Tilburg, The Netherlands 16/04/2011 & 17/04/2011
…and so, as with all good things, Roadburn has to come to an end. One final day of the festival itself, and one ‘mopping-up-the-remains’ day, ‘Afterburner’.
Feeling the after-effects of the night before, namely suffering from one massive Voivod-induced bangover, I steered my sorry carcass into the Midi to watch the always-entertaining Master Musicians Of Bukkake.
Up against the MMOB, over at the 013, were Candlemass – of whom I have NEVER been a fan…far too ‘trad’ for my liking, and not heavy enough either – and Liturgy – who I fail to understand, musically and conceptually…why the hell were they even ON at Roadburn? – neither of whom I really fancied seeing, and Black Math Horseman, who I wouldn’t have minded seeing, but they lost the toss to MMOB this afternoon.
Playing to a pleasantly packed room – not too empty, not so full that you couldn’t move around inside – the Master Musicians were in full swing when I entered, pumping out their heavily eastern-influenced trance-rock in front of a massive projection of the mystical scene pictured on the sleeve of their ‘Themes From The Motion Picture “Man With The Green Gloves On”‘ 7”. Seeing that mystic oriental temple towering over the band, all looking like Touraeg tribesmen hopped-up on magic monkey juice and fronted by a white-faced wailing muezzin with colour-changing laser fingertips was a psychedelic experience all of it’s own, even without factoring in the music. Channelling the Sun City Girls immortal classic ‘Torch of The Mystic’ through a stoner-psych filter, MMOB are a lyergic assault on both eyes and ears and one hell of a way to start the day.
My grumbling tum wouldn’t stay silent during MMOB’s set, so I sloped out early to appease it with some of the Colonel’s finest, fully intending to get back to the Midi in time to see Rwake. Unfortunately, I was distracted and completely forgot they were playing until 5 minutes before they finished. I heard very good reports from friends who had seen ’em though.
This was to become a pattern for the day.
Thankfully, I DID remember to go and see Ludicra in the tiny Bat Cave, and boy was I thankful for it! They were BLISTERING. Pummelling the small room with their truly progressive take on crusty Black Metal, their set was a masterclass in how to do something right, do something WELL, and do something INDIVIDUAL. They really are their own band. Drawing audible influence from the classier Black metal acts, oddballs such as Ved Buens Ende, genius guitarist John Cobbett’s old alumni Slough Feg and a heapin’ helpin’ of prime era Voivod – a musical debt admitted to me by drummer and all-around sweetheart Aesop and bassist and thoroughly good egg Ross whilst we were standing in the pit at the previous nights Voivod show – Ludicra are visceral, edgy, dynamic, off-the-wall and flat-out RIPPING.
Smashing through a set heavily weighted in favour of their latest EPIC, ‘The Tenant’, the band displayed their monster chops for the whole room to see – Aesop’s kit-scouring percussion, Ross’s tasteful and rock-solid bass, and Christy Gather’s KILLER axe-attack and throat-shredding vocals all impressed the hell out of me, but axe-maniac John Cobbett and demonically-possessed frontwoman Laurie Sue Shanaman REALLY blew me away.
Cobbett shredded the living HELL out of his Les Paul, not two feet away from me, giving me the shivers, and Shanaman writhed, contorted, howled, shrieked and croaked like Pazuzu himself was negotiating his way out of her throat.
I was utterly transfixed by the whole set and pretty much rooted to the spot during the entire time they played. Hell, Cobbett and Gather even threw in some EPIC duelling guitar harmonies to further sweeten the deal. I am seriously, hopelessly, in love with Ludicra and URGE anyone who has the chance to see them live to grasp that opportunity with both hands.
A SERIOUS HIGHLIGHT.
Still on a serious high from Ludicra, I raced downstairs to the main room and positioned myself, once again, front and centre for the second Voivod set of Roadburn 2011.
I won’t bore you with the details of the set too much, since I already covered ’em pretty comprehensively in the last review, but suffice to say the set-list differed a little, the show was shorter and there were more people watching ’em.
They didn’t play the new song they premiered on Friday, but they DID play ‘Missing Sequences’ from ‘Nothingface’ which excited me GREATLY, owing to it being my favourite Voivod song of all, full stop. Finishing, once again, with the Pink Floyd cover, ‘Astronomy Domine’, and the entreaty to never forget Piggy, their fallen guitarist, the band also found time during their set to marvel at the back-projected drawings of their drummer, Away, and for bassist Blacky to leap offstage mid-song and play from the photographers pit for the rest of the number. Once again, there was an overwhelmingly positive vibe coming back from the audience during Voivod’s set, and the band most definitely appreciated and thrived off of it.
So, another win and another bangover for me. Apparently I could be clearly seen thrashing away at the front of the stage from the very back of the Main Room. Impressive!
Now, like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, “I’m getting’ too old fo’ this shit”, so I decided to take a breather in one of the local bars just down the way from the 013, Clancy’s, with my Irish friends. Unfortunately, said ‘breather’ lasted until WELL into Shrinebuilder’s set, meaning that I missed ’em. Based on their form at their Manchester show a while back, I didn’t really ‘miss’ anything, so I didn’t beat myself up over it. I DID, however, curse myself for missing Yakuza, whom I really DID mean to check out, but who fell through the net.
Now, much as I would have liked to see Ufomammut playing ‘Eve’ in it’s entirety, or The Gates Of Slumber bust out some prime DOOOOOM, the only band I REALLY wanted to see at the end of Roadburn 2011 was SWANS.
I was lucky enough to see Swans late last year on the first round of their reactivation and they really were almost beyond words, so I was incredibly keen to see them again, with more time of playing together in this form under their belt.
They were quite literally transcendent. Beginning with the chiming of tubular bells, courtesy of percussionist Thor Harris, and building to a monolithic crescendo, Swans pushed the Mind/Body/Light/Sound envelope to breaking point. They hammered their sound into our ears with violent climax after violent climax until our defences were completely shattered. An amorphous blissful all-consuming cloud of pure sound, tracks like ‘Sex God Sex’, ‘Eden Prison’, and the gripping and disturbing ‘I Crawled’, rolled over us like a wave of thick, blinding light, with Michael Gira’s commanding, insinuating voice riding atop the crest.
Watching the show from high up at the top of the 013 on a platform that vibrated with every bass thrum, I had what amounted to some kind of out of body experience, completely losing my identity and sense of self, subsumed within the music. As close to a religious experience as most non-churchgoers can expect to get, I suppose.
Of course, it’s a hard comedown, and I’m afraid the following ‘Metal Disco’ over at the Midi didn’t quite hit the spot after such a literally earth-shaking experience, fun though it was.
The next day I was flying back home in the early evening, so I just had time to check out a few of the bands at the ‘Afterburner’ event in the 013.
Spindrift were up first, and their spaghetti western/giallo-style retro-soundtrack music was very appropriate for the time of day and the gorgeous weather outside. Hell, I wished I could have been watching them outdoors on a day like today. Behind them whilst they played there were appropriately retro ’70s film clips, further adding to the somewhat blissful atmosphere.
Bloodfarmers came along and completely destroyed the idyll with their heavy retro stoner-doom and their back-projected cult gore films. They totally harshed my mellow, maaan. HA! Having heard good reports about their set on the first day, I have to say that I totally concur – they were great. Thick, solid doom metal with a stoner edge and a sincere love of schlock, not much to look at, performance-wise, but they sounded great and their movies were very entertaining…I even saw one starring William Shatner playing behind ’em at one point!
Now, all good things must come to an end, and so, I had one last band to see before my Roadburn experience was over and I had to fly back to mundanity and the nine-to-five (or twelve-to-eight, in my case) – Coffins, Japan’s deathly masters of crusty Frost.
For those of you who’ve been living in suspended animation for the last few years, Coffins are purveyors of seriously crusty Old-School Death Metal of a Doomy bent, worshippers at the altar of early Celtic Frost and Winter. Heavy as lead, they have that early DM drumbeat down to a fine art and frontman/guitarist Bungo Uchino is a really guttural grunter. Bassist Takuya Koreeda thrashes and bounces around for the entire set like a ragdoll on springs, whilst drummer Ryo Yamada anchors it all down. Solid and old-school to the core, technical this isn’t, but it sure as hell is a lot of fun. Fun Death Metal? Yeah, so SHOOT me. Sure, the tunes all tend to blur into one another and the guitar leads are excruciatingly wonky and basic, but I had a big grin spread across my face while I was banging my head, and it looked like the band did too. All in all, a pretty good end to my Roadburn trip.
So, did I enjoy my first Roadburn? HELL YES! Would I go again? Well, it’d take a pretty damn good lineup to drag my home-lovin’ ass out of the country again, but if ANYTHING could do it, Roadburn could. I just wonder how the hell they can top THIS year….
Scribed by: Paul Robertson