Roadburn Deep Dives: Earthless

Roadburn 2008, Friday 18 April, 013 (Bat Cave) Main Stage

Imagine that you’re in a relatively small band, taking your first tentative steps outside your own country. You’re playing at a cool festival: in the smallest room, but that still means that a couple hundred people will watch you play. You’re having a smoke in those last 10 minutes before your show, when suddenly, the head honcho of the whole festival steps through the door and tells you that, newsflash, you’re headlining.

How would you react? You’d probably be wondering what the hell they put in the Netherlands weed. Surely that’s what Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell and bassist Mike Eginton also thought when this exact dream/potential nightmare scenario happened to them in 2008. Earthless 2008 is firmly rooted in Roadburn lore as one of “those” shows: where just having been there gives you bragging rights forever, and Earthless more than rose to the occasion and put on the performance of a lifetime on the Main Stage. But let’s rewind a little bit, and try to piece together how they got to this surreal situation.

José Carlos Santos

“It was simply a stroke of fate,” explains Walter, Roadburn’s artistic director. “We had booked Isis to headline and play an extensive two-hour set, but unfortunately they ended up having to cut it short to roughly 45 minutes, and leave right after. By that time, we didn’t have any other bands scheduled in the Main Stage anymore, as all that time had been reserved for Isis. There was a band already playing at the Bat Cave [the smallest venue at the 013 before its redesign a few years ago], and only Earthless remained after them. Me and the production went a bit nuts at that point, because we were very afraid of 2.500 people trying to cram into the Bat Cave for Earthless, as that was going to be the only show taking place at that time.”

It’s one of those situations that people who don’t organise festivals rarely think of: it isn’t a simple matter of just choosing a band and a venue – you have to predict and control the flow of people, so that potentially dangerous circumstances are avoided.

“We completely panicked – myself, production, stage managers: we all quickly realised we needed to have something, anything, happening on the Main Stage, or we’d be left with a couple of thousand people who had nowhere else to go,” Walter remembers. “I really didn’t know what to do. In desperation, I ran to the loading dock, just to see if I could spot someone from a band, any band, that would be willing and ready to play. Production were shouting in my in-ear communication system, and all I remember is going a bit crazy because time was ticking, and I needed a solution, now. I felt like I needed some air, so I walked back up the stairs – and I ran into Mario.”

This Mario was none other than Mario Rubalcaba, the drummer for Earthless. Mario was, by a delirious stroke of luck, walking around the venue, and he was the right man at the right time.

“I was on my way up to the little Bat Cave, ready to go set up my stuff,” the drummer recalls, still amused at how everything went down. “On my way there I ran into Walter, who was… I wouldn’t say he was in panic, but he was in a kind of state like that, I could tell there was something going on.”

Make no mistake, Walter was indeed in a panic.

“I asked Mario, “Do you guys want to play in the Main Stage, right now?”, Walter laughs. “He said yeah, but that he needed to check with the other guys too, so I ran to their dressing room, where I saw Isaiah [Mitchell, guitar and vocals] relaxing with a little smoke, and I asked him and Mike [Eginton, bass] the same thing, and I didn’t even give them time to answer. I just told them, ‘You have to get downstairs now: you’ll be on the Main Stage in five minutes. They were stunned, just looking at me like, ‘Dude, what?’”

Walter laughs, though no one was in the mood for chuckles back then; though Mario seems to have taken it all in his stride. “I was like, alright!” he laughs. “Regardless of a lot of people at the time not knowing who the band was, I saw it as a good chance to see what happened in that scenario, so we just went for it and did it. It was a lot of fun!”

But Walter’s panic mode, while subsided, wasn’t over yet. “Next I went to talk to the 013 tech crew for the Main Stage – the light guys, the sound engineers, the backline techs and everyone,” he recalls. “I told them what had happened, that the band who was going to play last at the Bat Cave had agreed to help us out and switch to the Main Stage at the last minute, and they all agreed that we would treat them like royalty!

“So they got everything: the best possible backline we had, the best sound and monitor engineers, the crew helped them as much as possible with everything they needed, full monitors, huge visuals, absolutely everything,” Walter continues. “While they were setting everything up, I headed to the office upstairs and printed a few A4 pieces of paper that said, ‘Earthless now playing in the Main Stage’, and I glued them on the doors of the Bat Cave, the Green Room, and in other strategic places. I was like a madman, running all over the building, putting papers up. If only we’d had Twitter back in 2008!”

And then, as all of us who were lucky enough to be there remember, magic happened. Even with Walter’s paper runs, not that many people were there at the beginning of the show, but when that supreme power known as word of mouth starts rolling, you don’t need Twitter. After just a few minutes, the room filled up from a couple hundred to a couple thousand people, all based on the jaw-dropping, mind-expanding jams that Earthless, just those three dudes, were letting loose on that humongous stage.

“I definitely remember the room filling up as we played, and kind of quickly too,” Mario says, thinking back. “At the time we were playing really new material, we had a song called From The Ages that we had just started to play live, it hadn’t been released yet and it would actually be a couple of years until the record with that song would come out: Roadburn was sort of its live debut. It was great to be able to do it without anyone knowing what it was, just watching it translate to a huge crowd and seeing what effect it had.

“I remember the sound on the stage was really good, I was stoked on the gear too,” he continues. “I was lucky to use J Mascis’ kit that he has stationed over there in Europe with some relatives. At the time he was playing this really big 28” bass drum, and he let me borrow his drum set. Everything sounded incredibly good, and I totally forgot it was getting recorded! I only thought of that when we got home. I’m so happy we had that show recorded, because it meant a lot to me and to the band. To come home and a few weeks later get the recording, and thinking about putting out that live record – especially since at the time the Live At Roadburn records weren’t common – was really special.”

Walter remembers that, “at the beginning there weren’t more than 400 or 500 people in the room, but it was obvious from the start that they were a phenomenal band. It was instant impact – boom! They floored everyone straight away, and the place filled up really quick. Everyone started texting one another, calling their friends in, and people went nuts. To this day, this show is the stuff of legend at Roadburn.”

For that reason alone, it deserves to be a part of this prime selection of Deep Dives. But Earthless 2008 also became a lot more than that. “In a way, it was a show that helped us unite the several scenes – psych, post-rock, post-metal, the more dark and experimental metal stuff like Neurosis: everyone was together at that show,” Walter remembers. “That’s the moment that I can pinpoint when Roadburn really started to feel like a scene itself that could unite all these little scenes, a gathering of like-minded people, a safe haven for all the underground misfits that all came together at Roadburn.”

It was also a learning curve, as two years later, because of that damn volcano, Walter and the staff would not only have to find an extra headliner to fill a few hours, but replace over half the festival lineup while it happened. It was panic mode x1000: but at least they had some experience in crisis management.

Finally, a kinship and an ongoing relationship developed from this starting point between the band and the festival, with mutual benefits to be reaped from both parts. “Roadburn was firmly rooted in Blue Cheer/Hawkwind, in the past,” Walter says. “But these two editions, 2007 and 2008, culminating in this unbelievable show by a relatively unknown band, made us realise there was a whole world of current bands, here in the now, doing new and exciting stuff, and that we had to turn ourselves to the future too.”

“It’s just such a cool thing to have,” Mario gushes. “Walter and everyone at the festival have been, since day one, the best people to work with. Just the whole vibe of the festival, I’ve been lucky to have been there five times and I’ve always been lucky to play, but even if I was just hanging out I would be completely stoked anyway. Each year, it’s the festival that rises above, keeps it fresh, and people keep digging it.”

Walter puts it simply: “Earthless and Roadburn became kindred spirits.”

Roadburn Deep Dives: Warning

Roadburn 2017, Saturday 22 April, 013 Main Stage

Don’t get us wrong – we’ll never knock wishlists. Wishlists have become a daily part of Roadburn, and it’s as exciting for us all to critique each others’ as it is to write them ourselves. We all have our own wishlists, too: this writer once handed Roadburn’s artistic director Walter a list, divided by categories, with 157 names – ranging from the absolutely impossible (like Darkthrone), to bands with 10 followers on Facebook.

The main thing that has to be managed when you make a wishlist – as well as stopping them from becoming their ugly cousin, a ‘demands list’ – is expectation. The booking process is often a long, bumpy and winding road, which more often than not leads to an insurmountable dead end, especially when dealing with inactive or ‘unlikely’ bands. We could write a book on the reasons why that band you really, really think would be so obvious to have at Roadburn hasn’t made it there yet. You have to learn to accept and deal with all kinds of situations. Getting your favourite band to play Roadburn can be a process that lasts for years until, in the best case scenario, it finally happens.

José Carlos Santos
Paul Verhagen (pics)

Sometimes, the best course of action is to just do nothing, as Walter learned when trying to get Patrick Walker’s old band Warning to reunite and play their classic album Watching from a Distance at Roadburn. We all wept with joy and raw emotion when the likes of Footprints and Bridges finally echoed through the 013 Main Stage in 2017, where Warning seemed like they’d always belonged. It was one of the most profoundly touching shows this writer has ever seen, at Roadburn or anywhere else. But it took an honest conversation in London to get the ball, well, not quite rolling, and then a relatively long wait to make it happen.

“For me, the biggest thing that I took from that Warning show is that you have to be patient with people,” Walter reasons. “Sometimes it’s no use pressuring an artist into doing something when you want them to do something. Some of our most special shows have taken years of preparation to put together, and sometimes that preparation just involves waiting for the right moment. With Patrick Walker and Warning, that’s exactly how it worked. He was very honest with me – he told me he would want to do it, he told me that it would happen at some point, but he asked me not to pressure him and not to put him on the spot. And that’s exactly what I did. I let it rest, I didn’t push it, and a couple of years after that first conversation he finally brought it up again and we were able to make it happen.”

That first conversation took place, at a Primordial show in London. “There is a photograph of the show where this conversation happened, that Becky [Roadburn’s publicist] took,” Patrick Walker recalls with a laugh. “I had been rehearsing for the weekend with 40 Watt Sun, and a friend told me to come down because Becky and Walter would be there. So I went down after rehearsal, and I spoke to Walter about the Warning thing. I don’t remember much about it, to be honest! But I do think that was probably the first time we brought it up. I was in no hurry to do it because we were rehearsing for the second 40 Watt Sun at the time, so my priorities were very much elsewhere. I needed a while to focus on other things, because I knew it would take a little time to get Warning back together.”

Even if it was going to take some time, it was clear to everyone involved that the first return of Warning would have to take place at Roadburn. “I knew I would tour it,” Patrick says, “but I had no interest or any thoughts about debuting the show anywhere else. I had two experiences of Roadburn prior to that with 40 Watt Sun, so I knew what kind of festival it was, and it would have been that or nothing. I just can’t think of another festival where it would have felt like that…” He makes a long pause to collect his thoughts.

“Roadburn is a festival where everyone is made to feel of equal importance,” he continues. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re the headlining band or if you’re playing in the Green Room at 3pm on Friday afternoon; everyone is made to feel as if they’re of real importance to the success of the festival, that they are of the same value to the audiences. And every audience at every show proves this. The enthusiasm is the same, and everyone is always very respectful of the bands. It’s also a much more leftfield festival than any other which specialises in heavy music. I just couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else. I had no obligations to do the show there or anything, but Walter just treated me so well throughout the years and my experiences playing there were so good, that there wasn’t any question.”

The Warning chapter seems to be fully closed now, after the shows, reissues, and everything else that went on for a couple of years following that impactful reunion at Roadburn 2017. It was an important closure that the band needed to have. When Patrick asked Walter for a little wait before planning the reunion, he wasn’t pushing things into an indefinite hiatus – he knew it would have to happen.

“The thing with Warning is, we were one of those bands cursed with achieving a kind of cult success posthumously,” Patrick chuckles. “We got a kind of reputation after we split up, that we could never enjoy. I was eager to get that band and that music behind me while I was doing it, to move on to other things, but it did reach a point where I remember thinking, ‘I can imagine doing that again, I would quite like to do those songs again, with a proper, full band, in front of audiences now.’ Also, I wanted to play the album as it was recorded, to use two guitars and everything. There were things on the record which, in hindsight, I regarded as bad judgments on my part. While I couldn’t go back and re-record the album, I could certainly repair them in a live situation. I just wanted to do it, I wanted to travel with Marcus [Hatfield, bassist] again because he’s one of my best friends. After the hard work of doing the second 40 Watt Sun record, it felt right. And now I feel like I’ve done that record justice. It was good to be in touch with a lot of people whom that music has touched. It’s done now.”

The fact that Warning is a done chapter now isn’t any kind of dramatic gesture by Patrick. He’s just not the kind of artist to have different projects and outputs. “I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter what band I’m playing in, what band name I’m playing under. The music will always be the same,” Patrick explains. “Whatever music I’m writing and performing is always part of the same artistic approach. It’s not a question of stopping one thing and then going back and doing another. It’s a timeline that just keeps going, no matter what the name is. People associate Warning with me doing ‘doom metal’, but that’s just because that’s the record I did in 2006. Those shows merely revisited that period of my life. The record I made four or five years after that was still a ‘heavy’ record, but it was already different. It was one step away from that. And the next one was another step forward. If I would do music under the Warning name now – which I wouldn’t – it wouldn’t sound any different from what I’m doing now. I only ever make the music that comes naturally, that comes out of me.”

As for the Warning show itself at Roadburn 2017, the preparation wasn’t exactly peaceful, as Patrick reveals: “It was quite stressful, because the biggest thing that happened prior to the show was that Christian [Leitch], who was the drummer for 40 Watt Sun at the time and who had been the drummer in the last incarnation of Warning, he pulled out about four or five days before Christmas in 2016, so that was less than four months before the show.”

“I thought, fuck,” Patrick continues. “What am I going to do? I spoke to Becky, and she recommended Andrew Prestidge, who I didn’t know, but I listened to some of his recordings and watched some of his videos. I liked it, so I contacted him, explained the situation, which was a bit awkward – ‘Oh, we have a show on the Main Stage at Roadburn in three-and-a-half months, and we’ll be touring after that…'” Patrick laughs. “He had a listen to the album and he said he’d do it, and we only started rehearsing around the end of January, but everything ended up working very well. We still needed to do some rehearsing right before the show, because although I had been performing rather consistently, Marcus hadn’t been on a stage in about eight years, and Wayne [Taylor, guitarist] hadn’t performed to an audience in about 20 years! I did feel a bit vulnerable, so we also had a rehearsal the day before we performed.

“As for the day of the show itself, I don’t remember much, to be honest!” Patrick says. “What I remember the most is that I took about eight hot showers! There’s a lot of air conditioning in the backstage area, and it was really drying out my throat, so the only way I could lubricate my voice properly was to take these near boiling hot showers. I just kept walking out of the dressing room in a towel all afternoon, Andrew was saying, ‘Fucking hell, you must be the cleanest man in doom!'”

So it was a sparkling, squeaky clean Patrick Walker who stepped up on stage to deliver those mournful, exhilarating, transcendental songs we all know and love, and, according to him, “it went pretty smoothly, I think”.

“Pretty smoothly” is by far and away the most shining compliment you will ever hear Patrick say about any of his shows. And if any doubts remain that their Roadburn appearance was something special, the fact that not even Patrick can poke holes in that performance is the absolute proof of it. “I don’t remember beating myself up about it afterwards,” he says with a chuckle, before adding, very seriously: “When the show finished, all I remember is feeling incredibly proud for the rest of my band. I felt wonderful for Marcus and Wayne, and Andrew too, because he was a lifesaver for us.”

And now, as with most other artists that we’ve featured on this Deep Dives series, the story continues. The ongoing relationship is there. As many of you will know, 40 Watt Sun were one of the main choices in Emma Ruth Rundle’s 2020 curatorship that sadly never took place. But we are fairly confident (and we’re not pushing you, Patrick, don’t worry!) that we might see him in Tilburg a few times more.

“I’m not a prolific live performer,” Patrick says. “I don’t do a lot of shows, and that’s largely through choice. But the times I’ve done Roadburn, it’s always felt like a kind of a milestone. It’s always made to feel like an event. They’re some of the best shows I’ve played, and to some of the best audiences as well. When I think back to the 90s, the idea of playing this kind of music at a festival like Roadburn would be unfathomable. There’s just such great diversity and tolerance from everyone there. It will always be my festival of choice. And like I said before, none of this has nothing to do with the billing or the stage you’re on or anything like that. It’s down to the credit of the festival and Walter that everyone is made to feel equal. We’re all on the same path. We’re all on the same journey.”

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Roadburn Deep Dives: Eyehategod

Roadburn 2010, Sunday 18 April, 013 Green Room (Setlist: Not even the band knows.)

Eyjafjallajökull. Icelandic for ‘motherfucker’. It’s not, really (it’s ‘glacier of the mountains of the islands’, if you must know). But after 2010, when its eruption led to the chaotic disruption of the European air space and subsequently the Roadburn lineup that year, we should have earned the right to change that particular translation. Roadburn would go on to have such a wonderfully close relationship with the Icelandic underground, receiving the cream of their various crops year after year but back then Iceland had other plans. Why, Icelandic nature, why?

José Carlos Santos
Paul Verhagen (pics)

But, there was a silver lining. Several, even. First of all, Roadburn managed to get all of the bands that had to pull out because of the volcano back the following year. Secondly, many bands stepped up to fill those slots in 2010 with such a desire to help, such a passion to make up for all the losses, that their performances turned into something legendary. So, perhaps, we should actually be thankful to motherf… pardon, Eyjafjallajökull. During those wild hours of 2010, Roadburn really discovered what its community is made of, and bonds formed there are unbroken to this day.

One particularly endearing and representative story from the 2010 edition is that of Eyehategod. The legendary NOLA band had played on Thursday, on the first day of the festival, before the full reach of that fateful ash cloud had made its presence felt, Then they went on their merry way, to fulfil the remaining dates of their European tour. However, when Eyehategod heard about the depressingly empty lineup that Roadburn was facing for Sunday, they reached out to the festival from thousands of miles away and offered to come and help make it right with a second performance, even if it meant driving all night from the North of Italy to Tilburg.

“My memories from that year are a mess, it was so difficult to reschedule everything and to find all the replacements; everything was chaos,” remembers Roadburn’s artistic director Walter. You can tell it’s still rather painful to bring back those memories of the year when the sky seemed to have fallen in on Roadburn.

“I remember on the Saturday night of the festival, I got a call that was either from Eyehategod or their tour manager,” Walter says. “They told me they were in Italy but that they would drive up to Tilburg and get there in time to play as Eyehategod, if we wanted. Since the Afterburner [the name previously given to the Sunday of the festival] had almost completely fallen through, we were totally at a loss, desperate to find bands to cover all the slots, so that was a huge thing for us, especially as they said they could even play a longer set than usual to fill up a bit more time on the schedule. I was incredibly moved by the offer.  Of course we told them just show up whenever you can and we will make everything work. It was such a great thing they did for us, without asking for anything in return. We didn’t even discuss a fee or anything! All they wanted was to play, be a part of the festival and to help us out. They were super stoked to be there.”

Mike IX Williams’ memory of the event is, rather predictably, even hazier, but such a feeling is not erasable, not even by the many beverages the Eyehategod frontman was consuming at the time. “I was really drunk back then, man,” Mike says with a weary laugh. “I was drinking a lot of vodka at the time, so I don’t remember a lot of it. But what I do remember very well was getting word of what was happening, our tour manager telling us there was an opening, and asking if we wanted to go help out and play another show.

“I remember being really happy, because we absolutely love Roadburn, we’ve always loved playing there: it’s one of our favourite places in the world. We were very happy to do it. It was exciting. I think it was a day off that we had, so we decided to use that to travel back there and just play and have fun with the Roadburn people.”

After a couple of days of bonding together to overcome adversity as one, the Roadburn community was clearly, despite everything that was going on, at a high point when Mike and the boys got there.

“Man, we even played Fuckmouth, which should tell you everything about how that show was,” Mike laughs. “People still talk about that today. Fuckmouth was kind of a joke between me and Brian [Patton, ex-Eyehategod guitarist] and Joey [LaCaze, Eyehategod’s former drummer who passed away in 2013].”

Fuckmouth was the name given to what can only be described as something of a mutant sideproject. “We would just do these grindcore songs sometimes, we’d say it was Fuckmouth,” he says.

“Overall, it was a super fun show,” Mike says. “People were just yelling out songs, and we played them! I have no idea what songs we actually played, or how many; I just know we kept cranking them out for hours. We’re pretty loose anyway with that kind of stuff, we make up the setlists as we go along, but that show was like the extreme version of that. In a special situation like that, we thought we’d just keep playing until people were sick of us!”

We’re not sure that’s possible – if we had our way, they’d still be up there today, 11 years later, cranking out those wonderfully ugly-ass tunes of theirs.

“I just remember that everybody went completely berserk, it was insanity and it was amazing,” Walter says with a wide smile. “There was such a good rapport between them and the audience, it was a completely unified vibe. There was no difference between band and audience, it was all about everyone being there together in the room. It was a reflection of how that whole edition turned out in the end – the camaraderie was so strong and everyone was so connected: bands, staff and fans, and Eyehategod fit right in. The connection that band has with the Roadburn fans and with the whole staff of the festival is remarkable. They’ve always been completely in sync with us.”

The love, it seems, is 100% mutual. “We love Walter, he’s always treated us really well,” Mike says. “We haven’t played Roadburn in a few years, but when things are normal again we’d love to come back. The two shows we did with Corrections House [in 2014] were also so great, it always feels like a special place to be. Whenever we can come back, we will!”

As Mike talks about the 2010 Roadburn, more memories come trickling back; he even remembers a few post-show shenanigans that went on backstage. “Church Of Misery played that year, didn’t they?” Indeed they did. “I knew it, because that was the first time we actually met them,” Mike says. “We’re really good friends with them now, we’ve played with them a bunch of times, but we hadn’t met them yet back then. I remember being down in the dressing room area at the 013, and Joey started throwing bottles against the wall, there was broken glass everywhere, and the guys in Church Of Misery were looking at us funny and didn’t really know what to think of that. To us it was just having crazy fun and everyone was in a great mood, but it got a little too crazy, and the look on their faces was great!”

Karma was also kind to Eyehategod after their good deed, as they managed to nab one of the very few flights that made it to the US after their show. “We were nervous about being able to make it back home, but we got lucky,” Mike says. “Flying home after that happened, I remember we passed over near Iceland and they made us close the windows to the plane. I think they didn’t want us to see the smoke: that was really weird.”

All in all, Roadburn 2010 was all about unity, community, and facing trouble head-on. “That year was special because it cemented our community big time,” Walter states. “And Eyehategod was a really important part of that. Their attitude emphasised what Roadburn was all about. We faced adversity together, as a community, as a family, and we overcame it together. Everyone stuck together. And that show was the most visible representation of that feeling. It showed our true colours as a tight knit group. We’re there for each other, we have each other’s backs, always.”

A decade later, it was that same spirit of community that made Roadburners approach a festival cancellation due to a pandemic by communicating on a Facebook group where they pretended to be at the festival instead. A year later, we will keep going through it together with Roadburn Redux online. We’ll all be okay on the other side of this. Together.

Scene Report: Death Metal

"The presence of death metal at Roadburn raises another point: is the death metal scene changing, or are more people just aware of its existence?" - Tomas Lindberg.

Death metal is a relatively young genre, all things considered. When genre progenitors Death, led by the late Chuck Schuldiner, released their landmark debut Scream Bloody Gore in 1987, the genre was nascent and primitive. In just a few short years, these genre pioneers embraced melody and progressive elements alongside their blast beats and shock-value cover art.

Evolution and progression quickly became hallmarks of death metal. The spirit of change drives the genre as much as the musicians’ love for knuckle-dragging riffs and camo shorts.

Vince Bellino

“Forming a new band, we were like ‘Yeah, let’s have no boundaries,” recalls Tomas Lindberg. “We can include violin, we can listen to King Crimson and try to incorporate that. That was the main starting point of the whole band and that’s still what we live by.”

In the early 1990s, Tomas and his bandmates in At The Gates found themselves at the forefront of the burgeoning melodic death metal movement in Gothenburg, Sweden alongside peers like In Flames and Ceremonial Oath. Though At The Gates initially broke up in 1996 in the wake of their legacy-making and subgenre-defining fourth album, Slaughter of the Soul, their place in the Swedish death metal scene was undeniable. Tomas remembers that time fondly and sees it as a creative period, though he admits that he didn’t foresee the legacy of the Gothenburg sound.

“When you’re that young, you’re very ambitious and almost pretentious,” Tomas reflects. “You think you have all the answers, you think you know everything, so we thought what we were doing was exactly how we want our music to sound. Of course, it was inspiring after a few years. Other bands in the area, Dark Tranquility, In Flames, started to pop up and there was a healthy competition in a way.”

Of course, the 1990s Gothenburg scene is but one of countless to emerge in death metal’s 35-year existence. A quick scan through the archives of Terrorizer, Metal Maniacs or Decibel reveals scenes in regions around the world: New York and Florida in the United States; the Gothenburg sound as well as the “buzzsaw” Swedish variant; scenes in Finland, the United Kingdom, and many other corners of the globe.

Today, melodic death metal exists around the world and Slaughter of the Soul is widely accepted as a stone-cold classic. But while the echoes of Gothenburg can be heard everywhere, the death metal scene – and extreme metal at large – is changing. For artists, the advent of services like Bandcamp and the internet in general has changed everything. Coupled with recording costs that are lower than ever before and the existence of social media, the distribution and consumption of obscure and extreme music has never been easier.

Reflecting on the band’s decade-and-change career thus far, Full Of Hell vocalist Dylan Walker attributes a portion of the band’s success – and general existence – to the internet.
“All the tools are more laid out for anyone than ever before and I think that’s important,” Dylan muses. “It can’t be a gated experience and it’s not; I think the barriers are all falling down and yeah, you could say that’s going to oversaturate things, but that’s fine with me. It’s like a rainforest – there will be a lot of dead plants on the bottom, but everybody deserves an equal opportunity to start a band.”

Dylan explains that when Full Of Hell began some 12 years ago, the band had no recorded music, and didn’t consider themselves to be very good. That didn’t stop them, however: strictly utilising social media, the then-teenagers got in the van and began to play shows. Seven years, a couple LPs and a staggering number of EPs and splits later, Full Of Hell met their creative equal in long-running experimental duo The Body, with whom they released the collaborative album One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache.

The two groups toured the album, which was an unorthodox and unsettling amalgam of noise, sludge, industrial, grindcore and death metal. As Dylan explains, The Body were invited to perform at Roadburn in 2016, and Full Of Hell “snuck on” the festival as their tourmates.
“It went really well,” Dylan says. “I definitely feel like we stood out but that was the year Converge did Jane Doe and G.I.S.M. played, and to me you could feel a different vibe just based on how it was curated.”

Full Of Hell’s inclusion at Roadburn in 2016, in addition to their planned residency at Roadburn 2020, is one of many indicators that the winds of change are blowing. The grinding death metal quartet, with their noisy trappings and shrieking, animalistic vocals, are not a “typical” Roadburn band. Traditionally, very few death metal or grindcore bands have played Roadburn, and the limited performances have generally been special sets.

With Roadburn’s roots as a stoner/doom and heavy psych festival, 2016 was a pivotal year for the festival, introducing Full of Hell and Repulsion to the mix. The inclusion stuck – in just four years, Full Of Hell went from outsider extremists to would-be artists in residence at Roadburn. Dylan doesn’t find it that strange, noting that he thought Japanese metal-punk weirdos G.I.S.M. were a far weirder act.

When considering At The Gates2019 performance at Roadburn, the same year he was a featured curator, Tomas says that the band paid special attention to crafting a set that would appeal to a crowd unfamiliar with their music. In addition to classic material, At The Gates performed songs with cellist Jo Quail, and also performed covers with Swedish songwriter Anna von Hausswolff and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike.

“We did pre-productions, recordings, rehearsing in different places with different guest musicians and everything, writing scores for the strings,” Tomas recalls of At The Gates’ performance at the festival. “It was huge. When we stepped off that stage afterwards, we were happy and thrilled, but we were also very relieved because it was a huge undertaking.”

Still, it raises the question: does death metal belong at Roadburn, and if so, in what form?

“Anything could happen, but with At the Gates, we are aware of what a Roadburn band is, and we also know that we are not a 100% Roadburn band, but our music is 200% Roadburn,” Tomas says, perpetuating the idea that a “Roadburn band” is not about genre. The presence of death metal at Roadburn raises another point: is the death metal scene changing, or are more people just aware of its existence? The consensus seems to fall toward the latter: regardless of generation and role in the scene, every individual interviewed for this piece agreed that, while the scene is growing because of new technology and less-centralised scenes, forward-thinking and unorthodox artists have always been a part of death metal. It’s just more visible now.

Dark Descent Records has been crucial in death metal’s surging popularity over the last decade and change. Now approaching its twelfth anniversary, Dark Descent is responsible for introducing bands like Horrendous, Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice to the scene at large. Though he’s signed some of the most popular bands in the scene today, owner Matt Calvert explains that he chooses bands because he enjoys them and they fit on the label. Because Dark Descent has a rapport with its customers, fans are then willing to give new bands a try after seeing the label’s stamp of approval, harkening back to the days of old when longhairs put their blind faith in Earache Records (until the label “betrayed” them by releasing Heartwork).

“12 years to me is a long time for sure, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a very large timeframe for others,” Matt says. “We’ve had customers say “Hey, I’ve been listening to your releases since I was 15, I’m in my mid-20s now.”

Matt also points out that death metal has always been able to endure surges and ebbs in popularity, noting that the underground genre has been around long enough to have developed a fanbase that ignores the larger trends. “You love this music or you don’t,” he asserts. “I’m 50 this year, and I still listen to it because I love it. All I’m going to do is keep putting out quality releases and if some people leave us, they leave us.

“I don’t know if we’d call it a fad,” he continues, thinking about the enduring appeal of death metal, and the waxing and waning of its popularity. “We might call it a lessening of the audience, and that’s probably different. At this point, death metal’s been established for quite a while.”

This endurance is what allows new strains to grow within death metal; Matt says that three decades is long enough for bands to develop diverse influences. In decades prior, the pool to draw inspiration from was much smaller. The access to those varying influences also allows for a much more dialed-in sound, in whatever direction that artist wants to go.

“I think it’ll get more intelligent, it’ll get dumber, I think every good little aspect of metal and punk and extreme music like that, everybody is gonna be able to pick exactly what sliver of the sound they really like, and bore into it,” Dylan says. In many ways, the desire to burrow into more and more specific and dialed-in sounds is the same desire that drives Roadburn curators, individuals who are crucial to the festival’s presentation every year.

“Every Roadburn is different depending on who is curating it a little bit,” Tomas says. “I was very meticulous about it. Every band that I chose for the curation would fit into the Roadburn audience’s frame of mind a little bit, but still challenge them.”

For At The Gates, it’s their influence from bands like King Crimson and orchestral instruments and grand instrumentation that drives the sound in a different direction. For Full Of Hell, it’s the way the noisemongers borrow just the pieces they want from other genres. “I felt like it was a badge of honor to just participate, because to me it was so carefully curated,” Dylan says. “I think that’s a really smart festival and we always wanted Full of Hell to sort of fit into that.”

Lindberg and Walker both express their belief that most death metal bands could play Roadburn under some circumstance. Prior to Full of Hell’s inclusion, Napalm Death performed a special set of slower material in 2014, Repulsion played in 2016 and in 2019, Ulcerate made their debut at the festival.

The At The Gates vocalist stresses the cross-pollination that already exists between scenes, pointing out the fact that Mono played the same year as the Gothenburg legends. According to Tomas, the two bands make an effort to catch each other when they perform in the other’s home country. He adds that he has also performed at Roadburn with crust stalwarts Disfear, whose sound is more traditional.

In the same way that Tomas believes that Disfear fit as a release from the eclecticism that bands like At The Gates and Mono provide, he suggests that both more progressive and more primitive variants of death metal can find a home at the festival. Dylan agrees: while his immediate response is to suggest that bands like Gorguts, Artificial Brain and Tomb Mold would be the best fit for Roadburn, he quickly adds that “ultra-brutal dumb stuff” fits in the outside-the-box expectations that he has for Roadburn’s yearly lineup.

“It’d be pretty out of the box to see Sanguisugabogg on there, but I think if Walter likes it, it makes sense” he says, referring to festival mastermind and artistic director Walter / Roadburn. “I think people would be into it. Who’s to say where the line is?”

Death metal has come a long way since the 1990s, and has continued to evolve since the genre’s popularity blossomed again in the mid-2010s. As the genre continues to grow, it makes room for bands both progressive and traditional; just as the old-school death metal revival rages on into the 2020s, bands are also releasing albums that couldn’t have been imagined when Cynic wrote Focus or when Roadburn opened its gates for the first time in April 1999.

Despite its reputation as a metal festival – generally one that serves a doom-oriented crowd – Roadburn has also spent over 20 years evolving into a multi-faceted festival. No longer is the festival a three-band, one-day event. In 2022, attendees will have dozens of bands to choose from over three days. No two Roadburners will have quite the same experience, much like no two bands on the festival sound quite the same.

The future of Roadburn and the future of death metal are yet to be written, but for now, the genre is growing and has found a home at the festival, with Full Of Hell planning to return in 2022. Whether attributed to progressive elements or a fortuitous choice in collaborators, the spirit of innovation and a love for heavy, alternative music have brought the two together.
“I think it still holds the same banner,” Dylan concludes. “It’s about progressive music and inclusivity and that’s about it. I don’t think it’s limited any longer. It definitely seems like there’s more of a variety. Who knows what to expect nowadays?”



For all this talk of string instruments in death metal, the old-school practitioners are showing that you can teach an old dog new tricks. San Francisco outfit Necrot earned their stripes through heavy touring and constant focus. Tours with Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Suffocation and the Black Dahlia Murder have confirmed that Necrot can stand with the greats. Their second and latest album, Mortal, charted on Billboard’s Hard Rock and New Artist charts, proving the genre still has plenty of life left in it.

Blood Incantation

Pink Floyd never imagined a trip like this. Cosmic raging death dealers Blood Incantation have always marched to the beat of their own drum—recording with analogue technology, resisting a presence on social media until absolutely necessary and writing 18-minute songs with 17-word titles. The final product is unlike any other: atmospheric, psychedelic, intensely technical and played with frightening precision, the death metal equivalent to a breakthrough mushrooms trip.

Outer Heaven

Morbid Angel knew Where the Slime Live, and it seems like Philadelphia’s Outer Heaven do too. On their full-length debut, Realms of Eternal Decay, Outer Heaven took the best parts of death metal’s classics and synthesised a slab of progressive, swampy death metal that tells the story of a primordial slime’s conquest of Earth.


New York state has historically been home to some of death metal’s filthiest, heaviest bands and Undeath do those forefathers proud. Their debut full-length, Lesions Of A Different Kind, is a pure celebration of death, in both a sonic and conceptual sense. Lesions sounds like a remastered lost classic, with its boneheaded riffing, cavernous vocals and song titles like Phantasmal Festering and Chained To A Reeking Rotting Body.

Venom Prison

Venom Prison were formed in opposition to death metal’s most-misogynistic tropes. Their first album, Animus, features an assailant being force fed his recently-removed genitals, a good indicator for the brutality within. Their second album, Samsara, hits just as hard because it’s often rooted in reality. Vocalist Larissa Stupar takes aim at politics, sexual assault, hate crimes and mental illness against chugging, biting guitars and pounding drums with a touch of hardcore influence. The UK quintet call for change—both in the world at large and in the death metal scene—and battle tropes with no gimmick.


For every Venom Prison, there is a Sanguisugabogg. The Columbus quartet appeal to the genre’s deranged, perverse side, writing songs about pornography, sex and excessive gore with all the finesse of a neanderthal and his club. Songs like Dead as Shit and Dick Filet betray a sense of humor that isn’t present in the horror movie lyrics of Gored in the Chest or Dragged by a Truck.

Scene Report: Dark Electronics

‘I hear the roar of the big machine
Two worlds and in between
Hot metal and methedrine’

Andrew Eldritch was on one long amphetamine comedown when he wrote the Sisters Of Mercy’s best material throughout the 1980s. Staunchly in denial of his gothness and holding firm as Draculian rock god of the British Isles, Eldritch remains the ideal intersection of dark electronic music and guitar-driven rock and heavy metal that, sometimes, can draw in the same type of listener.

In the above lyrics, taken from 1987 anthem Lucretia My Reflection, guitars grind down into the tick-tock heartbeat of Eldritch’s beloved drum machine Doktor Avalanche. His solemn baritone vocals ring out in the chaos, an uncanny antihero’s voice projected with confidence, with aggression. It is weird and heavy, monumental and moving. Play it at the goth club or at the metal bar alike and you’re almost guaranteed to notice a fellow true ‘head’s face light up.

Electronic music and heavy metal couldn’t seem more different in theory, but that surface level reading belies an ocean of common waters in which plenty a black-clad rebel might swim. Anyone who’s dug out a perimeter spot in an active pit knows the thrill of throbbing as one with their fellow concert goer; this also holds true for the industrial techno raver swapping sweat with other dancers during a pounding Berlin sunrise.

Kelsey Chapstick

Los Angeles act HEALTH are a contemporary group who understand and exemplify this crossover potential by fusing heavy electronics with more traditional rock instrumentation to create what they describe as “modern hard rock”. In this 2019 Revolver interview, they discuss how classic bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple have already released the greatest hits that genre can offer. Adding synthesisers is, for HEALTH, the way forward that can add heft and interest to their music.

“Whenever we say something needs to be heavier, it needs ‘more dog’,” they explain, citing a goofy episode of The Simpsons that features dogs swimming in a brewery’s vat of beer to increase the flavour potential of the batch. They cite the Roland TR-808 synthesiser as being “huger [sic] than anything in the world”, and note they incorporate tools like that in order to sound “the most fuckin’ dog”.

While HEALTH aim for sheer power in their music, more nuanced acts like Roadburn favourites Kaelan Mikla rely primarily on thematic heaviness to convey a sense of darkness and weight. Their layered synth lines weave a smoky incantation of Icelandic folklore and tortured dreamscapes, while pulsating backbeats get your body moving.

In an interview I conducted for Revolver right before the release of their 2018 LP Nott Eftir Nott, keyboard player and vocalist Solveig Matthildur said they’d written “songs of regret, shadows, witches and all the things that lure in the darkest hour of night mixed with Icelandic folklore, and reminiscent of the winter darkness that simultaneously frightens us and makes us feel at home”.

Her move from a black metal hotspot like Iceland to techno-drenched Berlin surely affected the dancier bits of the record, further gluing their feet in divergent scenes with ease and panache. One look at their latest video Sólstöður shows their continued love for blackened imagery while pointed doses of aggressive shrieking only highlight the beautiful contrast to a steady, pounding beat.

In complete opposition to HEALTH and Kaelan Mikla is a Roadburn Redux performer, Ethan Lee McCarthy. His project Many Blessings, a self-described “experimental outlet” for the Primitive Man and Vermin Womb frontman, is less interested in dance beats and fully dedicated to brain-melting aural terror; though, if you’re already familiar with the paralysing death metal terror of Primitive Man, that should be no surprise.

Violent, caustic, and ambient in the way a train grinding through a football field of rusty cars might be, Many Blessings albums like Thank You, Good Bye are comprised of increasingly harsh sounds over droning sonic backdrops that facilitate a sort of uneasy catharsis. The quixotically confessional titles are works of art in themselves, posing questions like Is it A Victimless Crime?, while other tracks like Wet Vessel beg for explanations that will never come. McCarthy stabs at the rawest form of self-expression through unfettered sounds and, without fail, draws blood every time.

There’s no way to talk about spilled blood in harsh electronics without mentioning HIDE. The duo excel beyond being simply musicians and instead use terrifying visuals, abrasive soundscapes, scathing performances, and their foreboding presence to sear through the heart of electronic music since their 2014 inception. Singer Heather Gabel doesnt pull a single punch when slicing into the meat of the outfit’s purpose, telling Revolver in 2014:

“I want people to feel afraid. So many people live in fear all the time because of who they are. My songs are about turning it back on the people who prey on [them].”

HIDE were set to perform on Roadburn’s fated 2020 lineup, a dismal loss for ticket-holders who anticipated the acerbic bite of the duo’s stage presence. COVID-19 took plenty of incredible acts away in its wrath, especially in a year when electronic music was set to take on perhaps its largest role in the festival’s history.

Boy Harsher were another victim of the cancellation, but now’s the time to dive deep on their catalog if you haven’t yet. If you’ve been to any goth club or party in the past several years, you’ve heard Pain.  It’s infectious, sexy, impossible to ignore, and one of the biggest hits of the dark electronic music scene in recent history. It’s the Massachusetts act’s signature song, and a perfect example of why they deserve every ounce of attention they’ve gotten over the past few years.

Formed in 2013 as Teen Dreamz before changing names and refining their dance appeal the following year, Boy Harsher dropped their debut Yr Body Is Nothing in 2016 and have since released instant classics like Country Boy Uncut and Careful with seemingly effortless charisma and creativity. The two members, Augustus Mueller and Jae Matthews, come from film-focused backgrounds and use their knack for tension-building and keen aesthetics to craft brilliant works of art like Send Me A Vision, which you can watch below. Timeless, ethereal, and unsettling in the most exciting way, it’s a stunning short film.

Another million-plus viewed video of Boy Harsher is Motion, which stars another prolific underground music star, Kristina Esfandiari. Kristina is the pinnacle of crossover potential, working as the mastermind behind passionate doom peddlers King Woman (formerly a solo project) while simultaneously creating bubblegum indie as Miserable, revenge rap as Dalmation, harsh industrial act NGHTCRWLR – we could go on, but you get the picture. She’s the physical manifestation of what multi-genre fusing looks like in one artist, and a prime reason why none of us should fear taking in sounds that seem daunting or different, unfamiliar.

Ultimately, that lack of fear and coming together of the creative minds is the spirit that drives a festival like Roadburn. While it may have started as a more stoner-doom mashup of acts that indulged in the legality of cannabis in its home country, the fest has since become a multi-headed hydra of brash, unapologetic performers that seek to touch, move, and enthrall their loyal watchers while indoctrinating newcomers into new, unknown pleasures.

While many of us joined scenes like those found tied to heavy metal or goth out of a sense of rejection from mainstream ideals, we’re sometimes reluctant to find common ground in that exile. Sloughing off rigid genre loyalty is refreshing and empowering, though, and not nearly as scary as it might seem at first. Heshers can dance, dancers can headbang, and the point of it all has always been fun, poetic, emotional catharsis through movement and art, community and camaraderie.


She Past Away

While they cringe at comparisons to the Sisters, it’s impossible to deny that She Past Away share at least a few sonic similarities with them. They are also a valuable voice in the dark electronic scene today, as well as another would-be act from Roadburn’s impeccable and sorely missed 2020 lineup.

The Turkish goths are known for their captivating hooks and dense atmospherics, beginning with their 2009 debut EP, Kasvetli Kutlama. Singer Volkan Caner haunts with a lonesome bellow while ice guitars, punchy keyboards, and a steady beat on the drum machine swirl up enchantment.

The EP’s title track is a depressive, atmospheric ode to loneliness and feeling one’s self slip away in a sea of ‘black leather masks on fake faces’ – lyrics that would feel just at home on a black or doom metal album. While those genres tend toward concentrated, dedicated crowds, She Past Away’s undeniable catchiness boosted their crossover appeal and gained an impressive eight and a half million views on YouTube alone. Even hesher diehards won’t be able to deny the duo’s magnetism and, really, why try?

Andi Harriman

Music journalist, DJ, frequent lecturer, and literal writer on the book of goth (check out her coveted tome Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace), Andi Harriman is one of modern electronic music’s best assets for carrying the torch of everything dark and dance floor-ready. You can find a smattering of entrancing sample sets on her website that give a peek into her musical style and the type of tunes she’s likely to spin at Synthicide, an electronic party and label she runs in New York City.

Also make sure to check out her debut EP with Berlin-based label Aufnahme + Wiedergabe, including the video for Ruminandum, that acts as a colorful pastiche of ’80s-influenced imagery dragged straight from the subconscious of an AI-generated brain fed a decade’s worth of archival MTV footage and early digital experimentation.


Gallops made their band debut at Roadburn, thus establishing their legitimacy on this list but also solidifying the growing breadth of ‘burners’ listening habits. When I attended in 2018, I recall the inescapable draw of Gost blocking out a full room of attendees ready to boogie, but they have since moved into more industrial territory, and left a gap into which another danceable act must fall if the crowd wants to keep moving well into the night. Enter: Gallops.

Tracks like Darkjewel and Shakma are perfect examples of their crossover potential when we’re talking ravers and heshers: there’s a steady, four-on-the-floor beat succeeded by ineffable grooves that hook the ear and move the body effortlessly.

Drab Majesty

Dais Records act Drab Majesty are coldwave revolutionaries whose simmering, perfect 1980s heartbeat builds on the aesthetics of vaporwave, the sounds of modern new wave, and the visual appeal of Andy Warhol dressed as a cyborg clown from 1967’s idea of the future.

Drab Majesty started as the solo project of Deb Demure, the alter ego of Andrew Clinco of American rockers Marriages, since the release of 2012 EP Unarian Dances. 2017 seemed to blow the doors off with the release of The Demonstration, just after Mona D joined the small crew. Their live performances as a duo are swathed in thick fog and bisexual lighting (in case you’re not familiar, click here to read more), leaving the watcher either primed for casual, relaxed dancing or a trancelike, soft-focus audience experience.

Check out their popular video for Oxytocin to get a sense of the baroque grandeur and ennui-soaked sound that sets them apart from their contemporaries.


Self-described as a “one-woman powerhouse of Parisian Darkwave,” Hante. is the brainchild of musician Hélène de Thoury that fuses pounding electronic beats, reverberant whispers, and sensual melodies to create sensual dance tracks imbued with the darkness needed to hold an entire room rapt from start to finish.

Hante is set to participate at Roadburn Redux, so watch her new music video to no doubt pick up on the numerous influences surely loved by plenty of ‘burners, like those she name-dropped in a 2019 interview:

“I’m still very influenced by bands I was listening to when I was very young such as Queen, Guns N’ Roses, Radiohead, David Bowie, Tears For Fears, The Human League, and Depeche Mode… I was listening to a lot of industrial/metal bands in the noughties and now there are a lot of amazing synthwave artists who inspire me such as Xeno & Oaklander, Hord, TR/ST, Boy Harsher, Selofan, Drab Majesty, and so many more.”

Scene Report: Psych

"Here we take a look at some of the highlights of the last year of mind melting heaviosity."

Some of the most magical Roadburn moments are primed with amorphous, free form chaos – the feeling that anything can happen at any moment. Terminal Cheesecake, 2015 was a glorious case in point: a maelstrom of dense, flowing noise, juddering subs, krautrock adjacent jams and, above all, a near medieval sense of mischief played at an ear bleeding volume. It felt all the more insane for the fact that it was happening on Sunday night, when most in attendance were already brain fried as it was.

Any Roadburners reading this will no doubt have a glorious cornucopia of their own such treasured memories and, after a year in lockdown, the need for mind transference has arguably never been greater. Luckily, a plethora of bands, labels and festivals continue, often against harsh odds, to fight the good fight through some of the toughest – and weirdest – years in living memory: offering up the sonic sacrament despite it all. Hypnotic, swirling, droning, noisy, beautiful, beatific – here we take a look at some of the highlights of the last year of mind melting heaviosity. Call it psych, call it noise – call it Susan if you like – take the following as crucial brain feeders.

Harry Sword

Rocket Recordings have long been central instigators in heavy, noisy, trippy, joyous sounds of various persuasions. Over the past 20 years they’ve put out a welter of sounds that span everything from the gnarled hypnotic heaviosity of Gnod to the playful theatrical ritualism of Goat; the widescreen, epic instrumentalism of Hills to the driving electric pummel of Teeth of the Sea

The past year has seen a number of highlights on the label. Gnod and Joao Pais Filipe’s Faco de Fogo combines the former’s mesmeric sensibility with the latter’s idiosyncratic percussive chops (Filipe is a skilled metalworker who makes his own cymbals and gongs) to seriously immersive ends.

Initially meeting at the Milhoes de Festa festival in Portugal where both were playing (Gnod were intrigued by a gong in the shape of a skateboard that Filipe was exhibiting), they got together for a three day jam session at Filipe’s metalwork studio and then a further four days recording, which was laid down with hardly any overdubs. Riffing on the four elements – earth, air, water and fire, with each jam named after one – it’s a swirling, pulsating, often foreboding quasi industrial vibe they work up, tempered by a loose jazzy swing. Indeed, this is something Gnod are past masters of – living and working at the Salford Mill, they often (particularly on records like Infinity Machines and Mirror) riff on a gritty, tripped out urban vibe that is, even at its darkest. always imbued with a sense of humanity and soul. Here, Filipe’s percussion (check the frenetic hand held drums and windchimes on Faca De Ar) lifts the final mix into funkier, brighter territory: it’s all about the contrast.

Keeping with Rocket, Anthroprophh did what they do best – swirling, wall of fuzz, face melting riffage – on the rough as gargling moonshine Toilet Circuit EP, imbuing the whole thing with a rawkus, punky, in-your-face sensibility not dissimilar to Dinosaur Jr at their most full-on, albeit minus the melancholy.

Pigs X7 built on the Buckfast-fuelled Sabbathian thwack of 2017’s Feed The Rats and the (even) heavier King of Cowards – a rawkus, motorik chug-fest that combined the brute swing of sludge metal with an unhinged Stooges-esque vibe (the highlight of which was a rollicking, steamroller pean to, well, a stretch of motorway in the form of ‘A66’) with the roaring Viscerals. Pretty much all you need in the form of squall and grease and seedy riffage was present and correct, not least on the epic Halloween Bolson – nine minutes of descending grot, a hoedown for the encroaching dark ages.

One of Rocket’s long time bands Hey Colossus released a bone fide masterpiece in the form of Dances/Curses, this time on bassist Joe Thompson’s Wrong Speed Records. An epic double that hummed with otherworldly portent and dusky atmosphere, Dances/Curses traded on patient arrangements, haunting melody and driving, mesmeric rhythm. It’s one of those rare albums that exists very much in its own headspace – you need to listen beginning to end with no interruptions for full effect – and was, rightly, lauded by many as the album of 2020. Approaching a tribal, ritualistic vibe on tracks like Tied in a Firing Line and A Trembling Rose, Dances/Curses is the sound of a band at the absolute pinnacle of their creative powers – a shimmering, hypnotic trip that would well soundtrack rainy motorway night drives. Mark Lanegan even lent his Marlboro-blasted larynx to the dramatic call of The Mirror.

White HillsSplintered Metal Sky was, in the absence of travel, a passport straight to the still beating, blackened heart of grindhouse 1980’s New York City. A dilapidated, clanking, quasi-industrial vibe prevailed on tracks like Now Manhattan and Digital Trash that – while speaking of the stress and clatter of big city life – somehow suited the jittery, paranoid, anxious mood of a year in lockdown perfectly. Think Suicide, Stooges, No Wave, bedroom synth experiments. Bleak – but immense fun –this was an industrial vision of the city put through the sideways psychedelic blender, evoking a singularly cinematic vista of New York, like something out of Death Wish: the street prophets, humid summers, dealers, street punks n’ hustlers – it’s all threaded together amidst clanking beats, weird, fizzy, dial up modem samples, white noise, drones and the call and response vocal dynamic of Dave W and Ego Sensation. Another killer release from the ever dependable God Unknown Records – one of the mainstays of modern psych.

Moving from the gritty and resolutely urban into outer stellar orbit, a special mention must surely go to wildly prolific guitarist Mike Vest. Well known for his work in Bong, Blown Out, Drunk in Hell and the majestic 11 PARANOIAS (check 2019’s Asterismal, which is strictly for the headstrong – planetary collapse bass weight, wall of noise fuzz attack, titanic desert sand storms, asteroid impact, time collapsing in on itself… all that good stuff), he’s also lent his formidable chops to a welter of solo projects (not least last years dronal hypnofest Absolute released under his Zodan moniker, as well as the welter of Lush Worker releases that tend to focus on noisier lo-fi gear) and collaborations.

Last year’s Lost Bones of the Holy Butterfly by Mienkunaru, in particular, was stunning. A collaboration with ex Overhang Party guitarist Junzo Suzuki, it encompassed two 20-minute tracks: churning, noisy, questing, tripped-out instrumentals of the very highest grade. Vamping around pummelling tribal drums and squalling reverb laden riffage that melded both players’ styles to powerfully majestic effect, it was all wrapped up in that special Vest feeling – ever-rising epiphany through continually embellished repetition. God tier, head twisting gear to be played at skull cracking volume.

Indeed, Vest’s numerous collaborations – and it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to list it all – point to a spirit of singularly open-ended collaboration that personifies the fertile psych/noise scene in his native Newcastle Upon Tyne. Box Records – run by none other than PigsX7 vocalist Matt Baty – has provided something of a nucleus for a deluge of wild sounds in the city, and further afield, since 2009. Putting out everything from early records by Bong and Gnod, through to the demented noise of Terminal Cheesecake (not least 2019’s superlative La Sucre De Livre) to folksier fare by Richard Dawson and haunting drone excursions by Jospeh Curwen, one of the most essential releases of 2020 came on the label in the form of Luminous BodiesNah Nah Nah Yeh Yeh Yeh. A greasy, dunderheaded racket entirely befitting of a band composed of members of Part Chimp, Terminal Cheesecake and Melting Hand, this is roc’n’roll left to boil over until a blackened, chemical crust forms on the bottom of the pan; a punch drunk stumble through every dive bar west of hell (in Roadburn terms, we’re talking a debauched midnight session at the Cul De Sac made sonic flesh). What can you say about a band with a song entitled Fuck the Beatles other than, ‘Please sir, may I have some more?’

Talking of febrile city scenes, a special nod must also surely go to Svart Records. Mainstays of the wider Finnish psych world – and perennial Roadburn favourites – Svart were originally known for putting out beautiful reprints of black and doom metal rarities and classics (think Candlemass, Reverend Bizarre, Katatonia etc), before moving into more left field waters and signing bands from the wonderfully fertile and wonky late noughties Tampere scene.

With some of the most beautiful natural country in the world and an ancient history steeped in folklore and magical myth and legend, it’s no accident that music from this corner of the world is so often underpinned by a palpably ancient bearing: one that emphasises whimsical melody and haunting, circling, folk inflected riffs. Hexvessel are a perfect case in point. Long time Roadburn favourites, last year saw the release of one of their finest LP’s thus far in the shape of the ethereal Kindred. Driven by acoustic instrumentation and frontman Mat McNerney’s understated, melodically astute delivery, it’s a beautiful, foreboding record that speaks of forest rites and transcendent beauty in the failing light of dusk. Bog Bodies was particularly magical, patient finger picking and saxophone bedding down a story of an ancient body – a victim of sacrifice – appearing to the air once more, while opener Billion Year Old Being moved from ethereal acoustics to wild, fuzzy freak out in the space of seven minutes: total killer.

If Hexvessel are grounded by the earth, however – the mulch and mud; the twisted ancient tree roots – label mates Kairon; IRSE! are of the stars. Responsible for some of the wildest sounds in the global psych cannon, they meld electronic flourishes, understated vocals and a massive, juddering, post rock-esque wall of sound guitar tone. It’s a bewitching brew, heard to fine effect on the dense miasma of Polysomn – a record that sounds as if My Bloody Valentine had somehow stumbled through a timewarp and ended up jamming with Hawkwind at a free festival in 1976 – jangling guitars, elfin chants and frequent blasts of fuzz emanating from the warm speaker stacks.

Keeping things Nordic, a final note looking forward to the soon to be released second DJINN LP on Rocket, Transmission. Named after the North African supernatural deities that sit somewhere between good and evil, and featuring members of the wider Goat/Hills family, DJINN are a wild, free jazz-inflected combo who combine easy grooves, handheld percussion, wild sax and hallucinatory arrangements: proper head music that calls to mind the soundtrack to the requisite ‘acid scene’ in some crackling, long-lost 1970s biker movie. If the tracks heard from the album so far – Creator of Creation in particular – are anything to go by the album will be a treat; lounge music for a giant Zeppelin in the sky, mushroom tea served from a gleaming golden urn; the long haired, giant goggled captain lost amidst the clouds, as the sky turns a multi coloured hue… keep on truckin’.


Shem – Top draw, hypnotic krautrock flavours from Stuttgart. The just-released Shem II is a cracker, full-on astral motorik groove with a beat that goes on (and on) and spectral drones drifting atop like some rusting outer orbit chunk of space debris.

Cancervo – New Sardinian trio who specialise in downtuned, instrumental stoner gear. Their debut LP is a wall of mesmeric thrum inspired by the mountain from which their name derives, and the folklore associated with it: specifically a mythical half dog/half deerfigure said to prowl

Mong TongTaiwanese retro-focused, synth-inflected gear that carries a strong, freaky, 1980s straight-to-VHS soundtrack vibe. Beatles, creeped out, compelling. Their debut LP Mystery came out last year on Gurgurubrain Records – it’s simple, spacious, atmospheric stuff with plenty of reverb-laden guitars and satisfying aquiline bleeps and pings.

What We Missed Out On

Online is where our voyage of discovery has taken us

One of the best things about working in music is that you can spend several nights a week watching live music and get away with calling it work. Or at least, that used to be the case. It’s been just about 14 months now since I last attended a live show. An unused ticket to Sleater Kinney still sits on my desk – a show I passed up, ironically, because I was too busy working on Roadburn in the run up to what should have been the 2020 edition.

I look back at the shows I used to attend, the shows I used to take for granted, and I can barely imagine being back there. Aside from the close proximity to people, the sensory overload feels like it might just be too much to bear – for a while at least. For me, the day that I am back in the Soup Kitchen in Manchester – and it doesn’t feel weird – will be a day worth celebrating. No doubt it would be the same for Walter, in dB’s in Utrecht. No doubt it will be the same for you, in whatever your local small venue is.

But shows in tiny bars, gigs in beautiful rooms, concerts in huge venues – that’s where so much inspiration comes from, for Roadburn and beyond. And without live music, we’ve had to turn to other means to seek out new bands. The internet, I mean the internet: online is where our voyage of discovery has taken us. To a place where bands may only exist in 2D but they are still capable of creating a technicolour, all consuming experience.

Whilst we always like to think we have our ear to the ground when it comes to new music, there’s no doubt we’ve had to strain a little harder to hear what’s good these last twelve months or so. We miss being able to see bands in their natural habitat, in full bloom; that’s how you can so often get the true measure of a band. But in lieu of that, we’ve done our best to keep up in an all-digital world and have pulled together a few recommendations of bands we think you may like, and might even give you cause to will along the return of normality just a little bit harder.



Knoll was brought to my attention by Becky – and I knew they’d be a great fit for Roadburn Redux, but more than that, I knew they’d be a great live band to see (when circumstances allow). They’ve infused grindcore with death metal in a way that’s intense beyond measure. If the company someone keeps is a sign of their character then it may be helpful to know that their debut album, Interstice, was mixed by Kurt Ballou, and the album artwork handled by Ethan Lee McCarthy. Worth checking out.



We’ve always got our eye on Finland! They churn out stellar bands at a rate of knotts like it’s no big deal. I’ve not seen Surut in magazines yet, and – obviously – I’ve not seen them live, so I can only assume they’re still Finland’s best kept secret. They’re working on a debut full length, but for now, there’s a self titled EP and I definitely recommend giving over half an hour of your time to check them out if you like anything vaguely post-hardcore-ish.



To keep things psychedelic and noisy, France’s Slift has also put out one of the most exhilarating and hypnotic albums of last year. With the sprawling Ummon under their belt, the band is reshaping space rock into a futuristic whatnot, and were poised to blow many a club or festival to cosmic shreds – COVID-19 had other plans, unfortunately. Let’s keep our highs up for Slift to conquer the galaxy as soon as possible. They are the future of heavy psych!



Featured a few times on our Roadburn playlist, and championed in both mainstream alternative and metal publications alike, Divide and Dissolve may seem like an unusual inclusion – they’re not much of a secret. There’s no doubt that this band rules on record, but something tells me that their live performance would be just as distinctive and evocative. I hope they make it round to this side of the globe sooner rather than later; I personally firmly believe they belong on a Roadburn stage, but at this point, I’d be thrilled to welcome them to my back garden if only to see them play live.



Flying their freak flag for many moons, Germany’s Acid Rooster only released their much acclaimed S/T debut last year, and not to exaggerate — it’s one of the best contemporary psych records around. Unfortunately, they were halted in their tracks like everyone else, and they’re one more reason we can’t wait for the world to open up. Acid Rooster need to catapult us into orbit in a maelstrom of psychedelic flavors, whether it’s blistering guitar pyrotechnics or the downtempo check-ins with your consciousness, generated on stage and in front of a live audience.



This is not a new band, but this is a great band – and one that’s been on my radar for a while. However, whilst lockdown has been stifling for some, it has turned Sunrot into a prolific hit machine… if you consider a 13 minute guided meditation a hit. Which I do. There’s something inspiring and invigorating about a band who forge a path towards doing exactly what they want to do, exactly how they want to do it. It’s why we jumped at the chance to premiere a track of theirs this weekend, and it’s why they appear on this list – keep your eye on them.



Embracing the weird and the wonderful, Polymoon proved that Tampere (FIN) is still a hotbed of creativity with the release of Caterpillars of Creation, easily one of the best psych albums of 2020. Their prog psych explosion in technicolour also took Roadburn Redux into hyperspace, and we can’t wait for Polymoon to take us further down the rabbit hole… uh… down the road.



With influences that tick many of my boxes (think Broadcast, Emily Haines, Grouper), and the associated pedigree of their work with Thou, this release from KC Stafford under the moniker Karenia Brevis is one to keep your ear on. The release is an ethereal beauty and a ‘celebration of the feminine divine’. There’s no physical release (yet) and not much out there on social media, so if this one does make it out into the spotlight, maybe you can say you heard about it here first.


Interview: Mizmor 'Wit's End'

"I hope that there’s some food for thought in the words that can be immediately discerned and that it will speak to the moment for some people and maybe help others feel a little relief over similar frustrations that they have."

If there’s one writer that can get the best out of their interviewee it’s Cody F. Davis. We knew that there would be no-one better to dive into the brand new Mizmor track that we’re premiering later this weekend. It’s a long read, because that’s what Cody does best, and Mizmor’s A.L.N. has a lot to tell… so grab yourself a cuppa (or something stronger, we don’t judge) and immerse yourself in the inner workings of Wit’s End.

The world has greatly changed since the last time you and I spoke about your music. How has creating and crafting Mizmor’s music changed in isolation compared to when you were writing and recording Cairn?

A.L.N.: “That’s a good question. One thing that’s changed is I have collaborated with another artist. Andrew Black and I released a record called Dialetheia in November that was done through file-sharing, which was a whole new process for me – both the collaboration aspect in general, and recording and writing an album while apart.

“I’ve done that and I kind of have some sketches with another collaborator doing the same thing right now. I’ve also done more of my traditional style where I’ve just done everything myself. Being isolated at the house isn’t too different from what I was already doing. This piece, Wit’s End, is a piece that I’ve also made during this time just at home by myself.

“But I have been influenced thematically by the pandemic and people’s reaction to it. That has been a thought-provoking thing for me to reflect on. It’s been inspiring, I suppose.”

It gives you some different source material to work from in addition to the collaboration that you’ve done with Andrew already. How does either the collaboration with Andrew and what you’re working on presently, as well as your response to the pandemic, influence this new track Wit’s End.

A.L.N.: “Wit’s End is conceptual but not quite as singularly focused as Cairn was. There are a few things worked into it. But as far as the pandemic’s influence on it, I’ve been inspired by—I mean, it’s the pandemic but it’s also just kind of society at large right now and where we’re headed as a people. I’ve been inspired by, at large, how eager and willing the masses are to embrace misinformation, disinformation, cultism, conspiracy theories, and religiosity.

“A sense of there being a vetting process for determining facts—what is true and false—has completely split in two. I feel like everyone around me is at wit’s end in this sense. There’s no reason anymore in people’s brains and how or what they determine to be true. Just seeing how, at least in America, everyone has reacted to the pandemic, has kind of got me scratching my head.”

Very much so. Seeing how the last year is really unfolded has been very eye-opening, to say the least. It really is quite interesting to see, like you mentioned, how people are latching onto whatever truth they want to manifest.

How do these observations and your vision of what’s going on with pandemic apply to the Fermi Paradox and this idea of The Great Filter, which you also have mentioned is a source for Wit’s End?

A.L.N.: “They both, to me, relate to consciousness, which is kind of the broad theme of what the song is about. It essentially states with what we know about life and processes through the science of the Earth and the universe, the galaxies should be populated, and life should be everywhere.

“There’s a rift between that and there being any substantial evidence that we have already made contact with alien life. I know lots of people believe that we have, but canonically speaking in terms of good, solid evidence, we need to explain why we haven’t already come into contact with extraterrestrials since life should be everywhere.

“The Great Filter is the answer to that paradox. It says, ‘if what’s happening on this planet is happening everywhere in the universe, then something in that process must be difficult.

“Whether that’s abiogenesis—the initial formation of life—or the evolution of that life into a more complex, multicellular life then on to conscious, intelligent beings, and then having enough resources to make it off the planet to another planet. There’s a list of processes that would happen for that to take place and people theorize as to what is the unlikely thing.

“My own take on it, in sort of the science-fiction sense, is I think The Great Filter is consciousness. Not that it is hard for beings to become aware and conscious, but that consciousness has certain self-destructive inherent properties to it that would essentially cause the life-form to self-destruct due to their self-interest before ever being able to make it off the planet.

“That is definitely the biggest inspiration for Wit’s End. Consciousness is not some ethereal, eternal, metaphysical, or otherwise special and unique property. It’s ultimately just a product of physics and biochemistry and it will, like everything else, unravel one day as the universe continues to expand and comes to an end way, way, way, way far in the future.

“It’s kind of a reaction to so many religions and worldviews really having this grandiose idea of mankind and the spirit and the soul and that kind of language. I just think none of that stuff is real at all.

“I don’t know that it directly relates to what we were talking about before, but I see some crossover with where we’re headed as a people and where our own consciousness has got us and how it seems like we would rather believe in things that make us feel good than things that are true. We would rather reject the evidence of climate change for example, and we’re probably headed to a place where our planet can’t sustain us anymore and that would be our fault. That’s what could be the pattern for intelligent conscious life elsewhere in the universe.”

You mentioned climate change, and you can even look at it on an individual level with some of the ways people are handling the pandemic. There’s this almost grandiose view, this self-exception to the world around them. They think, “Oh, this doesn’t apply to me…”

But I think a lot of people do forget we are ultimately matter – we’re mass. We’re subjected to entropy and the laws of thermodynamics. With the pandemic and seeing this acceptance of false information or occultism or religion, do you think it’s a product of people grappling with mortality, or are we seeing people’s distinct lack of rationality in full frame because of this?

A.L.N.: “It’s hard to say. I think at a base level, if we look back in time, superstition starts with people grappling with mortality. That’s a huge part of it, but for this moment in time, I think that the internet and social media have really accelerated this problem of, ‘I see something and it’s automatically true. It fits with my narrative in my echo chamber, and I want it to be true. I choose to believe it.

“We’re all living in a fractured reality in that sense. It’s really disappointing to see the scientific method and such a thing as facts become a matter of opinion or subjectivity. I think it’s probably always been there under the surface, but it seems to be really exacerbated by how immediately connected we all are with sharing our ideas. I just see us as getting a lot stupider, for lack of a better word, with technology and all of these ideas at our fingertips.

“If you’re already a person that is religious or involved in a cult or just has that frame of mind that would put you in one of those groups already—a faith-based person—then they sky’s the limit of what you’ll believe.”

That’s a great point. Systems like religions and cults already have a distinct lack of emphasis on solid research and strong evidence so all it takes is a cousin on Facebook or their pastor at church to say, “COVID is the work of Satan or people in Asia…”

This can kind of tie back into the Fermi Paradox as well, right? There is a distinct lack of evidence for extraterrestrial beings as it pertains to the Fermi Paradox. It mirrors the lack of evidence as it pertains to other things despite people’s willful claims for other beliefs. Is this the kind of connection that you’re trying to make with these two ideas?

A.L.N.: “Kind of. There’s definitely a parallel there. I think more the connection is that I see people’s inability to use basic reason and logic and value strong evidence as being something that’s going to help us self-destruct faster.

“It starts with consciousness which seems inherently self-interested. We come online and become aware of this user interface that is ultimately a survival machine, then we become cognizant of it all and it seems to go in this direction to aid us in our own survival. As it continues on, we get more memes stuffed in our brain, develop language, and more intelligence and technology. Instead of us coming to a more enlightened position about our place in the country, the Earth, and the cosmos, it seems to bring us to the opposite—into a more fractured xenophobic tribalistic superstitious place.

“I don’t know if there’s any real link there. It’s kind of science-fictiony, but it’s just my reflection on where we’re headed.

“I think it’s probably not hard for life to start on a planet and if there were something to be getting in the way of making contact with life on another planet, it would just be ourselves. Which I relate to consciousness. Whether it’s because there’s a lack of resources because we mined them all for ourselves or whether it’s us killing each other in a war, there just seems to be something self-destructive about where consciousness goes.”

Shifting to the track itself and keeping in mind that idea of consciousness, Wit’s End opens with a spoken-word sample over some clean guitar chords. It encapsulates the message that you’re delivering with this song. Where does the sample at the beginning of the track come from, and how do you think it bolsters the impact of Wit’s End?

A.L.N.: “Well, the sample is actually me. I tried really hard to produce it in such a way that it sounded like a sample. I feel like the spoken part is really speaking to my frustration of watching people’s reaction to the pandemic and embracing conspiracy theories; having myself come from the greater part of a 10 year journey away from that kind of mindset to a place that values science, reason, and evidence that is ultimately atheistic.

“It’s been such a long journey that I finally got to the other side of, and then I look around and a large part of the population is totally going in the other direction. Maybe this is just a little setback on the otherwise upward trajectory of our morality as a species. But right now, it’s just really upsetting that so many other people don’t share these values that I’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

“o, that first part is just kind of my emotional reaction to people and faith. The second part, the heavier part with all the screaming, those lyrics are more about the cosmic stuff.”

What were your goals to marry your thematic ideas to your arrangements? What were you hoping to encapsulate with the musical side of it?

A.L.N.: “It’s kind of multifaceted with the Wit’s End theme. In one sense, it’s about consciousness cosmically coming to an end. In another sense, it’s about the masses becoming stupider and stupider, and in a third sense, it’s about me reacting to the masses and myself not being able to comprehend what’s going on.

“That third thing is where I’m emotionally writing from—me being at wit’s end. Watching people have no reason and logic anymore all in this system that eventually will come to nothingness anyway. It’s kind of three layers of wits ending. I just felt this depressing weight of the world and people’s reaction to, say, the pandemic, but really that’s just a catalyst for some of this stuff.

“I just feel so exasperated, exhausted, and disappointed by where we’re at as a country and a planet. Musically, the first part with the clean guitars and the spoken word is building tension. The heavy part is just releasing those negative emotions.”

So how does Wit’s End fit into the trajectory of Mizmor? You’ve previously mentioned following Cairn, new music subject matter may begin to take a different approach than it has historically. Is this a turning point for where you’re going to take some of your music going forward?

A.L.N.: “I think so. I think a big difference between Wit’s End and Cairn is that although I’m still writing from my perspective and reflecting on things and feeling emotional, I’m not writing about myself right now and my experience which is what Mizmor has been about up until this point. My emotions and thoughts as I struggle with my worldview and ideology changing. I said that to you in that interview about Cairn because I thought that album had a lot of finality to it, and I felt a lot of healing. I came to this place where I didn’t really need to explore that anymore.

“So now what I’m finding, thinking about, and feeling about are bigger issues. Writing about things that affect all of humanity—it’s still kind of centered around religion and I doubt that I’ll ever fully escape that—but it’s not this “me, me, me” thing anymore. Now, I’m just reflecting on what seems like bigger things that still affect me and inspire me, but I don’t really have the personal work to do anymore that I was previously expressing on those other albums.

“Another thing is the collaboration with Andrew, Dialetheia, even though that didn’t have lyrics, we still conceptualised on what it was about with each other. That was also kind of about consciousness and reacting to the pandemic, feeling really nostalgic and sad. I think I’m kind of a little bit fascinated by consciousness and that could also be a topic that I continue to explore.”

For Cairn, you referenced Camus and The Myth of Sisyphus a lot. Is there any reading or material that you’ve been looking into that’s directed towards consciousness?

A.L.N.: “Yeah, definitely. Nothing that directly inspired the music like with Cairn, but I read this book called Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennett. That book was from the 90s. He’s a philosopher, but he draws heavily on science—physics, chemistry, biology, the whole thing. It sets out to explain the phenomenon of consciousness from a materialist point of view and dispel the myth of the Cartesian theater—the ghost in the machine, the sort of leftover idea of the soul or the immaterial self that sits inside your head and thinks your thoughts and feels your emotions. That’s all really an illusion.

“So, I read a few books like that. There is another one he wrote called From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. Waking Up by Sam Harris is a very good book that is about consciousness and also mainly about meditation.”

What are you hoping listeners and attendees of Roadburn Redux will take away from Wit’s End?

A.L.N.: “I’m hoping that honestly they just think it’s heavy. The spoken lyrics in the first part are more intelligible than the screaming typically is for people. So, I hope that there’s some food for thought in the words that can be immediately discerned and that it will speak to the moment for some people and maybe help others feel a little relief over similar frustrations that they have.”

Is there anyone or any performance that you’re looking forward to during Roadburn? Anything on your radar?

A.L.N.: “Yeah, I’ve seen that Primitive Man is also premiering some new music and I’m really looking forward to hearing that. I’ll probably watch a handful of things but I myself and not huge into the live set livestream which is why I’m doing this approach myself. So, I’m definitely excited to see the Primitive Man premiere and I think that’ll be fun to hear.”

Down below are the raw ideas that would become the lyrics of the song, scrawled over the course of a few months whilst inspiration was brewing.

Interview: Die Wilde Jagd

"Both performances – the Haut album show and the commission piece Atem – will be complete premieres, for the audience but also for myself."

Arguably the modern era’s most potent purveyor of Krautrock and its attendant sub-strains, producer and songwriter Sebastian Lee Philip has struck sonic gold with Die Wilde Jagd. Using a host of willing collaborators to travel as far as possible into the modern psych firmament, the band’s 2020 album Haut is a flat-out modern masterpiece, and the perfect transportive antidote to the past year’s real world ugliness. At Roadburn Redux, Sebastian and his fellow psychedelic companions will once again be in pursuit of that exhilarating higher plane of musical enlightenment.

Dom Lawson

How have you adapted to our weird new reality over the last year? Any new challenges, in terms of being creative?

“I feel that I’ve been fairly lucky in the sense that I always had my studio, my gear and ideas to retreat to. While I did miss the touring and traveling that was supposed to take place after the release of Haut in April 2020, I was still able to create new music and focus on producing and mixing other artists in my Berlin-based studio. Besides working on music, I also got more into video work, developing an audio-visual piece called Haut Ontogenesis for the Hebbel am Ufer theatre in Berlin. At the end of 2020, I received the exciting invitation to write a commission piece for this upcoming Roadburn Redux edition. I have since dedicated my time to evolving and rehearsing it with my musicians. This has kept me motivated through the winter. I love developing ideas from scratch, getting lost in that universe of forming thoughts.”

What can you tell us about your forthcoming Roadburn performance?

“Both performances – the Haut album show and the commission piece Atem – will be complete premieres, for the audience but also for myself. For the first time since playing live with the project, I’m including a third musician on stage: besides my drummer Ran Levari, Lih Qun Wong will be playing the cello and singing vocal parts. The songs from Haut have never been played live before, in fact there are certain songs on the album I had not planned to ever play live. But when Roadburn asked me if I’d be up for performing the album in full, I couldn’t resist the challenge.
“For the commission piece Atem, I decided to use the opportunity to apply different creative approaches in terms of instrumentation and composition techniques. The word Atem in German means breath. Breath is something I have been thinking about a lot in the past year. Hearing people talk about the popular ‘Wim Hof breathing method’ led me down a path of research about the science of breathing, our metabolism, physical and mental health and also the spiritual side of it. I started to link pace, dynamics, fluctuations, rhythm, and the transcendental properties of breathing to musical elements that I am always interested in exploring in my productions. In the Atem composition, I want to create musical connections between the different ‘layers’ of breath: the one that transcends time and space, the one our metabolic system uses in order to create existence and consciousness, and the layer of the actual manifestation of that existence – the self, the ego, life and experiences. To me, the piece is at the core a celebration of life and the wonders – some explained, many not – that make it happen.”

What does Roadburn mean to you, as creative people and on a personal level?

“Believe it or not, I had not heard of Roadburn before being invited to play the festival in 2020. When I mentioned the festival to some of my friends, they were in absolute awe about the fact I was going to play there, claiming It was one of their favourite yearly music events. When I checked the previous editions, I noticed that many artists I love had played there: Boris, Diamanda Galás, Psychic TV, Michael Rother, Killing Joke, Swans, Earth. It’s an honour to be joining this impressive list. I love the fact that Roadburn has a very distinctive identity and is yet very open to sounds and artists from different genres. There is this core common ground, but still a diverse and fresh mix of styles. I developed a friendly bond with Walter Hoeijmakers in the course of the production of the commission piece, and I have a lot of respect for the decision to go ahead with this year’s edition of the festival, considering all the challenges and difficulties that come with organising a festival during the pandemic.”

What are your hopes and plans for the (hopefully post-pandemic) future?

“My main hope is that everyone stays sane and keeps striving for a good life that respects their own personal development and that of the world around them. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to realise what one actually wants in this life – it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of suggested dreams that result in anxiousness and a seemingly healing remedy in meaningless entertainment and consumerism. I think that more than ever it’s important to feel the urge to learn, to discover, to change, to progress… and to breathe.”

What else are you looking forward to experiencing during Roadburn Redux?

“Just the whole experience of playing a show… driving there, carrying stuff, playing, meeting other people and checking out the other artists is something I’m really looking forward to experiencing again. My mother is Dutch and I spent a large part of my youth in Holland – it’ll be great to be back again, speak the language, and enjoy the Roadburn vibes to the fullest.”

Die Wilde Jagd will perform Atem on Friday 16 April and Haut in full (Saturday 17 April) as part of Roadburn Redux.

Interview: Primitive Man

"I exist in spite of everything that's going on. I create in spite of everything that's going on."

Ethan Lee McCarthy is the musical embodiment of sheer force of will. The Primitive Man frontman and sole force behind Many Blessings, McCarthy has spent his entire musical career creating unrelenting, abrasive art and, at this point, he makes no bones it.

In their near-decade as a band, Primitive Man have consistently pushed the boundary of heaviness in extreme music. On 2017’s Caustic, the trio created a sonic boulder that they rolled over the listener at will; underneath walls of feedback is a constant push-pull dynamic, moving the mass just before it becomes overwhelming or one-sided. Primitive Man replicated that feat on last year’s Immersion, delving further into the science of crafting heavy music while also cutting down on album runtime, delivering the same demoralising music in a more compact form.

Many Blessings represents the more experimental side of McCarthy’s musical output, using noise as the baseline for his releases, which vary from harsh and static-ridden (Trauma Artistry) to cinematic and slow burning (Emanation Body). There are similarities to Primitive Man beyond simply noise roots, namely the ebb and flow of the soundscapes, but the two projects stand independently.

Despite the 2021 edition of Roadburn being the least orthodox incarnation of the festival’s 22-year existence, the circumstances didn’t change anything for McCarthy in terms of songwriting or presentation.

“I’m always going to strive to try to do what I want, no matter what the circumstances,” says McCarthy, who has used the situation as an extended break from touring. “I know a lot of people felt demoralised and wanted to give up during this time, and I understand those feelings and I have felt those things, but you just can’t. Because it’s going to end some day and if I were to stop doing the things that I was doing, what a fucking waste of time.”

In the same way, the pandemic and its related quarantine haven’t made their way directly into the songs that Primitive Man and Many Blessings performed for Roadburn, McCarthy says.
“It’s just present there because that’s the time period that the songs and ideas were made,” he elaborates. “It’s the time period that these problems that I’m speaking on were happening, but it’s really a backseat topic to the rest.”

He acknowledges that performing at Roadburn is a prestigious invitation, but there is zero compromise in McCarthy’s vision. Primitive Man will again be one of the festival’s heaviest bands and they plan to deliver nothing less than expected: a set that is both deafeningly heavy and thoughtfully executed.

Whether it’s best defined as stubbornness or insanity, that uncompromising drive defines both acts debuting new music at Roadburn Redux.

“I exist in spite of everything that’s going on,” McCarthy reflects. “I create in spite of everything that’s going on.”

Vince Bellino