Undersmile: The Best Band at Roadburn a Certain Writer Didn’t See

When you attend Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, The Netherlands, you’re going to have to make some difficult choices, because with four separate venues going at the same time, you are not going to see all bands. Especially if you’re like me, and are such a total fanboy when it comes to a handful of acts that you insist on seeing their complete set. See, the smart thing to do is to catch half a band’s set, then duck out and run to the next. But on Saturday, April 11 I was so preoccupied with seeing Fields of the Nephilim – a decision I do not regret – that I missed out on a band that I would’ve loved had I seen them. Instead, I learned about Oxford, England doom foursome Undersmile by word of mouth the following day.

Led by guitarist/singers Taz Corona-Brown and Hel Sterne, and anchored by bassist Olly Corona-Brown and Tom McKibbin, Undersmile will remind Decibel readers of both SubRosa and Monarch in the way they move gracefully from mournful, hushed passages to staggering blasts of devastating doom. Vocal harmonies give way to feral screams, pastoral verses segue into teeth-rattling heaviness. New album Anhedonia, which came out earlier this month on Black Bow Records, is a marvel of doom discipline, deliberate and minimal, taking its time through seven songs in 75 minutes, but the songwriting ebbs and flows brilliantly, keeping the listener captivated. The one song I felt needs singling out is “Sky Burial” – listen to it on Spotify – which bears an uncanny resemblance to the aforementioned SubRosa, but with an air of witchy, ancient English mystery adding atmosphere, building to a majestic riff worthy of YOB and Bongripper. Or purchase Anhedonia here; and if you ever get the chance to see Undersmile live, be smarter than yours truly.