It’s Roadburn month! Time to dig out your tiny toothpaste, crispest Gildans, and plug adapter. The renowned Dutch festival needs little introduction at this point, a cherished pilgrimage for a worldwide flock (75% of attendees travel from outside the Netherlands) of devoted heavy and experimental music fans, chasing an elusive and always expanding understanding of what exactly “heavy” music is. We’re on the ground in the city of Tilburg from April 19 to report on this years’ edition, and wanted to offer some primers on what to expect to those we’ll be joining.

The idea of sharing a simple list of acts you *should* watch feels limiting—The fun of any festival, especially Roadburn, has always been in running a personalised gauntlet of must-see performances, whilst leaving enough bandwidth to bounce around and stumble into something weird, unexpected, and brilliant. With that in mind, why should this preview be any different? We’ve broken down our recommendations by how you might be vibing at any given moment of the four day event; simply go where your mood takes you; join us by the hand, and let’s get lost, then found, then drunk, then tired at Roadburn Festival 2023.

We are psychic, and we already know who you’re going to see. As such, we know you don’t need us to tell you to watch Deafheaven, Cave In, Chat Pile, Wolves in the Throne Room or any of the other brilliantly successful breakout artists performing victorious full album and career retrospective sets, we’ll be there too! Below, we’ve instead tried to nudge your curiosity towards the unknown, as surely you would want us to.


I would like to embrace the spirit of creativity and forward-thinking values that the festival is known for!

Having been denied a visa to perform at last year’s Roadburn, 2023’s festival will host the long-awaited debut European performances of industrial hip hop icon Backxwash. Interestingly, the two sets that Backxwash will play have been described not in relation to existing material but along themes, firstly of harsh noise in the set MA NYIMBO YA GEHANA (a Nyanja translation of “Songs of Hell''), and secondly a set of more haunting sounds in NINE HELLS–We’re promised surprises and guests (side eye at Pupil Slicer). Elsewhere, Duma and Deafkids’ commissioned piece will be essential watching not only to see what the Kenyan and Brazilian acts have conjured up with 9,000 miles between them, but also to bask in Deafkids’ fine chaotic collaborative pedigree (see their previous work with PetBrick and Ratka).

Defiers of black metal conservatism Mamaleek were recently cruelly upended by the death of band member and multi instrumentalist Eric Alan Livingstone. They have said that their performance at Roadburn will be in homage to his life and memory, layering further weight upon what was already a rare chance to catch the band live. Switzerland’s Yrre’s debut album, released in 2021, has a fascinating backstory. Invited by a film festival to compose an alternative score to Robert Eggers’ film The Witch, Yrre channelled post rock, drone and black metal to create a terrifying accompaniment, which following the festival would go on to be moulded into the shape of the recorded release—It will be played in full in Tilburg.

Marion Leclercq has a pedigree in psychology as well as being the sole musician and creative force behind Mütterlein. The act uses a palette of sheer bleakness across the disciplines of noise, ambience, and black metal to carve out cinematic landscapes that challenge listeners to traverse them –This will be one of the most unnerving experiences of the festival. Finally, Elizabeth Colour Wheel are back! Actually, they have been since summer of 2022, playing shows and clicking back into gear as a band ahead of a slew of high profile sets, including more than one at Roadburn 2023, and recording a new album–Now is the time to revisit their 2019 classic Nocebo, and prepare yourself for the volumes at which their mesmerising fuzz will be poured out during their performance.



This is a heavy music show, and frankly, I came here to be shouted at.

One of the reasons the festival earns so much trust from its audience is its ability to walk a tightrope of bringing in the new and venerating the classic, meaning you’re typically never more than 50 feet away from a world-class metal band performing.

This year will see the festival debut of Crouch, who share members with Wiegedood and play a slithering, groov- infected sludge that’s incredibly moreish. Spirit Possession are riding into Roadburn hot on the heels of the release of their scalding new album Of The Sign. if you don’t know them already, you will know guitarist and vocalist S.Peacock’s other bands Ulthar and Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, Spirit Possession nod more towards traditional heavy metal than either of those, using it as a springboard into their adventurous song structures.

Candy will play Heaven is Here in full on April 22, the album being a taught fusion of hardcore, noise, and electronics—Full of Hell fans take note. Sticking with punk-inflected sound, blackened everything masters Portrayal of Guilt will be playing the appropriately oppressive engine room venue, given their range this set could go any number of ways, but if you’re the sort of person who needs to crowd surf, then you can absolutely get away with it here.

Dutch and European black metal always make an appearance at Roadburn, and given the pedigree of the scene, it’s no surprise—In 2023, Ossaert and Predatory Void will represent The Netherlands and Belgium, respectively. Predatory Void include members of Oathbreaker among them and will be premiering their debut album Seven Keys to the Discomfort of Being at the festival.

Finally, Wayfarer are playing a set titled “A High Plains Eulogy” split into two, encompassing the band's recorded output to date and then a debut of unreleased material. It has been a joy in recent weeks revisiting 2021’s A Romance With Violence, the album that puts Wayfarer at the absolute forefront of the Old West black metal movement.




I want to enjoy an uncannily communal breakfast with like-minded people.

So you didn’t get a room at the Mercure in Tilburg in time —Of course you didn’t; you’re not Walter; you’re not KEN Mode, buddy! So you looked at the alternatives. It’s good news; there are loads, and even the urban camping looked nice, but you are unfortunately too old for that, so here we are, a short train ride from Tilburg, at the Holiday Inn Eindhoven. As the sensory memories of yesterday’s fun recede to make way for another long day, it swiftly becomes time to fuel your body. You begin your descent upon the restaurant and towards breakfast, and it dawns on you that everyone in this hotel is attending Roadburn (someone in the elevator had an Eternal Champion shirt on!).

The polite clinks and drips of the breakfast bar are visually complemented by an ocean of battle jackets and black tees, as people subtly but thoroughly sneak peeks at one another’s shirts. The sheer ubiquity of festival-goers breaks down the walls of politeness and reservedness a little, and some people are even chatty—Last year, a guy in a Jo Quail tshirt talked to us unwaveringly about Jo Quail for at least half an hour; it was good! You could be in any local hotel, B&B, or camp site, really. This is a predictable moment of calm and unity amid a busy and breakneck weekend; enjoy it.


I flew here from Brazil; I wanna see things you can’t get anywhere else!

For a lot of people, the first time they made the journey to Roadburn, it was down to the pull of a must-see or one-off set that was unlikely to be replicated anywhere else. The festival planners have a knack for firing the imaginations of artists and putting incredible amounts of work into realizing their ideas. Amongst all the commissioned pieces this year, it is the collaboration between Elizabeth Colour Wheel and Primitive Man’s Ethan Lee McCarthy that most intrigues. With such a sheer gulf between the musical styles of their primary acts, the feeling is that this could take any number of sonic directions, and you’re going to have to be there to find out which it is.

Julie Christmas is an unsung hero of the heavy music underworld! Whether in her solo work, as a member of Made Out of Babies, or doing vocal duties on Cult Of Luna’s best album, her versatile voice sails, crackles, and yelps in harmony with a multitude of different musical styles, so to get the rare chance to see her perform live, particularly a career retrospective pulling in songs from various acts (Johannes Persson of Cult of Luna as a member of her band included), is the kind of treat that gets people booking flights. It doesn’t get any more exclusive than what a band created for the festival, right? Alkahest are a band composed of music students working alongside the festival and Eindhoven’s The Metal Factory to create something new and unique just for this event.

The “I was there” flex of the festival will invariably go to Giles Corey—Dan Barrett of Have A Nice Life’s emotionally devastating act that began as a solo project, but that will feature a full band here. Their self-titled album uses sparse instrumentation, distant noise, and Barrett’s impossible-to-ignore lyrics to pour light into some of the extremely dark corners of the mind of its creator. Catharsis will reign; tears will be shed, and people will lie about having been there.



I must move, for I am dancer.

When you’ve spent all day doing little, medium, and big nods to some of the finest heavy music in the world, sometimes you just need to let the rest of your body join in. Roadburn has welcomed electronic and dance music increasingly in recent years, often leading to some wonderful end-of-day scenes and gatherings. This year, John Cxnner will play an original composition titled All My Future’s Past—If an exclusive set by a darkwave act composed of members of LLNN doesn’t sound like fun to you, what are you doing here?

As part of the the festival’s Offroad program, embracing the city’s close connection with the city of Tilburg, this year, Roadburn will run a horror-influenced breakcore night at Club Smederij—Smash a clubmate and wring the extra hours out of your day to make sure you catch it. Elsewhere, Filmmaker bring their cinematic techno to Sunday evening, and in addition to playing live on Saturday, Boy Harsher will be running a DJ set on Friday night that runs until 3:30 in the morning that you will definitely be too tired for, but everyone else will love.



I want my carefully highlighted agenda to be obliterated, thanks!

Roadburn uses the Timesquare app to allow you to review the line up, plan your days, and get reminders for upcoming sets. In recent years, it has also used the app to provide short-ish notice of unannounced and surprise sets. Last year, keeping an eye on the app gave you a shot at seeing Lamp of Murmuur in a bar, Patrick Walker making everyone cry at the jazz stage, Dawn Ray’d materialize out of thin air in a skate park, and Thou playing literally every venue in Tilburg including your hotel room. Even if you’re not sketching out your every move in advance, it’s definitely worth having the app downloaded and your notifications on because you never know who’s going to turn up.


I need something that’s not blurry stage footage to break up my Instagram stories.

As in recent years, Roadburn will also run a side program of talks and art displays to tempt you away from the stages—Of this year's selection, Lucile Lejoly’s <> exhibition and José Carlos Santos’ talk on “Folk Stories in Contemporary Music” stand out as potential highlights. Lucile worked closely with the festival to develop their visual identity for the online iteration of the festival which took place in 2021.

There’s a robust beer culture in Tilburg, but over the past few years, LOC brewery (located adjacent to a number of the festival stages) has stood out as a front runner in creating interesting brews, as well as being a nicely fitted out venue for a breather.

It is safe to presume also that the merch cave will be back in some format in 2023; it’s always massive, but the main thing to note is that not all acts are able to stay on site for the duration of the festival, and their merch may disappear with them, so be wary of waiting until the last day to get your garms in. PSA on merch *looks down glasses*—Let’s remember that music is fashun, not fash. Roadburn is a community-led effort that is openly progressive; nobody cares that you’ve had your Horna or Mgla badge on your jacket for years. It is deeply embarrassing to see; do yourself a favour and drop that shit beforehand.


I would love to read an interview with an artist performing one of the most eagerly anticipated commissioned performances of the festival!

We’ve got you. A second complimentary preview is coming from us ahead of the festival featuring exactly that. Until then.

--Luke Jackson


Visit Roadburn's official website for more information.

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