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This is the second part of our Roadburn 2017 coverage. Read part two here.

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Day 2 – Identity crisis

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After the initial thrill of Day 1, Day 2’s offering felt a little more challenging. Quite a few of the performances weren’t home runs (but that’s not to say any of them were poor).

Throughout the day, I caught a few black metal sets in Het Patronaat; Schammasch, Zhrine and Emptiness sound markedly different on recordings, but all evoked similar live atmospheres of solemnity and grandeur. Het Patronaat may have contributed to the homogenization of the riffs; it’s not the ideal place for black metal sets, even though we all want it to be. The long layout and small stage make it more suitable for hip hop, electronic, d-beat, and melodic doom – basically anything that doesn’t easily sound muddy.

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I’ve seen Chelsea Wolfe play an intimate guitar-driven set to a small crowd at the Echo in LA. I’ve also seen her floor an entire amphitheatre of people opening for Queens of the Stone Age. She’s since catapulted to success with several very different, increasingly experimental albums under her belt, so I was eager to see her perform at a more advanced point in her career, and in this particular setting. Wolfe has perfected her voice, which has become the most important element of her music; both haunting and soothing, it seems to radiate from dark recesses. That being said, I found this particular performance lacking the energy she’s capable of conveying. The heavy strobe and fog detracted instead of added. By the end, I still wondered, “Who is Chelsea Wolfe?”

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John Dyer Baizley, who curated this year’s edition, mentioned Amenra as the band topping his list of invitees. It’s easy to understand why; Amenra are quintessential Roadburn. We swayed in awe during their headlining set – a complete sensory experience from literal top to bottom (their video backdrop of grey landscapes was massive). Scott Kelly of Neurosis and John Dyer Baizley came and joined for several songs. At one point there were seven musicians onstage, lurching forward and backwards in unison with the wall of sound they created. Amenra ensure a complete sonic assault through all frequencies: the crushing low end, the melodic chord changes in the mids and piercing vocal highs.

What better place to play your fourth show then in a completely packed church at Roadburn? Zeal & Ardor got to do just that, although the universe couldn’t let them get away with the whole cake just yet; they were forced to cut their set short after the PA went out about ⅔ of the way through. The band initially kept playing as they could still hear themselves in the monitors, so for a brief minute it was like watching a silent film. They sputtered on through crackling and popping, and after some moments of confusion, they accepted their fate and ended early – but not before engaging in a “Devil is Fine” acapella interplay with the audience. That moment, even more than their actual set, electrified the crowd. I’m looking forward to what Manuel Gagneux and co. will do next – it seems pretty certain they’ll be back at Roadburn next year to finish where they left off.

A few hours and one PA repair job later, Perturbator converted the same location into a dance floor and closed out the night with a one-man synth show. Some of the French synthwave artist’s songs lend themselves well to this performance setup – as evidenced by the crowd’s movement even after a long day of standing – but ultimately, it’s missing that special something. A live band might be the answer.

The afterparty raged on downstairs with a disco and then carried over to the streets. A group of us walked to Little Devil bar only to find that it was already closed for the night. The resourceful musicians in tow solved that problem quickly by cracking open the whiskey outside the bar’s front door. I ducked into a cab before the bottle reached half empty – maybe one of my smarter decisions that weekend.

Choice set: Amenra

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All words by Julia Neuman.
Photos by Diana Lungu. View her portfolio here and follow her on Instagram at @winterfelled.

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