The Roadburn Festival takes place annually in Tilburg, Netherlands (modulo COVID), and has been getting progressively more interesting. Its relatively recent slant toward the experimental has resulted in a number of wonderfully unusual performances, including Triptykon with the Metropole Orkest in 2019 and Jo Quail in 2022 both combining heavy metal or metal-influenced material with classical music.
The 2021 edition also featured a compelling combo, that of Dirk Serries (Vidna Obmana, Fear Falls Burning) with percussionists Tom Malmendier and Rutger Zuydervelt. As captured on this release, Serries employs drones and layered synth, harkening back to the sounds of his earlier incarnations. Malmendier and Zuydervelt keep up busy patterns of percussion – almost tribal in their power and subtlety – with more emphasis on drumming, objects, and electronics than cymbals (until the last track, where cymbal use is more prominent).
Split across three long tracks that pack a quiet intensity, this trio’s efforts provide ominous and carefully sculpted dark soundscapes. As Serries generates thick waves of sound, Malmendier and Zuydervelt alternate between pounding, skittering, and scraping. The overall impact is that of biomechanical structures falling apart and reassembling themselves in accordance with algorithmic cognition.
Regardless of whether you have heard the many works of these three gentlemen, Epitaph serves as a superbly crafted introduction, as well as an impressive representation of dark ambient drones with percussive elements. Very well done.