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LIVE REPORT: Roadburn Festival
Cheryl Carter , May 29th, 2018 07:24

Almost two decades in, the metal festival of Tilburg, Netherlands, is an evergrowing community of heaviosity, weirdness and transcendence


It’s only my second time at Roadburn but it feels familiar already; the staff are friendly, the local bars are welcoming, the ‘normal’ non-festival crowd along the main strip are inquisitive but never rude. Unlike most other metal festivals, where aggro is par for the course, the vibe is laidback and the pleasure is communal.

Festival founder Walter Hoeijmakers runs a tight-knit team and each member focuses on the music, the guests and the enjoyment. This year, the festival has extended to two new venues - De Koepelhal and Hall Of Fame - but only expanded the capacity 80 tickets per day; profit is not really a motive here. The movement between venues is easy, and the space outside of De Koepelhal becomes another meeting point and place to hang out and drink beer or indulge in the local speciality – weed – which is being sold this year for the first time to foreigners.

The collaborative element is a huge focal point, with two commissioned pieces and artists coming together to perform in new ways. On Thursday we have the Waste Of Space Orchestra featuring members of Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu. The Finnish scene thrives on experimentation and seeing these two psychedelic bands bring their own version of the genre into this work is truly mesmerising. Visually arresting, the Waste Of Space Orchestra use projections to complete their story and add ever more trippy dimensions to an already curious work.

Sunday sees the Icelandic black metal scene perform their commissioned piece, Sól án Varma. Under the banner of Vánagandr, members of Misþyrming, Naðra, Svartidauði and Wormlust create a work that combines chaos with flashes of beauty, heat against cold and primal darkness that roars from the opening seconds and evolves over 80 minutes to become a transformative ascension into the outer reaches.

Other collaborative pieces are tied into the weekend with Wormlust adding new dimensions to NYIÞ’s ritualistic drone, Boris and Stephen O’Malley performing Absolutego in full, Thou X the Body, Damo Suzuki and Minami Deutsch, Zonal featuring Moor Mother, Hugsjá, Earthless & Kikagaku Moyo. Many bands give over their entire performance to one album – whether it’s a classic (such as with Boris) or a newer release that delves deeply into grief and hopelessness (Bell Witch’s live rendition of Mirror Reaper). The Ruins Of Beverast gave us Exuvia, Weedeater tear through God Luck And Good Speed, Converge play two records in full with both The Dusk In Us and You Fail Me showing why they are so highly esteemed across the extreme metal world. Mizmor’s Yodh is harrowing and finally breaks me after Bell Witch and Worship’s Last Tape Before Doomsday run-throughs, and Godflesh pummel the senses with Selfless.

It’s difficult to fit in everything you want to see, and this is even trickier because some bands play two contrasting sets. Bell Witch, Panopticon, Converge, Worship and Planning For Burial all have double chances to blow people away – if you can get into the smaller venues then you find yourself surrounded by electric levels of excitement. Leaving on Sunday is definitely bittersweet; dates for next year are already locked and three acts have been announced (Heilung, Louise Lemón and Gore), so I know that I’ll be back to get even more familiar with this fiery, friendly place.