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Beyond the Redshift (May 10th 2014)

Updated : 06:43:12am, 16th Nov 2014

JESU

At a festival with a roster dripping in ambiance, post-rock and chords that make stoners grin even further it's really little surprise that there is a warm and eager anticipation for JESU, the band that basically rose from the ashes of GODFLESH, who themselves are without doubt one of the finest and most applicable inspirations for most of the people and artists performing today.

Long-time veteran of the industrial / post-plenty-of-styles Justin K. Broadrick is his usual humble self as the band contend with some unfortunate issues during their sound-check. Owning to the stripped back approach of their performances, it's only really that the house lights are still on reminding the baying masses that they haven't actually started...

When they do, however, the sweeping drudge and emotive crescendos swirl in front of stark, almost apocalyptic, imagery in the vein of NEUROSIS, ISIS and RED SPAROWES... only with the crushing skeleton of GODFLESH underpinning the direction of it all. Heads nod to follow the pulsating rhythm and eyes close as the immersion washes over the crowd. At one point, I watch the penny drop for a security guard who turns to the stage in appreciation and enjoyment forgetting his purpose as people meander around him to take photos from the front of the stage.

It should be noted that I have not followed JESU as actively as I did for their first 2 albums and this evening the majority of the music comes from the EPs that followed. I am not even 100% of the setlist, so I've opted to omit rather than include incorrectly. Personally, I'd have loved to have heard some of the misery-dripped beauty from the self-titled release, such as 'Tired of Me' or 'We All Falter', but it's not to be. I have put it on record that it's the melancholic darkness that keeps me indulged in such music, and whilst the more inspirational and up-beat direction is probably a certainty eventuality (as it has been for PELICAN) is does lead to a feeling that either I'm just too moody or everyone else is growing too old to remain bitter and miserable.

The set itself is short, considering the average length of their songs, but this is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, dampened only by the fact I am without beer and too immersed to adjust that situation.

Sound issues, and set-list gripes, aside, the reception Justin and indeed JESU receive is that of appreciation and respect. Whilst it's not the best time I've seen them, as always, I'm glad I have.

[7]

--##--

GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT

After quenching one's thirst with a delightful drink and some standard conversation time with Jamie, I positioned myself for the next offering. Now, I had intentionally avoided going over the back catalogue of GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT because I wanted to discover their music for the first time in it's purest form. Simply, I went into the show knowing OF this band but with no idea of what they sounded like.

Immediately, I start grinning as their powerful mix of post-rock and beautiful clean guitar cuts through a mixture of synth and noise. Having no idea of what songs they're playing, there are parallels, and perhaps clear inspirations, from bands like ANATHEMA, MOGWAI, THE CURE and atmospheric-synth bands like TANGERINE DREAM and AMON DUUL II. There are even moments I sense I could be watching members of THE MARS VOLTA and OCEANSIZE, but I think anybody with a mature and vetted taste in music is almost certainly going to understand and appreciate the style of music I'm aiming to describe here; even looking back over the noted artists I start to feel giddy again...

This is a performance that is typical of this scene; broody, majestic and both visually and aurally overwhelming. That said, the balance is perfect and the projected imagery again serves as a captivating canvas. There's not one pair of eyes averted from the stage as the band rip through their set. There's a power and attraction about bands playing their nuts off and again, I see the security guard from the JESU set sticking two fingers to responsibility as he pretty much watches the entire set without averting his eyes.

GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT (whom I later learn are from Ireland) are clearly a wise and talented bunch of fellows; they have a maturity in their music that doesn't come across as generic nor watered down. Their inspirations are clear without being cliched and their music is emotive without being boring or typecast.

To be honest, as the set starts to draw to a close, I feel like I've come along to their own show here. The reception is warm and knowing; this is a pleasant experience for those attending and a very impressive first-dip into their world for me (and I would imagine others).

Having since acquired a few of their albums, I know I've discovered another brilliant band who I can also say put on a damned fine show.

[8]

--##--

GOD SEED

Setlist

  1. Bloodline
  2. Sign of an Open Eye *
  3. Awake
  4. Aldrande Tre
  5. Carving a Giant *
  6. From the Running of Blood
  7. Forces of Satan Storms *
  8. Lit
  9. Exit - Through Carved Stones *
  10. Wound Upon Wound *
  11. Alt Liv **
  12. The Wound
  13. Prosperity and Beauty *
  14. This from the Past

* GORGOROTH Cover
** w/ Johannes Persson (CULT OF LUNA)

Right, onto the stand-out band of the day, and as I'd seen CULT OF LUNA before, the one I was most looking forward to. Norway's GOD SEED, formed following the rather public and bitter falling out between Gaahl and King Ov Hell and founder Infernus over the direction and legal right to the GORGOROTH name. A long story short is that Infernus was ruled to be the owner, and thus GOD SEED was born (they actually performed at Wacken in 2008 as GORGOROTH, but this was later released as GOD SEED).

Background out of the way, this was a treat for the senses. Whilst black metal is not everyone's cup of tea, this is not what you would expect if you'd seen performances akin to the style previously. Rather than presenting the savagery of acts like GORGOROTH, 1349 and DARK FUNERAL, this is a rawer, stripped back affair. Gaahl is the only one wearing face-paint and whilst to the outset it looks unusual for only one member to be doing so (King Diamond?), they have discovered a balance that works. This is not the speed-circle-headbanging, pyro-necro-blood-fest that is often associated with this type of music and that decision may well come from circumstance, but I can't help but feel there is more to it than that...

Additionally, the actual music of GOD SEED is actually noticeably mature; it's not just a typical collection of dark lyrical content and blast-beats. It is, almost, black-metal prog. There is the necessary atmosphere and fury, of course, but it hasn't been rushed together. There are elements of disharmony and it often goes against the grain of what is considered by some to be true-Norwegian black metal. Personally, I find this a perfect representation of not only a true form of expression, but a true indication of what Norwegian black-metal was always about. There is brutality, demonstrated with tracks such as 'From the Running of Blood' and 'This from the Past', but tracks like 'Alt Liv' and 'Lit' both bore elements of the immersive nature of what bands like BURZUM, BATHORY and EMPEROR have also managed to do, often peerlessly. Johannes of CULT OF LUNA comes out and performs vocals alongside Gaahl on the former track and the reception is understandably loud.

The set is full of a few GORGOROTH covers not only due to the fact much of that music was written by members of this band but because they have, unfortunately, just the one album released as GOD SEED (although there is a record on which Shagrath of DIMMU BORGIR performed vocals in the absence of Gaahl, 2010's 'The Underworld Regime', but this was released by OV HELL). Not that I am complaining in anyway of hearing a number of GORGOROTH covers; those in attendance watching this over SLEEPMAKESWAVES at the Boston Music Room across the road are almost certainly wishing for more and more of them.

It's a very, very strong performance from a band that have had their fair share of controversy. Gaahl commands the stage with a presence that is formidable but in no way tacky or arrogant; he is a reserved character, out-spoken and strongly passionate about his opinions whilst retaining a very gentle manner (in a way I find similar to IHSAHN). He thanks the crowd but says little else; a fine demonstration of poetic, and indeed artistic, majesty.

(Additional side-note, but speaking with KING earlier in the day, I did query when we were likely to expect new material and his answer, though somewhat disjointed, suggested material was slowly being written and a new release should come in 2015.)

[9]

--##--

CULT OF LUNA

Setlist

  1. The Sweep
  2. Light Chaser
  3. I : The Weapon
  4. Ghost Trail **
  5. The Watchtower *
  6. Beyond Fate *
  7. Eternal Kingdom *
  8. Genesis *
  9. Vague Illusions *
  10. Dark City, Dead Man
  11. Passing Through
  12. Disharmonia
  13. In Awe Of *
  14. Leave Me Here *

* w/ Klas
** w/ Klas & Gaahl (GOD SEED)

By the time the main-event builds up, I for one am absolutely shattered. I haven't been trudging between venues, nor have I been here all day so I'm sure there are others faring much worse, but it's been a long day regardless. Normally that might take the edge of the experience, but not when CULT OF LUNA are about to take to the stage.

CULT OF LUNA are a band that I got into a very long time ago; in fact, they were one of the first bands outside of the traditional realms and obligations of generic 'metal' that I felt a strong connection to. The first song of theirs I'd heard was 'The Watchtower', and though I'd seen and met the band a few times before (including an absolutely ear-crushing performance at the Camden Barfly), it was a certainty that this performance was going to be special.

Earlier on in the day, Jim and I had the great pleasure to speak at length with the 'captain' Johannes, who not only started the band, but has remained the active visionary and leader since it's inception. Since Klas left after their 2010 release 'Eternal Kingdom', Johannes has also been performing main vocals but this evening was special as not only were old, and to be departing, members present, but Klas himself was back for select shows on their tour. The stage is completely cleared for CULT OF LUNA's set and with drum-risers for each of their two drummers (both Thomas and Magnus) you know this is going to be heavy.

As with many other bands of the past and present, including both JESU and GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT earlier, it isn't just the music that's performed. There is a presence and a visual experience that seamlessly, and in CULT OF LUNA's case perfectly, matches the sonic one. A myriad of awesomely beautiful light changes envelop the band, who's shadowed outlines thrash and writhe to the towering wall of dark, quasi-chorded music. The contrast of light and dark juxtapose each other in a demonstration that a lot of effort and talent has gone in to creating this show, both band and crew alike.

For this, I'm sitting in the Press Area on the balcony looking down on the band as they tear through numbers off latest releases (and if as discussed in our interview, possibly last for a while) 'Vertikal' and 'Vertikal II (EP)' they eventually bring Klas (and Gaahl!) out for a melting performance of 'Ghost Trail' before an incredible recital of 'The Watchtower'. A mix of tracks from all albums, including 'Beyond Fate' from the debut, follow and the crowd is blown to bits. This is a really special evening, following an awesome and unique day festival curated by the band that are rightly headlining.

Regardless of your opinion on music, I would wager it hard for any skeptic to not find something appealing of the music and live showings of CULT OF LUNA, especially in the right environment. The acoustics in The Forum again sound good and the day draws a close after what really has been a success. Jim and I discussed early in the day on how impressed we were at the turn-out. No sets (at The Forum, at least) are without a generous number of spectators and certainly none that appear anything other than chuffed.

Beyond the Redshift has been, on all counts, a resoundingly brilliant experience and as far as I'm concerned a finely executed one.

[9]

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