On a rainy night in the middle of winter, Théâtre Corona was subject to a significant display of skill and ingenuity, with a multitude of creative artists taking the stage. Highlighted by the Swedish veterans Cult of Luna, the bill was ripe with enough original songwriting to soothe the soul.
Fresh off releasing their new album, Fluid Existential Inversions, I was probably most excited to see Intronaut for the first time since 2009. Intronaut packed an assortment of insane polyrhythmic progressive metal in a relatively short set, showcasing the skillful complexity of their latest record. Unfortunately, bassist Joe Lester couldn’t make the show as he’s been temporarily sidelined for medical reasons, forcing the band to rely on emulating his sound digitally. Not only was their performance sonically gratifying, but the trippy video package complementing the music added to the overall experience. Matching the cadences and tempo of the music, the visual aids, such as pilgriming skeletons and a rather intense black panther, created a vibrant atmosphere. Tearing through a cacophonous assortment of progressive metal with “Cubensis,” “Pangloss,” and “The Cull,” they ended the set with the futuristic “Speaking of Orbs,” concluding possible the most intricate performance of the night.
I intentionally abstained from listening to Emma Ruth Rundle before the show for the sole purpose of experiencing genuine visceral reactions to her music. Gauging by her biography, her experiences with ambient music and post-rock made her am exceptional fit on the bill, and expectations were certainly met.
Her stoic demeanour and brooding intensity were perfectly juxtaposed with her sombre yet powerfully uplifting vocals. Performing by herself, the raw energy of her vocals perfectly meshed with the droning haze of distortion emitting from the axe in her hand. The raw emotion oozing from her music enthralled the audience and lulled everyone into a hypnotic state. Accurately described as a blend of gothic folk and post-rock, her evocative music provided a rather refreshing reprieve amidst the supremely intense metal bands on the bill. One particular highlight was her melancholic state transforming into aggression on “Control,” riling up everyone in the venue. Her performance exceeded my expectations by seamlessly transitioning from ambient shoegazing to soothing post-rock.
Now, for the main event. Cult of Luna, the innovative Swedish post-metal and sludge hybrid, has had quite a distinguished, diverse career up to this point. Their rather lengthy compositions have quite the penetrating effect by combining the raw brutality of sludge metal with the mellifluous rhythms. Cult of Luna created a frenzy by ripping into “The Silent Man,” one of four tracks to be played from last year’s brilliant record, A Dawn to Fear. Obfuscated by a dense layer of smoke, the band’s stage presence created an exciting element of mystique. Johannes Persson, the lead vocalist and guitarist, demonstrated a breathtaking display of emotion with the sheer power of his vocals throughout the night, bringing music to life in ways that a studio recording cannot.
Interestingly enough, the lighting served as a virtual mood ring for the evening’s events, matching the intensity of the music as the band tore through their setlist. On tracks like “And With Her Came The Birds,” the dreary and dull lighting matched the gloomy nature of the song, providing a gentle respite between the post-metal craziness. At other points of the night, the ferocity of the music was matched with blood-red illumination, channeling the natural force of the songs.
Overall, there was an ideal blend of old tracks and new material, with Cult of Luna choosing gems from their extensive discography. The methodically woven tapestry that is “Finland,” one of the band’s most heralded tracks, was an obvious highlight of the night. The intense tribal beats and ritualistic riffs transitioned to a more mellow structure, creating a state of serenity throughout the building. The band’s ability to combine grace and chaos with ease is possibly the most alluring aspect of their live music, indicative of their staying power all these years. Another highlight was getting to see “In Awe of,” a 10-minute epic that reels you in with such a catchy hook before bringing you on a tumultuous journey full of untethered distortion, soothing melodies, and soul-crushing beats.
Closing the night’s festivities with “The Fall,” Cult of Luna brought everyone to their feet (metaphorically speaking, of course) by saving their best performance for last. The fitting conclusion encapsulated the overarching theme of the night: no frills and a heavy focus on inventive songwriting.
Written by Jonathan Berthold
Photography by Nicolas Racine
*Edited by Dominic Abate