We’re gonna level with you, this list of bands you need to see at Roadburn next week includes one or two clashes. Such is the nature of festivals that catching one amazing artist might occasionally mean missing out on another you were keen to see, but the sheer quantity of potentially brain-melting decisions that will need to be made at this year’s festival is testament to just how excellent the lineup is.
Whilst the giants of UK rock and metal festivals continue to either sway away from heavier music, book the same bands over and over or show how out-of-touch they are by booking blatantly problematic artists, many of us instead decide to fly part-way across the continent to enjoy a festival hellbent on showcasing interesting artists who can offer up a unique experience.
One day at Roadburn might see you drift from electronically-driven chaos to gargantuan doom to serene folk to blistering black metal and beyond. Choosing how your day is going to go, however, can be a bit of a headache, so to help you narrow it down, here are our picks for the artists that you won’t want to miss.
MONO + The Jo Quail Quartet – Thursday: 23:20, Main Stage
Celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band are Japanese post-rock legends MONO. They will be joined on stage by the Jo Quail quartet in a special collaborative performance with the incredible British experimental cellist. MONO create some of the most moving and heartfelt music you’ll ever hear, with compositions that can be both eerily quiet and explosively loud, often within the same song. The band will be performing their incredible album Hymn To The Immortal Wind in full, with the album itself celebrating it’s tenth birthday. Bring tissues!
Noisepicker – Saturday: 16:50, Hall of Fame
One of the festival’s many riff-heavy bands, pun-lovers Noisepicker are a must-see for fans of doom, punk and blues. In fact, the band’s debut EP was even called doom/punk/blues, which was followed up last year with the fantastic LP Peace Off. For a group that originally started as a piano-based blues project, meant as something a bit different from riff devotee and frontman Harry Armstrong (Lord Of Putrefaction, Decomposed, Hangnail, Firebird, The Earls Of Mars), Noisepicker are especially noisy. The duo’s sound is straightforward and yet utterly their own, so don’t miss out on them just because you’ve already got riffs from the likes of Sleep and Thou on your schedule.
Pharmakon – Friday: 23:40, The Green Room
Pharmakon, the alias of Margaret Chardiet, is one of the leading lights in modern noise, industrial and power electronics. Her music and live performances are such a physical experience, which will see her banging sheets of metal and storming through the crowd, screaming in people’s faces. Not only does her cathartic live show evoke a storm of fury and venom, but her use of droning loops entices a rhythmically hypnotic sensation. It’s been a couple of years since the release of her fantastic album Contact (on Sacred Bones Records), so we’re hoping there might be some new compositions and gear on show.
Holy Roar x Roadburn – Friday: Hall of Fame
It’ll take up the majority of your Friday, but if you’ve been enjoying Holy Roar’s output as much as most metalheads have of late, it’s entirely feasible to spend almost the whole day at the Hall of Fame catching bands from their roster. Between 15:30 to 22:30, you’ll be able to see the intense sludge-meets-grind of Secret Cutter, A.A. Williams‘ sultry dark folk, multi-faceted extremity courtesy of Conjurer, Svalbard‘s righteous rackets and the exploratory post-metal of Manchester’s Pijn.
Anna von Hausswolff – Friday: 17:50, Main Stage
Anna Von Hausswolff made one of the best records of 2018, Dead Magic, teaming up with Randall Dunn as producer; a man who knows how to add so much depth and atmosphere to a record. This match made in heaven has allowed von Hausswolff to really let loose and create some of her most long-winded and free-flowing compositions yet. Seeing her bring these huge songs to life on the Main Stage is bound to be magical indeed. Her powerful, ghostly voice and those huge, menacing synths will engulf Roadburn into darkness and send us to an ethereal plain.
Jaye Jayle – Saturday: 23:30, Green Room
A captivating blend of minimalism and vast soundscapes, this project was founded by Evan Patterson of Young Widows, and retains his proclivity for experimentation, even as it heads away from exploratory rock and towards a hauntingly ambient strain of folk or Americana. Notably, the project’s latest album No Trail And Other Unholy Paths featured fellow Roadburn performer Emma Ruth Rundle, just as he appeared on her 2018 album On Dark Horses. Just as they are on the album, the eclecticisms of Jaye Jayle‘s music are front-and-centre when they perform, offering a listening experience like no other; one so alluring that it captures your attention early on and holds it till the very end.
Daughters – Sunday: 16:10, Main Stage
Daughters are a band who are constantly evolving in sound. Their latest album You Won’t Get What You Want not only captured the hearts of music fans and critics last year, but it sounds nothing like their original sound. Daughters have made the brave move from insane mathcore outfit to a menacing industrial rock unit. Hearing their latest album in full would be an absolute treat; feeling those noisy synths, pounding drums and anxious vocals in the flesh. And if they were to throw in a quick blast of ‘Hello Assholes’, then that would be the icing on the cake!
Thou/Emma Ruth Rundle – Friday: 20:30, Koepelhal
Baton Rouge sludgers Thou showed just how deep their well of creativity runs last year with a string of releases all adopting a different style, so it’s apt that they are to be this year’s Artist In Residence. This honour gifts fans the opportunity to catch the band three times over the course of the festival, with a standard set, an acoustic one (which will most likely be akin to last year’s Inconsolable) and one in which they pair up with singer-songwriter and Astral Noize favourite Emma Ruth Rundle. The Louisville-based artist and Thou have been touring in unison in the US, leaving us lot on the other side of the Atlantic pondering what such an enticing collaboration could sound like. Those attending will finally be able to find out on the Friday, though it will mean missing the end of Grails or Svalbard.
Hexvessel – Thursday: 19:20, Main Stage
If you think you know what to expect from a Hexvessel gig because you’ve seen frontman Mat “Kvohst” McNerney perform elsewhere with one of the many metal projects he’s been a part of, think again. McNerney is an entirely different performer with psychedelic folk rock practitioners Hexvessel, whose music calls for a stage presence that’s altogether more calming and serene. New album All Tree, which the band will be performing on Thursday, is an enchanting listen full of gentle balladry and pagan charm. Expect soothing crooning and jangly guitars, though not without the odd moment of intriguing disquiet.
Lingua Ignota – Thusday: 18:45, The Green Room
Lingua Ignota is the alias of American electronic and noise artist Kristin Hayter. Hayter is a relatively new face, but her album All Bitches Die received waves of critical acclaim. Originally self-released in 2017, it was later picked up and re-issued by Profound Lore Records. We can’t wait to see her perform songs from that album in a live setting. Lingua Ignota’s sound draws from the gothic and darkwave heavy synth sounds not dissimilar to Anna Von Hausswolff, but adding in an extra flavour of noise and industrial influences, as well as some screamed vocals. A perfect mix of heaviness and serenity.
Vile Creature – Thursday: 16:20, Het Patronaat
Sludge duo Vile Creature have just released compilation CD Preservation Rituals (reviewed here), a release that charts their career to date before they record their first release for new label Prosthetic Records. It was a great opportunity to listen back through the nearly two hours of material that comprises the CD, and doing so makes it clear why they have become one of the most vital names in contemporary metal, boasting some of the most creative sludge ever released whilst promoting progressive politics. Last year’s Cast Of Static And Smoke is their current piece-de-resistance, but earlier numbers like ‘A Pessimistic Doomsayer’ (from the EP of the same name) and ‘A Constant Yearning To Leave’ are also stellar examples of the band’s world-beating potential.
Marissa Nadler – Sunday: 18:30, Het Patronaat
Whilst some might argue that hosting acts like Marissa Nadler suggests that Roadburn isn’t truly a metal festival (not that it matters whether it is or not anyway), it would be a shame to ignore that heaviness in music does not have to stem solely from dissonance and distortion – it can also dwell in the intense darkness or all-consuming poignancy of a piece of music. Regardless, the American artist’s mournful tunes are so captivating that you’d have to be the most diehard worshipper of blastbeats to not find something to love. For a further insight into the musician’s creativity, why not also check out the exhibition of pieces from her fine art collection, which will be on display in the Pit Stop area.
Bismuth – Thursday: 15.20, Hall of Fame
Gig photographers are sometimes given restrictions on how long they get access to the area in front of a stage. Generally, the venue might give them the first free songs or so to get in and take as many as they like. Bands like Bismuth are exactly the reason why Roadburn have to do it by time, not just song quantity. Their 2018 album, the environmentally conscious The Slow Dying Of The Great Barrier Reef, kicks off with the 32-minute title-track. One of the most captivating and enthralling albums of the year, it begins with a slow-building intro that favours subtlety in its droning minimalism and ethereal vocals before giving way to gigantic riffs and razor-sharp screams. The band are an enthralling listen, and seeing them might prompt you to start giving a fuck about recycling. Win-win.
Fauna – Friday: 19:20, Het Patronaat
In a rare appearance, American Cascadian atmospheric black metal outfit Fauna will be gracing the Het Patronaat stage. We’re excited and intrigued to see how their incredibly patient take on blackened soundscapes will fare in a live festival setting. Fauna’s first two breakout albums Rain and The Hunt consisted of single tracks running at over an hour, building at a snail’s pace with ambient textures and field recordings alluring the listener. Fauna are clearly one with nature, and if the skies decided to open up during their set, it would surely be a prophetic fallacy.
Deafkids/Petbrick – Friday: 17:30, Het Patronaat
If you haven’t heard of Deafkids, they’re an experimental noise-punk outfit out of Brazil, and they will have the honour of playing twice over Roadburn’s four-day experience. After having played a traditional set on the festival’s first day, they will be joined by Petbrick for a joint gig the following day. The latter’s Iggor Cavalera (now him you’ve heard of) may be better known for his mix of thrashy and tribal drumming with Sepultura and Cavalera Conscpiracy, but he takes a slightly different method of assault with Petbrick, one that’s electronically driven but no less intense. Petbrick will also be playing a set by themselves on Thursday, so you can no-doubt get your fill of in-your-face, no-holds-barred noise within the festival’s first two days.
Messa – Friday: 23:20, Het Patronaat
There’s something about the expressive nature of jazz that works so well when coupled with doom metal’s vast but bleak scope. Building on the jazz/drone/doom cocktail they weaved so masterfully on previous album Belfry, this Italian outfit’s second album Feast For Water was a shrewd fusion of disparate genres. Messa’s tracks are moody, soulful and occasionally ethereal, but always tight and intelligently written. The band never linger on a riff for too long, and they never miss the opportunity to squeeze every last drop out of a brooding melody. Their tracks are vast and affecting, switching between delicacy and intensity with ease by entwining the two with a bluesy atmosphere that remains dark as if submerged like the blurry figure on Feast For Water‘s artwork.
Words: George Parr, Chris ‘Frenchie’ French