[2013 - Indie Recordings]
So 5 years have elapsed since Cult of Luna were writing and recording Eternal Kingdom, and now they have returned to the studio to dish out another 60 or so minutes of cathartic goodness. Time to reinvent the wheel, or play safe.?
'Vertikal' manages to carve out a new direction for the band in style and production, and yet retain their unmistakable brand of crushing post-metal... and it all comes off as effortless and natural as usual. Did we expect anything less?
The dystopian imagery and art that they have surrounded themselves with and cited as inspiration for the album is apparent after just a few seconds of 'The One', which brings to mind the brilliantly ominous intro 'Inside Fort Meade' from 2003's 'The Beyond'. [A decade ago already?]
Dark synths then give way to a brutal and familiar wall of distortion and anger, which leads into 'I: The Weapon', one of the strongest and instantly catchy tracks on the album, a true headbanger. We then again explore slightly new territory in sprawling 19 minute opus 'Vicarious Redemption', which does not outstay its welcome nor sound forced. If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today, I can imagine him enjoying the suspense here! Arguably the focal centrepoint of the record and also perhaps one of the finest songs they have ever written. A voyage..
There is time to catch your breath during interlude 'The Sweep', which comes and goes without offering much other than cementing the dark cold and sci-fi atmosphere. The sounds of repetition and fear continue through the track 'Synchronicity', which carries a quite brilliant riff for seven minutes through subtle variations. The second half of this song in particular is a personal highlight: trademark chugging guitar riffage over careful and precise drumming, which is easily one of the catchiest sections of music they have written. The album continues going from strength to strength with 'Mute Departure' which is a lesson in dynamics. The stark theme of Vertikal perhaps calls for less moments of beauty than previous releases (particularly masterpiece 'Salvation') so it is most welcome here.
'Disharmonia' is a challenging and unsettling interlude that breaks up the second half of the record before 'In Awe Of' again demonstrates why this band are now deserving of their legendary status amongst underground metal fans. The album then draws to a close with 'Passing Through' which will wind you down and help you to come to terms with what you have just listened to.
It is too early to tell for sure whether this will stand up to their finest hour of 'Salvation', or indeed the incredible 'The Beyond', 'Eternal Kingdom' or 'Somewhere Along the Highway'.. but one thing is immediately clear. They have done it again. An agonising 5 year wait now seems completely worth it somehow. Thanks again CoL for showing everyone how it's done. See you in Wolverhampton.
FOR FANS OF: Neurosis, Isis, Pelican, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Amenra
ALBUM HIGHLIGHTS: 'I: The Weapon', 'Vicarious Redemption', Synchronicity', 'Mute Departure'
Check out 'I: The Weapon' here;