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Roadburn 2015

Enslaved and Wardruna oversee four days of sonic deliverance

THURSDAY

Roadburn is greeted once more with glorious sunshine and good vibes, so how better to start proceedings than with crushing funeral doom care of BELL WITCH [7]? Never an easy area to distinguish yourself in, the Seattleites’ set clearly is clearly played from their coagulated heart./o:p

SUBROSA [8] look like they’re fronted by a cabal of witches, their string-drizzled rites exploding into moments of catharsis that threaten to blow out Het Patronaat’s stained-glass windows. FLOOR [6] might’ve hoped their first mainland European show in 23 years would have gone better. Steve Brooks’ vocals sound worn-out and they never really get going./o:p

WOVENHAND’s [7] Refractory Obdurate album has yet to transfer completely to the live setting, David Eugene Edwards’ transfixing presence resonating more in the starker nature of earlier material, even if tracks like Good Shepherd thunder around the main room as if the plaster’s about to fall off to reveal celestial light blazing through./o:p

Exuding a beatific menace like he’s in some purgatorial state of grace, THOU’s [7] frontman leads the Patronaat through a blackened sludge pilgrimage that chars your frontal lobes in the process. While still hurling ugly missives from the deepest of Louisianan sewers, EYEHATEGOD [8] are in sprightly, feelgood mode on the main stage, tearing through the ageless likes of Shoplift like drug-ravaged outlaws reborn. Sludge is safe in their scabby hands.

Performing last year’s Miserable in its entirety, BONGRIPPER [8] are charismatic doom mavens wielding gargantuan, infernal power as they close the opening day./o:p

FRIDAY/o:p

Imbued with the spirit of Voivod via Norway’s weirdest shadows, VIRUS [7] tap into Roadburn’s maverick vibe with great charm and some truly warped riffing as they start day two on thrillingly uneven footing. Next door, SVARTIDAUĐI’s [8] dense yet vast black metal missives charge every atom of the Green Room as half of Tilburg attempt to squeeze their way in.

Despite the majestic, elegiac emotion SÓLSTAFIR [8] wring from the likes of Ottá, the Icelanders exude the sort of rock-star attitude that lets vocalist/guitarist Addi strut into the front row without making them look like Kiss./o:p

Upstairs, BRIMSTONE [8] play old-school prog with lashings of Hammond and intricate vigour: the sound of the early 70s, revived and rendered in fresh shades of madness. A hint of timidity threatens to derail LUCIFER’s [6] much-anticipated set, but singer Johanna Sadonis has more than enough enigmatic power to iron out those creases in future, while DEATH HAWKS’ [8] rolling, Neu!-meets-rhythm-and-blues mantras sound more diffused and blissful than ever.

Moving, mesmerising and imperious, WARDRUNA [9] are the worthiest of co-headliners, their ancient mantras providing an irresistible bridge between ghosts of the past and the future’s alluring haze. By its transcendental climax, Roadburn is entirely and joyfully under their spell./o:p

Exploring runic crusades from their lengthy history, ENSLAVED [8] ooze authority and just a hint of knowing showmanship. Whether wallowing in grandeur on Giants, invoking hellish mischief with Loke or casting beautiful shadows with Axioma, they’re a skull-scything heavy metal happening.

The combined forces of both Enslaved and Wardruna – with Costin Chioreanu’s gorgeously apposite animation projected behind – SKUGGSJÁ’s [9] epic journey along the pagan/Christian faultlines is by turns enraged, searching and a imperious call to arms. Grutle’s rugged rasp chafes against the massed vocal harmonies, and for all the progressive turns, it’s an epic statement of intent that meets all expectations and raises them to Valhalla. /o:p

SATURDAY/o:p

Lysergic, masked doom cult BRIQUEVILLE [8] are a revelation; crucifyingly heavy and thrillingly bizarre, their rapacious psychedelia strikes an immediate and sustained chord. Possessing the only harmonium and hammered dulcimers at the festival, BOTANIST’s [8] expansive, shimmering black/gaze is little short of stunning.

Gaz Jennings’ mastery of the riff and Michelle Nocon’s sizzling wail ensure that DEATH PENALTY [8] score plenty of heavy metal points. Howling At The Throne Of Decadence already sounds like a classic. If you could bottle the energy expelled by OOZING WOUND [9] it’d probably kill you. As it is, the weed-huffing trio slay the upstairs room with thrash instead.

Incurring a sudden thunderstorm outside, stoner freaks ACID WITCH [9] are brilliantly dumb and pickled in B-movie moonshine. Armed with songs like Metal Movie Marijuana Meltdown Massacre, they conquer Roadburn with ease, and the equally long queues to get in to Patronaat for TOMBS’s [8] urban yet emotional black metal screeds ensure everyone leaves crushed, sonically and physically. With just one EP to her name so far, DARKHER’s [8] exiled folk rites have the upstairs stage overflowing as she weaves plaintive missives from spectral netherworlds frequented by PJ Harvey and Jex Thoth.

Witnessing THE HEADS [8] in their natural habitat and at excruciating volume hammers home how exciting freewheeling psych rock can be in the hands of its truest devotees. No mind at the main stage stays unblown. Nasty cunts from NYC, BLACK ANVIL’s [8] scabrous black metal bully tactics go down a storm with the crust’n’grind contingent, as arcane menace and street-level nihilism collide.

FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM [10] are nothing short of magical. Beautifully atmospheric and at times startlingly heavy, the archetypal renegade goths harness this festival’s spirit and ride it like a winged stallion towards an apocalyptic horizon. SAMMAL’s [8] Hammond-thawed prog excursions sound like a polaroid from 1972 conjured into life, shot through with autumn-hued wonder and one of the most remarkable voices you’ll hear all festival.

ZOMBI [8] conjure countless moments of spinetingling otherness with their wall of surging synths underpinned by rampaging percussive precision. For those lost in a fog of THC fumes, there could hardly be a more immersive end to the day./o:p

SUNDAY/o:p

With faces ruled by mutton chops and guitars driven by cheap lager and prison fags, ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL [7] are perfect end-of-party neck-wreckers. Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a timeless horror classic and to watch it with a live soundtrack from CLAUDIO SIMONET TI’S GOBLIN [9] feels like an unearthly privilege to cherish forever. An extra point is awarded for the huge cheer that erupts when Jessica Harper kills a rubbery but vicious bat with a chair.

Despite a glorious setlist and the long-awaited reunion with original vocalist Darren White, ANATHEMA [7] miss the bullseye by an inch or two tonight, largely due to a reedy and unbecoming guitar sound that renders even their strongest songs a little faint of heart. Nonetheless, the closing Sleepless nearly brings the ceiling down. THE OSIRIS CLUB [8] are an insidious, endearing oddity and the perfect band to obliterate what remains of our tender cerebellums./o:p