Inside MAALSTROOM, Roadburn Festival's Ambitious New Black Metal Project
The Dutch heavy music fest continues its tradition of collaboration with a new commissioned piece showcasing the Dutch black metal scene.
Photo by Mirko Meerwaldt
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to attend The Netherlands’ famed Roadburn Festival knows that there’s always something truly special about each year’s events. Nearly 20 years into its lifespan and growing faster than ever, Roadburn’s springtime gathering boasts the most daring and forward-thinking lineups in the greater spectrum of rock music and general art curation.
What grew out of a local stoner rock shindig has become a four-day event (five if you include the free pre-party) that encompasses multiple venues and many disciplines of art beyond just music, sells out months in advance (Roadburn 2019 is already sold out!) and essentially eclipses the entire city of Tilburg for nearly a week. After so many years, it’d be easy for the festival’s main curator Walter Hoeijmakers to rest on his laurels and book unimaginative or unchallenging acts while capitalizing on the rich history he’s cultivated—but that wouldn't be Roadburn.
Instead, beginning with the 2018 edition, Hoeijmakers and his devoted crew have taken a turn towards curating unique, new compositions from respected artists in the heavy and psychedelic music communities.
While the 2018 performances highlighted the phenomenally bizarre Finnish “Waste of Space” scene and Iceland’s furious black metal community, in 2019, the Dutch will showcase their own extreme metal ingenuity for audiences at Roadburn. The first of these two performances—entitled Molasses—will see members of The Devil’s Blood gear up to deliver something truly hypnotic. The second, MAALSTROOM, will be a bit more aggressive, and will bring together many of the Dutch black metal scene’s most talented and innovative musicians. This second performance seeks to allow these homegrown talents to create a space entirely their own, and to both bridge and highlight their diverse sounds. According to Roadburn, MAALSTROOM will bring together over a dozen musicians from Laster, Verwoed, Witte Wieven, Turia, Fluisteraars, Grey Aura, Terzij de Horde, Folteraar, and Project Nefast.
The collaboration's main curator is Utrecht-based musician Johan Van Hattum, who plays bass in Dutch mainstays Terzij de Horde and sings in Black Decades, and Noisey called him up to catch a glimpse into the heart of the oncoming storm.
Noisey: While the artists involved share a geographic commonality, you all create such different forms of black metal. What is it that brings you all together?
Johan Van Hattum: As far as I can see, it’s a desire to create. To give shape to an energy, which we can all tap into. The myriad forms of black metal mirror in that aspect the myriad forms of being. Besides that, we are friends. It goes beyond just music, most of us have been in alternative scenes for years, and most of us come from DIY-scenes as well. When you visit shows, organize shows, help out at shows, play shows, you become connected, you share a certain ethos which goes beyond “ev0l” and “but the riffs”.
What does the term "Maalstroom" mean to you in context of the art you're creating?
One of the most important features of music, to me, is the ability to grab a listener and drag them along. Being lost in the currents of the song, the record, the show, is one of the greatest feelings ever. Every single person working with us in the project plays in bands who have done that to me, in some way or other. Every single person pours heart and soul into what they do, and force the audience to participate or leave. This is what "MAALSTROOM" means to me, a collection of amazing artists combining all their passion and energy into one huge, engulfing vortex of being.
This reads as a who's-who of the current Dutch black metal scene. Where do you see the future of the community?
To say it’s a who’s-who kind of misrepresents the breadth and depth of the scene. This is a collection of individuals who are part of this scene, yes, but the scene goes way beyond that. There’s a huge underground of projects, bands and individuals that make up this surprisingly complex and massive scene “for such a small country.”
I was lucky enough to be able to ask some of my most respected and loved people to celebrate that part of the scene where we’ve been creating music which overlaps at times, but which definitely shares the same energy. There are other pockets of putrid filth, chaotic rage and true old-school, which are just as committed and alive. So I see the future as immense. I hope that this chance we have been given by the Roadburn family inspires others to pursue their visions, to start a band, to either do the same as us or strongly oppose us by playing what they consider to be real black metal. React, create, exist.
What does Roadburn mean to you and why does it feel like the right place to create MAALSTROOM?
The first time I went to Roadburn it was because I wanted to see Sunn O))). As soon as I arrived, someone dragged me along to see Bohren & Der Club of Gore, and that show still resonates with me. I had never seen this, would never have listened to this, but there I was, mesmerized. I always learned about new bands, musicians, styles. Every year I came back full of inspiration and new friends. This is, in a sense, what MAALSTROOM does, I hope. Roadburn is a home away from home for so many people, and we all bond over sharing experiences.
What, if any, insight can you give us into what MAALSTROOM will actually look like?
It will take elements of the bands we’re in, but it will be unlike them as well. It’s difficult to not fall into clichés here? If you like anything about the current developments in Dutch black metal, you should be there.
Who are you most excited to see at Roadburn?
You, Ben. We will share beers while dancing to Drab Majesty and Soft Kill, or while being leveled by Cave In, Fear Falls Burning, Lingua Ignota, Imperial Triumphant, Malokarpatan, Pijn, Secret Cutter, and Thou. If I’m really honest though, I’ll watch Have a Nice Life and just sit in a corner.
Ben Handelman is gearing up for April on Twitter.