Kelsey Chapstick’s Guide to Navigating Roadburn 2018
With less than a month to go until kickoff, the complete lineup and schedule for Roadburn 2018 was announced just a couple of weeks ago. Here’s a very biased and unofficial guide to navigating some clashes in the labyrinthine lineup!
Two black metal heavyweights from Brooklyn kick off the festivities at 3pm on April 19th, with Sannhet at Het Patronaat and Yellow Eyes in the Green Room. Both are fantastic, but I hear Sannhet every Sunday since they practice down the hall from my own band so I’ll be attempting to catch the front end of Yellow Eyes before hightailing it to the main stage for Waste of Space Orchesta, a one-off alliance between Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu. The experimental ritual I’m expecting to witness will certainly enhance any legal ascension the audience may indulge on 4/20 eve. Speaking of getting stoned, WoSO overlaps just ten minutes with Khemmis, who I’ve managed to miss half a dozen times at this point due to scheduling conflicts. After catching a few there, I’ll be attempting to punish my ears further with the last half of Stomach Earth, the one-man funereal death doom project out of Salem, Massachusetts. I wasn’t familiar with this project of mastermind Mike Mckenzie (The Red Chord) until making my tentative scheduling plans surrounding Roadburn, but good goddamn — this shit is heavy:
Solidly into the meat of the evening, Earthless will be taking the main stage at 7:45pm, and should I not have melted brains dripping my from ears at that point I’ll be attempting to catch a few songs before sipping a beer to the ambient drone of Switzerland’s Sum of R. Lynchian nightscapes strewn deeply in haunted electric wind chimes after a punishing few hours of black, doom, and stoner metal? Sign me the fuck up. Since I’ve seen Converge a few times already, I’m sure I’ll take a short break to throw some local delicacies down my throat before running back for Hällas, a band I wrote a little bit about a couple years back and never thought I’d cross paths with. They remind me of the fantastically dad-friendly rock bands I grew up loving, and their last album produced some seriously retro-inspired hard rock goodness like this video:
Twenty minutes after Hällas ends, Cult of Luna reunite with Julie Christmas to perform 2016’s collaborative album Mariner. This show came through New York shortly after its release, and while I was only a casual fan of the album at that point the performance was one of the most electrifying I saw that year. Julie Christmas is an electrifying performer, and when dropped into the fold with the hypnotic post-metal of Cult of Luna, true magic happens. If I can tear myself away at some point, Hooded Menace and Mirror Queen will be a tossup for me before making the staunch decision to see Weedeater with my stoner friends, including my adventure buddy Irish Steve who’s making the trip from Galway just so we can smoke joints to Dixie Dave and the gang in as many countries as possible. Scheduling conflicts mean I’ll be missing out on Harsh Toke and Dawn Ray’d unfortunately, but them’s the breaks.
Day Two starts off strong with a workshop led by Wardruna/Enslaved alum Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik the day they release Hugsjá and air it for the first time outside of Norway (check out the lead track here). Having once seen Einar put on an intimate performance in the living room of the Norwegian consulate, I wouldn’t miss this performance for anything. Luckily the only minor scheduling conflict is Mutoid Man firing up with a slight overlap; I’ve seen them several times and they’re never not a rowdy good time, plus I find it hard to pass up the chance to see Ben Koller behind a kit (which he will be with at least three bands at the festival by my last count). While retro-rockers Motorpsycho take the main stage at 3:10, I’ll be firmly entrenching myself in the spirit of the evening with The Ruins of Beverast performing their 2017 album Exuvia in the Green Room. I’ve been sleeping on the German black/doom project for far too long, so a proper live intro to the grandiosity of Exuvia should hit the mid-evening spot.
With a brief break for sanity and whatever else comes along, I’m pumped to finally check out Panopticon. I was still living deep in Appalachia when Kentucky came out and it helped expand and invigorate my love for black metal when I was still just some underachieving hesher sweeping up cigarette butts at a local redneck bar. Thirty minutes in is where I hit a bit of a wall and have to run to Comet Control in the Cul De Sac. I’ve been enamored with their brand of spacey psych shoegaze since “Dig Out Your Head” became my favorite song of 2016, so finally getting to see them live (fuck the cost of touring in America for Canadian bands) will be a real treat.
The next block is a little underwhelming for me, so I’ll probably break until it’s time for Jarboe and Father Murphy in Het Patronaat. Having watched a couple of the live performances, I’m expecting this could be gorgeous but a bit sleepy, but that will change when my unquestionably most anticipated act Godflesh takes the main stage at 10pm. While Post Self is one of my favorite albums of the last several years, I’m feverish with excitement to see Selfless performed in full and I’ll do the most dancing of the whole weekend in that hour-twenty block. After some water and breathing exercises following that fan-girl experience, Grave Pleasures will be the perfect death rock coffin nail to bury an exhausting day.
If I haven’t been sufficiently deafened by Saturday, 1:30pm sees the day begin with Roadburn Presents: Verwoed. Every year, the festival chooses a Dutch or Belgian band they feel has an especially “Roadburn flair” to perform a set to expose them to a larger international audience. Directly following, doom epicists Bell Witch bring their instant classic Mirror Reaper to the Kopelhal stage. For those not fully committed to the 83-minute breadth of that one, you can catch a replay of Hugsjá on the main stage or go a different doom route with Worship from Germany performing their 1999 Last Tape Before Doomsday in full, a stripped, genre-refining funeral doom classic sure to whet appetites for their forthcoming album.
Continuing in the vein of classic “as seen only in Tilburg” fashion, former Can frontman Damo Suzuki will front Japanese krautrock collective Minami Deutsch for a fuzzed-out psych afternoon delight. A slight clash with Italian black metal outfit Forgotten Tomb will provide excellent contrast for those not dedicated to catching the entirety of either, and anyone who wasn’t able to catch Planning for Burial or Panopticon has a second chance around this time as well before moving onto one of my most anticipated sets of the festival: Boris & Stephen O’Malley. Having only once seen O’Malley — performing a solo drone set at a small Brooklyn club — I’m looking forward to the unique energy of Boris intertwined with his signature voluminous presence.
While seemingly half the people I know are at least a little obsessed with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, I know virtually nothing about them so I’d like my first real experience with their music to be live. They take the main stage at 9pm, and should I find myself not enthralled, the wait for Thou x The Body is fairly short. I’ve only seen the former by themselves (well, with a fantastic guest vocal pairing with King Woman to cover Fleetwood Mac), so the pairing should add an extra layer of interest here.
By this time, the out-of-body hangover should reach peak surrealism, but I’ve booked the hotel through Monday morning and I’ll be goddamned if I’m gonna sleep the day away. Luckily the schedule is a bit scaled back, so wading through choice acts is less of a haul. My daily entrenchment in the festivities will begin with Wrekmeister Harmonies before wandering over to the Roadburn-specific spectacle of Vanagandr: Sol An Varma, an Icelandic black metal supergroup of sorts meant to open the main stage that day with a roar. Bell Witch perform a second set shortly thereafter at Het Patronaat, followed directly by Oregon doom outfit Hell.
While I will almost certainly be ready to relax in the hotel sauna at this point, I am absolutely thrilled with the inclusion of Bison on this lineup. I’ve been a fan for years, but thanks to the flagrant bullshit of trying to cross the Canadian border to play a show in America costing one’s firstborn and a truckload of gold bars I haven’t seen them live yet. That all changes when they close out the festival Sunday night at the Cup De Sac just after midnight
So now that you’ve got a quick rundown of my top picks, you can compare your own by hitting up the official site.
In addition to the packed schedule of bands, there will be panels, films, talks, and listening parties out the ass which you can check out here. Regular updates are posted on Roadburn’s Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.