This is no rocket science: the redshift and the expanding universe.
The Forum, in London, stands in silence, as Cult of Luna take control of the light and toy with its frequency. They cast no shadow, and the wavelength of the photons elongates, shifting to red like that of a faraway object in the expanding universe. The grey, liquid rays may envelop the bodies on stage, but the music travels faster than the speed of light tonight. “The Sweep”, the aptly titled “Light Chaser”, and “I: the Weapon” fill the very few spaces left with flashes of controlled violence and digressions into progressive and ambient. Whether or not this is the end for Cult of Luna as we know them, what we have in front of us is a band at its artistic zenith. But it is when ex-vocalist Klas Rydberg takes the stage that the redshift becomes almost visible to the observers gathered in this semi-circular cleft of our remote galaxy.
“Ghost of Trail” is a tsunami in mid-tempo which opens the already quivering floodgates, so that all hell can break lose when “The Watchtower” graces the bystanders in all its brutality. “Beyond Fate”, “Eternal Kingdom”, “Genesis”: not even the annoying technical issues bassist Andreas Johansson experiences, or Rydberg’s occasionally dimming voice, can ease the tension. Not even a redshift can be reduced to mere physics, so we are left to enjoy its imperfect unrolling, the manifestation of post-metal the way the likes of Neurosis and Isis intended it. But this is Umeå (or London: it makes no difference), not America, and the guitars’ clear crunch manifests itself in all its (quintessentially European) glory, while the two drum kits thunder not too far distant. “Leave Me Here” seals the uncertain band’s fate, and we are left to wonder what will happen next.
What we are sure of is what happened before. Beyond the Redshift has been, without a doubt, a success. The combination of three venues, a multitude of acts, healthy streams of beer, and an interesting—although rather pricey—vegetarian selection of food has appealed to fans who have flown all the way from Portugal, Greece, and Russia to get one last glimpse of Cult of Luna. But there was obviously more than just that.
Belgian sludgers Amenra, for instance. Their set had the impact one rightfully expects from the purveyors of albums like Mass IV and Mass V, and their remnants were represented here, today, in all their glory. Their set at The Dome has probably been one of the best of the festival, but so was Bossk’s, a band perennially on the verge of becoming something more than just a local sensation plagued by break-ups and dramatic line-up changes. Theirs is post-something of the best kind, and one can’t help but feel that their set should have been longer.
But we don’t have the time to complain because downstairs, in a slightly smaller space, Thought Forms unveil repetitions and psychedelia in an original and therefore interesting manner. Their split with Esben and the Witch confirms their musical coordinates as being not too far from the gothic aesthetics of their more popular colleagues. Colleagues whose set (oddly scheduled earlier on, at around 3 pm) flowed with no defects but without the explosive and raging fits we have witnessed on other occasions.
The same applies to Justin Broadrick’s Jesu. If programmed drums work live is still matter of debate. Yours truly reckons we could do without, but their performance is solid and touching nonetheless, whatever the jury’s opinion. God Is an Astronaut, on the other hand, manage to balance their penchant for electronic and ambient with the canons of rock, and their set shows just that. This Irish band’s show reaches its climax with the beautiful “Suicide by Star”. “It’s about the dynamics,” we hear someone say. Probably yes, it is. But nothing can replace the masterfully administered organic element. Too much of it and you have shoegaze; too little and you have the blur in which the likes of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have ended into.
While God Seed scatter metal and hatred at The Forum, Amplifier inebriate their audience with Indian incense and a down-to-earth attitude. It’s all smiles until someone gets hurt, and this happens as soon as their impressive mix of hard and progressive rock hits the crowd. “The Wave”, “Planet of Insects”, and “Interstellar” make us wonder—once again—why this band has never achieved the recognition it historically deserves.
Fortress Road is a melancholic sight. As we approach The Forum for one last visit, endless shop windows display the dust and piles of unopened correspondence that mark the end of an era. Cult of Luna walk onto the stage and the onlookers stand in silence. Whatever lies beyond this crisis, we will welcome it with open arms.
[Photo by Francesca Colasanti]