Roadburn always has a good and very interesting bill. But they have got the same luxury problem as the Keep It True festival in Germany: it is sold out long before it even takes place. So obviously, we weren’t even considering of going at all. No matter how good the line-up was, we just didn’t have a chance to visit the festival. Until the email of WITCHFYNDE reached us, saying that they were coming over to Holland to play at Roadburn and if we would be able to be there as well. Our reply was that it would be great to see them live again, but unfortunately the festival was sold out already. Two or three days later however, another email reached us, that we were on the guestlist of WITCHFYNDE and the only thing we had to do was to take care of a photo pass. Well, this was really a piece of cake (thanks to Yvonne of Roadburn!) and so we could prepare ourselves for a full day at Roadburn in Tilburg. This review was made possible because of the kind help of Montalo, Luther Beltz, Gra Scoresby and Pete ‘Thud’ Surgey, better known as WITCHFYNDE and the organizers and volunteers of Roadburn. Thank you very much guys for a wonderful day! Let’s do this more frequently!
The Roadburn Festival mainly takes place in three different halls in the venue of 013. The main stage, the Green Room and the Batcave are all located here in this rock palace. The MIDI Theater however is a couple of blocks away from 013. When we collect our passes, DEATHROW is playing at the MIDI Theater. We actually wanted to see them very much but hey, you can’t have it all. The arrangements for the passes has been very well taken care of. Opposite 013, they have organized a small location, where the fans can buy some band merchandise and there even is a small record fair as well. So we first went to display the WITCHFYNDE goodies over there and afterwards we take a quick bite.
When we got outside, somebody told us that THORR’S HAMMER are playing at 18.00 hours instead of 19.00 hours. Oops, better hurry then and go right to the main stage to see Runehild and her guys live. At six o’clock sharp, the curtains open and we see some kind of mini backline. But very soon we will find out what an enormous power it has! THORR’S HAMMER is the Norwegian band with Runehild Gamelsaeter as their loud growling frontlady. When you hear Runehild on their one and only four track EP “Dommedagsnatt” from 1998, you definitely wouldn’t say that this dark and growling voice comes from this lovely, blonde lady. The first sound blasts are a real attack to your hearing, so I firmly close my ears in order not to loose my eardrums. THORR’S HAMMER played loud, and when I say loud, I mean that they played LOUD!! LOUD as hell. Well, at least when you are standing in the first row with your ears close to one meter from the speakers. Their sound is a real blast of Norwegian, all destroying, steel melting metal. Behind the band there are several black and white pictures from Norwegian landscapes projected to give their sound another dark dimension. It really adds up to the atmosphere in the hall and it also gives us a good preview of the beautiful landscapes, that we are about to see, when we will spend our summer holidays in Norway this September. At first Runehild sings some lovely refrains to warm up her voice, I think. Later on though, she growls out loud, like we’re used to from her. And the band backs her up with monstrous, thunderous sounds, that makes the hall shiver from excitement. Runehild hasn’t change a bit. And it almost looks like she was conserved for twelve years and resurrected from her beauty sleep only a few days ago. Besides the four songs from the aforementioned EP, the band also cranks out a new track, which shows a little bit more variation in a way, but it contains the same brutality as on “Domedagsnatt”. After a full hour, the band leaves the stage and Runehild transforms into the beautiful blonde Norwegian nymph that she really is, before showing her shredding metal voice. Leaving us with another thirteen minutes before WITCHFYNDE will hit the stage in the Green Room. Time enough to check out the merchandise stands one more time and buy the new book of Tom Gabriel, entitled “Only Death Is Real”, covering the history of HELLHAMMER and early CELTIC FROST. They only have a few signed copies left, which is all the more reason to dig in very fast.
The Green Room is jam-packed, when WITCHFYNDE takes the stage. Three candles are lit just before the gig is starting and during the opening riffs, a (female) monk, dressed in black, covers the stage with some lovely smelling essence. There is magic in the air, when the four dark male witches take the stage. Nobody is allowed to leave here anymore and we’re trapped by their spell and ready to go down in their heavenly NWOBHM sound. The audience is hungry for rock, the people are ready to roll and when the band opens with “Ready To Roll”, the whole enthusiastic atmosphere is a fact. We, being huge fans of the band, are on “holy ground” now and that’s what the next song is all about. It’s taken from the band’s latest album, recorded with former singer Harry Harrison. Now in 2010, good old Luther Beltz has returned behind the microphone, which brings us back the full “Cloack & Dagger” line-up on stage here tonight. No wonder, there is magic in the air tonight. “Stagefright” is one of my favorites, which arrives early in the set already. During this song, I observe the band closely and I have to draw the conclusion here, that there are some highly skilled musicians up and about tonight. Everybody likes to refer to people like Paul Quinn (SAXON) and Janick Gers (IRON MAIDEN, ex-GILLAN, ex-WHITE SPIRIT) or Dave Murray (IRON MAIDEN) as being the big guitar heroes of the NWOBHM scene. Strangely enough, Montalo has never been mentioned there. However, I rate this guy so much higher than any of those aforementioned guys. Sometimes you can hear influences by Ritchie Blackmore of DEEP PURPLE and RAINBOW, while at other times you even might sense the fastness and techniques of guys like Eddy van Halen (VAN HALEN) and Randy Rhoads (OZZY OSBOURNE). No ego trips, because his solos stay in service of the song, but they are indeed the cherry on the cake for me tonight. “Moon Magic” is definitely another classic WITCHFYNDE tune, which is followed by the next highlight for me. And that’s “Getting Heavy”, which contains some awesome beyond belief guitar attacks by Montalo. I’ve been trying to watch the man’s fingers, but man is he fast tapping them strings! The song floats over into “Tetelestai” and continues right away with “Cloack & Dagger”. Despite some jokes on stage, bass player Pete is a very tight rhythm tandem with the highly concentrated Gra behind his drum kit. And Luther is back home, like the man has never disappeared in the first place! He still reaches the high notes perfectly and has a good interaction with the audience. “Leaving Nadir” is definitely a crowd pleaser. And when the band asks which songs to play after that, someone calls out loud for “Conspiracy”. Montalo reacts abruptly by riffing the first notes out loud. “Conspiracy” it is, my friend!! You’ll get what you have asked for. The band is at full steam, when they continue with “Stab In The Back”. The end of this performance is coming near now, but to me this already has been one of the best performances, that I have ever seen of WITCHFYNDE so far. Of course there is only one song left to close the evening, so “Give ‘Em Hell” it is. The crowd sings the song loudly and at the end, Montalo takes out the candles and pushes them over his guitar neck, one by one. And even at the end of the set, Luther keeps reaching these high notes. A wonderful performance by a very underrated band, who actually played a killer set here tonight, that leaves nothing more to desire. The bonus songs, that were on the official set list, could only have made this performance better. Officially, the band had also planned on playing “Play It To Death” and in the encores “Wake Up Screaming”. These songs were left out, because of the time limit, they had to deal with. After the show, we head to the merchandise boot and when we return, we see the band coming outside the backstage area. They collect their stuff and then it’s time to say goodbye to the band. But not after shooting some pics in the parking lot with the band. What a great and unforgettable meeting this has been!
We could have left home after this, but we wanted to see PAGAN ALTAR as well, so why not grab this opportunity, when you have the chance? When arriving back to the hall again, we immediately bump into the guys of PAGAN ALTAR. Isn’t that a coincidence or what?! Another band, that has been very much underrated, as far as I’m concerned, which is led by the brothers Alan and Terry Jones. After a small conversation with the guys, we decide to see just a couple of minutes of TRIPTYKON, the new band by HELLHAMMER / CELTIC FROST icon Tom Gabriel Fischer. Unfortunately, we only saw one song and then we went straight back to the Green Room to see PAGAN ALTAR. So it’s not really fair to judge them by only one song. All I can say is, that the hall was jam-packed, when TRIPTYKON started their set and the people seemed to have a great time.
We arrived just in time to see the beginning of the PAGAN ALTAR service. Two new members have joined, since we saw them at 4th edition of the British Steel festival last year in London, with the well reminded fifteen minutes set back then. And what is a better way then to start with “Pagan Altar”? From the first notes on, I am once again flabbergasted by the guitarplayer of the band, the incredible Alan Jones. It’s obvious, that the lengthy solos seem to satisfy the man a lot and his audience too, I guess. Sometimes the songs even have a slightly folky edge to them. And when Terry’s voice has been heated up properly after two or three songs, my mind tends to make comparisons towards Ian Anderson of JETHRO TULL in a way. Which he can take as a huge compliment of course. The set of their ‘black mass’ contains a good mix of their entire back catalogue. You don’t have to be really familiar with any of their songs, because this band delivers high quality NWOBHM, just like their colleagues of WITCHFYNDE did earlier that day. With fastness and precision of a well-oiled machine, they work themselves through their one hour set consisting of songs like “The Cry Of The Banshee” and Dorian Grey”. During the show, you can see that the band is excited about the enthusiastic audience, which definitely shows in their playing as well. The absolute highlight here is the last song of tonight, called “Armageddon”, although “Guitarmageddon” would have been a more suitable song title! My goodness, what a heavenly violence these people have come up with tonight. The long version of “Armageddon” lifts the band up to the highest achievable level and at this peak, the band says goodbye to their audience. On the setlist, the song “Dance Of The Druids” has been mentioned as an encore, but the well- known time limit forced them to leave the song for what it is.
And with these last notes, Roadburn 2010 comes to an end for us as well. More than satisfied, we are leaving Tilburg. The day after would be very different, because four top bands, under which doom masters CANDLEMASS and GATES OF SLUMBER were forced to cancel their show, because of the volcanic ash clouds, that were floating over Holland. I’m glad that our favorite bands could make it today. I don’t think, that we will visit Roadburn next year, because therefore it’s sold out much too soon. Heads up again for the perfect organization of this great festival and our compliments for a well-organized and cozy event. Doom, stoner and retro rock are hot items and this festival proves that. WITCHFYNDE being our favorite band of today. And I know for sure, that if the Spanish Inquisition ever needs an altar to spread out their thoughts, they will surely knock on the door of Alan Jones of PAGAN ALTAR to help them out. He will know, what I mean by that. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more!
Setlist PAGAN ALTAR:
Demons Of The Night
The Cry Of The Banshee
The Sentinels Of Hate
Judgement Of The Dead
Lords Of Hypocrisy