Wednesday, 27 April 2011

What I seen and done at Roadburn 2011 by Paul, age 37-ish (Part three)

Apologies for cutting the last part short mid-way through the day but, well, it was late and I was TIRED. Sorry.

Now, where was I? Oh yeeeeeeeeeaaah...

I reckon THAT should give you a clue as to who I saw next.

Yup. I took the controversial decision to go see Today Is The Day, as opposed to Pentagram, Cough or Earth. "But why?", I hear you ask, well, I'll tells ya. First off, I don't like Pentagram. There. I SAID it. Sure, their early stuff is cool and all, "Living In A Ram's Head" and whathaveyou, but their more 'meat 'n' potatoes' doom stuff just doesn't sit right with me. I mean, the lyrics are just EXCRUCIATING...

"Now I don my electric axe I'm gonna lay you on your back. All psyched up and ready to go, Take you to hell and won't say hello...". So damn HOKEY. Also, I just don't buy into the cult of Bobby Liebling. The guy is a freaky trainwreck and I just don't give a fuck about him.
So, are we clear on that one?

As for Cough, I had hoped to catch 'em on their own tour here, but it just didn't happen, and Earth I had just recently seen here, so I didn't much feel like seeing 'em again so fact, read my review of their Salford show here.

So, Today Is The Day it was. Having not seen 'em since the TITD/Voivod/Neurosis (!!) tour back in 1999, I figured it'd be good to see 'em again. As you can see from the video up above, it WAS good!

They SMASHED through the three opening tracks of 'In The Eyes Of God', like POW, SMASH, POW and were just generally on FIYAH.
I'd particularly like to draw your attention to bassist Ryan Jones, also of the AWESOME Wetnurse, wielder of one of the berserkest (is that a word? it is NOW!) looking instruments that I've clapped eyes on in many a year, and I've seen some REAL berserkos!

Ch-ch-ch-check it OUT! Hot pink tigerstripe snakeskin BC Rich Warlock with LUMINOUS YELLOW STRINGS.
Boy's gotta have some serious cojones to pull something like THAT off....and he DOES. He RAGES. He looks so buttoned-down, but don't let his preppy demeanour fool you, no SIR, he's a BASS-MONSTER. Hell, he HAS to be in Major-General Austin's army.

Now, with me in the packed-in crowd was one of my favourite people, Mr Jamie Grimes of Ireland's ASS-KICKING masters of killing technology, Drainland, and his glamourous assistant/carer Una.
You know those people that you don't really know very well, and you've only ever met 'em, like, once before, but something about 'em just CLICKS with you and you instantly love 'em? Well, he's one of THOSE. In fact, he's probably the ONLY one I know. I have a hard time making friends, and I don't have many, but when I LIKE someone, I LOVE 'em, y'know? Anyhow, he's a fine, upstanding gentleman and you should read HIS blog, Destroyed Human too.

SO. Jamie tells me that Una is as big a fan of Today Is The Day as HE is of Swans and I am of Voivod, which is QUITE BIG FANDOM. He ALSO tells me that their rather disturbing li'l ditty 'Pinnacle' is THEIR song. So, for Jamie and Una, here it is. We're over on the right somewhere near the back...sort of...offscreen...

Next up was the much-anticipated...but not by me...Godflesh set, in which they would be playing 'Streetcleaner' in it's entirety and in track order, including the 'Tiny Tears' EP tracks which were CD bonus tracks.

Now, I've seen Godflesh a good few times over the years - one of the first gigs I EVER saw was Napalm Death, Godflesh and Paradise Lost in Liverpool, back in 1988/89 or so - and they've been very much the definition of a hit and miss live band. Their reliance on technology that is unreliable seems to have also spilled-over into Justin Broadrick's Jesu, a band who are notorious for having massive onstage equipment failures and cancellations. Mind you, having seen 'em with the mighty Mickey Harris on drums around the time of 'Slavestate' (or was it 'Pure'? Hmmmm...) was a total disaster, so MAYBE they're just CURSED, no matter WHAT form their percussion takes.

The BEST live show I EVER saw by Godflesh was actually on the 'Streetcleaner' tour, playing with Loop and World Domination Enterprises at Liverpool University in 1990. They were TERRIFYING. Bathed only in blue light, Justin had a vocal harmonizer on his voice ALL the way through and it sounded INHUMAN, this spindly, pale stick-insect of a man twitching and writhing so hard you could see the VEINS pop out of his arms and neck, and this horrible slurred voice coming out of his wonder I saw a girl having the worst acid trip of her life during their set. She came crawling from the front of the stage, dribbling vomit and shaking her head.

So, that story served to tell you that I've seen Godflesh perform the tracks from 'Streetcleaner' the way they were SUPPOSED to be played, as opposed to the HALF-ASSED, SHODDY WAY THEY PLAYED AT ROADBURN.

Before they even played I hated it - they had this cod-classical intro tape that just didn't sit right with me. When they actually fell into playing 'Like Rats', Benny Green fucked up, there was no vocal effect running and the guitar sounded....wrong.
Now, I KNOW Broadrick uses a Floor POD FX unit for Jesu, so it's likely he also was using it here. They're all fine 'n' dandy for playing around at home, or if you're in some 'local' pub band or somesuch, but soundwise they have that horrible processed, digitally compressed, sound that all such units have. I could see that the beats and what few samples there were - samples were missing from 'Devastator' and 'Locust Furnace' - were coming out of his laptop, so it is quite possible that his guitar was simply running through the laptop too, depsite the Marshall stack behind him. The fact that his guitar had that HORRIBLE vaguely Nu-metal scooped mid thing going on could probably be put down to that. It wasn't loud enough, mainly because there were NO mids, and the highs were being clipped...ALSO meaning that any 'feedback' being made didn't have any of the visceral body needed for Godflesh's purposes. Considering that his set-up used to be a Fender Strat into a Marshall, with occasional extra distortion pedals and a delay pedal, it seemed to me that he'd overcomplicated his sound and was suffering for it.

Of course, most people seemed to think it was the best thing since sliced bread, but I'm betting most of 'em don't really know what it's SUPPOSED to sound and feel like.

Here is one of the BETTER tracks...

See what I mean about the sound of the guitar and the beats? Urgh.

Now, here's the same track from 1990...

Hell, I know which I prefer.

Aside from technical issues, Broadrick repeatedly got the opening lines of songs wrong and some of his doubled vocals, coming out of the laptop, natch, were out of synch and far too loud, most noticeably on 'Locust Furnace'.

I even leaned into the soundman - who apparently was Dirk Serries of Fear Falls Burning - to complain, but he looked at me like I was insane.

It seems to me that if Justin Broadrick was at all happy with that set, then he no longer has any real connection to Godflesh as was and should just leave that whole period WELL alone.

Of course, it could just be ME....

I left the room after 'Locust Furnace' as I couldn't face four more songs - the 'Tiny Tears' tracks.
So, THAT was my own real major let-down of the festival...although, realistically, I should have seen it coming.

I wish i'd had the common sense to go to the Midi and watch Wardruna instead, the ritualistic, mystical explorers of old Norse spirituality formed by the ex-drummer and vocalist of Gorgoroth...BUT, I'd been put off by the fact that it was a couple of geezers from Gorgoroth, of whom I am avowedly NOT a fan.

More fool me....more fool me...

I'm pretty damn sure I'd have enjoyed THAT a damn sight more than seeing Godflesh go through the motions and milk the cow of nostalgia. Ahhhh, hindsight is a wonderful thing...

It was all over bar the shouting, for me, as the room for Count Raven - my first choice for final band of the day - was too full, and I had no idea who Carlton Melton were....they gave me strange mental images....

 I begrudgingly decided to go see Soilent Green on the main stage, a band who outlived their usefulness immediately after recording 'Sewn-Mouth Secrets', if you ask me, with their finest hour consisting of the original recording of 'Build Fear' - from the 'Cry Now, Cry Later Vol.3' comp double 7" on Pessimiser - their tracks on the split 10" with Grief - also on Pessimiser - and maybe their first LP, 'Pussysoul', ALL of which date from 1995. Since then, they've become increasingly redundant by basically staying exactly the same. Totally one-dimensional.

Anyway, they were rubbish, so I headed home to dream of day two and......VOIVOD!!!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

What I seen and done at Roadburn 2011 by Paul, age 37-ish (Part two)



BUT...before we commence rocking, I just want to share with you the sight that awaited me when I woke up on the Thursday morning - the first day of Roadburn...

Aaaaahhhh, I tells ya, I wish i could wake up to that EVERY morning!

Oh, and who's this?

Why, it's my friends Mr and Mrs Duck! We had a plethora of Ducks and Geese in the surrounding environs, which made ME happy, but not necessarily the others, as they could get a bit......quacky. Also, there was a Swan, but I refused to take his picture as I didn't want to give him the oxygen of publicity. You know what Swans are like. Uppity beaky twerps.

SO. A somewhat convoluted two-bus system took us from where we were staying and into Tilburg, dropping us right outside the 013, a venue that looked, to me, like Rob Halford's arse -

See? Looks like studded black leather right? Rob Halford's arse.

Oh, I later noticed that they're not studs, they're actually CD's, rivetted to the outside. Pretty classy huh?

The posse had to go and queue up with the rest of the plebs for wristbands, but I was SPECIAL....for I had a GUEST PASS. I strode over to the Guest/Press pass window and thoroughly lorded it over the little people in their queue, received my sparkling special wristband and then it was time to go rock the FUCK out.

I decided to go around the corner to the Midi theatre, first, and watch The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, a band I had recently reviewed over at The Sleeping Shaman. Don't ask me why, I KNOW I should have gone to see Quest For Fire but I was feeling pretty mellow and a bit tired, so TKDE it was.

The Midi theatre is a superb venue, and I knew I would love it as soon as I walked into the foyer. The acoustics are FANTASTIC, and it's the kind of venue where it doesn't really matter where you stand, you can still see the stage. Bang on, as Doomlord would say.
The lighting was pretty damn subdued - read 'almost pitch black' - in there, which added to the atmos somewhat since it was warm and sunny outside and that just wouldn't do for the mean and moody vibe that TKDE were angling for.

I guess the best I can do to describe TKDE's sound is to point you toward Ulver's 'urban noir soundtrack-to-an-interior-movie' 'Perdition City', as that's basically a blueprint for TKDE's sound - unconsciously or not they are definitely singing from the same hymnsheet as Ulver were back then.

Great big slabs of bass so thick you could sink your teeth into 'em, skittering jazzy rhythms, disembodied bluesy female vocals and a sobbing trumpet sound that totally brings Chet Baker to mind, all wrapped up in downbeat electronics and minmalistic beats. I admit to breaking into a cold sweat when I espied a DJ onstage, but thankfully there was no wicky-wicky-wicky nonsense.

Trouble is, it was all a bit too downbeat for me (I know! Who'da thunk it?), seeing as it was a lovely day out, and I decided to nip over to the 013 halfway through and try to catch some of Quest For Fire, as I reckoned a bit of fuzzed-out psychedelia would hit the spot.
Unfortunately, I guess everyone else had the same idea and the room they were in - the teeny-tiny Bat Cave waaaaay up at the top of the 013 - was absolutely RAMMED. So I just killed a bit of time, had a few drinks, and sauntered back over to the Midi in order to see Ghost, whom I was looking forward to IMMENSELY.

It seems that people either 'get' Ghost at the moment, or they just DON'T. Accusations of hype and gimmickry are constantly levelled at them, owing to their refusal to publicly unmask or reveal their identities. I guess I would be a little cynical about them too if the music they make wasn't so damn good, being as it is a hybrid of Blue Öyster Cult and Mercyful Fate, with a pop-metal edge and a somewhat campy sinister occult aspect to their lyrics and presentation.
At the end of the day, what they are is FUN. No heavy message or dogma to wrestle with, just good solid entertainment, and we ALL like to be entertained, right?

Hell, judge for yourself...

I ran into a guy just before I got into the show, a friend of a friend, who hadn't heard Ghost but was a little put off by all the negativity directed at them. I dragged him along and guaranteed him that if he dug Mercyful Fate and BÖC, he'd love it. Lo and behold, ten minutes into the set he was headbanging like a maniac.

It put a smile on my face and made my neck a little sore, what the fuck else could you ask for? I enjoyed it so much, I didn't even get irked by the bassist's faulty buzzing lead. Well, not THAT irked...

Tell you what though, I felt sorry for the drummer. He must have been sweating cobs.

Speaking of sweating cobs, I had to run back over to the 013 again in order to catch Woven Hand/Wovenhand, a band that I was pleased but surprised to see in the line-up this year, what with frontman David Eugene Edwards being decidedly of the Godly persuasion, BUT, I read this quote regarding his feelings about being embraced by the - mostly non and anti-christian - underground metal scene...

"...couldn’t be happier...For one, I listen to a lot of heavy music myself. When it first came to my attention that people in these scenes - whether it’s heavy metal, black metal or death metal - were starting to pay attention to my music, I was so happy that they would even consider what I do. But that wasn’t a surprise. I think that people in the metal world think about things that a lot of other people don’t, like spiritual things. Whether they believe as I believe is beside the point, but they’re searching, they’re searching for something beyond what is here or what you can see with your eyes, and I think they know that there’s more, you know? And so in that sense I am like them because I also think there is more."

...the quote was printed in the Roadburn 2011 programme/booklet thing, but was taken from an interview with the man over at the oddly-named Transylvanian Hungerrr blog which is MORE than worth some of your valuable time to read.

In fact, go read it now. I'll wait right here 'til you come back.

'kay? Good read isn't it? Nice pictures too. Almost a shame to come back to THIS, really. Interestingly, I see that Edwards has an intense dislike of organised religion, which is something that resonates heavily with me too. NOW I understand how he's able to reconcile anti-christian and pagan bands such as Marduk and Primordial being vocal admirers of his work.
I could discuss the issues that this raises for literally DAYS, but hell, this ain't the time.


Impressions of Wovenhand...or Woven Hand...whichever it is. Well, they were literally entrancing. I mean, I was completely unaware of time passing during their set. I could NOT take my eyes off the stage, and I didn't WANT to. Edwards is UTTERLY compelling, totally magnetic and charismatic.

Sitting down, hunched over a big ol' orange Gretsch and passionately declaiming into one of those big chrome radio-style mics, he looks so intense that you can see the veins and sinews twisting in his arms and neck from halfway back the hall. Talking in Cherokee between songs ,'Hey-a!', doing mocking 'macho' posturing and then intimating he can take the ENTIRE fuckin' venue on, mock-cock-rock posing with his axe, flailing his skinnylegs around on his stool, smacking himself in the face and smacking his mic stand away whilst in some kind of trance...this guy HAS IT. In SPADES. He's mocking the 'rock star', but in doing so he's surpassing it, and, with a flick of the hand and a shake of his feather-bedecked hair, he's dismissing it. A true brave...

...and BOY are these guys HEAVY. Not heavy like...fuckin' Crowbar, but HEAVY like 200 years of slavery, or the Jewish religion, y'know? SPIRITUALLY heavy. In THAT respect, and in a couple of others, they remind me of Swans more than anyone else.

This eastern raga-flavoured, country-gothic UR-thing they do really got me gripped.

Just.....inspirational. Real SOUL music, played from the depth of his boots and up and out.


THAT was my first genuine highlight, and there were MORE to come...A LOT more.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

What I seen and done at Roadburn 2011 by Paul, age 37-ish (Part one)

So, after spending a few years contemplating it I finally made it over to the Roadburn festival, mecca for all those who like it HEAVY. Thanks, mainly, to the generosity of Walter the genial festival organiser and general all-around mastermind, who gave me his last guestlist space after having used a number of my reviews from The Sleeping Shaman on the Roadburn site's 'Album of The Day' feature.

Now, over at T'Shaman there will be a more....'professional' of the whole thing, but for the purposes of this here blog thing I'm gonna be a li'l more rambly and personal about my experiences, 'kay?

I arrived in Tilburg, the site of the festival, in the early afternoon of Wednesday 13th April - the day before the whole shindig kicks off - after a wee diversion through Amsterdam, on my way through from the airport. Having never been to Amsterdam before, or even Holland itself, I figured I really ought to have at least a quick look around, since I had flown into Schiphol Airport anyway with my lovely assistant, the divine Ms Anna Calderbank. Bumping into friends - Doom hobbit Lyndon Renney, the ever-lovely Dawn Fildes and Ms. Kelly Duvall - in the queue for train tickets to Tilburg, we weren't exactly hard to win over with an offer to nip off 'round Amsterdam for some food before heading out.

My impressions of Amsterdam are only based on a brief visit of, like, an hour or so, but it seemed nice enough to me...although the continual avoidance of and negotiation around cars AND bikes AND trams struck me as something that the average stoner - cuz lets face it, that's the kind of person that generally goes to visit Amsterdam innit? - would have a really hard time dealing with, maaaaaaan. Personally, I had no such issues as I don't smoke pot. This probably explains WHY I've never been there before, along with my reluctance to pay actual cash money for sex - the OTHER thing that seems to draw the tourists in.

As it happened, the place we were going to for food was down near the red-light area, where the ladies dans la nuit plied their trade in the windows, so I got to see some of these 'lovely' damsels for myself. I quickly figured out that they must save all the real lookers for the evening crowds as the vast majority, no pun intended, leaning listlessly in the windows were, indeed, vast and oddly short. Hell, even if I was richer and blind-drunk, I'd STILL get the shudders just thinking of sticking any part of my body into the denizens of the windows I beheld that day. Uh-uh. no sir. Thankfully, the enormous apple pancake I tucked into was a vastly more appetising proposition.

Companions nicely toasted, grumbling tum sated, we headed back to the train station and got on the train to Tilburg. One quick change later and BOOM, there we were. Job done. Met outside by Sam Bishop, MR. Calderbank, we were whisked away to our place of residence for the next few days.....the JUNGALOW!

This deceptively small hut housed six people for the duration of our Roadburn experience, four of whom had been there since the Monday and would stay until the following Monday. Matt Wassell (who has just moved to Holland), Joe Allard, the legend that IS Evan Lawton and Sam - the afore-mentioned MR Calderbank - myself and Anna stayed here split across three rooms, sleeping in bunk-beds, with a central communal living room/kitchen and a small bathroom.

That first night there was no Roadburn-related activity to report, aside from a Keiji Haino/Stephen O'Malley/Oren Ambarchi show in Amsterdam that I would have liked to have seen...

...and a free show in Tilburg that I attempted to make it to but failed due to my not having ridden a bicycle for around twenty-two years. I collided with an exposed tree root upon remembering that the brakes on Dutch bicycles are operated by pedalling backwards at a juncture that was far too late. After the spillage and realisation that my stumpy legs are unsuitable for a tall bicycle with a crossbar, I gave up and decided to walk to a bus-stop. That was ALSO a total failure as I gave up walking when I reached the motorway and realised that i had no idea where I was. In abject failure I walked back to the jungalow, stopping en route to lie on a bench and look up at the stars through the branches of a large tree. This is something one cannot really do whilst living in a city, as there is far too much ambient light stopping the stars from being clearly visible. As I lay there, lost in my thoughts and the wonderful starscape wheeling above my head, some stupid idiot decided that I was a passed-out tourist and took a photo of me, laughing.

I was not best pleased, and called her a number of very unpleasant words.

I took this as a sign to go back, have a few more drinks, then turn in and get some rest before the big day.....the first day of Roadburn 2011!!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Hasta mañana monsieurs......

Weeeeeell, it's about time for me to be hittin' the ol' dusty trail to Roadburn 2011.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this li'l ditty to tide you over until I return in triumph....