Cult Of Luna
23 September 2013
by Rob McAuslan
Cult of Luna’s latest EP came as one hell of a surprise , given the length of time it took for them to get around to the devastating, electronica-spattered masterpiece that is Vertikal. “More of that could only be a good thing!” We thought. It kind of is and it kind of isn’t, and which end of that you sit at will depend very much on you. There’s a shift of focus here that may make you very uncomfortable indeed.
Vertikal II slides the ‘big fuck-off guitars’ fader right the way down, almost to the point where this kind of isn’t really a ‘metal’ release at all. Serving as an adjunct to the main work, which I suspect it’s kind of intended as, Vertikal II is in fact a wonderfully downbeat counterpoint to the album proper’s boiling, caustic fury. That isn’t to say that this doesn’t get brutally heavy – the escalation of intensity at the end of ‘Light Chaser’ alone makes that a vast lie – but it’s executed using powerful dynamic trickery and suffocating tension rather than simply stepping on the ‘DISTORTOBASTARD 3000’ pedals.
Allowing you to really immerse yourself in the gloomy world that Cult of Luna began conjuring with Vertikal without the distraction of trying not to get crushed into pink paste proves to be Vertikal II‘s masterstroke. One of the key things about the prior release was the direct, linear songwriting compared to the band’s earlier, more sprawling epics, but it could be difficult to actually hear the difference under the familiar waves of pummelling guitars. By stripping these back, the band draws your full attention to the pulsing, motorik heart of the newer material. Letting the final track (‘Passing Through’) of the album play through into ‘Oro’ was the Damascus moment – the gothic starkness of the latter track throws a sickly new pallor over the former, with that reflected bleakness in turn also casting Vertikal II into a whole new relevance.
Listen to ‘Light Chaser’ by Cult of Luna:
As a standalone EP Vertikal II would lack a little punch and feel perhaps a bit lost, but that’s not really the point of it. Taken as the coda it feels entirely like, it clarifies and enhances its counterpart to such a degree that it becomes essential to truly understanding both, and embeds itself into the very fabric of the entire work. Not having it is unlikely to diminish your enjoyment of Vertikal, but you’d be missing out on turning something great into something truly special.
Sounds Like: A pleasantly downcast surprise
Standout Tracks: Everything but the Broadrick remix of ‘Vicarious Redemption’. Shame.