Roadburn Festival 2017 – Day 4 Review By Guido Segers
In an interview earlier this year Walter Hoeijmakers (Mr. Roadburn himself) made it clear that Day 4 of Roadburn is no longer considered the appendix of the festival. It’s not been called The Afterburner for a while now and is considered a full on festival day. Sure, there’s one stage less available, but this year Sunday offers some shows you can only see on this day.
This year there’s no deconstruction of the festival in sight and the Canyon is as vibrant and lively as ever early on the afternoon. No surprise, because one of the most exciting acts of today’s festival is starting early. GNOD is doing their fourth show at Roadburn in absolute Gnodistic style!
On Eindhoven Psych Lab 2016 an intriguing collaboration took place between GNOD and Eindhoven space-trance-experimentalists Radar Men From The Moon. Both bands have a history with Roadburn, but their collaboration started out in Eindhoven, named Temple Ov BBV. The name refers to a med student, who drilled a hole in his head to expand consciousness. It can also be seen in the artwork of the record this collaboration has produced. The performance is a constant build-up of tension, with all instruments working in harmony to create searing patterns of music, constant brewing tension and primitive jams, while the GNOD vocalists take care of a sense of narrative. It completely gets the listener into a hazy, electro-trance with aggressively barked vocals. It’s like Mad Maxi-techno-tribal experience live, where the weight of the sound shifts between the musicians. The music flows constantly and the group, as big as it is, looks like a harmonious unit. For one of those projects this is some spectacular stuff. Radar Men… know how to keep you on a static trance beat while GNOD offers the tribal vibe, which when joint is some great stuff.
Author & Punisher is one weird act to see after the collective on the Main Stage. In the Green Room he is hidden behind a construction of his own making with instruments and electronics, creating slurry beats and drones that form the songs together. Where on record this sounds pretty tame and mellow at times, live this is a heavy experience that rattles your weary bones. The sound veers between EBM and ambient, but really flies in whatever ways it pleases. It can be an upper or downer so to say.
Moving on we find Pallbearer on the Main Stage. I have to admit, I’ve seen some poor performances of the Arkansas natives and my expectations were not very high. So seeing the band working hard and really delivering the tunes from their latest album Heartless was a surprise. It very much might be that the band really have found their sound on this release. Slow, but sophisticated would aptly described the sound they produce live. The vocal delivery is emotional and clean (reminds me a bit of Fish actually), the big riffs have a cinematic quality to them and offer the right sort of drama that befits this sound. Everything just fits somehow, though I have to say that Brett Campbell’s voice was a bit hidden in the mix. A thing I noticed during their shows before while it really is the element that sticks out for Pallbearer, still, when they deliver Worlds Apart I feel like I’m seeing the band at their very, very best.
In the meantime Het Patronaat is shaking again under a glorious tumult from another band of rabble rousing noise makers. SUMAC is really testing the foundations of the venue with their epically enormous sludge sound. Aaron Turner and his men are playing a set of explosive, unpredictable tunes with roaring vocals and a hell of a lot of power to it. It feels almost fragmented, disturbingly incoherent the way the former ISIS-chiefs band plays, so that makes it for the uninitiated tricky to listen to this whole set. A lot of it might then feel like incoherent noise, but what a mighty noise it is indeed!
I drop by in the Green Room to wearily rest for a moment, but there’s also something magical happening. Sure, the set of ACB Of Caïna may have its flaws. Andrew Curtis-Brignell seems to struggle a bit with his gear now and then during this solo set, but there’s something surprisingly sincere and direct to the delivery. Even with a rather small crowd he’s really expressing himself from the heart. A Pink Floyd cover (the ever touching Wish You Were Here) really fits in with that. The nervous looking singer expresses his sincere thanks often between the songs. When he plays his eyes close and with just guitar and samples he creates something truly special.
Every year some lucky band gets visuals done during their show by Walter Roadburn himself. Today that’s Gong, a band with a very peculiar history and completely distinct hippie sound amidst the loud and raucous acts that make up the Roadburn program. Gong have been around for a good 50 years since its first incarnation. Having the band here is something really special. Their spaced out jazz-rock has been honed through the years to create something where the slightest nuances have been perfected. Supported with the visuals their show is a trip to the senses, music to completely drift away to. It’s not the sweet Canterbury sound that the band delivers, there’s a definite force behind their sound and an energy to the performance. That is noteworthy, because two years ago the founder of the band Daevid Aellen passed away. After decades in the music business, to survive that and carry on with this much soul is extraordinary. A lesson for the youngsters this year.
Before I head out to see Ulver, I’ve been chatting to some Russian guys who are hoping for some of the Ulver work of yesteryear. We might not have understood each other, but I sincerely hope that they enjoyed what they received for it sure as hell is not Bergtatt as every time Ulver creates something new, it is completely different and riveting. The presentation of The Assassination of Julius Ceasar is one of the absolute highlights of this year’s Roadburn (I might have said that a few times about shows already!). On this record the band moves in a more Depeche Mode-like direction, but of course rather different in an Ulverish way. A phenomenal laser show accompanies the set, which is rather stretched out to fill the time slot. That doesn’t seem to bother the crowd much, because the sound of this show is something different to the rest of the fest. A cool moment early in the set is the cry for “Black Metal” from the audience, which is answered with a brief: “Eh.. no.” Ulver is now beyond all that with this poppy piece of art. As a stage act, Ulver is not much to look at though. That just remains a thing with these gents. Their creativity goes into rendering works of art as cultural artifacts, the performance has for years not been their focal point. This record is a pleasant live experience though, but probably there’ll be something completely different again in the future.
In Het Patronaat everything turns black for the next performance. Come To Grief was born out of the legendary doom/sludge band Grief and plays the most dismal, spiteful music you can imagine. The offshoot of the original band plays with a sense of true dedication to the visceral hatred that is in their music, playing songs from their 25 years spanning career (if we include the time as Grief). Redefining heavy with every riff, the band completely pulverizes the Church and while enjoying this show it seems like my vision is getting bleaker and the world seems a little darker than before. After having enjoyed this black pit of grisly hatred, Pontiak has something remarkably soothing and calming. They play for a Green Room that is filled with people enjoying the show with closed eyes, drifting along with the eclectic mix of the Virginia band. Call it neo-psychedelic, it definitely contains some heavier passages but overall it keeps things on a rather mellow level. The band have just released a new album, titled Dialectic Of Ignorance, from which quite some work can be heard.
As a final destination we head for the Main Stage where Pillorian will deliver their take on black metal. The band sprang from the disbanding of the great Agalloch and is the brainchild of John Haughm. Being one of the last bands on the bill certainly didn’t take the wind out of their sails. Grand, bombastic black metal with a solid rhythm section delivers today. Though the hall is not as full as it could be as the festival starts to take its toll on the saviours, the band truly delivers from the recent full length Obsidian Arc. Unfortunately the great exodus has started and one by one the visitors leave.
Standing on the train platform of Tilburg Station a moment later myself, I think back to this amazing Roadburn. It’s lonely suddenly and I already miss the festival, the atmosphere, the people and all the amazing bands. Lucky thing that it’s only about 361 days until the next one then!
Temple Ov BBV
Author & Punisher
Scribed by: Guido Segers
Photos by: Lee Edwards
Video by: super208productions