Whether it’s your first time or Roadburn has long been your annual calling, entering the café-lined street that leads up to the 013 feels like crossing into an alternate reality, where 4,300 like-minded souls have converged on a musical holy grail. The first of this year’s Tampere contingent, and representing the warmer end of its cosmic spectrum, HEXVESSEL  take well to the renovated and vastly expanded main room and make it feel intimate, their pastoral and psychedelic search for enlightenment ranging from wide-eyed celebrations of psilocybin to haunting, soul-searching odes, leaving you with the fi nal revelation that men in capes are fucking cool. The besieged entrance to Het Patronaat turns out to be an intergalactic portal as fellow Tampere explorers ORANSSI PAZUZU  turn themselves into the sonic equivalent of a supercollider, hypercharged, mantric ri s colliding with relentlessly probing bass and exploding into maxed out, mindfuck, space/time-warping black metal that pulls every soul here into their erratic, ecstatic orbit.
It’s no surprise that witnessing CONVERGE  play Jane Doe in its entirety is stupidly, dangerously exciting. Never to be repeated, it’s a performance that hammers home the album’s greatness and its ongoing, unassailable relevance to modern heavy music. Iceland’s MISÞRYMING  represent a new, more muscular breed of black metal, bringing in non-traditional elements but sweeping them into their overwhelming and ever-escalating hammerblow momentum until a heaving Het Patronaat is but gristle to their glorious mill. At the main venue, grown men are witnessed weeping during a PARADISE LOST  set that gives their classic album Gothic a full update; everything sounding monumental, in keeping with the vast influence this band have exerted over the decades.
If the sole piano adorning the main stage suggests something sedate, you’ve clearly never heard DIAMANDA GALÁS [∆Ω], an artist whose multi-octave ability to invoke the most soul-reaping of forces exists on no comprehensible scale, and whose stipulation that the bars are closed for the duration and people are only let in and out in between songs is more a necessary act of containment than any divalike request. The opening, Pandora’s-box incantation unleashes a host of voices that would make the angel of death do a quick 180˚ turn, scrambles any lucid mode of perception, and from hereon in, her acrid, eruptive vibrato is an amplifying needle jammed into the darkest forces of the blues. A closing Gloomy Sunday reverberates around your restructured brain as it echoes with aeons’ worth of unrequited suffering.
Hearing REPULSION  at full pelt remains one of extreme music’s greatest joys, but at Roadburn they seem somehow bigger and more destructive than ever. A cover of Motörhead’s The Hammer fits perfectly into an exhilarating charge through the immortal Horrified. Lee Dorrian could hardly be a Roadburn curator without chipping in with some crushing doom and WITH THE DEAD  are the perfect post-Cathedral vehicle. Insanely heavy and brutally bleak, it’s the sound of sonic despair’s ante being upped.If you like demented punk rock with shades of Melt-Banana and Boredoms, the brilliantly named COCAINE PISS  are definitely for you. They erupt, make a juddering, untamed racket and then disappear barely 20 minutes later. Genius
G.I.S.M.  have never played outside Japan before, or indeed anywhere else for 14 years, so seeing the Japanese hardcore punk legends in the flesh is a privilege and, it turns out, an unhinged joy, Death Agonies And Screams provoking a raucous singalong as psychedelic cartoon porn fl ashes on the screen behind them. Bobby Liebling is on typically great form as PENTAGRAM  reaffirm their reputation as doom overseers. He may be sober these days but the stick-thin veteran still sings When The Screams Come with eerie conviction. DARK BUDDHA RISING’s  overwhelming traction threatens to pull all creation across their event horizon as strange new physics take hold. Insistent, equilibrium-knobbling grooves jut into a psychedelic squall of guitars that finally spill out into a haywire, third-eye-melting splurge, and pulling yourself together afterwards is an act of Dr Manhattan-esque will. THE SKULL  do the decent thing and play a set of classics from vocalist Eric Wagner’s Trouble(d) past, including the mighty Psalm 9 from start to finish. If it isn’t the real thing, it’s close enough. Centred around Misþryming ÚLFMESSA  is a near-two-hour rite involving masks, male choirs, various very non-traditional instruments, bug-eyed intensity, and one member prostrating himself on the floor amidst chalices and neck-stretching, long-stunned crowds.
When Voivod and Amebix meet, magic occurs. TAU CROSS  may conform to a fairly standard post-punk template, but the combination of Rob Miller’s noble sermonising and Away’s unstoppable clatter is irresistible. GALLEY BEGGAR’s  psychedelic folk provides some enchanting respite, the sublime Empty Sky proving the highlight of an exquisite set that pitches beauty and elegance against the lure of lysergic mists. With its stained glass windows and trippy lights, Het Patronaat is the perfect venue to host BLOOD CEREMONY’s  opulent, flute-tinged psych summons. NEUROSIS  are celebrating their 30th anniversary over two, incendiary nights, and if they’ve always been the ultimate sonic heavy lifters, here it’s taken to another level, dredging up tracks, many unplayed live, from all eras and albums as oppressive force gives way to cathartic, cataclysmic alchemy. From Times Of Grace through Pain Of Mind to the elephant-though-a-keyhole crush of Through Silver In Blood, their ability to map personal trials onto tectonic plates engenders an apocalyptic connectedness that’s amongst the most engulfing live experiences you can ever undergo. GREEN CARNATION  kick off the last day performing prog masterpiece Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness with such slick style and charm that their status as unsung heroes seems ever more laughable. AMENRA  get the festival’s biggest audience as the main hall becomes hallowed, if volatile ground. With stark, stunning imagery projected behind, their fevered, overdriven birth rites all but pull your spirit out of your body as the likes of Am Kreuz flood you with surges of sonic serotonin. Kicking off with a fissure-opening To Crawl Under One’s Skin – the song that changed everything, NEUROSIS’s  second set may have an abundance of earlier material that provides more enlightening context than charged, visceral reckoning, but they still jack Roadburn into something elemental and sacrosanct, a closing The Doorway offering heaving and liberating testament to a unique experience that’s not just a festival but a state of mind.