One of the great things about Vancouver’s metal scene is the amount of quality local bands that can be called upon to open a show as unique and rare an occasion as the appearance of Sweden’s premier post-metallers Cult of Luna alongside fellow experimentalists Minsk and SubRosa – yet the inevitable downside is making it in time for early doors for a marathon show. Unfortunately this led to Bushwhacker being the first band Unholy Noise made it for, yet we heard Astrakahn and If We Are Machines both gave killer performances!
Yet Bushwhacker proved a suitably experimental and sonically eclectic band to begin this night’s proceedings (for us), with the Vancouver-via-Whitehorse four piece tackling the show with an entertaining and engaging ferocity that complemented their wildly technical yet unpretentious progressive metal. The band’s triple vocal attack layered over a combination of diverse styles offered a powerful assault, providing head-bang friendly fun alongside moments of atmosphere-building tension. Delivering their set with humour (fuck ya bud) and clearly reveling in the performance, Bushwhacker did a fine job of completing Vancouver’s representation at this undeniably high-quality show.
Next up were Salt Lake City’s SubRosa, and as the band’s experimental, sorrowful amalgamation of doom riffery, stoner vibes and dual violin rang out from the stage the Rickshaw was imbued with an abjectly melancholic and haunting atmosphere that set the bar for the rest of the evening. The band flowed hypnotically through a set that skilfully weaved together somnambulistic calm and crushing intensity, offered through the delicate melodies of Kim Pack and Sarah Pendleton’s violin lines and the cavernous hammering out of Rebecca Vernon’s massive guitar chords. The band’s rhythm section also proved a captivating presence, both in terms of playing intensity and the unique style of each member – not to mention drummer Andy Patterson’s magnificent beard giving his stoic stature behind the kit the impression of a meditative mystic. Captivating from the beginning to end of their set, with the Rickshaw audience wakingfrom a collective trance to roar their approval, after their first Vancouver appearance SubRosa will undoubtedly be remembered as more than mere openers for Cult of Luna.
Clearly enjoying the momentum built by this year’s ‘The Crash and the Draw’, Minsk then went on to tackle their set with power and passion – and the moments that leaned towards the new release were undeniably where the band were the most convincing and engaging. Roaring from the front of the stage, Tim Mead’s empowering performance brought to mind that of Mike Scheidt (a compliment that shouldn’t be taken lightly), and demonstrated the truly personal impact that drawing forth the Neurosis-esque emotional depth of Minsk’s sound had for him, yet the euphoria experienced on the stage may not have been as widespread in the audience. Wedged between the aftermath of the unexpected revelation that was SubRosa and the anticipation that preceded experiencing a rare live appearance by Cult of Luna, Minsk suffered from simply not being as uniquely compelling as their tour-mates (despite a spirited performance from its’ members) – leaving a void for tonight’s headliners to fill.
And when their time came, Cult of Luna’s character seemed perfectly captured in every way as the collective took the stage; the visually stunning backlit silhouettes of their seven members, the smoke pouring forth into the crowd building mystical atmosphere, and the practiced precision as each musician contributed to the mammoth sound that emanated from the stage. A particular point must be made about the band’s stage presence – reflective of their contemplative, cathartic sound, the band’s physical presence proved hypnotic, woeful, and magnificent, with Johannes Persson taking centre-stage and leading Cult of Luna’s travels through a captivating set. There are few bands that could focus on their newer material without a tirade of complaints, yet with 2013’s incredible ‘Vertikal’ being perhaps the apex of a discography that hasn’t ever disappointed, Cult of Luna avoid such cynical negativity while building towards the utterly spellbinding climax of ‘In Awe Of’. A better finale there could not have been to the historic first outing of Sweden’s post-metal greats to Vancouver, and as the show came to a close, the anticipation that accompanied the show was vindicated in a way that ‘worth the wait’ didn’t come close to covering.
Photo Credit: Anka Apostu