Before we do this thing a second time, I have a confession to make…I am a very bad journalist. They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I’m pretty sure I’ll find that out first hand.
There were a number of bands on day two and day three of Roadburn that I had every intention of watching – Hell, I went to the trouble of putting a li’l planner together and highlighting sets I was going to watch – but I still find myself in the somewhat uncomfortable position of being basically unable to account for my whereabouts during vast swathes of day two this year. Day three, I can explain later, but day two?
I have absolutely no recollection of where I was or what I was doing. I can’t blame drugs as I don’t do ’em, and I can’t blame drink because I hadn’t had any….yet. All I can do is assume that I fell into some kind of time/space distortion field brought about by close proximity to Away from Voivod and his wonderful art exhibit.
Yes. THAT is my story and I am sticking to it.
Myself and Thee Shaman attended a small press conference with the Roadburn organisation, intended to publicise their curators – Voivod, of course – and drummer Away’s local art exhibit. There was a Q & A session with Away and vocalist Snake, hosted by Jeff Wagner – author of the rather excellent book on the history of progressive metal ‘Mean Deviation’, of which Voivod are a vital part, for which Away provided the cover – and free food and drinks.
Following this wee soiree – during which I spent most of my time biting my tongue and attempting not to hog the entire Q & A with endless questions to Snake and Away, and talking to ex-Die Kreuzen vocalist Dan Kubinski and witty ex-Die Kreuzen drummer, and Amsterdam resident, Erik Tunison, both of whom I had befriended via Facebook some time ago, so it was nice to finally catch up ‘in the flesh’ – some of us followed Away back to the nearby Gust Van Dijk gallery for what became something of a personal tour and talk about his art, Voivod, the universe and everything.
Being basically a total Voivod nut, I found myself pretty much incapable of leaving, surrounded as I was by artwork so familiar to me, and the wonderful company of the man himself – and ever-lovely WFMU DJ Diane Farris for a while – thus leading to the afore-mentioned time/space distortion anomaly and meaning that I totally missed Wino and Conny Ochs, whom I had particularly wanted to see having not seen them on their just previous UK tour, and most of the wonderful Hexvessel set at Het Patronaat.
As it was, the small portion of the set I did manage to catch made me wish I’d been a bit more on the ball, and watchful of time/space distortion anomalies, as the band were excellent indeed.
Their self-applied description of ‘Psychedelic Forest Folk’ is pretty much bang-on the money, as far as giving you a rough handle on what to expect. Lead by mainman Mat ‘Khvost’ McNerney, Hexvessel are very much reminiscent of the less abstract moments of Current 93, but with vocals that are much, much easier on the ear than David Tibet’s ‘acquired taste’ mewling. My notes from during the set say ‘…beautiful, mournful and darkly pastoral’, and that is about as good a description as any of what I heard. Would I watch them again? Like a shot.
Now, right around now is when my lack of memory kicks in. Somehow I managed to miss J.G Thirlwell’s Manorexia, Danava, and Sólstafir. Yes, they all overlapped but if I’d been crafty I could, theoretically, have seen good chunks of all three. As it was, I saw nothing of any of ’em…..what was I doing??
Thankfully, I did manage to see most of Yob play the entirety of The Unreal Never Lived, but that was reported by colleague Adam Stone. I will say, though, that they were devastating and that Mike Scheidt may well be a man possessed.
…and so we come to what was, for me, the very pinnacle of Roadburn 2012 – Voivod, performing their 1988 meisterwerk, Dimension Hatröss in its entirety.
Once again, I installed myself at the barrier, near enough squarely in front of bassist Blacky’s side of the stage, and waited, tingling with anticipation.
From having spoken to Away at length earlier in the day, and to guitarist Dan ‘Chewy’ Mongrain the previous night, I had gleaned a few pieces of information; that the new album was mostly written and recorded whilst the band were intensively rehearsing, and in some cases re-learning, the Dimension Hatröss material, and whilst Chewy was himself writing a tab book of Dimension Hatröss, so that particular sound and feel was very evident in the new material – hence my comment that ‘Target Earth’, the new song aired the previous night, sounded very much in that range; that there were to be one or two ‘surprise’ guests onstage tonight; and that since Voivod were to play for an hour and a half but Dimension Hatröss itself only lasts around an hour, all things considered, there would be another, unnamed, surprise tonight…….well, colour me intrigued!
The lights go down, the band comes out and the unmistakeable sound of the intro to Hatröss’ opening number ‘The Experiment’ begins. That sound, like an amplified slinky spring or the sound of ball-bearings being rolled around a metal bowl, signifies that the dimensional doorway is opening and we’re about to cross into the world of…..Voivod!
I won’t treat you like idiots and go through the set track by track as I figure that if you’ve read this far you know damn well what the running order is, but, suffice to say, the set was absolutely flawless. All of the between tracks incidental sound effects were present and supplied by Blacky, and tracks that I had never seen/heard played live before such as ‘Technocratic Manipulators’ and ‘Macrosolutions To Megaproblems’ sounded just as great as old favourites like ‘Tribal Convictions’ and ‘Brain Scan’. Chewy played Piggy’s parts to perfection and no-one put a foot wrong.
Alas, once the final notes of ‘Cosmic Drama’ rang out, there was no ‘Batman’, but it was time for those surprises I mentioned earlier.
First up, Voivod were joined onstage by – unsurprisingly to me, since I already knew he’d be coming and spoke to him earlier that day – Dan Kubinski, vocalist of Die Kreuzen, for another romp through ‘Man In The Trees’, with both Snake and Dan on vocal duties and DK drummer-boy Erik Tunison watching proudly from the wings. The addition of Dan pushed this version further off the scale that the previous night’s version and sent many a fan into meltdown…however….the best was yet to come, as once the song was over the sounds of deep space could be heard emanating from the P.A, and Blacky struck up the opening notes of a bassline never yet heard live at a Voivod show…..could it be?
YES. They played ‘Jack Luminous’ !!
The seventeen-minute-long Space-Prog-Metal opus from their 1993 The Outer Limits album. Played in its entirety.
For us…Minds were well and truly blown.
None of the Voivod fans present ever expected to hear this song played live onstage, especially after the death of original guitarist Denis ‘Piggy’ D’Amour, yet here it was, being played to perfection. If I’d been told afterwards that grown men and women had wept tears of joy at that point, I’d believe it. Hell, I’m pretty sure I misted up a little there.
How Away had kept a poker face that afternoon when I said I’d love to see them play ‘Jack Luminous’ I do not know, but he did.
How to follow that? Well, as it happened, they chose not to attempt to follow it, simply closing their set with a repeat performance of their, by now, traditional set-closer Pink Floyd cover ‘Astronomy Domine’ .
After such a physically and emotionally draining set, buzzing with adrenaline and sheer FUCK YEAH! I needed a drink, so I stepped out onto the main street to catch a breather and find a bar to have a cheeky drinkie in, fully intending to head back in shortly and catch as much of Anekdoten and Celeste as possible. I’d have liked to see Huata too but since they were playing the tiniest room, I didn’t rate my chances of seeing jack shit.
As it happened, all of my plans were derailed by the fact that I was shanghaied by fellow Voivod nuts and band members whilst walking past one of the bars.The rest of the night was a blur of booze and self-recrimination for missing bands. So endeth my evening and day two of Roadburn 2012.
Awakening at a surprisingly reasonable hour, Thee Shaman and I planned to catch Mike Scheidt from Yob’s solo set, wedged onto the front of the lineup as a fairly last-minute addition to the bill. As it was, we were completely scuppered by the busy campsite buses and ended up arriving at the 013 too late to even catch the end of his set.
Damn and blast.
For me, today was a slow day – not a lot of bands I particularly wanted to see. Of the bands I did watch, you’ll find Dark Buddha Rising – whom I found laughable, thanks to the gimp with Immortal corpsepaint standing in front of ’em trying to look daaaaaaaaaaaaark and eeeeeeeeevil – and The Obsessed – whom I personally enjoyed, but did notice that Wino seemed a little disconnected, oddly. They were better back in ’94, he said smugly – and will be covered more in-depth by m’colleague Saul.
The Wounded Kings were another band I wanted to see, but the room was too packed, sadly.
I did, however, manage to catch the last half of Oranssi Pazuzu‘s set at Het Patronaat, and boy was I thankful!
They were stunning. Having only a cursory familiarity with their material previous to this – pretty much only really having listened to their latest album, Kosmonument – their live show turned out to be so much more of a sensory overload than their recordings. Coming in halfway through meant that I probably didn’t get the full benefit of the build-up, but as I entered the hall, the sound flowing off of the stage was deeply cosmic, all swirling, swooshing, oscillating synths and ghostly delayed guitar-lines.
The sound of the void was everywhere, and my notes mention ‘…the sound of astral bells ringing out into the gravity well of a black hole”, which should give you a rough idea of what was going on onstage. A deeply lunar yet physically overwhelming sound, Oranssi Pazuzu mostly veer more toward the slower end of ‘Black Metal’, as opposed to the full-tilt icy-bees-in-a-biscuit-tin side of things – if indeed they DO touch upon it at all. I heard much more evidence of Doom Metal in their sound than BM, although the throaty, croaking vocals and the coldness that seeps through into the guitars does have the hallmark of bands such as Thorns I guess.
There is more than a hint of prime Tangerine Dream to Oranssi Pazuzu’s synthscapes, and that mix of cold outer space and lush analogue synth tones really does it for me, I have to say. Ending with skywardly-ascending guitars over a deep, throbbing slow-mo rhythm, I wished I’d been able to see more, as I really felt like I hadn’t had nearly enough.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for these chaps in future, that’s for sure.
The rest of my evening was pretty much a repeat performance of the previous night, to be honest, and as such I completely forgot to go and watch Necros Christos. I am a bloody fool.
Onto the final day now and I was feeling the burn. Sleeping on cold ground, fully clothed, in a freezing-ass tent and not being able to have more than a cursory wash for several days had taken its toll on me…BUT…I was still enthusiastic about seeing some more top-notch bands!
First up were old favourites The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, playing on the main stage with enough force to suck all of the oxygen out of the room. A churning, cavernous, bowel-shaking drone built up in layers over the course of their set, shot through with scattershot, glitchy percussion, screeching ecstatic guitar, cello and trombone. An amorphous, nebulous black hole of dense sound, backed by Harry Smith’s surrealist occult animations on the screen behind the darkened heads of the band. A total headfuck. I bloody loved it.
Internal Void were up next on the main stage and I liked them very much indeed, but one of m’colleagues will be covering them in more depth, along with Yob, playing Catharsis and almost levelling the entire building, and festival closers Black Cobra – a two-headed ball of rifforama overflowing with energy whom I would describe as ‘a fun-sized High On Fire’ to some extent – so look out for Adam and Saul’s reviews for those guys.
Squeezing myself into the increasingly-densely-packed Green Room, I managed to catch the vast majority of Urfaust’s set before claustrophobia took hold. This Black Metal/Post-Punk duo came on to burning incense chalices and a statue of the Virgin Mary atop their amps before gripping the room with their ice-cold minimalist sound, driven by drummer VRDRBR smashing seven bells out of his kit and guitarist IX’s austere and surprisingly melodic baritone voice. Hypnotic and devilishly simplistic, Urfaust’s sound works by insinuation, in many ways, with little deviation in tempo, but still managing to capture and hold the attention of the listener, or watcher.
Backed by impressionistic black and white projections and with creepy soundtrack ambience between songs, the duo made quite an impression on me, and I warmed to the buzzing, Mi-Go-a-like guitars as they locked in with the pounding drums and near enough hypnotised me. If it wasn’t for the encroaching crowd, I’d probably still be there now.
Last up for me – aside from Black Cobra – were reformed German Technical Thrash legends Coroner, a band for whom I always had a soft spot, but was a little apprehensive about seeing tonight.
I guess with the sheer amount of reformed bands around these days, you kind of start to expect to see a bunch of guys well past their prime, going through the motions in order to make a bit of the cash they never made back in the day. There’s a lot of it about.
However, Coroner most emphatically do not fall into that category. Uh-uh, no sir! The band that I witnessed could very have been a young, hungry band at the peak of their performing career, technically perfect and totally assertive onstage.
The reformed Coroner at the Afterburner were, in my opinion, even better than they were the first time around. Bassist/vocalist Ron Royce was quietly commanding, even some technical issues couldn’t break his stride, drummer Marky Edelmann, AKA Marquis Marky, was metronomically tight and precise, but, for me, guitarist Tommy T. Baron really stood out.
He was superb. His sound was heavy and thick, his leads were dynamic, liquid and tasteful…he just blew me away. The three musicians never dropped the ball once, meshing so tightly and naturally that it was a joy to hear and watch.
Set-wise the band ripped through a nicely-chosen selection, mostly from their final album Grin, and were aided and abetted by keyboard/sampler player Daniel Stössel, who added a great deal of subtle texture to the set without ever veering into the realm of ‘cheese’.
They played the tracks you’d want them to play, by and large, opening with a deadly ‘Internal Conflicts’, followed by fellow Grin track ‘Serpent Moves’ and the obligatory, but no less satisfying, ‘Masked Jackal’ from Punishment For Decadence.
Ripping through ‘Metamorphosis‘, the sole track played from Mental Vortex I believe, and a punishing ‘Die By My Hand’ and ‘The Lethargic Age’, they just never put a foot wrong. As I said earlier, Ron was slightly beset by technical gremlins, but it mattered not as they still delivered in spades.
Delving right back in time for their encore, the band dug up Death Cult demo track ‘The Invincible’, a track originally sung by Tom G Warrior, who had been spotted in town the previous day but failed to show here, oddly I thought. However, Mr Warrior wasn’t missed as Ron did a fine job himself. An ‘OOGH!’ or a ‘HEEEEEEY!’ wouldn’t have gone amiss though….
Finishing on a brutal version of R.I.P track ‘Reborn Through Hate’, the band left the stage having done themselves and their legacy very proud and, I’m sure, having won over more than a few sceptics and fence-sitters.
It was only left for Black Cobra to finish proceedings, which they did, as I mentioned earlier, with verve, aplomb and sheer balls-out rifforama.
…and THAT, my fine feathered friends, was MY Roadburn 2012. I laughed, I cried (?!), I loved, I raged and I froze my arse off, all in the name of METAL.….and I’d do it again.
Just not for a while. I need some rest. THUD!
If you missed it, you can also read Day 1 HERE.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson
Photos by: Lee Edwards