Roadburn is a mind-bending mecca for anyone fascinated by music that’s pushed to its outer limits: from trippy psych to out-there avant-garde, from bone-crushing heaviness to vanguard prog and far beyond.
The queue for Oranssi Pazuzu on Thursday snakes around the second largest of four venues, the church Het Patronaat. Once inside, we witness one of the most intense performances of the weekend: gripping, psychedelic black metal played as the band whorl their manes to the music.
Although Black Mountain take to the stage as the clock reaches 12am, there are still plenty there to lap up their 70s-style grooves. Bathed under purple lights, they provide a perfect chilled-out end to the first day.
One look at Mondo Drag’s swirling logo on the backdrop of their stage on Friday afternoon gives their style away: keyboard-heavy hallucinogenic rock, loaded with instrumentals and more than a hint of Pink Floyd.
One of the most anticipated acts at Roadburn this year, and indeed, at any Roadburn so far, is Diamanda Galás, whose performance today is entitled Death Will Come And Have Your Eyes. As Prog arrives early, we learn that the venue doors will only open in between songs. This news together with the eerie-looking stage set up – a single spotlight atop a piano – adds to the anxious anticipation as we wait to witness the woman whose multi-octave voice ranges from hauntingly beautiful to ruthlessly terrifying.
Suddenly Diamanda appears onstage swathed in black robes. She begins with a ferocious intensity; high-pitched screams run into low growls that sound as though they were birthed in the bowels of hell. It’s too much for some; after the first song, many scamper.
But though her voice is like a weapon on these bloodcurdling tracks, as the set continues it’s less frightening, more mesmerising; Galás specialises in mangling classic songs, like Billie Holiday’s Gloomy Sunday, twisting them into different beasts, sounding like a witch casting her spell on the blues.
Kent’s Galley Beggar are a lush start to Saturday. With a violinist in a long white dress, and their pastoral folk rock, they’re an enthralling, magical delight under the venue’s stained glass windows.
Icelanders Kontinuum play the small Extase venue with the audience spilling out into the hallway. Their sound is as sprawling as the vast landscape of their homeland. While they were once quite unassuming live, today they’re energetic and passionate.
Clashing with the weekend’s main headliner (Neurosis) is a daunting prospect, but Canada’s Blood Ceremony still pack out Het Patronaat on Saturday night. Equal parts doom and proggy psych, their Black Sabbath-esque sounds are rooted in the occult.
On Saturday it’s announced that The Vintage Caravan will play a secret show in the tiny Cul De Sac on Sunday afternoon. The Icelandic boys are only just out of their teens, and their spirited sounds were likely influenced by their parents’ record collections. It’s impossible to watch them without a grin.
Norwegian proggers Green Carnation play their 2002 album Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness in its entirely this afternoon. Their atmospheric prog sits between Pink Floyd and Amorphis, and is intensified by the moody, cinematic visuals that light up the screen behind them. A fitting end to a wonderful weekend of innovative music.