Considering I don’t much like festivals, crowds or leaving the house for extended periods of time, this Roadburn thing is becoming quite the institution for me, with this being my fourth and with no end in sight if my enjoyment level of this year is anything to go by. I’ll try not to waffle as we’ve got rather a lot to get through and I know your time is valuable.
So, I flew into Schipol airport on the Wednesday night before the festival proper but it was edging toward midnight when I actually hit Tilburg itself, sadly too late to grace the pre-festival Hard Rock Hideout shindig at the Cul de Sac bar with my presence. I stuck my head in, said a few hellos and headed out to my accommodation, which this year was to be a converted tugboat about 15 minutes walk from the main festival area of activities. I met up with my charming hosts and hit the hay, ready for the first day of Roadburn 2014 proper.
Kicking off in the late afternoon on Thursday, first band up were one of the ones I was most excited about seeing – Locrian. Playing in the wonderful Het Patronaat venue – a converted church, complete with stained glass – this was the perfect environment for the trio, despite my initial misgivings about them playing in visible daylight.
Something else that worked exponentially better than I thought it would was the material from latest album Return To Annihilation, which came very much alive and gained serious depth in the live arena. The sheer physicality of the massive low-end from Terence Hannum’s Moog and the thwack of Steven Hess’ measured-yet-powerful drumming sucked all of the air out of the room and gripped the crowd hard. The delicacy of André Foisy’s crystalline guitar made for a striking contrast to Hannum’s bass brutalism and pained Black Metallic shrieks, and the trio never failed to compel.
I’d say that Roadburn 2014 was off to quite the flying start!
Next up there was a little wandering around and getting oriented meaning that it was a little while before I managed to catch a full set from anyone else. However, across my travels I caught part of sets from this year’s hot ticket Beastmilk, who didn’t particularly impress me much, lacking in bass as they were on the somewhat cavernous 013 main stage and ultimately coming off somewhat like a ball-less Samhain, and had to make do with hearing Lord Dying from the packed corridor outside the ever-ludicrously packed Stage 01 – henceforth to be known as The Batcave – due to my losing track of the time and not getting in there half an hour before their set started.
Heading back over to Het Patronaat I had planned on catching Seattle’s masters of crushing doom Samothrace, but was once again thwarted by not thinking far enough ahead to get into the room early. Whilst I pondered my stupidity whilst standing outside the venue I realised that the band were actually loud enough to clearly hear without standing in the room, so I managed to catch most of their set whilst perched on a wall outside in the light spring air. Tragically, just before the end of their set I was reminded that I had an Access All Areas pass, so I could have just gone in via the back doors and watched from behind the amps. I am a big stupid.
Much of the rest of the day was similarly wasted and thwarted, unfortunately, with an attempt to see Goatess thwarted by a panic attack brought on by sheer amount of people attempting to cram into The Batcave around me, necessitating me to get the fuck outta dodge and get a couple of stiff drinks. En route to the bars I caught a glimpse of Corrections House on the main stage but found myself unable to enjoy them due to a combination of my jangled nerves and the lack of certain sounds in the live mix – Bruce Lamont’s honking great saxophone was clearly visible but notable in its absence from the live sound, and I found Sanford Parker’s synthetic beats lacking in the necessary heft to fully convey the band’s power. Shame.
A couple of swift drinks later and I stuck my head into the main hall again to see NOLA heavyweights Crowbar, a band that whilst I’ve never been a major fan, I’ve always admired but never yet seen live. I caught them just as they piled into Planets Collide from my favourite album of theirs, Odd Fellow’s Rest, but I have to admit they didn’t grip my attention. Sorry folks.
Now, my final stop of the day was to see what was for me one of the most eagerly anticipated bands of the whole festival – Mantar!
If you’ve been paying any attention to my writing here of late you’ll know that I’ve been a vocal champion of this two-man German demolition crew ever since first clapping ears on them via their Bandcamp tracks early last year, and their recent Death By Burning album completely delivered on every level, so you can imagine how eager I was to see how they pulled it off in a live setting.
Suffice to say, I was in absolutely no way disappointed. – they completely brutalised my ears and neck, leaving me with a colossal bangover that actually managed to outlast the entire rest of the festival.
Stripped to the waste and sweating like a pair of fucked pigs, drummer Erinc and guitarist/vocalist Hanno tore through the lion’s share of Death By Burning with all of the ferocity of a pack of hyenas bearing down on a wounded Ox, and I lapped up every second of it. The lack of a bassist was absolutely no hindrance to the thickness of the sound on display as Hanno’s baritone guitar sounded like a churning cement mixer full of Motorhead and Melvins riffs, belting out through multiple amps and an array of pedals all being put to one single purpose – the total annihilation of everyone packed into the sweatbox that was the Bat Cave. Erinc hit so hard that when he busted a snare skin halfway through, rather than faff around changing the skin he just brought out another snare and used that instead. Clearly this was an everyday event for him.
After being quite frankly brutalised in what felt like every orifice, I considered it a small victory that I was able to leave the room upright and just about able to hear, but nevertheless I managed to saunter downstairs and muster up enough energy to attend the aftershow metal disco in the main foyer of the 013 and roll home to the boat at daft o’clock. I knew, though, I would be paying for all of this later on down the line.
Of course, at a festival like this there are always going to be bands that you don’t get to see due to clashes, and the ones that fell through the net for me this year were Hull, Seirom – playing over at the Cul de Sac, which I never got to all day – Nothing and Whitehorse – who were both playing at the same time anyway – Goatess, True Widow, The Great Old Ones and Graves At Sea, but I’m sure I’ll get to see most of them on their own tours across the rest of the year – I know that Graves At Sea are playing soon with Sourvein, so I don’t feel quite so bad about it.
So there you have it, day one of Roadburn 2014 as experienced by me. I may not have managed to actually see half as many bands as I’d have liked to have seen, but the ones I did see more than compensated for that. Hell, I’m still feeling the effects of Mantar today, over a week later!!
Scribed By: Paul Robertson
Photos By: Lee Edwards
Video By: Mark 208