|Label:||Back on Black|
Swedish Post-Metal powerhouse Cult of Luna have been away for quite the while after 2008’s excellent Eternal Kingdom, thus my pressing play on their first disc in 5 years, Vertikal is accompanied by equal parts anticipation and aversion. Eternal Kingdom was such a giant leap in progression that it’s hard to tell where they will go next.
And lo and behold, as soon as it starts I'm wondering if I've pressed play on the right disc. The album opener sounds more like the Blade Runner soundtrack than a metal album; quite dark and a bit bleak, but a little too 80s to be taken seriously. My initial thoughts are ones of dismay and dread for what is to come.
Then after a brief pause, my fears are banished. Track 2 I:The Weapon shows it’s business as usual in the Cult Of Luna camp. A massive riff, searing vocal and interesting time signature smash the eardrums. The song starts with bleak, chaotic darkness before taking the listener on an epic quest, emerging finally in the blazing sunshine of a new morning filled with hope, possibility and (hopefully) heavy times ahead. Awesome times. On its own the synth was cheesy, but mixed into the context with the streamlined mayhem it is soaring, majestic and downright wonderful.
Track three could be an EP all on it’s own. It takes a special kind of bravery (or some serious audacity) to have such a behemoth so soon in the album, but it completely works here. If there’s one thing Cult of Luna do well it's take the listener on a journey, and this one is their Paradise Lost. At just under 19 minutes, Vicarious Redemption is huge, daunting, massively ambitious, yet executed brilliantly.
Then the wobble-bass starts (yes, wobble-bass) and I'm just confused. Maybe it's the putrid stench those masters of mediocrity in the dubstep genre have given it, but it totally throws me for a second. Thank the gods that when it all kicks back in again (although I find it hard not to call it a drop) it kicks hard, like the most glorious boot to the face you'll ever receive.
It feels like we’re back to Blade Runner for track 4, but with the addition of some hardcore-esque screaming. I’m not sure Ridley Scott would approve. Thankfully that’s pretty much the last we hear of it, as what follows is an album of expansive, intriguing and unquestionably heavy aural pummeling. Synchronicity oozes with hate, while Mute Departure ebbs and flows menacingly towards an earth-shattering finish.
I can’t help but think the album should have finished after In Awe Of, the second last track on the record that is as triumphant and conclusive as any great finale, while ultimately leaving Passing Through feeling like a bonus track. I get the impression they were trying to end on a reverie (this being the only notable presence of clean vocals on the whole record), but can’t help but feel that this could have been better placed within the track-list, instead of hanging off the edge like an afterthought.
This brief drawback aside, this album is a keeper. As sonically dense as it is punishing, I can’t help but think back to the Cult of Luna days of old, Yet in an evolved, mature and world-weary form. It’s a pleasure to find they can still create a world populated simultaneously by extremity and serenity and explore it with such vigour and intensity.
Posted: Thu 17 January 2013