Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas at Toronto Mod ClubSupport: Dälek| Whores.
August 22, 2017 at Toronto Mod Club
Promoter: Inertia Entertainment
Following a hugely successful first run of dates across Europe, Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas set sail unto further lands with an expedition across the United States and – as luck would have it – Canada, attracting flocks of chuffed, short-haired metal fans across the northern continent. The Toronto Mod Club show being one of the tours’ six gigs, local Torontonians and travelling fans gathered before the venues closed doors some die-hard fans showing up way before the scheduled show time, patient yet eager to see the show.
Tagging along for the ride on this short six date tour, two well-established acts were enlisted to open up the show, adding the exceptional nature of the billing. Ipecac Record’s Dälek from Newark, New Jersey hit things off and offered a nice share of diversity on the billing with their twisted, stark strain of industrial hip-hop. As local audiences may know, the trio is well accustomed to playing alongside heavy bands, having last made their mark on fans and unsuspecting local scenesters no later than last June with their opening set with Daughters and Odonis Odonis. Surely enough, MC Dälek and his peers delivered the goods once more, topping their last Toronto gig with a harsher, noisier set. rEK and Mike Manteca’s violent, metallic samples and beats engulfed the room, cavernous resonances and crashing cymbal samples melding into a cacophonous anarchy, brilliantly orchestrated through the live manipulation of pedals, modules, turntables and digital samples. MC Dälek’s rhymes were regrettably slightly overpowered by the overpowering bass and generally massive sound, somewhat undermining an otherwise exemplary flow. The three-piece made their case nonetheless, delighting fans and undoubtedly earning new fans in time for their upcoming eighth album Endangered Philosophies and the subsequent headlining tour promoting it.
Up next, Atlanta’s Whores. strode proudly unto The Mod Club’s stage, their tubes warmed up and ready for action. As I probably should have expected, protection was strongly advised when it came time for Whores., them being – as I would find out no sooner than right after the first guitar strum and drum crash – every bit as loud, crass and heavy as you’d expect from a band bearing such a delightful name. Led by frontman Christian Lembach, Whores. are, simply put, one of the heaviest, most ferocious live bands I have seen in year, armed with the loudest, most punishing sound I have heard in a long, long time, a live sound melding the likes of Swedish Death Metal with Noise Rock and Sludge Metal. In other words, picture Steve Albini on bath salts riding a buzz saw-wielding grizzly bear and you’d get a pretty fair description of what ensued for the next forty minutes. With every riff hammered down into an airtight, pummelling groove, the band flailed across the stage, frontman Christian glaring, grimacing and tripping over like a blood-drunk beast, looking down at his audience with clenched teeth. It was filthy, unapologetic, ruthless… and bleeding terrific. The band stepped down the stage having made themselves abundantly clear: do not mess with Whores.
After one last intermission, Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas were finally up, the Swedes stepping onto the stage first, dimly lit by blue lights, the band slowly warming up to the string sections and drones introducing ‘A Greater Call’. Julie followed shortly after, dressed in a futuristic doll-like dress adorned with yellow lights, waiting for frontman Johannes Persson’s opening lyrics signalling the take-off: “We leave.” Sound waves blasted out and detonated to flashing lights, sending the entirety of the venue’s occupants far, far away, to drift afloat, amongst the soaring lights and luminescent echoes, above and beyond on the sonic voyage that is Mariner, performed front-to-back in its entirety. Sticking to an integral cinematic experience, the band skipped the banter, performing song after song with little to no intermission time, making for a relatively short yet intense 60-minute set.
While listening to the record feels like watching a movie, experiencing Mariner live with a brilliant light show and an intense band performance felt like experiencing it in an IMAX cinema. Every bit of the bands’ studio performance shone through, opulent and vibrant with the bands’ energy. Most notable amongst the performances onstage was that of Julie Christmas herself, whose incredibly versatile performance – both erratic and operatic – carried over beautifully from the studio unto the stage, occasionally outdoing herself like on the crushing ‘Chevron’ or on ‘The Wreck of S.S Needle’. To briefly dive into some wee nitpicking, one of the few gripes to be had about the show concerned some minor mixing-level issues – namely with some of the guitar sections and the lead vocals, which could have been turned up a tad. Spectacle-wise however, the Swedes and the Brooklyn singer absolutely crushed every second of their time onstage, right down to the sets’ fiery, staggering finale with the outro to ‘Cygnus’.
I’m guessing I’m not the only one who found the return back to Earth difficult that night. Getting accustomed to Earths’ atmosphere and gravity takes some time after such an experience, after all. Looking back, one can only fathom the effort required to allow such a show to take place, Mariner being – let’s not forget – an ambitious album originally destined to remain a studio collaboration. Whether the tour marks the end of this phenomenal collaboration or not, only time will tell. Logistics being the main obstacle for these live shows, one can reasonably assert that this second tour came as nothing short of a miracle for audiences. With that being said, one thing is for sure: the Julie Christmas and Cult of Luna combo will only garner more demand from fans, especially amongst the very lucky ones who got to experience these first few shows across Europe and America.
All photos by Robin Ono