Heaviness in music can be understood in many ways. Here are ten days through the prism I want to experience this year’s Roadburn.

This year, I’m finally closing the Dutch festival triangle. After Le Guess Who Rewire, I’m off to Roadburn to ‘define heaviness’.

Metal and heavy music are doing better than usual, and the program in Tilburg shows this better than any other program. He doesn’t take the easiest genre route but deftly lavers around it, putting it down to metal, folk, electronic, or industrial.

He looks at heavy music not only through the prism of concerts but also through the prism of discussions, hence two exciting meetings: Exploring Heavy Music Through An Experimental Lens with Clipping and King Yosef and Heavy Music’s Healing Power with representatives of Agriculture, Ragana and Death Goals.

From the overflowing program, I have selected ten concerts I want to see – not necessarily the obvious ones looking at the festival program.


An event to be noticed is a concert by a band emulated by more than one. The group, with more than 20 years of experience, is a benchmark of the drone doom trend, and last year they returned with a new album. This is a good excuse for them to appear on stage with their original line-up for the first time in 19 years, for which the Tilburg festival is the perfect opportunity.


The Guardian called their music mutant-folk, and there’s something in it. A year ago at Supersonic, they wowed me, and in terms of heaviness, they can bring many a metal musician into complexes. The four musicians handle over a dozen instruments, reach for traditional or simply Irish songs, and make them into dark tales of our time.


I also saw this duo a year ago, and, as with Lankum, I will be standing in the front row at their concert. Ragana attacks with a wall of guitar at the drums and creates poignant songs full of emotion and bitterness, which is where the strength of their work lies. The icing on the cake should be their special concert with Drowse, compadres from the Flenser label.

Lord Spikeheart

On his debut album, the Duma member has brought together a range of producers. He combines metal, aggressive and broken beats, or stunning trance. These are backed by his predatory and screaming growling, which rushes at breakneck speed, shoveling, and wobbly electronics that never stop slowing down.

John Francis Flynn

Author of my favorite album of 2023. Like Lankum, John Francis Flynn draws on Irish musical history to create suggestive and poignant contemporary songs. He can play wry yet abstract combinations of electronics and wind instruments, weaving ever-present stories to which he gives new and poignant interpretations.

Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson plays ballads. He is coherent, dark, and characterful, commenting on the complexity of today’s world with a touch of melancholy. His latest release, Ruby Chord, is as songful as it is psychedelic, thus heavy in sound but light in form and content.


They strut within hip-hop and electronic passages to create a dense, urban contemporary tale. Broken beats, fury, and lyrics show how much you can immerse yourself in darkness. All the more reason for them to play twice this year: once more party-like (seen at Le Guess Who) and once more dark, mysterious, just in time for Roadburn.

Use Knife

Use Knife combines electronic and trance sounds with traditional Arabic music. Their unleashed music is full of sequencers and pulsating melodies that interweave traditional instruments such as daf, doula, darbuka, riq or kish ba, synths, and saxophone; all served up as a critical, bewildering journey.

Hilary Woods

Baroque splendor, darkness, and classical instrumentation all add up to the highly distinctive sound of Hilary Woods’ music. The vibrant sound, the despairing sonorities of the strings, and the heavy, endless guitars are absorbed by an evocatively constructed darkness that seems to draw in endlessly.

Forest Swords

I’ve been listening to Matthew Barnes’ music since Dagger Paths’ E.P. Hypnotic music is complete with space and pulsation, but darkness also has an unusual trance and mood. His latest release, Bolted, takes the form of a peculiar ritual, a petite oriental and urban screaming characteristically rocking toward darkness.