Now, where were we? I seem to remember this this great album from an act simply incapable of disappointing. In was the middle of winter and North Korea appeared as a threat to the dumb half of the world’s population. Today, while that same fraction struggles to locate the hemisphere Syria is in, the summer light convulses in his death throes this side of the planet and we take shelter from the impending cold.
OK, but what about the music? In a world of bands perennially aping (but even ‘monkeying’ and therefore ‘mocking’) the first 3 Neurosis albums, Cult of Luna have found a way to stand upright (or walk in an erect position, if you like) and prove their worth. If some things are not taught and can only be learned, the band from Umeå (a delightful municipality north of Damascus) has assimilated the dos and don’ts of modern music by flirting with electronic, while toying with the remains of hardcore and the codes of conduct which are inherent in contemporary metal. Vertikal II is a challenging album. Not in the musical sense, not at all. It is not a whiff of fresh air and it does not contain anything exceptionally new. It is challenging if one considers the big picture and looks at Cult of Luna’s career and how it developed throughout the years. It is a bit like when Radiohead’s Kid A came out. Let’s be honest: it was rubbish and already obsolete the moment it hit the shelves, but what really mattered was the band’s perspective and what took them there.
Vertikal II is not a metal album. Absolutely not. There is hardly any big distortion, the drumming has virtually no emphasis and the guitars are there to hold the structure together, rather than drive the listener where the melody intends to take them. These are songs that one has to enjoy in their entirety; there is no hook, no sections to focus on, nothing to highlight, no build-ups, no apex, no zenith, no emphasis, no singles, no choruses, no verses, no apparent structure. And yet, this is an album that poses a challenge to the listener: find a way out of this gloom, a glimpse of hope or forever remain entangled in this magmatic pain.
Keyboards, noises and industrial are three terms the average metalhead does not want to read in a review. And if you, like me, are attracted to the opposite of what an average person likes and thinks, give this album a try. If not, don’t worry: nobody knows what the future of metal holds, but I bet the hard-earned American dollars Angry Metal Guy transfers onto my account every month [Wait, you get paid?? — Steel Druhm] that its just a matter of time before the average metal band runs out of clichés and will have to find a way out of the impasse. Something a bit like Justin Broadrick’s (don’t Google his name: stick a nail into your nose, if you don’t know him) remix of “Vicarious Redemption.” Something with that kind of blues, with that kind of dying radiance that can only be reproduced by reiterations and drones.
Not the best album of the year, Vertikal II is an EP we will forget about in a few weeks, but that we will go back to when, in a few years’ time, we will wonder when did it all change for post-metal (whatever these two terms mean today). We will have other things to think about, the world will be a different place and, quite possibly, we will all have joined the dumb half of this world’s idiotic population.
Try to like what you don’t understand.