Roadburn Festival – Tilburg Holland

May 27th, 2009
by Arto Lehtinen

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Roadburn Festival

23 – 26 April 2009

013 Tilburg Holland


Roadburn has reached the status of an underground cult event amongst metal fans, arranged in a small idyllic town, Tilburg in Holland every year. This year’s Roadburn was nothing but an utter success as all the tickets were sold out within 45 minutes. Selling the tickets in such a short time was definitely a record. All in all 2500 people, when all bands and crews are added up, conquered the whole small town and its small bars and restaurants. The Roadburn festival offered a great deal of different kind of underground stuff covering from hard rock, space rock, stoner rock to industrial. All the mainstream metal styles don’t fit too well with the concept of Roadburn. However Metal-Rules made its debut visit to Roadburn to feel the atmosphere of obscure stoner spacy rock and sniff the smell of the weed.


The Roadburn festival is arranged in the prestigious 013 club consisting of three different sizes of venues. The bigger bands such as Neurosis and Cathedral were automatically on the main stage whereas smaller ones were in either the Batcave or Green Room. The Batcave is one hell of a small club making anyone there sweat. Occasionally, getting into the smaller venue was quite a painful task as hundreds of other people were trying to get in to check out, for example, Wolves In The Throne Room at the same time.

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When arriving at the venue on time, the Italian Ufomammut had already kicked the 14th Roadburn off.  It was truly an unexpected surprise to see the huge crowd watching the first opening band of the first day. Some people literally kept their eyes closed and simply enjoyed the music coming with the power from loudspeakers. The Italian trio’s groove heavy approach filled up by eccentric and hyptonizing intros between songs created a real trance mode in the big venue. The band’s heavy bulldozing groove riffs were literally heavy indeed. The frontman hardly sang, instead they let the music speak for itself.


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After  Italians’ heavy stoner trip, Farflung kicked off in the smallest venue of the 013 club. The band’s energic and catchy songs worked more than well in the small sweaty room. Farflung combines melodic punk elements with the psyhedelic approach. Especially the singer’s voice was catchy fitting perfectly to the Farflung stuff.

Well the drops of the sweat were running and falling and t-shirts were wet as hell. Back to the main venue to check out Baroness. The four piece’s heavy groove rolled with the massive powerful impact. Firstly the band was like jamming on the stage and let the music dominate instead. Somehow Baroness’ style reminds slightly of Mastodon. However the killer combo indeed.

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Fortunately there was one hour gap between Baroness and Orange Goblin, going out to gasp for some time was a welcomed choice. Surprisingly a lot of people walked in and out all the time, with no desperate waiting and lining up. Everything worked smoothly and well.


Orange Goblin hit the stage next on the main stage. The band’s frontman Ben Ward turned out to be a real charismatic figure on the stage. The man literally demanded the audience to raise the fists into the air and bang their heads. Orange Goblin’s raw rockish stoner approach sounded absolutely killer. The set had been built to cover each album for the 60 minute set. The whole set was recorded for the upcoming live album, therefore the band put more effort and energy to the gig by rocking hard. Orange Goblin sounded like a mix of Motorhead and the old Sabbath, well someone out there may disagree, but however those legendary ones have influenced the Goblins quite a lot.

Of course another interesting band Rose Kemp were doing their set at the same time. Damn. 

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More doom, or should it be said funeral doom when Minsk hit the stage of the Green Room venue. The band’s frontman Tim Mead had placed his keyboard in the middle of the stage and controlled the singing/growling there. The sounds were kind of chaotic, therefore making out Minsk’s stuff wasn’t easy. However the Green Room venue was totally packed.

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Time to take things a little bit easier and check out the Norwegian Motorpsycho. The three piece’s music was kind of peaceful and atmospheric and melancholic. But after following their playing for about 30 minutes, this is apparently this sort of stuff that will appeal more to the fans of that kind of melancholic stuff.

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Wolves In The Throne Room had been placed on the Green Room stage, which was kind of a mistake, cos the small club room was totally packed. The darkish blackish metal sounded extremely nihilistic and cold as hell. Somehow the sound was quite chaotic as well. If the band had played in the bigger venue, it would have been packed for sure. The sounds were kinda chaotic as mentioned and the whole band was hardly seen on the stage because of the utterly dark room. Wolves In The Throne Room’s grim sounding blackish dark metal would sound killer if the sounds were in the right balance.  


One of the most expected acts of the first day was the Dutch occult rock combo The Devil’s Blood which stuff could be associated with the legendary Coven-Witch craft fronted by Jinx Dawson. The Dutch occult rockers gave some attention to the stage by having a couple of bigger and smaller candles on the stand. The six piece showed up on the stage with faces covered with blood. As for the frontlady whose stage performance was quite odd, but perfectly fitted to the whole concept of The Devils Blood, as staring with blank eyes at the roof when not singing, there was no worthless speeches or introductions. Instead the Dutch occult rockers did song by song and allowed the magic spirit float in the green room. Although the second guitarist struggled with the technical problems, however the occult rockers put a real guitar oriented occult event to conclude the first day. 

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The first opening day offered a truly mindblowing experience. The second day literally offered the same intensive on-going and hectic schedule. There is no reason to miss a couple of truly interesting names on the bill namely Angelwitch, Saint Vitus and Cathedral. Above all Saint Vitus is a real big name in the line-up of the fest as the band seldom does tours and gigs in Europe. 


Before the march of the doom was about to start, the Romanians Negura Bunget got on the stage on the Green Room stage. The outfit has built a highly positive reputation of being a real eccentric as well as interesting name in several festivals in Europe. The band’s style differs radically, there are elements picked up from death metal through to progressive rock to eccentric tribal sounding stuff.

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Kevin Heybourne has carried the torch of Angelwitch through these stormy years since the debut album came out because of unstable line-ups and several setbacks. At least the band’s debut album is without any doubts is the milestone of the British heavy metal. However the current Angelwitch version 2009 turned out to be vital and surprisingly good in a positive way, even though both the bassist and guitarist mostly remained in the background, hiding in the dark lights and smoke whereas the frontman took care of the set with the routine grip.  Angelwitch mostly focused on the material off from the classic debut album. Of course "Angel Of Death " and Angelwitch concluding the set belonged to the most expected ones for sure.

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Luckily one hour break before a real doom metal triumph kicks off. Meanwhile Mono and Atomic Bitchwax were doing their set in smaller clubs. But as mentioned earlier, both the places were so crowded that trying to get in would have meant “blood and sweat” literally.

Where can these doom metal icons be witnessed one after another in the same day? Seeing Cathedral and Saint Vitus in a row went beyond the normal understanding of every doom metal worshipper. Dorrian’s Cathedral went the whole 60 minutes. Dorrian’s walking and the general appearance slightly reminded of Ozzy Osbourne.

As it is widely known about Dorrian’s interest toward the old school horror movies, therefore several clips of the old horror movies called Blind Dead was shown on the backscreen, when all kinds of zombie looklike figures rose from graves to kill the people. Anyway Cathedral was literally catchy and rocked hard and well. Dorrian’s personal voice has become iconic in the stoner/doom metal genre. Surprise or not Cathedral was damn good. The four-piece works more than well in the indoor club enviroment than on a big outdoor festival stage like Wacken. The set was concluded by "Hopkins – The Witchfinder General".

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An hour later the long time doom metal veteran Saint Vitus got on the stage in front of the packed club and surprise surprise the whole main club was completely full.

Saint Vitus recently reactivated to do a number of shows in The States and Europe. Saint Vitus ain’t Vitus without the most wellknown lineup consisting of Wino, Chandler, Acosta and Chandler. Well someone may scream “where is Scott Reagers”. However the doom metal roared out of speakers and torturing and out of control solos by Chandler. Vitus’ doomy and slow songs rolled out. Any doom metal fan would have sacrificed life to see this simple, but unique gig by the doom metal legends as this was obviously the last gig of the drummer Acosta. Saint Vitus was weedy doomy in every aspect.

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There were a couple of bands from Japan booked at Roadburn, but the most interesting name and act out of all of them was Church Of Misery. The band’s reputation has been widely rumoured to be vital and full of energy, even though the Japanese had recently undergone vocalist changes and got a new album out. The Japanese outfit turned out a real out of the blue surprise. The vocalist was definitely one hell of a relentless frontman seen for a while. The guy couldn’t spend any single second in one spot, instead raging and jumping on the stage and even dived into the audience. Church Of Misery’s stuff is hard to describe and put into one category, cos having got influences from all kinds of elements picked up from doom, stoner and hard rock. Absolutely worth checking out.

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The first and second days offered something unique, magic and special. Roadburn is obviously such a festival where doom metal acts Cathedral, Saint Vitus and of course the NWOBHM legends can appear one by one. The third day had been named “Beyond The Pale”  hosted by Neurosis. 

The third day offered less known in public, but better known in the catacombs of the underground. Amenra got on the stage of the Green Room. In the dark environments with small lighting Amenra unleashed a hyper blasting hardcore. The vocalist didn’t show his face instead kept his back toward the audience. Amenra’s stuff would be a perfect for slamming and moshpits, but instead none of those pits was ever started out. In general the whole pit thing doesn’t belong to Roadburn. However the vocalist’s hysterical dry screaming sounded absolutely insane. Even though hardcore could be a more right term fitting to the sounds of Amenra, however there is a plenty of more trance sounding elements in Amenra. Interesting and weird stuff indeed.


Fortunately the third day wasn’t that hectic, giving me some time to check out the merchandise and wholesale of albums and other stuff in another building. Of course some albums had to picked up such as The Devils’ Blood. But time to return to check out a few legendary names in the category of their own.

The Young Gods is another long time name more wellknown in the industrial scene. Even though several so called bigger industrial names have mentioned influences from The Young Gods, but these Swiss industrial pioneers haven’t succeeded in making a needed international breakthrough, which is a real shame indeed. Hard to say if The Young Gods fit to Roadburn, however seeing them on the stage was nothing but a good thing. The band’s frontman performance and movements looked kind of weird and eccentric. All kinds of visual things and different kinds of lights of red green etc were shown all around the stage and venue making a kind of hypnotic feeling. Even though the Swiss industrial pioneers handled the whole 60 minute slot with a professional grip and attitude, but didn’t offer that mindblowing experience as their youngsters usually offer.

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However The Young God’s slot was a nice warm-up for Neurosis’ upcoming blowing set. When getting to the main hall to wait for Neurosis, it could be felt instinctively that Neurosis’ gig would be the outstanding raging experience from the beginning to the end. The feeling beforehand was utterly right.  

As most of you are aware of Neurosis’ upcoming festival appearance at the Tuska Open Air festival in Helsinki, therefore seeing Neurosis at Roadburn in the in-door venue was a extremely good chance to see how the forefathers of sludge and whatever sound and look. Frankly Neurosis literally blew the roof into the air. The distressing and neurotic atmosphere created in the venue when Neurosis’s brutal and heavy riffs rolled all over. All these visual aspects and odd figures reflected on the backdrop brought once again hypnotic and authentic feeling and state of mind. Neurosis was magic and brutal that can’t be shown and captured at out-door festivals. Absolutely one of the most wicked shows and performance seen for a while leaving anyone watching the 90 minute slot of Neurosis gasp for air. 

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Well Roadburn is definitely for those ones who adore and are die hard fans of the obscure metal post rock, stoner and psychedelic metal rock hard rock or whatever stuff. It was amazing to testify how all these arrangements during the whole weekend worked more than well. No need to wait for a turn to get into the toilet, food was available all the time and above all the security staff was nothing but utterly nice and polite. Even though the audience smoked the pot and drank the beer etc, they truly behaved nicely and no unwanted scenes were seen and witnessed. The 013 club belongs to Roadburn and vice versa, but it has been rumoured the club is getting too small for upcoming Roadburn events therefore the organization is considering obtaining a new venue. But let’s wish some parts of Roadburn would remain in the 013 club.

www.roadburn.com

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