Live review: Roadburn 2022

After two years away, Roadburn finally returned to Tilburg this week. From Emma Ruth Rundle to Ulver To Full Of Hell, here's the best of what went down...

Live review: Roadburn 2022
Angela Davey
Lingua Ignota pic:
Peter Troest


It’s been three years since the last in person instalment of Roadburn Festival. Forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, then held in an online capacity (Roadburn Redux) in 2021, this year’s event has been eagerly anticipated. For many, it feels like coming home. Here, we round up the highlights, as Tilburg attempts to redefine heaviness…

Terminal: Big|Brave

Opening such a seminal event is no easy task, however, Montreal’s Big|Brave handle it with poise and grace. The dreaminess of their slow motion, churning soundscapes act as a gentle means of easing people back into the festival spirit, while providing the ideal soundtrack to the spectrum of emotions being experienced. Robin Wattie’s clear, piercing vocals soar from the points between ecstasy and abject despair and it’s surprising to hear the tremble in her voice when she finally speaks; “This means everything to us.” The feeling is very much mirrored by those gathered to watch.

Main Stage: Vile Creature & Bismuth

Originally commissioned by Roadburn Festival, Ontario’s Vile Creature teamed up with Nottingham’s Bismuth to create A Hymn of Loss and Hope. Today the two bands come together on stage to play all 40 minutes of it live. It’s clear that the pairing have benefitted from two additional years to prepare. Every elongated note that booms around the enormity of the main stage sounds cataclysmic. It’s an exercise in catharsis and every bit as enthralling to watch as it is devastatingly heavy to hear.

Pic: Niels Vinck

Engine Room: Cloud Rat

In 2019, Cloud Rat released an accompaniment to their album Pollinator, in the form of electronic EP Do Not Let Me Off The Cliff. Today they present some of those tracks as they perform a set of entirely electronic material. There’s an ethereal, almost darkwave element to this performance. It doesn’t quite have the danceable beat you’d expect, however, it makes up for this with an immersive and moody atmosphere.

Main Stage: 40 Watt Sun

Raising the raw emotional vulnerability to its peak, 40 Watt Sun pluck at collective heartstrings with a performance comprised of songs from both 2016’s Wider than the Sky and this year’s release, Perfect Light. Originally scheduled to perform in 2020, as part of Emma Ruth Rundle’s curation, the anticipation for this particular set is palpable. Despite the vast space of the venue, the simplicity of the light touch on the guitar is not lost, invoking a sense of intimacy, as Patrick Walker’s voice becomes the main focal point.

Engine Room: Helms Alee

Another band from Emma Ruth Rundle’s 2020 curation, who have thankfully made it back onto this year’s line-up. Seattle’s Helms Alee are a trio whose chemistry on stage is simply awe inspiring. There’s a hypnotic quality to the visuals of waves lapping at a shoreline playing on a loop behind them, which amplifies the dark melodies spilling forth from their respective instruments. When their performance draws to a close it’s like being awoken from a trance. Simply spellbinding.

Terminal: Full Of Hell

A Roadburn artist in residence, tonight marks the first of four performances across the weekend from Full Of Hell. They play 2017’s Trumpeting Ecstasy in Full, joined onstage briefly by Jamie Eubanks (Knoll) for some guest vocals. The hilarity of them being given a 40 minute slot and only needing 22 minutes of it is lost on no one. It’s punchy, loud and a little bit silly, but most importantly it’s fun and everyone leaves with a smile on their face.

Main Stage: Russian Circles

Giving material from 2019’s Blood Year a much needed airing, Russian Circles mesmerise the Main Stage with an impressive display in both visuals and lights to match the kaleidoscopic effect of their instrumental post metal. They provide the ideal climax for what has been a truly euphoric experience of a day.


Engine Room: LLNN

The queue for Denmark’s LLNN is out of the door of the building that houses the Engine Room (Kopelhal) well before their set begins, and once they begin to play it’s easy to see why. The intensity that this four piece conjures up while playing 2021’s Unmaker in full makes it feel like the world is ending. It’s obscenely heavy. Eventually staggering back outside 50 minutes later it’s a surprise to see that sky is still luminescent with sunshine and hasn’t turned pitch black from the sheer force of their performance.

Terminal: Primitive Man

There’s nothing that can quite prepare you for the audial assault of Primitive Man, however, after two years of live events being hard to come by, feeling the floor literally shake beneath you with sonic force is more than a little disconcerting. The visuals are unsettling, the music more so. The atmosphere is oppressive, near suffocating and when Primitive Man’s slow crawl towards insanity seems endless they’ll interject with a flurry of d-beats to keep their audience firmly on their toes.

Main Stage: James Kent & Johannes Persson

Back in 2019, Roadburn asked James Kent aka Perturbator to create something entirely new to perform at the festival. He enlisted the help of Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson and the duo created Final Light. Although being performed two years later than intended, the finished piece is no less impressive. The roar of Johannes’ vocals alongside James’ computer manufactured beats is the perfect match, creating soundscapes that hard hitting yet still extremely danceable.

Main stage: Wiegedood

Part of Milena Eva and Thomas Sciarone’s (GGGOLDDD) curation for Roadburn, Wiegedood rain black metal mayhem down upon the Main Stage with a performance of latest album There’s Always Blood at the End of The Road. This particular album is more experimental and atmospheric than their previous three and it’s genuinely interesting to hear the juxtaposition between samples of Django Reinhardt’s jazz guitar and the chaotic chords that the band are wielding.

Terminal: Full Of Hell

Back for their second performance of the weekend, this time performing 2019’s Weeping Choir. They manage to use almost 25 minutes of the allotted 40 minute slot and invite vocal powerhouse, Lingua Ignota, on stage to provide the operatics for Armory of Obsidian Glass. There’s slightly less grindcore worked into the fabric of this particular set, however, they make up for it by getting all out weird.

Pic: Peter Troest

Engine Room: Cloud Rat

Back to their usual grindcore selves today, Cloud Rat whip up a frenzy of epic proportions in the Engine Room. There’s remarkable variety in their riffs and they’re a world away from bands of the same ilk who worship at the altar of Napalm Death. Several tracks from 2019’s Pollinator are given a much deserved airing, with vocalist Madison Marshall’s screams being a particular highlight.

Main stage: Thou & Mizmor

Not on the original line-up, this is a surprise announcement that has people tripping over themselves to hoof it to the mainstage to bear witness to this “secret” set. It turns out that Thou and Mizmor have written an album together called Myopia and tonight Roadburners have the honour of hearing it played live in full for the first time. The funeral doom of Mizmor is given a grimy lift by the hardcore punk tinged sludge of Thou. The feeling of watching something so momentous unfold before your very eyes and ears is a strange sensation, however, this pairing provide undoubtedly one of the best performances of the weekend.


Main Stage: Emma Ruth Rundle

Lit only by two spotlights as she takes her seat at her piano, Emma Ruth Rundle settles in for a full playthrough of latest album Engine of Hell. The room is eerily silent, you could hear a pin drop as the audience stands in silence, completely captivated. Her performance is goosebump inducing, her voice stark against the delicate keys of the piano. Lyrics from the song Body, 'I can’t feel your arms around me', send a poignant chill through the crowd. The only noise that follows is the rapturous, and well deserved, applause once she’s finished.

Pic: Niels Vinck

Engine Room: Radar Men from The Moon

Radar Men from The Moon are billed to play three times across the Roadburn weekend. This particular set sees the Eindhoven-based cosmonauts present an electronic set titled Acid Metal. Delving into their Bliss EP, Subversive III and material written specifically for the festival, the six-piece pulsate their way through a series of industrial rhythms and acid splashed synthesized effects.

Hall of Fame: Silver Knife

Featuring members of Laster, Wolvenest, Hypothermia and Paramnesia, Silver Knife’s live debut is today and people are eager to see it. Those not lucky enough to make it inside the modestly sized Hall of Fame are destined to queue outside watching (and sometimes photographing) through the holes and gaps in the fencing. They play at a blistering, relentless pace with a ferocity that is simply unmatched.

Engine Room: Kælan Mikla

Icelandic synthpop trio, Kælan Mikla, are bringing Scandinavian The Cure vibes to the Engine Room. Dark and alluring, their playthrough of latest album Undir Köldum Norðurljósum (Under the Cold Northern Lights) is flawless, providing sleek danceable beats from start to finish. For their closing number they invite Neige (Alcest) up on stage for guest vocals and guitars, ending their set on an enormous, unforgettable high.

Main Stage: Ulver

Social media is an endless stream of people talking about Ulver’s light show, and rightly so. The accompanying optics for their live performance of 2020’s Flowers of Evil is breathtaking, adding a splash of colour and dramatic flair to the gothic gloom of their synthesised beats. Ulver have existed as a band for over 25 years and this is abundantly clear in how expertly they navigate their performance – no awkward silences, no pauses for applause, just a seamless transition through every track until they draw to a close at midnight. Extremely apt.

Pic: Peter Troest


Next Stage: The Devil’s Trade x John Cxnnor

Brothers Ketil and Rasmus G. Sejersen make up half of Denmark’s LLNN, however, they also have a side project; John Cxnnor, an industrial project which draws its inspiration from the Terminator franchise. Last year they covered a track by doom-folk artist Dávid Makó, aka The Devil’s Trade, so them teaming up for a one off Roadburn performance seemed inevitable. Dávid’s soulful voice soars alongside crackling, Skynet influenced beats. It’s weird, it’s heavy, it’s everything you could want from a midafternoon festival performance.

Main Stage: Lingua Ignota

Stood atop a raised platform, surrounded by light tubes, Kristin Hayter cuts a powerful silhouette in a flowing green dress. Her operatic vocal range cuts through the hush of the crowd like a hot knife through butter and every track from SINNER GET READY, which she performs in its entirety, it’s elevated by the visuals of US evangelical baptisms being projected on a loop behind her. She slips in a performance of DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR, the opening bars causing shouts of excitement from an otherwise silent crowd. It’s wholly deserved. Lingua Ignota is theatrical, raw and simply unmatched by any other performer.

Main Stage: Hangman’s Chair x Regarde Les Hommes Tomber

This pairing was originally part of James Kent’s (Perturbator) 2020 curation that never came to be. Thankfully, this particular coupling has resurfaced for this year’s edition to perform a piece that was originally commissioned by Redbull and has only ever been performed live once before in Paris back in 2019. The sludge infused black metal of Regarde Les Hommes Tomber complements the upbeat, luminescent doom of Hangman’s Chair perfectly, creating an experience that feels almost decadent in its heaviness.

Main Stage: Full Of Hell ft. Spiritual Poison

For Full Of Hell’s fourth and final performance of the weekend they’re joined by Ethan McCarthy (Primitive Man) aka Spiritual Poison for a playthrough of 2021’s Garden of Burning Apparitions. Once again, using just half of their allotted 40 minute set time, they push the limits of experimentation while still managing to sound like the soundtrack to what it would feel like to crumble into infinity. As the day is drawing to its close, and emotions are running high that it’s all nearly over, this little slice of silliness is the ideal pick-me-up.

Next Stage: Green Lung

London doomsters Green Lung have hopped the channel to perform latest album Black Harvest in its entirety. While most performers over the weekend have opted to just crack on with their set and offer a polite thanks once finished, vocalist Tom Templar’s interaction with the crowd is consistent as they move from track to track, eager to see people move and sing along. Whether or not the onstage bravado is appreciated, it’s clear that their quintessential Sabbath inspired riffs certainly are.

Pic: Niels Vinck

Main Stage: Radar Men from The Moon x Twin Sister

It’s the final show of the weekend and the third from Radar Men from The Moon. They’ve been commissioned specially by Roadburn to team up with Twin Sister (Dead Neanderthals, Sex Swing) and the end result is titled Mirrors for Discharge, which they perform in full. At its core this is a noise rock performance, however, there are elements of industrial and a bassline that has more backend than a bus. It’s an uplifting end to the weekend. Choosing to sign off with something that people can dance to is a smart move by Roadburn. It’s just a pity how quickly the final hour flies by.

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