Neurosis. All photos by Maija Lahtinen
The final day of Roadburn is traditionally a low key affair, designed to ease festival acolytes back down to earth from PlanetRoadburn before the harsh light of Monday morning (and the inevitable post-festival malaise) sets in. As such, the Afterburner is usually where you'll find the most spacey, psychedelic, progressive, and overall chill bands of the weekend in an abbreviated program stretched out across just three venues. This year, though, the addition of Neurosis and Amenra ensured that Roadburners (no matter how fried or hungover) had a reason to keep paying attention.
Chaos Echoes had a hand in that as well—they were the biggest surprise of the festival for me, and ended up being one of the best things I saw all weekend. I elbowed my way into the tiny Cul de Sac to see them purely because their name sounded cool; in a genre built on people inadvertently discovering their favorite new bands on the strength of a sweet album cover, it was enough to pique my interest. I'd expected to encounter the usual ambient drone stuff, but as soon as I got inside, I could tell that something much more interesting was afoot. The air pulsed with energy and howled with intoxicating sonic darkness, and without even realizing it, I found myself drawn up to the very front. As I discovered, Chaos Echoes hail from France and play a mix of black metal, death metal, doom, drone, and psychedelic horror that works incredibly well live. The band was apparently formed by former members of Bloody Sign (which explains the black/death influence) but the rest of the wild noise and screaming dread they churn out is all Chaos Echoes.
After that, I got to see Philadelphia's Ecstatic Visions fly their eclectic psychedelic freak flag high; the band was in the throes of its first European tour, and you could tell that it was agreeing with them. Watching them shred and sway through their acid-soaked rock'n'roll reminded me of Roadburns past, when tie-dye outnumbered black leather dozens to one and stoner vibes ruled the airwaves.
I only saw a bit of Amenra, but even those snatched moments were demonstrative of why this band is so revered. "Heavy" doesn't begin to cut it when describing Amenra—they were more like a force of nature, as impossible to ignore as a slow-moving volcanic eruption. As I watched their frontman scream into the void, I kept thinking that, if they ever tour with Inter Arma, there wouldn't be a soul left standing afterwards.
Neurosis being great is just a fact, as understood and reliable as the color of the sky or snow in winter. The Oakland institution thundered its way through a cumulative four hours this weekend, capping it off their 30th anniversary celebration with a two-hour set on Sunday evening. I'm not enough of a Neurosis head to be able to pick out every song they played, but I can tell you that it all sounded absolutely monumental, and at one point, it seemed as though they'd finally achieved their ultimate goal and had ushered in the end times. In the wide scope of heavy music experiences, there's really nothing else like a visit to the church of Neurosis.
Midway through their set, I moseyed over to the Green Room to get an eyeful of Gentlemens Pistols, those deliciously sleazy, sexed-up London rock'n'rollers. They boogied through a sweaty, energetic, infectiously fun set, elevated further by guitarist Bill Steer's hot licks and onstage swagger; even though he's best known for grinding it out in Carcass, it's obvious that his heart belongs to rock'n'roll. They were so much fun that I had to tear myself away after the salacious "Heavy Petting" to catch the end of Neurosis (which made for quite the shock to my system, as you can imagine—the two are like night and day, with the day belonging to the cheeky Gents).
Buried at Sea sounded excellent from where I was standing, but the burden of having to follow Neurosis is a heavy one got any band to bear, and by that point, I was thoroughly drained. Roadburn was over for me, and it was time to sit down with a few whiskies and process it all before the next adventure began. I've said it many times and I'll say it many more: if you love heavy music, and you're able to pull it off, you owe it to yourself to visit Planet Roadburn at least once, because no matter who you are or where you're from, it always feels like coming home.
Kim Kelly is an editor at Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.