Roadburn Festival 2010 in review
words by Kim Kelly, photos by Erik Luyten
It’s been a long few days for Kim Kelly, who is currently gallavanting around Europe with Mike Scheidt and YOB, but the metal maven filed the below Roadburn report to tie up the rest of her time at the 2010 edition of the epic festival that took place during an equally historic time. If you’re just joining us, check out Kim Kelly’s report from Day 1 before continuing below… – BBG
Dude, seriously? Fuck this volcano. Due to the mass closure of European airspace and flight cancellations, at least six bands were forced to cancel (or, in the case of Candlemass -sorry- “Cancelmass”, were apparently too lazy to get their asses on a bus and come anyway, while their fellow Scandinavians in Sarke and Trinacria were more than happy to). I know I’m not the only fan who was bummed to hear we’d be missing out on Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, let alone Jesu, Shrinebuilder, Evoken, Yakuza, and my buds The Gates of Slumber, but the quick-thinking Roadburn staff and a few bands that were willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and offer up some help. After all, the show must go on.
On the Tom G. Warrior-curated Only Death Is Real show on Saturday, Church of Misery switched to an earlier time slot, Earthless played a second set, and the rest of the bands seemed to step up their games as well. I got a late start that day, and rolled up in time to miss Death Row’s set thanks to the massive line outside the Midi Theatre (the fourth venue added to this year’s edition), get annoyed, then trundle off to catch Altar of Plagues. The boys had tipped me off that they’d be playing their incredible Profound Lore debut, White Tomb, in its entirely that day, so I made sure I was right up goddamn front. For those that haven’t heard them yet (for shame), this Irish quartet play an incredibly effective, emotive style of what one might call “post-black” metal – hypnotic, expansive, and absolutely breath-taking in execution. I couldn’t believe how amazing they were – and that I’d be able to see them again the next day! They’re plotting a US tour this July with some insane openers, so keep your ears to the ground on that one.
To my immense dismay, their set clashed with Thorr’s Hammer‘s, but I managed to see the last half of their last song, which was, of course, as incredibly heavy as one might expect. I was lucky enough to see them this past summer in the UK, so I can imagine what it was like. Steve O’Malley and Greg Anderson hauling out an insane collection of monolithic riffs, raising their instruments to the heavens, and worshiping Thee Almightee Riff with every fiber of their beings, while Runnhild effortlessly proved herself to be one of the best vocalists in metal, let alone one of the best female voices we’ve got. Her lows are positively bottomless, and make the likes of In This Moment, Kittie, The Agonist, and their ilk look even more pathetic.
Thorr’s Hammer live at Roadburn
Darkspace featured a female member as well (on bass/backing vox), albeit one that looked so profoundly uncomfortable onstage it took me two songs to notice which instrument she was playing, so profound was the displeasure on her corpsepainted face. Their set sounded great, but wasn’t as visually appealing as I’d hoped. The corpsepaint and blue lighting was cool enough, but the band just seemed miserable. You should buy their latest record anyway though – Darkspace III.
I caught a few songs from Witchfynde, but wasn’t really feeling their vintage NWOBHM vibe or the singer’s leather-daddy aesthetic, though the roomful of aging hashers seemed to think otherwise. Nathan fron Nanotear (a wise man, and even radder booking agent) told me I had to see ShEver – “They’re four witches that play doom!” – so off I went to the Bat Cave, and couldn’t be happier that I did. This all-female Swiss quartet have been my favorite discovery of the fest so far, and their occult-laced take on the heaviest, darkest of the doomed arts is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Look them up!
shEver – Souls Colliding (live, 16 Apr 2010)
Sarke‘s first appearance beyond the Artic Circle was a banger; even the twenty + hour bus ride it took to get them down here couldn’t keep ’em down. Musically, Sarke is a toothy blend of black metal, punk, and rock’n’roll, and Nocturno Culto’s trademark rasp fits like a studded glove. The (also) Darkthrone hessian seemed awfully uncomfortable onstage, but you would be too if your main gig hadn’t played a show in twenty years.
Triptykon‘s set was one of the most highly-anticipated of the entire fest. Would Tom G. be able to pull it off? As the curtains lifted and the first few notes were struck, my fears were immediately laid to rest. Warrior and his three compatriots tore through new material off their debut Eparistera Daimones like men (and woman!) with something to prove, and whipped the hundreds of longhairs in the audience into a headbanging frenzy by dusting off a handful Celtic Frost chestnuts (Circle of the Tyrants, Procreation of the Wicked, Dethroned Emperor, and more), and bringing out Nocturno Culto to do some guest vocals. Here’s hoping they make it overseas sometime soon!
TRIPTYKON – Dethroned Emperor w/ Nocturno Culto
Triptykon @ Roadburn 2010
The rest of the night is a bit of a haze. The Roadburn metal disco (DJ’ed as ever by the illustrious Orange Goblin and aided Nathan Carson from Nanotear) raged on into the wee hours, then a bunch of us wandered off into the abyss in search of more booze. Never stop the madness…
I dragged myself down to the 013 by 4pm sharp the next day to catch Altar of Plagues debut some material off their brand-new Tides EP; even after a sleepless, booze-filled night, the lads brought the fucking hammer down once more. Outside the venue, people looked tired and worried; thousands of us have been left stranded thanks to the volcanic apocalypse, and finding a way home has preceded rocking out for many a homesick headbanger. Whether by train, plane, ferry, car, or boat, people are doing everything they can to get home, but things are looking grim. The Goatsnake guys just said fuck it and booked a cruise ship home (i.e. “Boatsnake”) but most of us aren’t that clever/laden with guarantee money. But, come rain or come shine or come volcanic apocalypse, the show must go on!
Altar of Plagues at Roadburn
The Midi Theatre was rammed as usual so I ended up missing Sons of Otis, though from what I heard, through the doors, they were killer. Nachtmystium stormed the mainstage with yet another new lineup, this time enlisting the considerable talents of Ron van Herpen from Dutch occult rockers The Devil’s Blood on guitar as well as the current tag-team of Charlie Fell (drums) and Andrew Markuszewski (bass/vocals) who both play in Chicago sludge fiends Lord Mantis as well. The crowd ate it up, and newer material off the upcoming LP went down a storm, augmented by van Herpen’s seriously witchy guitar tone.
Nachtmystium – High on Hate (Live @ Roadburn 2010)
UK funeral doom crew Moss were busy destroying the Green Room brick by brick by the time I fought my way back in. This incredibly heavy, horror-obsessed trio rarely play live, so it was a real treat to hear “Tombs of the Blind Drugged” come to wretched, crawling life. I’ll never figure out how a band with one guitar, one vocalist, and a set of drums manages to sound so godawfully MASSIVE.
To my immense chagrin, I ended up missing The Lamp of Thoth and Black Math Horsemen (though I think at least one of them cancelled anyway), but there was no way I was missing YOB. Charismatic, good-natured, and totally comfortable in their own skins, the three wise men from Portland effortless worked their way through another breathtaking performance of their very special blend of cosmic doom and megalithic riffage. This band gets better and better every time I see them, and I can’t wait to finally catch full sets in Germany and Belgium (this travel nightmare has left us all stranded in the Netherlands right now, so I’m hopping in their van and coming along for the ride until I can catch a train back to London).
Out of sheer curiosity, I popped in to catch some of John Garcia‘s set (playing Kyuss material) once YOB started their last song, but Kyuss without Kyuss just isn’t Kyuss, if you know what I mean. Solid as a rock, but not quite as magical as one would have liked. Jex Thoth, on the other hand, was as close to magical as one can get without floating off into space on the back of a stoned unicorn. Burning incense, a lady in red, and vintage riffs dialed straight in from 1975 – this band does classic doom right, and adds in just enough psychedelic touches and devilish moments to make for a really memorable experience. Jex herself possesses one of the sultriest voices in rock’n’roll, and might be the only thing about doom that could ever be called “sexy.” Get it, girl! Their brand-new EP Witness just came out on I Hate, and is well worth checking out.
Jex Thoth at Roadburn
Jex Thoth is a tough act to follow in general, but after their Roadburn triumph, even the much-hyped Enslaved/Shining collaboration couldn’t pull it off (as far as I’m concerned, that is; I’m not much of a fan of either band, to be perfectly honest with you). Enslaved put in a lot of time and effort on their various artistic contributions to this year’s edition of the fest and played some great performances, but this year, and as ever, the heart of Roadburn belongs to the riff. Doom over all.
This year’s lineup for the Sunday Afterburner found itself whittled down to a mere shadow of its former glory, but still packed enough of a punch to leave people scrambling to blag tickets up until the doors opened. I only caught two bands, but those alone made it worth staying the extra day. I finally got to see Church of Misery again, and was blown away. Their performance last year hadn’t left me too impressed, but this year’s was simply fantastic – all bluesy yowls, squealing guitars, bottom-heavy swamp riffs, the lowest-slung bass I’ve ever seen (seriously, that shit was practically balanced on dude’s knees) and plenty of choice cuts from the Japanese quartet’s excellent new album, Houses of the Unholy (one of BBG’s faves of 2009). Frontman Yoshiakki radiated manic energy, flinging himself across the stage shirtless and crooning like a possessed Steven Tyler. I kept expecting him to launch himself into the crowd, but he managed to restrain himself – just barely. A seriously killer live band, and one worth traveling for if they ever make it to the States.
Church of Misery – 4/16/10
The last band of the night came as a surprise to many – after a bassist was left grounded back home in NOLA, Outlaw Order morphed back into EyeHateGod, who’d left the fest to play a couple more dates on their European tour before hauling ass back to Tilburg to save the day. I fought my way to the very front of the utterly packed room to soak up every Southern-fried riff and wah-wah face Jimmy Bower could conjure up, and goddamn did he (and everyone else) deliver. The entire band was piss-drunk and kept threatening to stop – but would then play three or four more songs, and do it with surgical precision. For all their troubles and bad behavior, no one can ever argue that EyeHateGod are anything less than really good at being EyeHateGod.
Mike Williams of Eyehategod
Their set was spot-on; they played for two hours, pulled out every song a fan would want to hear (and threw in a couple new ones as well!), only fucked up a couple times, and even when the songs veered off course for a minute or two, it all made perfect sense. Mike Williams was in fine form, stumbling around the stage, falling over Joey’s drum kit, and sneering at the crowd, then grabbing the mic again and screaming bloody gore perfectly on cue. It’s really awe-inspiring to see how well this band keeps it together, even as things are falling apart. Controlled chaos is the name of the game here, and EyeHateGod have got ’em both in equal measure. They stomped offstage covered in sweat, beer, and whiskey, smiling ear-to-ear, and as always, leaving us wanting more. Their US tour with Brutal Truth and Nachtmystium (plus a host of worthy guests – BV/Osiris is doing the NYC date) is nigh, so be forewarned – EHG are coming for you, and next time, they might not let you off so easy!