Cult of Luna, Whores, Dälek - Reggies, Chicago

by Texacaliago Rating: Release Date:

If variety truly is the spice of life, fans of abrasive music were in for a particularly spicy treat on Monday night at Reggies.  The sold-out show featured a heady industrial-flavored hip-hop group (Dälek), an absolutely ferocious sludge-punk band on the rise (Whores), and a Swedish “post-metal” band (Cult of Luna), so there was a little something for everyone who fancied music with a distinctly harsh edge to it.

Dälek was scheduled to kick off the proceedings, but before they took the stage, this reviewer happened to notice the bass player (Casey) and drummer (Donnie) for arguable the best band on the bill that night (Whores) chilling in the crowd.  Being that I was generally curious what time their set started, I figured that was a good excuse to engage in some small talk.  During the course of our conversation, I started casually probing about the band’s future plans, and it turns out they will likely be going out on a co-headlining tour in the fall (with a band that will remain unnamed), and also have tentative plans to get back in the studio during the winter to hammer out a new album presumably due out sometime next year.  Mind you, this information was all derived from a casual conversation (although it kind of felt like an undercover interview), so take it for what it’s worth.  We’ll see what actually comes to fruition, but whatever the case, it was cool to chat with them nonetheless.  Nice guys.

Now on to the show.  Dälek kicked off their set with their new single “Echos Of…” from their upcoming new album Endangered Philosophies (due out September 1st).  For those unfamiliar with them, they are fronted by lead vocalist and primary brainchild of the group MC Dalek.  Mr. Dalek himself handled all the mic duties while two other DJs flanked him and provided the menacingly down-tempo and hard-hitting beats that complimented his flow quite nicely.  His delivery is generally steady and consistent in nature, and goes perfectly with the lurching, brooding, and generally dark back-beats and bleak, industrial-flavored samples that characterize most of Dälek’s music.  Simply put, their music and general vibe have very little in common with most mainstream hip-hop acts these days, which is what actually makes them interesting.  It harkens back to a time when rap was actually edgy and compelling to listen to, as opposed to the unabashedly trendy and pop-leaning genre that it has steadily devolved into over the past decade or two (with apologies to Kendrick Lamar and a few other guys).  So suffice to say I was digging the lurching, head-bobbing nature of the music, all of which had a steady undercurrent of industrial and noise-rock samples that amplified its brooding quality.  After seeing them live, it’s no wonder bands like The Melvins and Tool have taken them out on tour with them, as the tone and vibe of their music has more in common with noise/sludge rock than you might expect.  Case in point, they seemed to win over the mostly metal-leaning crowd in attendance, which is no easy task for a hip-hop group.  But then again, Dälek is no ordinary hip-hop group, as evidenced by their well received set that evening.

Up next were the band many (if not most) folks came to see that night, Atlanta’s finest trio of sludge-punk malcontents: Whores.  Since the release of their critically acclaimed album Gold last year, the band has been riding the wave of steadily growing success and exposure, which has been largely aided by their increasing reputation as one of the best live bands in the business.  Simply put, Whores put on a ferociously raucous show and are an incredibly tough act to follow for virtually any band.  As if the very nature of their bludgeoning attack weren’t already enough, the entire band performs with such a passionate fury and vigor in a live setting that it all adds up to one hell of a combustible and intoxicating experience.  And although belligerent rage is kind of their calling card, it’s all delivered with a sly sense of humor and a palpable sense of fun in a live setting, so even when things gets totally unhinged, the performance never seems bombastically angry or sadistic in nature.  In essence, Whores are really just a classic raucous rock and roll band…albeit a very heavy one at that.  Personal highlights from the set included “I’m Not a Goal Oriented Person” and “Bloody Like the Day You Were Born”, but the whole thing was really an unruly good time.  Great band, great show.  Cheers to Whores, a band that is really just getting started, and clearly going places.

As alluded to, Whores can be a very tough act to follow, especially for a band like Cult of Luna.  Despite their imposing and brooding wall-of-sound approach, Cult of Luna definitely lacks the unhinged and emphatic delivery of a band the likes of Whores, which contributed to a moderately underwhelming set from them overall.  Granted, we are talking about two completely different styles here, so I suppose it all comes down to individual tastes really, but it was hard to deny the energy level did not fall off dramatically when Cult of Luna hit the stage.  The band were actually performing their most recent album Mariner with Julie Christmas in its entirety, which kind of contributed to the lower energy level associated with their performance.  The band has been pegged as “post-metal” (a dubious genre) given their propensity for ambitiously lengthy songs that are often more ambient/atmospheric/droning in nature than they are actually heavy.  When the band does unleash their fury, it kind of comes off as too blunt or excessive at times, although their barrage of razor-sharp riffs are undeniably impressive when they do come.  But far too often their forays into brooding atmospherics come off as somewhat tedious and mildly pretentious, and coupled with their excessive growling/screaming (seemingly just for the sake of it), added up to a generally unsatisfying experience for yours truly.  While Cult of Luna certainly have their merits, and were genuinely impressive at times, at the end of the day, it’s just not this reviewer’s particular cup of tea.  But it was nonetheless an interesting way to end a night full of abrasive variety from three very distinctive bands/groups.  But as was the case when I saw them open for Torche and Red Fang last year, Whores once again clearly stole the show.  Looking forward to seeing them in the headlining spot they deserve in the near future.

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