Beyond The Redshift 2023
|Event:||Cult Of Luna: Europe 2023 pt. 3|
I’ve not been shy about voicing my appreciation for Cult Of Luna on this website; however, it did initially take me a bit of time to be converted by them. For the first couple of years after I discovered post-metal, it was Isis who were my go-to band whenever I was in the mood to listen, but I gradually became fonder of the Swedish group with time and exposure. The night on which I became a full-fledged fan was when I saw them live for the first time as they headlined the Beyond The Redshift day festival in London in 2014, an event curated by the band; their performance that night was phenomenal, and has ensured that I follow any opportunity to see their live shows.
I was very fond of Beyond The Redshift at the time, so much so that I wrote an article about my experience of attending (which was declined for publication here due to my guest status), but there wasn’t any indication in the years to follow that it would be more than a one-off event. Perhaps the pandemic caused some nostalgia for the event on the part of Cult Of Luna, as in 2021, they announced that the second edition of the festival would be occurring in Spring 2022. Ultimately, logistical issues resulting from the pandemic meant that Beyond The Redshift 2022 was postponed, turning into Beyond The Redshift 2023. With the delay came a substantial overhaul of the roster of bands performing at the event:
The 2022 line-up that never was
The 2023 billing
Aside from Cult Of Luna, the only names carried over were Svalbard, Birds In Row, Gallops and Norna. On balance, I was less keen on the 2023 band line-up, particularly due to the absence of This Gift Is A Curse, but the presence of Cult Of Luna alone was enough to get me attending, even with the rearranged festival now occurring on a Friday. So it was that I made my way to North London last Friday for an afternoon of walking up and down between the O2 Forum, the main stage, and The Dome/Boston Music Rooms further north (on the plus side, these second and third stages are situated in the same building, making jumping between clashing bands very easy).
I opted against catching the first two sets (a solo slot from Birds In Row’s Quentin Sauvé and a local punk band Shooting Daggers) to instead make Emma Ruth Rundle my first act of the day. Life had other plans, however, as ERR was stricken ill and unable to perform. As a last-minute stand-in, Jo Quail did a 30-minute set of acoustic cello, a mixture of Bach and her own compositions. I couldn’t quite tell from her initial announcement whether she was already going to be performing as part of ERR’s act or if she was roped in last-minute due to living locally, but Quail once again found herself on a metal-oriented billing; it’s quite remarkable how successful she’s been in becoming metal’s go-to modern classical act.
This was the third time I’d seen Quail, and the third distinctly different performance; after the full-orchestra performance of The Cartographer at Roadburn 2022 and the ‘standard’ electric cello set at Desertfest 2023, this was stripped-down, doing away with her usual looping. I did admittedly much prefer her Desertfest show to this one, but she made for a perfectly decent first act given how little notice she seemingly had; “The Hidden Forest” in particular was subtly compelling.
Norna 14:00-14:40, The Dome
One of the few groups retained from the initial announcement for Beyond The Redshift 2022, Norna are not a name familiar to me, but they filled 40 minutes very nicely here. Their style was a fairly conventional sludge/post-metal sound: trudging, heavy, pounding. Wren would be a relevant point of comparison for their sound, and like Wren when I’ve seen them before, Norna offered up some tasty material to headbang along to, albeit without being especially memorable.
Gggolddd 15:00-15:50, O2 Forum
I remembered enjoying Gggolddd when I saw them at ArcTanGent 2023, but I couldn’t particularly remember why. Well, I had a second chance to figure it out, and again I was impressed by Gggolddd here. The dark electronica, with powerful electronic percussion and a captivating performance once again from Milena Eva, was carried across really well by the sound in the Forum, which was for most bands excellent. Gggolddd continue to tour their This Shame Should Not Be Mine album, as well as new EP PTSD, and the emotion of this material, inspired by Eva’s experience with sexual assault, almost overcame her at one point in the set, but while the message of the music is front and centre on these records, that does not come at the expense of the quality of the music (except maybe on closing track “On You”, which admittedly I find the merits of come solely from the lyrics rather than the music).
Trench 16:00-16:40, Boston Music Rooms
After Gggolddd was something of a dead slot; the choices were Slow Crush, the super-mellow shoegaze band, or Canadian hardcore act Trench. Having seen and been underwhelmed by Slow Crush in the past, I opted for the latter, and was rewarded with a passable set, even if arguably the most memorable aspect of their performance was the band’s apparent uniform of wearing dungarees. Trench also suffered some sound issues, with the main microphone cutting out temporarily and the microphone on the keyboard stand (because the vocalist also plays keyboards, an element for a hardcore band that you’d think would be more interesting than it was here) didn’t work at all throughout. Nevertheless, I stayed for their whole set, and the blandness of the couple of songs I caught of the end of Slow Crush’s set afterwards justified that decision.
Svalbard 17:00-17:50, O2 Forum
When I mentioned earlier that the sound was mostly excellent in the O2 Forum, Svalbard was the exception I was thinking of. The overwhelming sound of drums and formless reverb when they started forced me to take my earplugs out; without ear protection, their sound was clearer, but still a bit of a wall of sound. I’ve seen Svalbard a few times now and they’ve never quite been my cup of tea, so I only watched the first 20 minutes of their set, but what I did catch was the expected 6/10 experience: their energy was enjoyable, and the melodic layers that did manage to cut through the noise were pleasant, but it didn’t compel me to stay longer than anticipated, because I was making sure to get to The Dome nice and early for a prime spot to see the next band...
LLNN 18:00-18:40, The Dome
LLNN’s set at ArcTanGent 2023 was widely felt (by myself and the two mates that I attended both of these festivals with) to be the heaviest live music display any of us had experienced. Therefore, there were high expectations all round for their show here, but as always they delivered; the destructive tone that they always manage to capture, regardless of venue, combined with the beastly songs and ever-energetic stage presence, makes for a consistently winning combination, particularly with Viktor Kaas now bringing an extra level of demented energy to the group. This was the sixth time I’ve seen LLNN, and all I can say is, if you have a reasonable opportunity to see them, you should consider it unmissable.
After LLNN were Napalm Death, but having twice caught them at festivals and been underwhelmed, I instead opted to grab dinner. I then caught a couple of songs each of Birds In Row (whose songs went in some interesting directions but mostly made for fairly unremarkable post-hardcore) and Gallops (a really cool electronic rock group in the vein of Scalping that I would have happily seen more of at any other time of the day) before I made my way one more time to the Forum to grab a good spot for the hotly anticipated headliner.
Cult Of Luna 21:00-22:50, O2 Forum
Nine years on from that first time, I was standing in the same venue to watch Cult Of Luna perform for the ninth time; there have been a lot of great sets in that time, including that first show, the Somewhere Along The Highway anniversary tour, the Mariner set with Julie Christmas, and recent shows at Electric Ballroom in 2019 and ArcTanGent at 2022. Their Beyond The Redshift 2023 set sits alongside any of them; this was an awesome 2 hours of music. The mix was excellent; it was engulfing in its volume without being excessive, and the mixing desk was constantly active making any adjustments to make sure each individual layer came through as clearly as it needed to. While the set, as expected, drew a lot from last year’s The Long Road North, the band opted for the album’s two standout songs to open and close the set, with “Cold Burn” emphatic with how powerful the drum sound was, and “Blood Upon Stone” almost threatening to explode with how overwhelmingly dense and intense the closing minutes were.
Alongside that pair, and “The Silver Arc” and “Beyond I” from the same record, were a collection of some of Cult Of Luna’s best songs, including “The Silent Man”, “Finland”, “Lights On The Hill” and “In Awe Of”; each track was spellbinding in its own way, and watching the band perform live really allows you to appreciate the intricacies in their songwriting, which place them head and shoulders above almost everyone else in the post-metal scene. Johannes Persson was in an unusually interactive mood; while the stage show, like always, turned the band into silhouettes and there was no stage banter during the set, Persson frequently gestured towards the audience, and during “Blood Upon Stone” even worked his way to the audience, being supported while he played a good chunk of the song. Afterwards, he gave a speech to close off the festival; to be honest, it sounded like he hadn’t really prepared, as it was rather rambling and at times hard to understand, but it wasn’t bad enough to curtail what had just been an immense couple of hours.
Cult Of Luna setlist:
01. Cold Burn
03. The Silver Arc
04. I: The Weapon
05. Lights On The Hill
07. Beyond I
08. The Silent Man
09. In Awe Of
10. Blood Upon Stone
The festival as a whole wasn’t quite at the level of the first edition of Beyond The Redshift, which was graced with talent such as Amenra, God Is An Astronaut, Bossk and Sleepmakeswaves, but the few standout sets from Gggolddd, and particularly LLNN and Cult Of Luna, made the event a successful one. I had always assumed Beyond The Redshift to be a one-off event; now that it’s been resurrected, it will be intriguing to see whether Cult Of Luna have any more regular plans for it, or if twice is indeed enough.
||Written on 25.10.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not|
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