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Cult Of Luna’s North American tour rolls through Vancouver

Cult Of Luna Minsk Subrosa Rickshaw Theatre posterPost-metal is a genre of music I haven’t really explored in much depth. Year of No Light is about where it begins and ends for me, and I enjoy the hell out of Ausserwelt. However, since witnessing the transcendent majesty of Neurosis live at Heavy MTL just over a month ago, I’ve been more inclined to delve deeper into the style. Cult of Luna, rather aptly, have come rolling in to play Vancouver with a pretty excellent bill in tow, including two fellow touring acts and three local bands. Armed with a new appreciation for post-metal, I went down to the Rickshaw Theatre and witness the six-band lineup. Photos by Kevin Eisenlord Cult Of Luna - Kevin Eisenlord I end up arriving too late to see Astrakhan, but they’re a band I’ve seen before and are absolutely worth checking out (see the live report of Cynic from last July). Apologies guys. If We Are Machines are a pleasant surprise, turning out a pretty solid set of proggy, psychedelic post-rock. Their short sets means they’re only able to play four songs – the elongated nature of their material dictates as such – but it matters not. A particular highlight is the mellower second song, very much in the vein of Pink Floyd, with a rather captivating guitar solo. Three guitarists, as well as a keyboard player, really helps fill out their sound and give it a far more embracing sort of quality. Their work is all available for free download on Bandcamp, so there really isn’t much excuse to at least give them a listen. With only four members – the fewest of any band this evening - Bushwhacker‘s sound is far less full than any other band tonight. They play a style known locally as ‘East Van Metal’ – essentially vaguely doomy riffs, growled vocals, and a post/stoner sort of feel to the music, all while trying to separate themselves by being a bit more proggy. While there are undoubtedly people who enjoy the music, it’s hard to get invested in what Bushwacker put forward. The only real highlight is a short little musical tribute to the promoter, Modified Ghost, for putting the show together – which in retrospect is a pretty great move; more bands should acknowledge the work that goes into shows like that, so kudos to them. SubRosa 02 - Kevin Eisenlord SubRosa 04 - Kevin Eisenlord SubRosa 01 - Kevin Eisenlord SubRosa are nothing short of spectacular. The combination of violins, blistering drumming, heavy riffs, and top notch songwriting make for an utterly fantastic experience. Ethereal, droning sludge metal is the name of the game, and the compliment of not one but two violin players to carry the lead melodies makes their performance much more unique. The band start off memorably by playing an entirely new song – its first live outing, in fact – and it’s a sublime piece of sludgy, doom. The rest of their set continues in that vein: SubRosa are so very on point; their sound absolutely perfect in every way, and their songwriting just as good, and they certainly set a high bar to top for the night’s main support and headline act. There’s been a lot of praise for Minsk and I was expecting good things. Their new album The Crash and The Draw has fetched high praise, but unfortunately they fell short of expectation. Hampered somewhat by sound problems – the guitars and drums essentially drown out the vocals and bass – I can’t say the overall sound snared me very well. Ultimately, Minsk suffer from being well below the expectations I had set for them. Hopefully it was just a one-time slump for them and they get better in the future. Cult Of Luna 02 - Kevin Eisenlord Cult Of Luna 01 - Kevin Eisenlord Cult Of Luna 03 - Kevin Eisenlord In the wake of this, there was definite potential Cult Of Luna to disappoint – whether by failure to construct the right atmosphere, or by just being off their game – but there’s nothing to fear; they’re amazing. Having seven members in the band means that the stage can become crowded, but they solve this by some fairly cool lighting tricks: using only backlights in conjunction with a dry ice machine, the band are only visible as silhouettes in the smoke. I am not entirely familiar with the band, but I would absolutely call myself a convert after this mind-blowing show. There’s a sense of gravitas and other-worldliness to their stage presence that could easily come off as standoffish and snobby, but ends up feeling mysterious instead. They waste no-one’s time, opening with the eighteen minute-long freight train “Vicarious Redemption” from 2013′s Vertikal, and do not let up until the last vestiges of feedback from the aptly-named “In Awe Of” are silenced by the techs coming out and turning off their amps. There’s no encore, which suits me fine – a band might as well just play a bit longer with their main set rather than making a big show of leaving than coming back – but that is a topic for a future op-ed. Cult Of Luna 04 - Kevin Eisenlord In the end, post-metal won the day, and everyone went home feeling happy. Cult Of Luna are as impressive as expected, and what of their material is required listening, whilst SubRosa also truly turned on the charm. Whilst Minsk and Bushwacker turn out to sub-par on the night, it’s still a great show and certainly another marker along my conversion to becoming a post-metal expert. Kevin writer banner Jan 2014