Incubate Festival 2014 – Friday Review By Guido Segers

Incubate Festival 2014

Incubate has landed once more and this tenth edition the Shaman is represented in the weekend for some intriguing and interesting underground music. Now, the Friday had little in store of the music normally represented here, so I’ll try to cover some corners of what could be seen on Friday.

I will have to apologize for not being able to get into the venue for The Cosmic Dead and totally missing out on the fact that The Ocean was playing at nine. As you might know, Incubate takes place throughout Tilburg (known for Roadburn to you all) and thus features a good number of venues. To keep track of everything is nigh impossible, because the festival has literally got everything. From icy black metal to gentle classical music, but also dirty techno and Polish post hip-hop (I’ll get to that in a moment). It’s an amazing gathering, but some planning is recommended.

There are some bands playing that are close to what the Shaman tends to cover, but there are a lot that skirt the edges of its reach. I’ve tried to capture some of that as well.

The Dutch proggy/death/jazz masters play their show in the Midi, a venue that also has a history as a cinema and theatre. It must be mentioned that the venue really fits with the bands that are booked on its stage today. The band plays intense and unpredictable songs where jazz meets heavy riffs and machine gun drumming.

The set is hard to follow, the band shifts gears constantly, but in all its eclectic madness it manages to sound cohesive and fresh. In an interval the jokes are a bit silly, but that’s probably why the main activity remains to pump out wicked jazz-metal, jumping from slow tranquil parts to screaming guitars. The Dutch definitely impressed early this evening.

This Will Destroy You
The upper hall in the former religious school building Dudok is swelteringly hot for the American post rock band. the excellent location with a visible wooden construction and the stained glass windows, depicting religious figures, adds a whole new level to their music. It’s been four years since the post rockers played Incubate, but with a new record under their belt it’s time for another go at the fest.

Another Language is a demonstration of slow languishing guitar parts over a hazy rhythm section, which fills up the sonic space in Dudok. Bright stage lights and some smoke give the whole a dreamy feeling. The set feels like a unity, a complete work that meets with roaring approval from the audience. The doomgaze, as the band likes to call it, erupts in wonderful bursts of energy now and then, making people bob their heads and drift off.

Incubate 2014 - This Will Destroy You - Photo by Paul Verhagen

‘Iconoclastic noise’, as someone put it on twitter, is what the Norwegians play. You have to be in time to see them set fire to the ‘Stadskelder’, the basement of the Tilburg City Hotel made into a little concert hall. When Staer is done with this place, there will be nothing left but the smoldering remains.

Calling them a drum-bass-guitar bulldozer, as Incubate does in the description, does total justice to the rhythm based crushing experience that these Norwegians offer. Swirling distortion and pounding drums melt together in one big explosion that is unfortunately over much too soon, leaving the audience gasping for air. It’s difficult to describe what actually occurs, since it combines elements of avant-garde with power noise in such a wild and hectic way that its overwhelming. The abstract and experimental experience in the dark basement certainly kept tongues wagging.

True Black Dawn
Friday night on this edition of Incubate is also the black metal night, so the evil Finns of True Black Dawn take to the stage, wearing corpse paint and all in black. Vocalist Wrath is carrying a cross with candles placed on it, holding it up while screeching his words. The band unleashes a powerful sound, but sticks to the atmospheric vibe with their raw vibe.

Formerly known as Black Dawn and Nocturnal Feast, the Helsinki Satan worshippers have not released anything for more than a decade. They are working on new material however and are playing their first show out of Finland it appears. The tension that comes from stepping it up with the band makes this a very strong performance with a tight sounding band. It really feels like the band wants to impress. There is virtually no interaction with the crowd, the men just stare into the distance.

Nothing fancy is happening with animal blood or such, apart from Wrath extinguishing the candles on his forehead. That is hardly the evil one would expect. Being the lesser known of the line-up, True Black Dawn definitely puts on a strong show today in Extase.

Incubate 2014 - True Black Dawn - Photo by Paul Verhagen

If there’s any relation between the northern archipelago of Svalbard and the band, it must be figuratively, because the band doesn’t sound cold or hails from the frozen north. The Britons sound quite warm and energetic, playing in the V39 basement. This venue always seems made for hardcore shows, with the low stage and limited lights.

The warmth the band produces is to be found somewhere between their post-rock structures and Touché Amoré style of hardcore full of heart. I have to explain the link I’ve just proposed in a figurative sense between the island and the band. Their amalgamation of hardcore and post rock feels like the isolated emotional outburst you would expect from feeling as remote and unheard as Svalbard is towards the inhabited world. Forgotten and remote, with just cold surrounding it. That is how their live act feels, as an outpour of a desperate scream to be heard. It’s filled with long passages of shrill guitar sounds, creating empty landscapes in which that scream can echo. It’s impressive.

Alright, so I mentioned Polish post hip-hop and this group I had to cover. Their flat spoken raps in the native language find their beat in a mish mash of noisy drones, tribal rhythms and synthesizer noises, leading up to a pretty heavy live sound with pulsating rhythms and unpredictable hooks.

In the pit in the back of Cul De Sac, the duo stands behind their table full of equipment. A lot of smoke has been blown into the pit as well, making the two look like mad scientists trying to push out the most freaky beat. In the meantime a sonic haze is pouring out into the café. The raps are more like short intermissions between new noise layers being heaped one on another. The sound is heavy and hypnotizing, heads are bobbing but the set doesn’t really work out for the best.

Of the whole black metal line-up this evening, Azaghal wins the scary looking award. Covered in corpse paint and blood, front man Kai Karpinmaa (Niflungr) adds some more elements to his already impressive grizzly giant of the woods posture. The sound the band produces is nothing short of a full out aural attack. Unrelenting, furious black metal in its rawest form. Narqath stares down a fan who wants a high five with an actual look that could kill in-between the songs, which follow up in a rapid pace.

The raw sound is also disturbed for a moment, when during a short break some pop tune is coming through the speakers. The cheery sound makes for an awkward moment during the set of these guys. It’s those moments that make Azaghal’s performance less impressive, the band seems stiff and a bit too stuck in upholding the image of evil black metal warriors that just butchered an animal backstage. If the goal of their show was the old credo of ‘No Mosh, No Core, No Fun’, this couldn’t have worked out any better.

Incubate 2014 - Azaghal - Photo by Paul Verhagen

Torn Hawk
Another peculiar act plays in the hallowed upper room of Dudok. While the saints depicted on the stained glass windows look on, a wild array of 80’s pulp, weird visuals and porn is projected on the screen behind Torn Hawk. Luke Wyatt, the man on stage, is an audio-visual artist. Electronic drones and beats echo through the hall. The footage and the sounds work well together and form a total experience for which this is once again the perfect location.

Now, it’s not just dance music we have here. Like most post-rock bands that are playing in this venue, there’s a definite similarity there for Torn Hawk. Who is using guitars and electronics to create similar sounds capes and drones to carry the views. In a way, it’s taking post rock to the art gallery, where some bands in my opinion should be at. What you get with Torn Hawk is more or less an eighties synth pop meets 8-bit videogames in a shoegaze/post rock experience. It is truly captivating, weird and a bit shocking.

Not only is 65daysofstatic a giant in their own scene and a truly worthy headliner for Incubate, they’ve actually found them the perfect location as well in the Midi theatre. During the opening of the set it’s the bass that shakes the floor, but later its feet getting up and down again, dancing to the hectic post rock of the British band.

No vocals today, just clean, polished guitars and electronics, carefully calculated rhythms and captivating melodies. It’s that approach, stepping away from the rock’n’roll orientated loose sound and distortion, that makes them such a successful and beloved act for Incubate (and totally right for the diverse festival). It explains the wide appreciation for the band and also why the Midi theatre is packed with people. The clear sound allows for sharp hooks and lazy passages alike, swinging the movement of the audience around with every move the band makes on stage. The songs may be complex and intelligent, the execution is accessible and you can dance to it. It helps that this band is in the best possible shape today.

Packing some songs from 2013’s Wild Light, the set is tight, leaving only a few moments for Joe Shrewsbury to address his audience. A few songs into the set, the band has already conquered, standing head and shoulders above the other bands on the bill today. The set builds up to a crescendo from start to finish and makes them rise even higher. Everything is in place today for the band and they owe that to themselves first and foremost.

Incubate 2014 - 65Daysofstatic - Photo by Paul Verhagen

There was more black metal to come yet. Baptism comes fully equipped with the whole look. The question is of course how they distinguish themselves from the mediocre Azaghal and slightly conservative True Black Dawn. First and foremost, their show feels much less like an act, it feels like these guys just genuinely rose from some graveyard and decided to skulk inside to unleash their torrents of necromantic howls.

Their sound is more layered and complex. The band takes a more esoteric approach and that appears to resonate with the crowd that fills the small venue. The songs are much more melodic and the atmosphere is that of an occult ritual. Haunting melodies are being woven into the barrages of guitar work and blast beats. The Finnish band may produce the kind of black metal that feels quite traditional and a bit outdated but they do it with class and without making it feel too much like an act.

With the Finnish black metal assault coming to a close, Incubate will obviously go out with a bang and who better to get on the bill for that then Sargeist? Well, one or two names might pop up. Still, it’s one of the bands that definitely carries the banner for contemporary Finnish black metal. With a new album under their belt, titled Feeding the Crawling Shadows, the nihilistic ball of cold hate that is Sargeist is ready to kill.

That’s pretty much the impression that front man Marko Saarikalle (Hoath Torog) gives. with his muscular build and wide open eyes. The singer and also founding member of Behexen, is like a caged animal on the stage. The music is intense, powerful and cold. The lighting on the stage is only in a pale blue, adding to the bleak atmosphere of their sound. The unrelenting pace of them churning out songs is remarkable.

Sargeist is taking it to the final level tonight, with blasting rhythms and cold furious riffing that creates grim soundscapes and walls of sonic polar winds that hit the visitor in the face. There’s a majestic side to their sound, but it’s the majesty of a frozen hell with Hoath as its high priest and warrior. A worthy closer for black metal Friday and also for my first day at Incubate.

Incubate 2014 - Sargeist - Photo by Paul Verhagen

Scribed by: Guido Segers
Photos by: Paul Verhagen (