music. Endless tracks with repetition and a lot of despair. A band that makes your flowers wither I wrote when checking their album ‘Primal Gnosis’ (read the review here on the Sleeping Shaman).

Pinkish Black I didn’t catch on Roadburn, but what a great record is Bottom of the Morning, is it not? Wildly experimental, spacy and just a lovely listen. Let me please see those guys live then!

Cult of Occult is a band that plays something so damn brutal, that I fell in love with their sound at Roadburn 2016. I’m keen to experience that again in Kopenhagen,

I also think I’ll give Toner Low another try, the Dutch weedeaters are there as well.

So, are you going?

Are you going to be there? Well, I’d love to have a chat. Come up and say hi!

Underground Sounds: Alseyoung – Who Passes Through Fire

Label: Self released
Band: Alseyoung
Origin: United States

There’s a remarkable amount of good doom metal out there these days. Doom as a genre has not really changed much over the years, which is why it is often overlooked. The quality of doom metal is not necessarily in experimenting. The strength of doom is in its way of evoking feelings with their listeners. Alseyoung clearly got that point on their demo/debut ‘Who Passes Through Fire’.

So who was Alse Young? Alse Young is the first recorded instance of execution for witchcraft in the American colonies. We know little about the woman. Her husband accused her of witchcraft. He provided ample proof it seems. So Alse Young was soon convicted and executed for this crime. A faith that befell many back in the day. Like many cases the surrounding context made the accusations highly dubious and probably money was the main reason for this accusation. You kow how things like this go. The name sounds great for a band though.

The one man band has collected all the demo recordings into one collection, which creates pretty much an album. There’s a bit of variation in the sound, but the record sounds pretty coherent. We have the horror samples as well to add to the vibe of this ‘Puritan Witchcraft Doom’ album. From classic St. Vitus riffs on ‘The Shadow of a Woman’, with the big, colossal riffs, we move to a more sinister sound on ‘Thy Blood’. On this track we get creeping vocals and tremolo guitar play to create a more black metal ambiance. Another dimension of the sound is on ‘Blood, Stone, Soil, Fire’, which approaches the more raw, distorted doom of Warhorse.

Alseyoung is not the most tight sounding band, so the classic doom riffs are only now and then a part of the sound. The creeping, onholy sounds of the vocals in concert with the riffs gives a cavernous, underground feeling to the music. The recording quality varies here and there. This is only logical, since it is a collection of demo recordings.  What I find that a lot of the material lacks is a  serieus bit of storytelling. I mean that in the sense of the song, staying relatively constant and not really looking for the dramatic and epic moments that define doom metal. It’s all about the progression of the song with Alseyoung. A bit more dramatic climax wouldn’t hurt.

I think we might hear more from this Massachusets act in the future.

 

That Roadburn Feeling

For this year’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch I intend to describe that Roadburn feeling. Because we all know perfectly well that something special happens when the banners are up around 013 and strange visitors from far and wide converge upon Tilburg. It’s something peculiar that no other festival has, it makes our eyes and ears open just a bit wider. At the same time you feel that craving for the surprises this year’s festival will offer.

This craving stays with you for three or even four days (and if it’s three you always wish it was four). You approach every venue with an urgency, anxiously check your program where to go next and need to taste as much as possible from the line-up. Others just need to be in the vicinity of the venue, standing in the Weirdo Canyon in front of 013. It’s something special in the air (and I’m not talking about particular fumes that cloud the air during those days). A special feeling of warmth and welcome.

It’s because you know that you’re about to be treated to a buffet of great music. Hand-picked by people who want to share those great artists and sounds with you and have you experience them at their best. Not to rip you of, but to share that joyous event. That creates an enormous pile of trust and love, because it’s like Christmas for us fans. It’s why we come back every year. If we somehow become detached and stop going, we still feel like we need to apologise and explain why and how. That’s that special Roadburn feeling when I completely trust in Walter and his crew to take the best possible care of my musical desires for four days. It’s why I come back, every time.

Underground Sounds: Úir – Tein​​-​​Éigin

Label: Eldritch Lunar Miasma Records/Rat King Records
Band: Úir
Origin: Scotland/England

The Scottish black metal band Úir has plenty of experience in the ranks. Members of Úlfarr, Barshasketh, Haar and Vostok. Plenty of goodness there then to make a great bit of atmospheric black metal non the intriguing record ‘Tein​​-​​Éigin’. Yes, it feels a bit like Elvish or something like that, with its peculiar cover and symbolism.

Úir is a band made up of Scottish and Cumbrian musicians, true northerners so to say. On this album the theme is the passing of seasons in the sense that ancient cultures revered the sun and the moon in its paths like this. The sun as the life giver, the moon as the teller of time. The record travels from the rise of spring to the darkness of winter in four songs. I must say, they’ve done this quite well with an attractive album here.

The album kicks of with some astounding guitar work, which feels like some prog metal actually. The title-track creates a space, with languid, soaring riffs and a crisp clear sound. It’s black metal aspects gradually overwhelm. The sound of sunrays sticks though, even when howling vocals call out in the spacious sound. Though the sound may be very stretched out, there’s also a condensed element to the track and to the general sound of Úir. There’s little in the sense of unnecessary bomast and that makes the music feel more urgent, more direct in its expression to me.

The same feeling sticks with the following ‘Mi na Grianstad’, which deals with the summer solstice. The song clocks over 8 minutes and starts as a full on blasted flow of black metal, but after a few minutes it dwindles down to a gentle part with reverberating guitarplay. I have to put a little Opeth comparsion here, in the way Uír is so completely balanced in their sound. In the final part the vocals take on a more profound role, due to sounding more demented and fierce at one time and the next very much ritualistic. ‘Am Damhair’ refers to oktober, or the season of the deer. It’s a more calm, traditionally progressing atmospheric piece with some clear guitar elements again, creating that right vibe at the right time.

The maddening howls and the torrent of guitarplay are truly the final descent into darkness in winter, as you can hear on the final track ‘Ruiros’. There’s something extremely saddening in the guitar play. The vocals by singer Afallach are truly out of this world on this particular song though. It finishes of a great black metal record.

 

 

 

Roadburn preview: Lost in the Forest

In a short series of preview articles, I intend to get ready for Roadburn 2017. Visiting Roadburn is a bit like a pilgrimage to me, a particular sort of reverie, which I intend to express in three articles dealing with the unknown, the world and the self. Written by a fan.

Roadburn is a gathering, an exchange of ideas if you will. Regardles of your own outlook, the open mind attitude that comes with Roadburn means an influx of new thoughts, ideas and concepts. A forest of new impulses, that always leaves me lost for a few days, realligning myself.

Agreed aesthetic is embedded so I’ll shatter that
Impaired vision like the world got cataracts
Endured attacks on all fronts, now we pushing back
Aligned thoughts to outflank how they counteract
– Dalek, ‘Shattered’

Into the woods: Sharing, exchanging and interacting

The great attraction of Roadburn is that it is simply more than just a festival. Roadburn is a microcosmos of people, who share their love for music. That doesn’t mean they’re all cut from the same cloth and neither are the bands. There’s a lot of variation in ideas, messages and content to the bands and visitors of the festival. No band playing at Roadburn is playing their music, just to ‘rock out’. This is music we love for its meaning, whether its spiritual like Amenra, cathartic like My Dying Bride or simply confrontational like  Integrity.

As a visitor I don’t just want to hear, I want to feel. I want to truly feel spoken to, adressed and shaken by what I hear and experience. I want to be moved by the experiences I have and therefor grow in my own view of the world. Roadburn is an international gathering, which means that not just bands bring a distinct flavor with them to the 013 venue, the Cul de Sac and the Patronaat. It’s the people, the art, the songs and conversations over food, drinks and cigarettes that make up the magical exchange of ideas that is Roadburn.

Drifting around Roadburn

I’ve had my hare of fascinating conversations over time and it makes for that absolutely amazing experience. But with little time to spare and many bands to see, you can just wander around in the Weirdo Canyon like a situationist drifter and experience whatever sonic experience you arrive at. From the atmospheric black metal of Ashborer to the post-punk of Alaric and the dark country of Those Poor Bastards, you just drift around from the start. Stay while you enjoy it, look further if you are looking for something else.

It’s a grand way to experience the festival, but don’t forget to take those little bits of ideas, concepts and thoughts with you. Keep them close and revisit them when you have a moment of reflection afterwards. Roadburn gives you lots of new things, don’t waste them. Sometimes getting a bit lost is not so bad at all.

Underground Sounds: Deafest – Ephemeral

Label: self released
Band: Deafest
Origin: United States

Deafest was once called DunkelSkog, which means dark forest in Swedish. Though they only played one show, they made sure it was special. As Deafest the band has been rather productive through the years and also has dared to venture into new directions, like on this rather particular EP.

Chase Ambler from Denver is the brains behind Deafest, using various other musicians to creat the art itself. On Ephemeral the band is playing acoustic music, for which Ambler did everything himself. Well, apart from designing the logo it seems, which is something that has changed a lot over time. Inspiration for this record was derived from the four seasons and though this is in a way a musical experiment, I think it is beautifully done and a true, rich bit of music.

The gentle folk music is much like the glowing green hills on the album cover. A wide, hilly land, fully in its sparkling glow of life and awakening. The guitar tones trickle by slowly in a carefree manner, like a mountain river flowing. The chiming of small bells, the piano parts and xylophone all are such sounds that put the listener at ease, offering a sense of comfort and peace in an otherwise way to busy world. With that I think we come to the most important aspect of this record by Deafest, it’s praise of nature.

In nature you can find a specific calm and peace. In black metal this often is reflected in the music with ponderous, contemplative sounding music. Those are the elements that are embraced on this EP, which is further stripped of the typical riffing and violent sounds. There’s the repetition, which creates an almost tranquil, meditative mood. It’s a beautiful experiment and a very pleasant record to just drift away with for a short while.

Roadburn preview: Into The Void

In a short series of preview articles, I intend to get ready for Roadburn 2017. Visiting Roadburn is a bit like a pilgrimage to me, a particular sort of reverie, which I intend to express in three articles dealing with the unknown, the world and the self. Written by a fan.

Roadburn is like a different cosmos, it takes you away for a bit. That’s what this part is about:

Leave the earth to Satan and his slaves
Leave them to their future in their grave
Make a home where love is there to stay
Peace and happiness in every day

– Black Sabbath, ‘Into The Void’

Into the Void: Meeting the unknown

Festivals can be memorable for many reasons, from that one magical show to the fun you had sitting outside with (new found) friends and sharing a drink. Roadburn is for most people all about the music, the scene and the experience. Though not limited to a scene, you instantly know what you’re getting when a band is on the time schedule during Roadburn. Whether it’s Deafheaven playing, Gnod or Bongzilla or even Coven, it’s all fitting in the bigger picture.

For outsiders, it may not make any sense to hear ‘That’s a typical Roadburn band’.  It doesn’t mean it’s a black metal band, stoner group or folk ensemble, it might mean anything musically in fact. But to me it means something special, it means I should hear this band, because it fits in this special universe that is Roadburn. Obviously I enjoy seeing my favorite bands during the festival, but the most magical is just drifting around experiencing bands I don’t particularly know and just immerse myself in that sound. Immersion, that’s the key word for Roadburn universe.

In this all of emptiness.
Time will no longer be.
The cosmic certain property.
Of past, now and eternity.

– Mysticum, ‘All Must End’

The joy of Roadburn immersion

There’s something in the air during Roadburn and Roadburn is everywhere once you enter the Weirdo Canyon. From continuous program with talks, bands and listening sessions to the artwork hanging throughout 013. It’s entering a different place and completely immersing yourself in the festival that is the most wonderful part of it.

You never know what to expect and like every year, you’re constantly surprised by that element of the festival. It changes you as a visitor into a sponge, trying to soak up all the elements the festival has to offer. All senses gat their fill, but it’s the mind that is completely satisfied during four days of Roadburn with a completely overwhelming experience in a different universe. So, I can’t wait to just jump in that black hole and see what’s on the other side.

Ride the dragon toward the crimson eye
Flap the wings under Mars red sky…

Nathan Gray live @Dynamo: Losing your religion

I’ve sene Nathan Gray perform a bunch of times now. For some reason I completely missed out on the Boysetsfire thing when it was a thing, so I was late to the party. Last night I got to experience the latest form of expression for his thoughts, the Nathan Gray Collective live in Dynamo.

Photo’s: Justina Lukosiute

For me Gray is one of the most compelling and expressive vocalists that I enjoy listening to. His delivery is from the heart and with an open-wound like bravado that I think is very praise worthy. In recent years, Gray has undergone a transformation and a search. From a Christian upbringing, I first caught the singer live with I Am Heresy in the same venue. I swear to you, there were 7 people there for that show. I was one of them.  A few weeks later Boysetsfire sold out the venue.

With his solo work, he further explores the angst that comes with losing your religious foundations. Densely electronic, vaguely folky, but a great vehicle for Nathans vocals, I needed to check this out.

The Devil’s Trade

Warming up is one guy in a hoodie, on the stage with a guitar, playing the most harrowing folk music. Much like a downtrodden country singer, ony using twangy, noisy guitar as support for his deep sonorous voice, Dávid Makó is the man behind the project. He also sings in Stereochrist and plays in HAW.

You’d never guess that the man sitting here is from Hungary by his thick, southern slur vocals. He could well be a cowboy in the deep south with his big moustache and muscular frame. His songs are great and captivating, but I particularly feel enthralled by the Hungarian folk songs he adds to the set. The mystic, sing-style language is always something special when used for singing.  There are some technical issues, so an acoustic here and there is added. Even those are delivered with force. I really recommend anyone to check out his music.  Truly, listening to this again right now and I feel shivers down my spine.

Add to that the humble presentation of the man , the unconventional play and conviction and there you have something very special.

Nathan Gray Collective

The smiling trio makes their way onto the stage, dressed in grey shirts, the look is more industrial as predicted, like the neo-folk groups. Still, this is something else and way more personal and direct.

I would like to describe the way the opening song hits me. ‘Heathen Blood’ is like  a sledgehammer to the knees, it’s direct honesty, the pain in the voice of Gray and the frustration in the delivery are pure catharsis for the listener. I’ve come to terms with my own disposition towards the faith, but I just recognise the fury, the unrelenting sorrow that is voiced in this song. As Gray has said he was inspired by Skinny Puppy, this is exactly the immense impact that those guys make with way more effort. Nathan does it by just opening up to his crowd.

In a steady pace the band then moves through the tunes. Dan E. Smith is the main partner in crime for Gray, who plays guitar and delivers the electronics. It makes the whole sound more controlled and deliberate. The choice for electronics forces a new way of song writing for Gray, but in a sense many songs stay close to the emotional and melodic delivery that I’m familiar with. The high, soaring passages, but here and there we get a little bit of a dancy tune, like ‘Skin’. Most of the time the electronics do their work, but here and there I miss the organic connection between Gray’s natural voice and some more straight forward guitar work. It’s a personal note. Musically it works and Gray is a powerful frontman like always. Sweating profusely, his black handkerchief remains at hand for the rest of the set.

In between songs, Gray has a bit of banter ready for the visitors, but it’s mostly upbeat and shows that the man is enjoying playing this night, even for a relatively small crowd. The band plays a good 1,5 hours, where clearly some songs really work and some are not as convincing. Gray himself is always grabbing your attention though, with a delivery that is not only strong but urgent. As if this is something he needs as much as his fans. When the band closes with ‘Corson – An Ode to Vital Existence’ from the solo debut, it’s another powerful reminder that personal changes bring something new. It shows the hardcore roots of finding hope even when you’re down. It’s a parting gift from the struggling frontman. I say struggling, because I feel his quest for enlightenment is still fully going on.

I’ve got the book on the table here and I’m ready to read his autobiography ‘Until the Darkness Takes Us’. I expect it to be the next thing that hits me like a brick in the face from his work.

Reading of Books #25

I’ve been reading a lot again, so theres a list of the books of this month with writings by Salvatore, Houellebecq, Kinna and Reynolds. Really good stuff, so yeah.

R.A. Salvatore – The Sundering: The Companions

source: goodreads.com

I am not yet certain what my thoughts are on the tragic deaths of the companions of the hall, the long journey of Drizzt Do’Urden to find peace in Irruladoon in the following books and then the strange turn of events where they are all revived. Certainly, I hated saying goodbye to this group of characters from the D&D universe, but the story had ended after the Neverwinter Saga, a journey I started ironically here where it all ended. So this is the book where we start again, once more onto the breach! The characters start their journeys in new body’s after a gift from Miellikki to adulthood for a new and greater challenge at the sides of Drizzt. A fascinating look into the soul of these figures.

The Sundering is a series of novels, preparing the world for the next edition of D&D, which has become the 5th edition. Since that is the one I play, I did really enjoy this shift in the realms. The great part is that the foundations are layed for the 5th edition campaigns, where the companions play a minor role in the shaping of the world. It’s a well written story, and again Salvatore shows to be more than just a bread writer when he delves into the characters of Catti-Brie, Bruenor and Regis. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and now I’m keen to start my first great campaign.

Michel Houellebecq – Whatever

source: goodreads.com

Somewhere in the past I might have read this descent into madness by French writer Hoellebecq. What I like about his writing is the dark edges, the grimy worldview and the inhumanity of humanity. In this book, his debut I should add, he really displays all of that. The book is mostly written in a monologue of the main character, who is experiencing… well… Very little perhaps? Life is a drag filled with mediocrity and the cynicism of the protagonist is all that keeps him afloat. No other human really seems to touch him or get involved with him on any real level. Life becomes very, very gray.

It all changes when the protagonist becomes ill and has to drop out of the tour of France, to train people in the new software the company sells. After a short introspective period in the hospital he joins his colleague again, who desperately tries to seduce some girl in a disco. In a brutal, sick plan he tries to convince his colleague to murder the girl. The colleague fails and dies on his way home in a car crash. The protagonist sinks away even deeper after this. The defeatist story illustrates the view that the sexual revolution has not brought us more freedom on that front, but a system of capitalism. Of offer and demand, where some win and some lose in the tragical desire for contact.

Ruth Kinna – Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide

source: goodreads.com

Anarchism is a vast political movement, stretching years, but rarely properly analysed. Usually the concept is simply translated into ‘chaos’ or ‘rebellion’. Anarchism is so much more though, but surprisingly hard to understand thanks to our connotations with it ánd our rather brainwashed state of mind. I use that term lightly, because the brainwashing is simply the state of the world we live in. What you know is easily the normal thing, what is new is harder to grasp. In this book Kinna captures the history of anarchism as a political idea, it’s development and its core principles in an elaborate but very clear cut way.

Tracing a route from Proudhon andThoreau to  Tolstoj, Bakunin and Kropotkin, Kinna outlines the great thinkers in the context of their time, moving on to the likes of Nestor Makhhno, Errico Malatesta, Emma Goldman and so fort all the way to Chomsky. Illuminating is the successtory’s of early anarchism in the period from the 1850’s to the 1930’s, where it was fighting over heavily contested terrain with the communists. All in all, this is a great read to get yourself acquainted with anarchism and what it means, can be and how it it shapes the world. That’s a whole lot more informed than posting Rote Armee Fraction pictures on your facebook timeline and calling yourself a rebel…

Simon Reynolds – Bring The Noise

source: goodreads.com

I’ve really enjoyed the book Reynolds made his debut with, ‘Rip it up and start again’. The powerful title really sums up the postpunk movement. In this book Reynolds sort of picks up at the end of that book, but instead of steady chapters we find a collection of the journalistic writings of Reynolds, who lived through the described period as a music journalist. The pieces are journalistic pieces on certain key moments, albums and movements as Reynolds perceived them. The articles also have some current-day commentary added to them, allowing the author to add a modern day look to the equasion.

To me the fascinating thing is how Reynolds weaves together articles about rock music, grunge, hiphop and the growing techno/drum’n’bass scene. The need for noise, rebellion and urban narrative is woven through all these aspects, which Reynolds translates to cultural terms and clarifiers. The link between hiphops lyrical matter, beat and ideology is related to punk, but also to the roots of the movement, it’s location and predecessors in a clear and complete manner. It’s interesting how the author really writes as if he’s the chronicler of the music scene. A worthy read

Underground Sounds: Hermóðr – The Howling Mountains

Label: Wolfspell Records
Band: Hermóðr
Origin: Sweden

The man behind Hermóðr is Rafn, a man who has been active in dozens of black metal projects in the past (like Mist, Deadlife and Vredesmod but an uncannily long list more). This one has been one of the longer running ones. Atmospheric black metal with a focus on nature, the north and the ancient times when the world was still younger and more close to us.

In the music of Hermóðr the listener finds something grand, the uncharted nature and the wide stretches of uninhabited ground. On the cover alone the cliffy coast beckons in a golden morning light, while calling the brave and bould to approach. I’m immediately pulled in by that imagery. There’s definitely a strain of folk music present here too.

The trickling intro promises mystery and adventure as well, but also the feeling of autumn in the air. The music never really transgresses into the tremolo and blast beat grounds of more traditional black metal and remains a more ambient metal-like soundtrack to the season. The slow progressions on songs like ‘Summer Ends’ are more inward. Introspective tunes that make the listener look back at himself. Thoughtful and with a haunting beauty the songs wander by, with an odd guitar riff spinning out or a bass line clinging to the inner ear for a moment.

Even on ‘The Mystic Forest’ the leaves are turning and icy vocals reach out to you. They’re buried deep in the mix, which I don’t always get. Lyrics should be audible atleast I feel, but it works here. The repetitive shimmering guitar parts lull the listener into a dreamy state, enjoying the natural state of the world around them. It reminds me a bit of Falkenbach, though maybe with that modern element of Drudkh. The slow, pastoral progressions, the laborious toiling of nature. The music falls in with the current movement that takes out the human part and shows nature in a pure, unspoiled way. A tradition harking back to the ‘Dunkelheit’ video by Burzum even.

A good example of really going in that direction is the song ‘Snow and Ice’, which really fades in a noisy snowstorm towards its end. The dirge-like sound just fades away due to a hazy cloud of noise. This album is one that is special. It certainly possesses its own darkness an depressive qualities, but these are just the shifting elements of nature. There’s  a simple grandeur to a track like ‘The Howling Mountains’.  There lies its beauty, in its uncomplicated appraisal for the natural.