First to the stage were Blueneck, crowding it with their multiple keyboards — notably a Fender Rhodes in pole position at front center. Behind this keyboard (and the one on top of it) sat the vocalist and front man who’s strong repetitions led the pieces. The first track began offering the cracking, fragile vocal of the singer which rose alongside the music coming from both his instrument and the rest of the band into a loud emotion. This tentative start with patterns building up slowly with crescendo to a climax and then ending or paring back down was symptomatic of almost all of the band’s material (although with the frontman switching between keyboard and guitar). Their songs recalled Elbow’s early touching, prog balladry, or the slow rousing atmospheres of Radiohead or Sigur Ros, with a general post-rock template. Though not bad songs at all and sometimes gaining some strong momentum they often remained fairly soft — there were some moments which offered some difference though — one track’s Magma/Guapo Rhodes sound with more drifting, jazzy (but not jazz) beat, another’s build up with trumpet addition (a guest apearance by the trumpet player from the next band), for example.
The Pirate Ship Quintet offered perfect example of everything that is great about post-rock music while in the next breath also showing what can be so limiting and negative about it.
Following the opening support were The Pirate Ship Quintet — whose initial task was to confuse the audience with their blatant number of six members (the guest trumpet player from Blueneck turning out to actually be a guest, or at least part-time, member of this band as well). The band’s sound was heavily influenced by Godspeed You Black Emperor! and similar post-rock outfits like Explosions In The Sky — the opening track containing a “Moya”(from the Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP)-style climbing/falling bassline over subtle guitar picks and atmospheric noise and most tracks following similar framework’s to the previous band or the band’s just mentioned i.e. building up-breaking down or ambling around and then going mental. The Pirate Ship Quintet offered perfect example of everything that is great about post-rock music while in the next breath also showing what can be so limiting and negative about it. They lingered around some lilting or desolate melodies and reached some intense and powerful peaks helped by their six numbers, and specifically some great drumming but they also (in the main) played to a predictable pattern and never strayed into anything particularly new or different — something which post-rock doesn’t by any means deny chance for but in the main just doesn’t seem to offer.
Swedish metallers Cult of Luna have been termed prog-metal, metal core and post-metal amongst others, the latter’s suggestion at the post-rock template and set of ideas but with an increased metal heaviness, intensity and remaining with the common growling metal vocals could perhaps be the most appropriate. Cult of Luna have taken their music through various explorative journeys throughout their career and new album Somewhere Along The Highway, their fourth full-length — out on Earache, holds true to their reputation for powerful and punishing epics which embrace the most ultimate of both beauty and brutality — in a similar way to fellow luminaries Neurosis and Isis.
The band reached some brutally punishing heights and depths.
The band have consistently added to their sound and their line-up has increased accordingly to the current total of eight, or so I believed — I was aware that te main vocalist had not come on the tour as he was having a baby and so one of the guitarists was to take over the lead vocal duties — but still only six members played. Six was enough though to make an intense noise.
Though perhaps in some ways seeming fairly suited to have post-rock style bands supporting Cult of Luna it would have been more interesting to have got a bigger range and diversity in music, however, the crowd could be certain that when it was time for the headline act it was going to get much heavier than at any other point — and that it did. The band reached some brutally punishing heights and depths — the vocals weren’t left lacking and the sound range was filled out expansively by the three guitars, bass and keyboards/synths. The band played material off the new album as well as giving fans some better known tracks from the awesome previous full-length Salvation like opening epic “Echoes”. The venue’s sound quality was slightly lacking, leaving the peaks and bass-heavy riffage a patch off the ear-splitting intensity that you could have wished for but the playing lacked nothing at all as a hour-plus set was filled without pause with emotion, peaks and troughs, huge riffs, drones, some pulsing electronics and even that hint of backwoods Southern rock that the band like to delve into sometimes.