On a bitterly cold Thursday night, you generally don’t expect to see a crowd of Pirates in central London. But Piratefest is in town, and the sold-out O2 Kentish Town Forum was descended upon by more eye-patches and plastic swords than you can shake a peg leg at. Luckily the venue had stocked up with enough Kraken and Coke to keep everyone happy.Continue reading
Curated by Swedish experimentalists Cult Of Luna, the capital welcomes a diverse bill catering for enthusiasts of many different subgenres encompassing, drone, ambient and full on extreme metal.
Spread over the different venues (The Forum, The Dome, The Boston Music Rooms) means in actuality just a short trek between rooms, allowing for most punters to catch their favourites with little effort. Following sets from P.G. Lost and the restrained beauty of Blueneck, it is over to the Forum to witness one of the heaviest, most harrowing acts currently treading the boards; Belgium’s Amenra. Singer Colin H van Eeckhout keeps his back to the audience throughout but make no mistake this is a gut wrenching performance which mines the darkest depths of the human soul. His anguished shrieks add further power to the monstrous guitars that threaten to tear down the venue. Few would match this behemoth for unbridled intensity.
After Abraham abuse the Boston Music Rooms, it’s time for Justin K. Broadrick to bring the desolate tones of Jesu to the Forum. The video backdrop displays shots of massive buildings and otherworldly landscapes, presumably to convey a sense of how insignificant we are in comparison to the things we create, yet today doesn’t show Jesu in a particularly auspicious light. The vocals remain particularly low in the mix for the first couple of numbers and material like ‘Losing Streak’ meanders in a directionless manner leaving you wondering why such a big crowd have elected to watch them. Broadrick appears frustrated with the sound set up but frankly much of this project’s output is considerably poorer in quality than his work with Godflesh. ‘Tired Of Me’ has some memorable hooks but it is the exception that proves the rule. Ultimately this is a forgettable performance for an act capable of much more.
Thankfully today’s exciting discovery is up next with Swedes, The Old Wind packing the Dome to bursting point. Featuring the considerable talents of The Ocean’s Robin Staps moonlighting for them on guitar, their brutal and dynamic post metal is enough to drag you from the funk of mid-afternoon. ‘Raveneye’ and ‘Spears Of A Thousand’ bode well for their forthcoming new album. Former Breach members Tomas Liljedahl and Niklas Quinata have delivered a sound every bit as menacing as the genre shaping act from which they emerged but the addition of Staps is a stroke of genius. His weaving guitar lines adding depth and clarity to the brutal mirk his bandmates supply. Robin will soon find himself occupied with The Ocean again. It’s incredible the tireless Berliner has the time to pack in so many projects yet each remains of the highest quality.
Jimbob Isaac brought his new trio Hark, looking to remind people of the power of his former act Taint. Decent on record, the Welshmen struggle through a set of downtuned riffola where the band fails to keep time on a number of occasions. Jimbob is a highly engaging figure up front and the band has some punchy material but serious work must go into tightening up their live shows if this performance is anything to go by.
God Is An Astronaut put in a wonderful showing in the Forum. A shining light amongst the murky depths of the rest of the bill, numbers from ‘All Is Violent All Is Bright’ woo and seduce excited punters with uplifting major chords and infectious rhythms. Intricate without once falling into the mire of self-indulgence, they inject hope and light standing out amongst the darkness of their peers today.
God Seed’s nocturnal Black Metal would perhaps suit the more BM orientated Incineration Festival across town, yet Gaahl and the boys are in fine form. There may be no naked bodies crucified onstage this time but the brutality of the music is menacing, eschewing the need for such trappings. ‘A Sign Of An Open Eye’ begin their menacing set and guest appearance by Cult of Luna’s Johannes on ‘Alt Liv’ adds a new edge to the brutal track. Concluding their set with the vicious ‘Prosperity And Beauty’ and current track ‘This Is From The Past’ demonstrate this is an act unafraid to acknowledge their origins, but preferring to forge forward rather than rely on the Gorgoroth name. God Seed exemplify the primal bleakness of black metal and how powerful it can be.
All that remains is the colossal might of the headliners to deliver a much ballyhooed set of crushing, desolate post metal. Bathed in eerie blue light, the band remains as enigmatic and compelling as ever. A couple of songs in, the stage is suddenly plunged into darkness. When the lights go up original vocalist Klas Rydbergand Gaahl lend their voices to ‘Ghost Trail’ adding even more unbridled intensity to this haunting epic. It’s a moment which sends shivers down the spine and reminds us how potent the sound of this act is and how insignificant we seem in comparison to the sheer power of it all.
For all their might and bombast, Cult of Luna proves just as compelling on the fragile ‘Passing Through’. Its graceful open chords ring out through the Forum while the audience catch a reprieve from the intense catharsis only to embrace the vulnerable beauty which briefly surrounds them.
“In Awe Of” lures you into a clandestine universe where the dystopian worlds conjured by novelists like Orwell are brought to mind. This performance is more than a mere retrospective with Rydberg contributing to the piece with such a vigour and zeal you could be forgiven for forgetting he departed the Umea outfit before it was composed.
‘Leave Me Here’ from 2004’s ‘Salvation’ opus lacks the clean vocal delivery but still feels every bit as haunting as on record as it brings the curtain down on a set which many will speak of witnessing for years to come. Electing to take a break at what is the peak of their creativity, Cult Of Luna’s absence from the music scene will be felt by many but by the same token it will mean they are rightly revered and respected for their uncompromising approach to their art and methods of achieving their creative vision on their terms only.
WORDS BY ROSS BAKER