Cult Of Luna has always been a band which has challenged and stretched thoughts, senses, and rock music itself but with their new album Vertikal, the Swedish post metallers have explored and aurally sculpted their finest hour to date. The album is a colossal journey and an intense emotional narrative which transports the listener into a place of stark beauty and oppressive grandeur whilst wrapping its recipients in the dystopian canvas upon which the immense and riveting structures of the album are built.
The five years since previous album Eternal Kingdom has been a far too quiet a period for fans of the band especially with their absence from live performances until this new release was completed and ready. Their return though will make those years feel a distant memory such its staggering creativity and presence. Vertikal evokes thoughts and emotions upon a theme influenced by Fritz Lang’s classic film Metropolis, the direct and imposing use of machinery, repetition, and unrewarding oppression a shared realm. Telling us the source of the theme which openly guides the album merely gives it a name as the invention, passion, and craft of the album and songwriting portrays the intent and purpose of the release with skilled ease without any added help. With every note the album seduces, squalls, and evokes the power of its heart and intentions into a clear and towering realisation, its structures and layers acute, defined, and linear. It ignites imagery with the strength and guile of a hypnotist but there is nothing frivolous or misleading in this stunning piece of ingeniousness.
Opening track The One is initially a resonating heartbeat, the beats of the song soon an emerging ‘figure’ as dawning sonics and distressed chilled ambience adds flesh. Whether you imagine it as echoes of a soul lost in an imposing yet distant reality to him or of the cold uncaring place itself, or anything else conjured, the piece presents itself as a lonely mournful dirge like existence leading towards the following enveloping heights. I: The Weapon follows to lay out a solemn yet persuasive argument, its imposing breath and melodic dazzling a soundscape of harsh unremitting control and demands but an assurance all is right and rewarding within its tight embrace. There is also a sense of defiance, sinewy whispers which vein the piece without making a vociferous declaration. To be honest people will interpret as they feel; the band as much as revealing their intentions and creative thoughts providing a template and masterful aural paint box for each to envisage their own visions and that as much as the striking sounds is the triumph of the release. If you are not ‘seeing’ things, feeling the world suggested around your thoughts and emotive imagination, you arguably are not listening to this album.
As it delves further into the brooding landscape tracks like the vast and cavernous Vicarious Redemption mesmerise and intimidate. The piece is a scenic building up and undressing of the senses, its sonic travelogue as beautiful as it is at times emotionally distressing. It is an inspiring tale all on its own but within the album removes the listener from any last attachment to their real world, wrapping them wholly within this ‘fantasy’ spiced with real connections to all our lives. It is the central soul to the album in many ways and quite magnificent.
Through further experiences like the dark sapping wash of The Sweep, the mechanical consumption of the senses scarring Synchronicity, and the bleak Mute Departure, the exhausting but enthralling journey gains more depth and definition. It has a lure and beckoning as strong as the threatening and devouring weight also in place and a beauty to its erosive abrasion which is just irresistible.
As the discordant innocence of Disharmonia leads towards the wonderful In Awe Of You are almost at the end of your strength to continue the exploration such its power and deliciously demanding and rewarding brilliance, but continue you do to be brought within further delicious imagination and passion. The second of this pair of tracks is another expanse of passional craft and imagination, the piece at times reminding of the Seventeen Seconds/Faith era of The Cure.
Passing Through with its caustic caresses completes what will remain one of the albums of the year. Released via Indie Recordings, Vertikal is a sensational and deeply compelling album for the ear, heart, and imagination.
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