Review by Emily Castles
Displaying the urgency of Conan and the melody of Amenra, Cult of Luna are one of those post-metal bands that refuse to be categorised. Their atmospheric, immersive live show encompasses you, body and soul; like the Grim Reaper, it takes you away to a distant, harrowing land.
Beginning life in 1998, their aggressive, doom sound has evolved and blossomed into a thought-provoking, emotional assault. Tonight, the Electric Ballroom in a wintery Camden Town, plays host to the solemn Swedes. It is a snug fit for us all, despite being a sizable venue for a metal band. As with Mayhem’s recent visit here, there is little breathing room.
Instead of Faust and the Four Horsemen of Yesteryear, Cult of Luna’s latest single ‘The Silent Man’, which they open with this evening, is much more internally explorative. With a slow, drum-heavy intro, growing into a muted melody, which warps into haunting ring-out notes – this is delicate, sad and evil. Although the lyrics concern loneliness and the end – it is clear that these days the band are talking about an emotional, existential kind of end as opposed to apocalyptic.
Their new album A Dawn to Fear (reviewed here), which continues to feature heavily this evening, seems to gnaw and grind away until breaking through into the interiors of the mind where it haunts it with misery and fear. It’s good stuff.
‘Nightwalkers’ is particularly memorable and seems to have a level of electricity only truly felt when played live. The simplistic opening riff rings out to a room of zombies, all in a trance, all welcoming the unmistakable sense of impending doom.
They also play some of the oldies; ‘In Awe Of’ goes down well. It increases the pace and urgency towards the end of a long set – guitars becoming more upbeat, melodic and perhaps even hopeful.
Ending the set with the concluding song from their new album, ‘The Fall’, we are left with an exploration of grief and futile longing: ‘At the edge of your memory, a being that ceased to be. Rise from your grave, bow to her name.’
With a single gentle guitar riff easing us into the track for almost two minutes, they cement their set as one of story and journey; there are no easy wins here, you have to wait for the intermittent explosions of sound and groovy riff work.
The journey is just as important as the destination.