Baby’s First Roadburn: Saturday

Nađra

Saturday began on the strongest foot possible, with Icelandic black metal act Naðra opening up at Extase. The venue was filled to capacity nearly twenty minutes before the band even took the stage and the wait was well worth it. The hype surrounding this entire circle has been so huge it could almost be obnoxious, but the quality of the bands is so consistent that it all rings true. With brand new material coming out so shortly after their magnificent full-length from earlier this year, it’s evident that Naðra is picking up steam as time goes on. If their evocative and furious performance was any indication, things are looking up for the future of live black metal performances.

John Haughm

After a breather for much needed food and water (it gets hot in these packed venues) I caught the tail end of John Haughm‘s set in the Green Room. Having witnessed him live before, I was hardly surprised at the majesty of his droning and shimmering guitar work. There’s certainly an element of this at play in his compositions with Agalloch, but when given free reign to explore a room with his own creativity as his sole limitation, he really lets loose in a beautiful way. Some concertgoers seemed a bit disappointed the material wasn’t heavier, but the subtlety has always been the greatest value in his music for me and this was a true delight to witness.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was my first Main Stage experience of the day and as with the last time I had the good fortune of witnessing these folks live, I felt absolutely pummeled on a level that few things short of nature itself could conjure. I was impressed at how huge their music sounded in such a large room. In a tiny bar in Portland it was crushing enough, but watching them unleash sludgy aggression on such a huge scale it became quite clear that this band could have easily been one of the main draws for the festival. Tad Doyle’s stage presence is as strong as ever and I hear that after my departure he even went a capella due to breaking a string. Sadly, I had to depart midway through the set to say farewell to my personal favorite venue of the festival.

Galley Beggar

I knew that at some point I had to pay one last visit to Patronaat since it would host no bands on Sunday, so I decided to check out Galley Beggar after seeing favorable words in the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch from a few trusted folks out there. Their brand of folk rock was truly inspired and almost entirely foreign to me. Things like this are what Roadburn is about, I’ve quickly come to find. I’d have just as easily taken a snack break and instead found myself challenging my perspectives on music and how I interact with it. I had the luck of hearing a brand new song, although all the songs were new to my ears.

Astrosoniq

Astrosoniq took the Green Room on a ride with their space rock jams. These guys were another band I caught on a recommendation from Walter’s Weirdo Canyon picks and I’m glad I had the chance to lose myself for a little while. After a couple songs in the depths of space, I realized that I needed to grab a quick cup of coffee before witnessing one of my most anticipated bands of the day. Still, the strange balance of psychedelia and solid riffs left a lasting impression on me and I clearly need to revisit their works, which Svart Records seems to be reissuing presently.

Tau Cross

Tau Cross took the main stage like it was what they’d been meant to do all along. My bias as a worshiper of The Baron might make it a bit unfair, but placing him and Away on the same stage is a surefire way to get any serious metal fan’s blood pumping. Everybody makes comparisons to Killing Joke and I hate to chime in, but damn if this wasn’t like a heavier and spacier take on that gnarled and urgent post-punk heft. Rob’s voice sounded incredible despite the band’s cancellation of their New York show just a week prior due to some sort of issue with his breathing. Truth be told, I could’ve watched this band every day of Roadburn and felt no regret. Tau Cross need to be even bigger. I hope future output and touring will do just that.

misþyrming

Misþyrming took the stage in the Green Room for one last performance, a display of their immensely popular album Söngvar elds og óreiðu. Their energy was unmatched, but I began to notice that the Green Room’s sound is far better suited to rock bands and less accommodating for acts with a denser or more jagged tone to their music. The furious nature of the band’s approach was readily apparent and their performance itself was vicious, but for some reason it was just harder to hear properly in this room. Would I go back and watch a different band in their stead? Absolutely not. Do I wish I’d seen them onstage at Patronaat again? Yes.

Dead to a Dying World

Rough sound also impacted my experience watching the expansive and delicately balanced crust/doom/black metal of Dead to a Dying World, whose album Litany is so well crafted that struggling to hear certain elements at any given time made for a bit of a disappointing experience. The band clearly played brilliantly and gave it their all, but I found myself struggling to hear their vocalists and violist outside of moments where the density of low-end frequencies would drop out to make more room in the space. I feel lucky to know that I’ll be catching them again at Migration Fest, but I’m sad that not everybody will get a chance for another experience. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, but perhaps I’m just getting picky over time.

Amenra

I decided to take a quick peek at Amenra as they performed their “Afterlife Acoustic” set and found it to be exactly as I would expect. The music hung like a series of thin strings over the crowd, allowing space to be the silent extra musician in the band. It was well arranged and I was surprised at how soulful the vocals were, having had no prior experience with the band’s acoustic works. I’d say I was disappointed to leave early, but I made a commitment to myself to see one more band that I hadn’t heard and a new experience is never something to regret.

Atomikyla

I made my way to Extase to catch Atomikylä at the recommendation of my friend Kim. I hadn’t heard a single note of their music before but when somebody says “weird heavy Finnish music” and leaves it at that, I know I need to find out for myself just what the experience will be. The crumbling psychedelic doom this trio crafted was built around massive effects pedals and song structures that slowly separated over time. While the band tended to start locked into a groove together, the instruments drifted farther apart at the songs went on, often devolving into chaotic bliss. The crowd was entranced and with good reason. I felt giddy having discovered this for the first time.

Lugubrum Trio

While everybody shuffled out to get an early look at Neurosis, I owed it to myself to catch Lugubrum Trio. The “best brown metal band in the world” played the strangest kind of black metal but with pure musical skill as the foundation for their performance rather than pointless absurdity. Hopping between furious black metal and any number of other genres along the way, the band’s sense of humor was perfectly in place to match their bizarre sound. On the title track from their newest, Herval, they slid into oddball reggae territory for moments at a time, whereas other tunes saw loose funk, rock, and jazz structures sliding in and out of their compositions. With songs from many eras of Lugubrum’s history, the performance was truly fulfilling and fun in a way black metal often forgets to be.

Neurosis

I had time to catch the last two songs from Neurosis, and with “Through Silver in Blood” and “Stones from the Sky” as the songs I witnessed, I can safely say I have no regrets about choosing to catch their immense set. It was everything I’d heard Neurosis would be and I don’t even have the words to grasp it. Perhaps after I catch their set again tonight I’ll be better able to describe what it’s like to see such an innovative band performing for their 30th anniversary. Perhaps after I catch their set again tonight I’ll realize how incomprehensible their art is and how it’s best meant to just be witnessed. We’ll find out soon enough.