Since Isis is gone and the postcore trend has mostly disappeared, Cult of Luna remains as the most high profile band to carry Neurosis’ heritage. The swedish band has out grown Aaron Turner‘s shadow since their early beginning on HydraHead to then move on to bigger and greener pastures. They have developed their own identity through a consistent discography, becoming better song writer until their more recent output in collaboration with Julie Christmas (Made Out of Babies, Battle of Mice), under the name of Mariner, that has been met with some well-deserved critical acclaim. Tonight thought, they were focusing on their back catalog to revisit their 2006 album, Somewhere along the highway.
Although it came out after fan favorite Salvation, Somewhere… settled Cult of Luna as a band that was done with the massive heaviness and Breach influence of their first two albums. Instead, the band chose a more introspective and contemplative path that took them away from the catharsis of Neurosis and the more streamlined songwriting of Isis. Ten years later, Cult of Luna still has developed their sound but the quality of the songs remain. After announcing at the end of 2013 their decision to go on hiatus, the swedes have remained active away from the stage, mostly, only to play a few select shows, and released some albums, including their most recent split with the Old Wind (featuring ex. Breach‘s singer Tomas Liljedahl) and the aforementioned collaboration with Mrs Christmas. For a band on hiatus, they sure haven’t shown any sign of inactivity.
First their was the opener. Moloken and their prog influenced postcore didn’t leave much of an impression despite having a solid drummer. Highly competent musicians do not make entertaining music when they play without much feeling. Bossk on the other hand recall the best days of the Panopticon era of Isis and continue to play excellent sets. The new material on Audio noir isn’t that remarkable on album but live it sounds glorious. I still find weird that their singer would come and go off stage just to sing his part but the band since pleased with the situation since they have been doing this dance, at least, since they opened for Old Man Gloom in 2014 for their return to the stage.
Cult of Luna then took to the stage with two titles from Vertikal, The sweep and Light chaser followed by Owlwood from Eternal kingdom but no matter how massive the sound was, the vocals of guitarist Johannes Persson seemed to present in the mix and made the riffs blurry which took away from the overall heaviness. Things started to get better on Echoes (from Salvation) but it took Waiting for you for the band to attain perfect as the lack of effect on Kristian Karlsson‘s vocals which took away the hook from the otherwise catchy I: The weapon. It is also important to note that on this tour they are playing with a third guitarist, like at the time of Somewhere along the highway, and with a second drum kit used on some songs (Finland and Dark city, dead man for instance). The supplementary drums do add more impact to the songs but I didn’t notice a big difference in terms of volume for the guitars. What matters ultimately is that the band was capable of reproducing the different layers of melodies of the songs, and reproduce it well, they did.
As soon as the band started to play the intro to Somewhere along the highway, Marching to the heartbeats, the sound became clearer and the band found its way with ease back to the atmosphere of the album. However, the performance was not to be an exact reproduction of the album’s music, which would have been meaningless and frustrating. Instead, they returned to the natural sound of the album and expanded on the melodies to take advantage of their full line-up. Without going as far as jamming together, the musicians certainly played together rather than by themselves. The experience was then more of an update on this classic album rather than an attempt to reproduce it exactly as it was. The heaviness parts of Finland and Thirtyfour became even more hypnotic whereas a song And with her came the birds that act more like a break rather than a powerful song took on a life of its own when played live. The last trio of songs pushed the intensity at every turn, starting with the end of Thirty four until the monstrous final of Dead city, dead man that brought the show to an appropriately loud conclusion. Far from being an exercise in nostalgia, Cult of Luna proved how lively and relevant their music still is in front of a sold out crowd of fans who will be waiting in anticipation for their eighth studio album, maybe after a quick tour with Julie Christmas to promote Mariner?