Every year, I try to look ahead to Roadburn. I go there and I try to see everything I want and more and the more the festival grows, the more I hate to mess stuff. Why? Is seeing 15 bands on one day not enough? I guess not if you take the Roadburn magic into account. Because if there’s one thing that simply doesn’t mellow it’s my feeling of awe and wonder every year again. Continue reading
Listening to Yob has given many people a special experience and the wait for a new album was long. The trio from Oregon has a solid string of releases in the noughties, had a hick-up before their ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’ masterpiece in 2014 and after that things dried up for a bit.
Of course, there are always many reasons for a drought in releases, but in this case, the health of singer Mike Scheidt definitely played a part. At least, judging by interviews like this one. We are lucky that one of the most beloved bands in the doom genre has now returned with a fine slab of doom to sink your teeth into. This is ‘Our Raw Heart’, probably to be heard at Roadburn soon again.
Yob doesn’t use cold or eerie sounds, but massive riffing that claws to the heavens in a struggle of despair and grief it seems. Yet these always feel veiled and just the turmoil under the surface. The vocals are capturing an instantly take you into the mind-swirl that is ‘Our Raw Heart’. The music often relies on the heavy pummeling, though never chooses to be sharp and directly expressive. There’s a pensive nature to the music that is undeniable, with that transcendental, meditative quality to it. An album that sets you to thinking and reflecting.
The absolute highlight is the gentle ‘Beauty in Falling Leaves’, where it’s for large parts just guitar and the wavering vocals of Scheidt. Even when the song swells to its full, climactic sound, it remains an easy flow, with a warm and calming sound. The gruff vocals carry with them a passion that is undeniable. The almost 17-minute epic is a testament to the singular genius, that is Yob. Of course, afterwards some more heavy pummeling is delivered with ‘Original Face’, which relies on the heavy drumming and bass, while the vocals sound more like Amebix‘ Rob Miller. Yet, something in the sound harks to the calm and soothing nature of Earth. Particularly, there at the very end with the title track and it’s languid riffing. Mountainous, rugged but completely flattened out and easy to traverse. A record that meets all expectations, with a final ascending into the clouds, leaving us mortals wondering what it is we’re doing.
Every year Roadburn selects a curator, who gives shape to a part of the program. This has lead to excellent and wild acts, that you might never have seen before and perhaps will never see again (G.I.S.M., just to name one). In this post, I’d like to suggest my pick for a curator and explain why.
Pictures header and live by Paul Verhagen Photography (with kind permission)
Hank Williams III or Hank 3 for Curatorship!
Who? You might not be familiar with Hank Williams III, but the name should ring a bell. Hank 3 is the third generation Williams who plays a huge role in country music. His grandfather was the famous Hank Williams, that had a huge impact on country (and there’s an uncanny likeness between Hank I and Hank III), a son of Hank Williams Jr. who I’m less fond of I suppose.
Hank 3, as he’s commonly known by his own accomplishments, has been dabbling in a wide range of music styles. Sure, outlaw country and cowpunk are at the core of his endeavors, but there’s so much more. He collaborated with both the Melvins and Willie Nelson, recorded with Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem and dabbled with country metal in his own project Assjack. His solo releases even contain some southern style doom. All of this comes back in his live set, where I’ve seen him do 3 hours of various styles. An artist through and through. So why should he curate Roadburn?
1. Musical Outlaw
Firstly, Hank 3 is a musical outlaw, who seems to see no real boundaries for his art and has chosen to follow his own path. That means he’s the sort of guy, who can decide on some names based on his own judgment. That’s pretty much why curatorships are so cool because someone is really laying down their unique flavor. Hank is a punk rocker at heart, a metalhead by passion and a country musician by blood. Think about it, this guy will surprise you.
Hank 3 is an outlaw in all scenes he is part of, he’s an outsider artist in a way and therefore a bridge builder between scenes, styles, and people. And Roadburn is all about that big ‘ol cocktail of great music, regardless of labels. Music that comes from the underground, which is pretty much where Hank 3 is from. Though he might be a bit busy being pissed off about that Hank Williams biopic still… (to be fair, Tom Hiddleston doesn’t sing a good ol’ Hank Williams).
2. Innovator in his own right
Most curators Roadburn had this far, are people who did something special for music. People that pushed the boundaries of their respective genres, innovators, and people with quite a big portfolio of musical endeavors. Also, these are usually people that don’t follow familiar paths and go their own way when they do something.
Though Outlaw Country has gone in various new directions in recent years and artists like Bob Wayne actually played Roadburn (and much more actually), Hank 3 definitely had been a force that shook up the whole thing and quite possibly the inspirator behind a lot of that new movement. That in itself makes him an important musician. He put the dick back in ‘Dixie’ and the cunt back in ‘country’ as is written on many places. So that matters.
3. Hank is a crate digger
Roadburn is a festival that draws a lot of record loving visitors. This is something that matters, not just for the fans, but also to Walter. Walter buys a lot of records and always manages to conjure something special out of crates, wherever he goes it seems. Anyone doing curatorship at Roadburn should, therefore, be a crate digger. Hank 3 has a bit of a collection himself.
4. A long tradition of surprising names at Roadburn
Roadburn never puts anything on the bill that you expect. The same goes for the curators. Every year people are excited for the novelty, the surprise or whatever the choice of that year does to them. Wouldn’t it be an excellent surprise to get this complete outsider dude to curate then? Every year you get something you didn’t expect in a direction you feel sort of curious about. I think it might be really interesting to see this happen. Hank 3 seems to have been largely accepted by the punk community as much as metal fans, so wouldn’t Roadburn embrace the man too?
But as you know, Roadburn works in mysterious ways and when the curator for 2018 is announced I’ll probably be jumping out of my seat and shouting praise for that choice. That’s how it works, isn’t it?
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.
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.
This year I went to Roadburn for the second time. Only the second? Yes, goddammit, only the second time. I also reviewed the festival for the second time, but this time as press. There’s a lot you can say about a festival in your review, but I need some space for something more personal.
For me it feels like home, feels like sitting down in a warm bath. There is a calm coming over me when I walk into the weirdo canyon, the small street on which 013’s entrance is. I let go of all my other concerns, because the next four days I will be immersing myself in music. Only music. I look around to see who else is here, but I don’t know that many people to be honest. Still, I’m home and everyone here is a potential friend.
I take a moment before jumping into the fray by watching my first band. Taking a moment to take it all in, to embrace my environment and bask in it for a moment. I know that when I enter a venue to see a band, I’ll be on a roll for the rest of the day. I check out some art in the hall ways, make mental notes on coin machines and food trucks, so I’m ready for my stampede.
Then I find myself checking band after band after band. I take short breaks to talk to friends and fellow music writers. There’s a gleam in their eyes as well, in which I see reflected my own. If music is a drug, we’re all high as kites these days. We’ve all come home to a place were music reigns.
Open minds, open hearts
It’s a strange thing, that Roadburn experience. In a normal situation I’m a critical listener. I can see a band and judge the book by its cover, like most people who’ve seen and heard a lot of music. We’re judgemental and we need to be convinced that your band is going to be an experiental addition to our lives. It sound sour, but for people who review around 200 albums a year it makes sense. Some music is just not very good…
You wouldn’t eat shitty junkfood by choice for days in a row either, would you? It’s slightly different on Roadburn. I feel my mind completely open up to any band on the bill. Why? Because you sort of know that whatever is playing, was picked with great care. It was picked for its uniqueness, for its quality or simply because you need to see it. As a visitor of Roadburn, you completely surrender your pre-judgement to the organisers, you submit to them and just accept what they throw at you. It’s strangely liberating and with an open mind, you let the music into your heart.
Magic on stage
This effect works both ways, it seems like bands realize the kind of crowd they are getting and the way the crowd is experiencing them. No band plays a bad show at Roadburn, because they all try that little bit harder. It might also be the pink glasses that everyone is wearing during the festival. That open mind and hunger for more music, does make everything sound a bit sweeter, doesn’t it.
To me it feels that way though, that every band is just giving it their all. You see bands doing things, they’ve not done live before ever. See the Úlfsmessa this year, by some Icelandic black metal bands or the great Skúggsja performance by Wardruna and Enslaved. Or that haunting Blood Moon session by Converge? Bands reunite for the festival, old arguments are buried for Roadburn and creative fires rekindles. It has to be something else than something weird in the water, no?
More than anything, Roadburn feels like a tribe. Going there makes you a member, pretty much automatically it seems. We gather once a year, to feel happy for a few days. To immerse ourselves in that which we love and cherish. It’s like a bond, that runs deeper than you’d think. Through out the year, we nod to the people wearing the shirts or caps they could only have gotten at the festival. A knowing smile is all it takes.
For a few days I feel less lonely than I normally do. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. That’s my Roadburn experience.
And we’re up to number 26 of Sounds of the Underground with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Draugurinn, Misþyrming and Gurthang. Check them out!
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – EXILE
Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
You only need to start listening to opener ‘L’Exil’ to get captivated by the soaring tremolo guitars and thundering rhythms, that crash like waves unto your eardrums. The Frenchies are back with a fenomenal record, casting a shadow over their self-titled debut, which I discussed in my very first review block. From the sludge/post-hardcore front the band was residing in before, there’s a definite movement here towards the black metal sound. Well, post-blackmetal is what we need to say I suppose.
The clanging cymbals in dischord with the blastbeat and crackling feedback offers a wealthy wall of sound. Connect that to the imposing vocals and sound and the record becomes an intense and bombastic experience. ‘Embrace the Flames’ is for example a full on black assault, with a harrowing guitar riff spiralling through it. There’s so much power to the music of this Nantes band, it’s a shame everyone keeps talking about the new deafheaven.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu
Fallen Empire Records & Terratur Possessions
Icelandic black metal, that surely has something special about it they must feel at the Roadburn office. So these guys are an integral part of the next edition of the festival. This album came out earlier in 2015 and only now I’ve discovered the intense, excruciating sound of a band whose name means something like maltreatment. Neck breaking ferocious guitar riffs are unrelenting in their sonic assault from the first moments of the album onwards.
It’s a tortured affair of eerie feedback, blustering music and howled vocals. There are no breaks on the wheels of Misþyrming when the y star turning. There’s a certain unique sound to the band that is intriguing. An industrial, desolate atmosphere maybe, but also a Darkthrone like punk vibe that brings a rawness to the band. The sound is explosive, erupting from the deeps and therefor truly overwhelming at times. This is always accompanied by a clear link to the oldschool sound.
Draugurinn – Ísavetur
‘The Ghost’ in Icelandic, this project is the solo effort of Swedish artist Dísa, previously active in black metal bands Murmurs and Korpblod and currently also working on Turdus Merula. This lady has been making some really amazing stuff and Draugurinn takes it a bit more into the mystical region of aetherial ambient with a shamanistic feeling to it. The story is that of a world covered and obscured by volcanic ash and a drumming that melds together with your heartbeat, captivating the listener completely.
There is something intensely pagan and foreign to the music, it draws you into a natural and soothing environment of ritual and dreams. Soundscapes or eerie howls clash with the rhythmic drums that bring a trance with them. The cover appears like a drawing of Theodor Kittelsen, as popularized by early black metal acts like Burzum, but somehow fits better here. For me, this album awakens a thirst for that spiritual connection to nature, for the harmony I find in the work of Dísa, whose other bands I’ll definitely keep my eye on. PS, for Skyrim fans, now you now where the word Draugr comes from.
Gurthang – I will not serve
Immortal Frost Productions
The Polish band has derived their name from Tolkien novels, where the sword Gurthang is wielded by hero Túrin Túrumbar. It’s name means ‘Steel of death’. The band has been around forever and their sound fits in with the Polish style of blackened death you can hear with Behemoth. Cold, stiff tones, majestic sounding and sharp thudding rhythms. The band has been around for a couple of years, but has a prolific catalogue of music already. This may be their best addition as yet.
There’s a cold fury to the sound of Gurthang, a controlled distribution of rage with a sound that in general leans more towards the melodic death metal, but with a much grimmer atmosphere. The Frosty guitar riffs soar over the rumbling drums, which demonstrates how the studio can really affect the sound of an album in this corner of the extreme metal genre. There is a certain lack of dynamics to the record, but it’s in a way like a piece of old fashioned armor: it is sturdy, frightning and cold. Good record, that is exciting enough to give a spin.
Most people probably figured out what festivals they’re going to visit this summer months ago. Some buy them before the year start. I’ve not been going at it that way this year. It’s all a bit last minute and random.
I did buy Roadburn tickets in October, which I did not regret at all. The festival had been on my list as one of the few I really wanted to visit and behold, I succeeded. I had a great time, experiencing the thing I value most about festivals these days: immersing myself in the scene and vibe that I adore. It’s a matter of a certain feeling and outlook that connects the Roadburn bands, not their genre, style or look. It’s a complete experience.
My first festivals were Parkpop and Pinkpop in the Netherlands. Both massive, multi-genre, highly commercial festivals. Still, this was awesome because I was in my exploring fase. Gobbling music up by the gallon, whatever styles I came across. I loved punkrock, but also stadiumrock, funk and the great pop groups of the nineties (you know, the ones you heard on the radio all the time, also from the eighties). It felt a bit like Roadburn in the sense that I was dipped into a full pool of that musical world I was so attracted to. I guess there was no scene yet I felt part of.
Now, by this time I’ve moved far away from that. I guess I am to a certain extent a music elitist. I only feel that same buzz when I join festivals that are for a narrow niche of fans. I don’t think its necessarily my own fault, it might come with the way I enjoy music. I need to figure out a lot about the scene and what moves it and makes it thriving. Black metal is very interesting, mainstream pop music not so much. That still sounds elitist, but to me explains a thing or two.
Roadburn is in that way an epic festival. It fully embodies a culture, a feeling and a scene in the broadest sense. Not just doom or stoner, it incorporates bands with a certain feel which happens to match my regular modus operandi. I’m not a sunny person, I’ve got a lot of demons in my head and in general I’m on the depressed/pessimistic side of things. Experiencing a festival that embodies art with that vibe to it, to me is excellent. It might not be that way for all visitors but it makes sense to me.
That immersing yourself, it remains the best part about any festival. I’m sure it is the same for the anime people, car lovers and so much more. What you need to have for some is your own niche, your little obsession. I’ve got plenty of those. I guess that’s why I like festivals, because I surround myself with the stuff that I love and people that understand why I’m so obsessed with that stuff. The festival is a microcosmos of that scene you’re part of. The fact that you are there makes you part of it. More and more I’m trying to embrace that as well. The problem of an elitist outlook is that you judge people for not being good enough to be part of it. That’s something Iyou’ll always see. I guess it’s the conservative element that makes any scene remain whole, it is essential for the festival to hold on to its identity. Even a peculiar one like Roadburn.
So what else is on my list? I went to Psych Lab, going to Incubate maybe, Dynamo Metal Fest and Malta Doom Days (yes!). Maybe you’ll be there too. Not for you? Look for your festival and experience that bliss that comes with it. You won’t regret it.
I’ve been busy, so much lately
That every time I get some time to spend
I end up drunk or sleeping in
And I miss you, you’re busy too
We call each other up, when we’re messed up
And say we’ll meet in the New Year.
– Frank Turner, ‘St. Christopher Is Coming Home’
Wow, so yeah that was a long silence. I’m dreadfully sorry for that, but life sometimes just catches up on you. I’ve stuffed the free time I had with playing some WoW and reading books. There was not much I have to say, so that explains a lot.
So what is new? I finally purchased tickets for the one and only Roadburn festival. That was a pretty hefty purchase. As most people know, I usually visit shows and festivals as a journalist and thus my only expense is drinks and food (and merch, lets be honest, I love myself some merch). Roadburn is however something special and I need to witness it. I got to chat with Walter for a moment, might get to do something for their blog if he’s keen on it, so that would be pretty awesome. So much awesome!
The bad stuff is that I also had some costs for the car this month and a fine for parking, while standing a few meters past the sign that basically explains why I shouldn’t be fined. Like, what? Yes. Something like that.
On good matters, I did write my first PhD proposal. Not that I reckon to have huge chances, but I personally feel that actually applying was already a victory for me. A lot of oppertunities seem to present themselves, my girlfriend found a job and more might come. It’s a matter of staying on top and riding the waves.
I’ve also found out I’m rather closed as a person. I thought I overcame that years ago, but I don’t open up, am super defensive and not ablet o make proper connections with other people. This is something to work on. Well, time to start doing that in the next few months.