Saturday, 11 October 2014


INCUBATE, 15-21 SEPTEMBER 2014, Tilburg (NL)


I woke up with a splitting headache. This was going to be a chilled day after all, enjoying the luxury of leaving the hotel a mere 5 minutes from the first show of the evening: Geryon, namely Krallice's Lev Weinstein and Nicholas McMaster. 
I walked across the square towards Extase in the company of the other Krallice pair, chatting about common acquaintances and good music. As we entered the pub’s narrow corridor leading to the small concert room, I dared asking Mick Barr if he realised that the previous night Krallice had given us a mindblowing mystical experience. He looked completely startled: ”Wow… that’s strange…” I laughed. I am perfectly used to perceiving music in a very powerful and enhanced way, but this time... this time I had not been on my own. 

GERYON took the stage and began to warm up, working their instruments for a quick sound-check. When the lights were turned off, we were treated with a very physical drum and bass lesson of intricate, experimental music which took death metal roots to a far more visceral and austere dimension. Nicholas’ sparse throaty cries felt harsh and lonely within the turbulence of music filled with time-changes and avant-gardness of the starkest, darkest kind, his bass, often atonal and twistedly powerful, filling in what would normally be guitar parts with the ruthlessness of a deadly virus. The drumming coiled nakedly around the ravaged gloom of the meandering bass, making the noise/music almightily physical and coherent in its uneasiness and starkness. Geryon do not deliver “ugliness” and “heaviness” in the same grand, overwhelming way as Portal do: by choosing to remain simply a duo in the first place, they placed themselves in a completely different realm, that of pure experimentalism where the only big theatre is that of human mind and body, expressively exposed for what they are. 

I had to pay my respects to KING BUZZO, aka Roger Osborne, vox/guitar and founding member of The Melvins. The guy is a living legend, and a funny, most likeable person too. Sporting his customary huge afro-like mop and brandishing just an acoustic quitar, he entertained a large crowd at Midi with an energetic and very engaging set, which also included some Melvins material. You could tell that he was not used to take his singer-songwriting dimension to large stages, and he was loving the attention!

I then took a short-cut to the nearby 013, home to many happy Roadburn experiences, to check out some of the artists who played part of an interesting project named Female Pioneers of Electronic Music
In the foyer gentle-looking Danish blonde PUCE MARY was working at her experimental, heavily industrial performance, mesmerising the small crowd gathered around with some truly harsh sounds mixed with a hint of dark ambience. 

In the meantime in the main arena sound artist HOLLY HERNDON was building up her captivating sound installation with the aid of two huge screens projecting images inextricably joined to the intricate outpour of sounds brimming with unexpected samples taken from everyday life. She opened her set communicating via computer written text with the PA and then audience, then surprised us by clicking on the personal pages of some of the attendees via Facebook, highlighting extracts of entries and photos. It felt very weird and openly intrusive, challenging the very notion of social media and our contradictory relationship with them: we oddly have become accustomed to communicating online with friends and colleagues when in fact the entire world can watch and virtually enter our private lives in secrecy. Technology geared towards mass control disguised as fun? I am sure everyone intuitively gets that we are increasingly becoming open to intrusions, but we chose to be happy with that, such is the desire not be left behind by progress...

After this perfectly legit prying exercise through facebook profiles, Holly stepped up her set through pleasingly engaging sounds, visually inviting us to engage with the surprising complexity of the everyday: from city pigeon mandalas to the virtual compact home of what could have been a Japanese student. We visited its every minute corner, ending up inside humble colourful boxes of washing powders which turned into kaleidoscopic wonders, stressing the invasive place that products have in our daily lives, becoming almost an extension of us. 
I then prepared for the culmination of the Female Pioneers of Electronic Music event.

CARTER TUTTI VOID are non other than Chris Carter & Cosey Fanni Tutti from legendary avantgarde/industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, and Nik Colk Void from post-industrial/noise project Factory Floor. The performance was part of a small European tour which followed on from a previous London appearance all the way back in 2011. Cosey is a fascinating 60-something all-round artist who influenced experimental art and music in a substantial way, alongside other eminently relevant names of here generation, such as Genesis P. Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and Penny Rimbaud (Crass). Their set saw rhythm-meister Chris positioned in the centre  while the two women stood at the sides armed with electric guitars, from which they extrapolated eerie sounds by stroking and grating the strings with implements. 

Cosey seemed very pleased to be back in Tilburg, where a good crowd had gathered. Black and white geometric imagery appeared on the large screes, subtly messing with our senses, while we were treated to a very sensuous, slow-building, elemental techno. I found it all very subtle and mellow, but towards the end of the set they came out with a stronger, more vibrant edge which made me finally take off in blissful aural contentment. I felt catapulted back in the mid nineties through lush, organic lashes of psychedelic trance finely balanced with a clever, arty kind of techno, steering well away from the in-yer-face commercial stuff these artists have shunned throughout all their careers. At the end of the performance, although I never felt I was witnessing anything cutting edge or new, I was pleased to have experienced such a heart-warming old-school set, which felt rewardingly uplifting

Too bad I had to give up on Unaussprechlichen Kulten who had plaid simultaneously over at Little Devil, Tilburg’s famous death metal hell-hole, but I still had some energy left to walk to Paradox to see MICK BARR’s solo clinic (Krallice, Octis and Ocrilim). In front of a few guitar nerds eager to catch some of his secrets, Mick plugged in and began flying along the guitar neck at the speed of light: probably one of the fastest guys I have ever seen, he was not too concerned about perfection but rather on capturing the essence of his unique slant on metal: unrefined, moody and darkly claustrophobic. Mick awed and entranced us with his eccentric syncopated avant-metal language, uttering the odd toxic lyric through the microphone. Many of us were speechless. The first complimentary word that came to mind upon leaving was: nutcase...


After Wednesday’s stupendous performance from local act Dodecahedron, I heard positive comments from foreign festival attendants about the "surprising darkness" of Dutch underground metal: obviously, well established grim duo Urfaust and Mories’ many unpalatable outputs are not an exception. I am a huge fan of the great variety and quality of the extreme music this small country is currently producing: The Netherlands have been mainly renown for the strong death and doom heritage, but in recent times we have all been able to feast on excellent, unique bands such as the mysterious An Autumn for Crippled Children, Mondvolland (sadly RIP), Terzji de Horde, Nihill, Laster, Ggu:ll and so on. All the above are trying to offer their individual take on darkness, but the knack for a degree of experimentation and/or individuality is actually coming from all angles, hence the uplifting gems provided by folk metallers Alvenrad, rockers The Good Hand, singer-songwriter Mirna’s Fling… And Exivious. 

EXIVIOUS: Celestial Voyage 

Exivious certainly occupies the highest tiers of the Dutch musicianship olympus, and Incubate, which does so well in focusing on the local scene, gave me a chance to indulge in their dazzling instrumental journeys consisting of interwoven astral layers of Cynic meets Allan Holdsworth. 
The Cynic link goes beyond the obvious musical influences, since at the core of the band we have none other than Tymon Kruidenier, who appears on guitar and growls on Cynic’s come back album “Traced in Air” and in the subsequent EP “Retraced”. My special, and at times troubled, relationship with Cynic goes way back, so it was nice and comfortable for me to see Tymon walk on stage barefoot and in modest hippy attire. He stood gracefully and shyly in meditative stance while playing, his inner eye gazing at the flow of a glowingly familiar cosmic stream… 

Tymon might be the better known musician in this fusion/metal combo, but he is not the exception as far as musicianship goes (incidentally, he is also a phenomenal producer). I was utterly amazed by the confident displays of gorgeousness from the other guitarist, Michel Nienhuis’ (crucially, also in Dodecahedron), while bass player Robin Zielhorst (who also guested in Cynic’s “Retraced”) was superb and his fun contagious. Drummer Yuma van Eekelen might be the youngest member but he can also boast an enviable pedigree since he performed on Pestilence’s penultimate album “Doctrine”, another band I was a huge fan of since they helped creating the early 90s progressive death metal scene, alongside Cynic and Atheist. 

Yuma performed on a rather simple kit positioned sideways on the left hand corner of the stage, so his moves were on full view. While I could not fault his well-mixed recordings with Exivious, on the night I could not help comparing him with Sean Reinert, the gifted Gary Husband’s number one fan. Exivious music stays well clear from the speed of an extreme metal band, but Yuma’s jazzy approach didn’t always score particularly high on fluidity and nimbleness. As I learnt early on from the godly Gene Hoglan during his European tour with the unforgettable Death (incidentally, I could not help sparing a thought for Chuck when I watched both Krallice and Exivious), these hard to acquire skills do make all the difference in a progressive/fusion context. That said the band's performance was excellent. 

I particularly enjoyed the first part of their set, which indulged us in the warm and uplifting Holdsworth-boosted realm of Cynic, while I did not find the latter part of the show, featuring a couple of tracks which tried to disengage from such influences, quite as striking. I cannot recommend Exivious’ two albums enough, the first one being more mysteriously atmospheric, the latter boasting a sound to die for. If you have always wondered what Cynic should have sounded like after “Focus”, had my dear friend Paul Masvidal not succumbed to personal travesties and depression, well here you have a scintillating example. Equally, perhaps the Dutch band is too close to Holdsworth, BUT - hello?… - we are talking of one of the best and most innovative jazz-rock guitarists EVER (the best in my eyes), so I see no problem here whatsoever: such luck that Exivious are around with enough talent and hopefully will to stay true to their gift of beauty. Onwards and upwards!

I felt very satisfied after the Exivious show, and wondered if it would be wise to skip This Will Destroy You playing next at Dudok. To clear all doubts, I strolled in good company down to the venue (aka Het Patronaat), only to find the doom-gaze/post-rock extremisms of this band overwhelmingly predictable. Rather than appealing to my wildly emotional side, this type of music can often put me off (just like with the utterly repulsive “emo” did many years ago), with the eminently good exception of much loved and revered Scottish masters Mogwai, who have always showed massive balls through unforgettable live sets played at unthinkable volume, in pitch black darkness and disorienting strobes on at all times!
So there was just enough time for a round of refreshments while waiting for the night to finally turn blacker than black…


Various not so friendly looking skinheads had invaded my hotel on Friday morning, all aggressively clad in black and studded belts like a ruthless army. General Shatraug and Hoath looked unsettling grim even without corpse paint all over their heads and faces: enough said. The threatening, uneasy mood was carried through by the four very diverse Finnish bands on the bill (a few of the session musicians were playing multiple sets) at the perfectly suitable cave-like Extase. What a feast, and what a chance for an insight into a scene which has given so much to BM!

TRUE BLACK DAWN: The Anti-Christian Ritual

First on were still relatively unknown cult black metallers true BLACK DAWN, once simply Black Dawn, who were performing for the first time outside Finland. Frontman Wrath, humorously described as “scream queen” on the band’s official FB page, appeared in monk attire holding an inverted cross fashioned as candelabra, orchestrating a solemn ritual. Looking slender and strikingly emaciated due to white corpse paint all over his bold head and heavily smudged makeup around the eye sockets and temples, he focused his wide open, painfully red eyes on a high point above the crowd’s heads, at one point extinguishing the candles on his forehead like a true sadomasochistic repentant. The band performed a blood-chilling set of mid-paced, gloomy and very enjoyable satanic BM, which bode well for the upcoming album. Those were 45 minutes well spent and a good omen for the rest of the night. Well, almost.

Half an hour break gave me time to pop in and out of V39, a venue showcasing hardcore, to see the final glimpses of SVALBARD, a captivating young band from the UK featuring a really energetic, talented girl on guitar. The venue was heaving, which was a great sign, and from what I managed to see and hear, these punks seemed to truly wear their hearts on their sleeves and are well worth checking out. 

AZAGHAL: The Dead Orthodoxy 

I ran back to Extase for the second act, AZAGHAL. Narqath is a long-serving veteran who has been active in a few bands, one of them being the finely named heathen black metal act, Wyrd. I was well up for sampling what they had to offer, being roughly acquainted with some of their melody-intertwined outbursts of fast, quite bestial orthodox BM. Well, perhaps if you stumble on stage as drunk as a rat, in heavy artillery and suitably ill-applied make-up, maybe you set the mood for what’s to come: sadly it soon became clear that the testosterone-filled aggression was so unchallenging and underwhelming that after a couple of numbers I decided to exit for a few minutes. When I returned to see the set through (yes, that’s how much I love my black metal), goofiness and monotony still ruled. Oddly, this felt like shallow and uninspiring teen metal, to which I could not connect in the slightest. I am not easily pleased, and why should I be, with the multitude of bands on offer from all around the globe who strive to achieve, if not uniqueness, at least a decent degree of artistic quality? The stark reality is that orthodox BM, and any other type of music that wants to stubbornly remain unchanged throughout the decades, must be seriously fucking good, otherwise we are quite happy with going back to the good old masterpieces, thank you very much. 

Now this was probably the only tough(ish) choice I had to make during my 3 Incubate days. 65DAYSOFSTATIC were on at Midi: I could have easily popped in for 10” before the next black metal act was due on, but would have been it worth it? Nah, all or nothing is my life motto, so I stuck to my guns, giving BAPTISM top priority. And I was rewarded aplenty…

BAPTISM: The Rapture Of The Darkened Soul 

Lord Sargofagian, another veteran of the Finnish scene, has two undeniable things on his side: talent and charisma. To say that I was eager to see BAPTISM live for the first time was an understatement, given the spins I gave to their albums, especially the flawless As Darkness Enters, a superb, timeless piece of Grim Art totally confectioned by the Lord himself, which truly captured my imagination. 

He set foot on stage bringing with him a halo of eeriness that immediately made everything feel authentic and credible: the long, straight blond hair narrowly framing the sinister white face and blood-shot eyes of a true wizard. His faithful companions Sg.7, whose short haircut lent him a cool punk edge, looking like living art with his large tattoos on display, and TG with his Sumerian style beard, were equally a sight to behold. As the show unfolded, thick black clouds gathered to create a mesmerising downpour of soaring melody carrying unmistakably that ineffable, primordial "female quality” that characterises the deepest, most mysterious layers of BM.

Easy preys, our trembling souls were uplifted by an intense cold storm which had all the hallmarks of magik. An overwhelming orgy of misanthropic melancholy, forlorn heroic chants and breathtaking blasts swirled in the air with spellbinding power and meaning. The poignancy and the beauty raised by the blizzard-like tremolo riffage and the gloom, stirring slow/mid paced sections alike, was elating for both the ear and the eye, making of this show one of the most vividly evocative displays of haunted Black Metal in its purest essence. 

To me, at this point of its artistic journey, Baptism has it all. This ritual proved to be one my most cherished live moment since perhaps Vemod, as it reinforced my conviction that when Black metal addresses unreservedly the intense beauty of dark human emotions, becomes simply a sublime and unsurpassable form of art. It is not often these days that we are reminded that his pure, deeply soul-searching brand of black metal is still the one and only heir of Romantic classical music, living and breathing antagonistically through the bleakest, most hidden crevices of modern life… Such a miracle, such a treasure to cherish and respect.

SARGEIST: The Scourge

We had it all so far: from medieval occult rituals we had to squeezed through narrow passages to come out on top of dizzying mountain peaks, in full view of BM’s cold, dark, misanthropic majesty. So it was left to Shatraug to destroy all by hitting us with what is perhaps the most contemporary face of BM, one that strives towards surpassing itself through uncompromisingly scathing, ruthlessly evil, in-human to the core, determination. SARGEIST brought to the stage the kind of overtly threatening, all-male sonic aggression shared by Svartidaudi and MGLA, only making it far more physical, with violence prevailing over melody not just aurally but also visually (skinhead vocalist Hoath looked beyond evil). The ferocious war-like pace was steeped in abominable filth, leaving no prisoners. Where Baptism brought luciferian wings to the blackened soul, Sargeist shot the fucker down point blank and fed upon it. 

If there should be a definition of “true black metal”, well in my opinion this should be exactly it: a destructive, distasteful, negational force that will not be caught or tamed. Ever. The ultimate, final rebellion. Of course, like a true emperor, Shatraug has under his domain both festering melancholy melody and belligerent bleak ugliness, which has been put on display through the rich Sargeist discography and that his other superb bands, from Horna to Mortualia and Behexen, yet tonight he carried the flag of the grim reaper bringing forth the ultimate sound of hell on earth, leaving only devastation behind. And by doing so he wrapped up quite a complete picture of what Finnish black metal is at. This country’s contribution to the genre is remarkable and, few exceptions aside, still firmly rooted in the murkiest layers of the underground, the only place where the dark arts can still do some genuine damage. 

In its X year of existence Incubate returned to deliver metal from the very entrails of the underground: no big one-dayer with big headliners, and I throughly enjoyed that. The true measure of a good event comes from the effort of being novel and eager to present those few selected acts that genuinely influence the present and future of metal. Incubate’s winning formula is that of offering, within a week long sequence of concerts covering a huge spectrum of music and art performances, a stimulating selection of underground metal acts across the genres: a juicy treat to indulge in, while supporting the music we love.
Thanks to Jelle and the Incubate crew. 
See you next year!

All photographs by Alex Mysteerie

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