Cult Of Luna
25 January 2013
by Tom Dare
It’s been the best part of five years since Cult Of Luna last attempted to simultaneously both scare the shit out of and crush the brains out of their audience. It doesn’t take long for sixth album Vertikal to establish the same broad mission statement. Or for the massed ranks of Swedes to re-establish themselves as one of the most vital, evocative and purposefully heavy bands around.
The ingredients remain broadly the same – lots of styles with the “post-” prefix (post-rock warmth, post-metal thump and post-hardcore ambience) wrapped up in some eerie electronic wizardry and stewed together in rage, anguish and torment at Gas Mark V. But given how many components make up Cult Of Luna’s sound, it’s hardly surprising that Vertikal feels distinctly new, despite how immediately recognisable its authors’ sound is.
The strange progression starts well, thuds amidst ambience forming an introduction to the hypnotic weight of ‘I: The Weapon‘, which builds the momentum. The vast, seething fury of ‘Vicarious Redemption‘, which remains deceptively placid for much of its nineteen-minute running time, is then the point Vertikal begins to truly excel. The twisting, snarling journey through calm-before-storm, thunderous attack, tortured melody and exhausted reflection would have made for a stunning EP in its own right, what with all its shifts of gear and mesmerising intensity.
But the trick the band have pulled – and it’s a brave, brutally effective one – is to save their best material for the end, to make you think you’ve just heard their very best, and then promptly do something even more intense, even more unsettling, and even more profoundly fucked up. The electronic horror of ‘The Sweep‘, like an old Ridley Scott sci-fi soundtrack, follows ‘Vicarious Redemption‘, and it’s all uphill from there.
By the time the final despondency of ‘Passing Through‘ rolls around, via the nightmare of ‘Mute Departure‘ and the last rash of vitriol in ‘In Awe Of‘, Cult Of Luna have thoroughly screwed with your brain. They’ve bashed you around, flattened you with heaviness, and dragged you through all their neuroses and disturbances. They’ll spit you out at the end wrung out, psychologically wrecked…and with a strong sense of catharsis that makes you want to come back to it all over again.
It’s hard work. It’s long. It’s challenging. It’s emotionally draining. It’s frequently uncomfortable and always unpredictable. And it’s fantastic. Welcome back, Cult Of Luna – and please don’t go away for so long again.
Sounds like: Isis, Neurosis, Pelican
Stand-out tracks: Vicarious Redemption, Mute Departure, Passing Through.
To read an alternative – but equally praiseworthy – opinion on the new Cult Of Luna album, check our Raz’s review over on the BBC Music website.