I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as I made my way round to the press accreditation point outside Reading festival to meet up with the vocalist of Sweden’s finest purveyors of towering, epic noise-core Cult of Luna. I’d been wrapping my ears around their recently re-released debut album on the train on the way down and, lined up against such beardy bellowers as Neurosis’ steve Von Til and Isis’ Aaron Turner I don’t think I was quite prepared for the quiet-spoken, diminutive frontman that called me over, alongside bassist Andreas. It seemed unbelievable that these two unsuspecting guys could be two fifths of one of the heaviest, most brutal bands ever to berate my ears. And certainly not worthy of the ‘rock star’ rumours said to persist amongst the band’s members.
“I’ve heard there’s some kind of myth going around about us”, sighs Klas under his breath. “I dunno… we’re pretty down-to-earth guys. They’ve told us at the office stuff, like people think when we’ve done photo shoots we try not to show our faces, just bullshit stuff like that.”
As some of the most affable and down-to-earth musicians I’ve met it’s a wonder how these kinds of rumours materialise in the first place. Especially for a band so universally admired in the noise-core world as Cult of Luna. Drawing inspiration from an array of musical artists as well as writers, 80s science fiction and “crazy David Lynch movies”, Cult of Luna began constructing their cavernous soundscapes in the icy North Sweden town of Umea in 2000 – home to the likes of Refused, The (International) Noise Conspiracy and, until recently, Meshuggah. Having been a hotbed for innovative heavy bands, Klas informs me the scene there has recently started to shift in styles.
“We don’t have that much heavy hardcore bands left anymore. Meshuggah we have but they moved to Stockholm. We have a few bands that are coming up… sort of more poppier music. There’s a band called The Perishers who are sort of a bit country, a bit folk-ish. And one called Isolation Years.”
It’s no wonder then that such an eclectic scene would spawn a band as sonically progressive as Cult of Luna, a band who expand on the dynamics demonstrated by an act like Isis and artfully carve out an entirely new form of catharcism that’s all their own. It’s a vision of style that their name tries to encapsulate. “It’s a name that we came up with to create some kind of mystery throughout the band, like a band name that can carry the darkness and the happiness in the music as a whole, together”, explains Klas. Describing the actual fruits of their musical vision however, is much more difficult.
“It’s very hard”, says Andreas, smiling at this prospect.
“Yeah, it’s always hard I guess,” agrees Klas. “But with Cult Of Luna we’re always trying to get the listener to [experience] some kind of feeling or emotions. It is dark kind of music, and slow…”
Surely the fact it’s so hard to describe is a good thing.
“Yeah. We don’t fit in the hardcore area and we don’t fit in the metal area, but we try to sound interesting.”
How do you think the band will progress from the last album ‘The Beyond’?
“We just started to have a few songs started out. I can’t tell you how it’s going to sound but for this tour we’re playing a lot of new songs so far. They’re mainly instrumental with vocals at the end, but I can’t tell you about the new songs. We’ve just started to write them so we’ll see.”
Rising up at a time when noise-core seems to be experiencing some form of renaissance, thanks to the likes of Converge, Botch (RIP) and label-mates Ephel Duath, one listen to Cult of Luna and an intensity not heard since the mighty Neurosis immediately comes to the fray. And one of the things that always stood out about Neurosis was their incredible stage show, complete with visuals projected onto a screen behind them. Although it’s something they are considering for the future, at the moment Klas says they’re taking things one step at a time.
“Well we try to have our own lights I guess. We bought our own lighting rig. We don’t have it with us now but it’s just plain and simple – four cans of blue lights, two silver lights… but in the future if it’s [visuals] possible we’ll do it for shows.”
Those who haven’t managed to catch them live yet, either on their recent tour with Poison The Well or last Spring with Isis and 27, can get a short taster from their video of ‘The Watchtower’, which you can download from their website.
As a band who are redefining the musical terms ‘heavy’ and ‘beautiful’ simultaneously Cult of Luna are finally making extreme music accessible, and yet challenging for both extreme music fans and open minded enthusiasts alike.