I started listening to Cult of Luna with The Beyond. The year was 2003, the city was quiet and the light had been swallowed by the sound of an unspecified frequency – an electric wall of sound that made everything glow. And it burned so bright that I remained silent for the following, painful 67 minutes.
I stopped listening to Cult Of Luna a year later. It was 2004, the album was Salvation and I couldn’t help but think that everything that had to be told had already been told. The light was not so glaring anymore and I was a year older, so no more post-something (doom, metal, progressive, hardcore) because life had already taught me that in order to keep on finding yourself ahead of something, you have to make sure you run fast enough. (Take Opeth for instance: a career spent pushing metal away from its clichés wasted on an album that sounds intentionally [what an aggravating circumstance!] so 1974 that it could be mistaken for a 1972 or even 1971.)
I resumed listening to Cult of Luna in 2013. Resistance became futile. And, yes, giving in was the right thing to do.
Vertikal is a lesson in rock aesthetics; one that wisely fluctuates between the fluid, escapist ambient intervals reminiscent of Old Man Gloom’s ethereal electronic breaks and the solid, menacing outbursts that have made the godfathers of the genre (Neurosis, ça va sans dire) what they are today. But is this well-known dichotomy utterly unavoidable and will we ever get bored with this? I did in 2004 but then I realised that there is no escape from it. After all, who will ever get bored with a track like “In Awe of”, with its compelling drumming and its almost The Cure-esque bass work? [Well, I do have a remarkably short attention span… - AMG] Those guitars blending melody and drama once the plectrum brushes against more than 3 strings at once are doing way more than just opposing the more meditative parts: they are closing a circle which previously touched on Isis, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and Pelican.
There is not much metal left, as one can see. A growl means nothing if the dynamics, the structure and even the accents are post-rock (the attitude; not the genre) in its purest and therefore imperfect form. The band took their time to record in their native (and noted) Umeå and this can be heard in the longest pieces, which are undoubtedly centered on an extemporized inspiration and several repetitions. No wonder Fritz Lang’s expressionist cinematographic masterpiece Metropolis is at the basis of Vertikal: the album is a mechanical dream trapped in 2013. It is as martial (“Synchronicity”), as claustrophobic (“Mute Departure”), as melancholic (“In Awe of”) as the 1927’s dystopian motion picture with a contemporary taste for moving melodies (“I: The Weapon”).
Vertikal is the album Cult of Luna have always tried to write. It took them a line-up eight musicians strong, three guitars and five years to get to this point. The final result is a challenging piece of work, which proves that there is no limit to what this band can achieve in musical terms. One could argue whether or not they will manage to improve an already epic work, but as long as they will keep on testing their boundaries, we have nothing to worry about.