Cult of Luna – Vertikal

Vertikal cover art

Artist Cult of Luna
Album ‘Vertikal’
Genre Post-metal
Buy/DL EU / US
Web Official Website / Facebook
Label Indie Recordings (EU) / Density Records (US)
Release Jan 25 2013 (EU) / Jan 29 2013 (US)
Rating Must Listen

The release of ‘Vertikal’ marks the 15th anniversary for Swedish post-metal heavyweights Cult of Luna. It also marks a departure from their long-time label, Earache Records, with the release being handled by Indie Recordings in Europe, and Density Records in the US. The album itself is a concept, heavily influenced by the 1927 film Metropolis (those familiar with the film will notice an immediate similarity between the album’s cover art and the artwork from the film’s poster). The film is set in the year 2026, in a dystopian society ruled by wealthy industrialists, and focuses greatly on the oppression of the workers, and specifically on the son of the master of the city and his ensuing attempts to overcame the classist separations. Great film, and a wonderful concept for a band like Cult of Luna to tackle.

Upon first listen, one of the biggest thing to strike me is how well Cult of Luna captured the feeling of the film with the interlude segments (essentially, the structure of the album is interlude, song, song, repeat) – these segments do an incredible job of setting a tone that’s perfectly in line with that of the film. While not necessarily as heavy, musically, as ‘Eternal Kingdom’, the stylistic progression here is remarkable, and still makes for one hell of a dark, heavy record. There are a lot of varying influences and methods at work here, showing some growth by the band in the 5 years since their last release. This is not an album that can be full enjoyed casually. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it when I’m just driving or whatever, but there is a lot to take in here. A lot of layers, and a lot of little details that I’m still uncovering every time I listen to it.

To no great surprise, the band has done an amazing job of creating an album that is at moments serene and beautiful, and at others dark and brooding. It’s not a terribly difficult task for a band as talented as Cult of Luna, but it’s impressive nonetheless. This is all laid out over the course of the record, but “Vicarious Redemption” is an undeniable highlight, where the band lays out all of these elements with great success in one grandiose 19 minute exhibition. Very few bands can pull of a track that long and still have it be highly listenable every single time, but it absolutely works here for Cult of Luna. By the time the drums kick in and the song begins to pick up a little steam, you fail to notice that nearly 7 minutes has already passed. If you’ve seen Metropolis, it’s very easy to see the scenes presented by this song, and the album as a whole.

One of the themes present on the record, as stated by the band, is machinery, and nowhere is this more evident than on “Synchronicity”. The song borders on being industrial with how it plods along, sounding remarkably like a factory assembly line. You can very clearly envision the gears turning, hammers clanging against steel, and general dark atmosphere of such an environment. This scene clashes nicely with the much more melodic and serene intro to the follow-up track, “Mute Departure”, the first track on the album to really feature any clean vocals. The song does pick up some momentum and ends up getting a lot heavier, which makes the intro work that much better when placed between the rest of the track and the preceding song.

One of the album’s most triumphant moments to me is the build-up of “In Awe Of”, and how well it leads into the album closer, “Passing Through”. This final track is one of the most haunting songs I’ve heard in quite some time, and it makes really great use of texture (particularly with the way the vocals are layered in). It’s a dark and beautiful close to an album that will no doubt find it’s way on to several 2013 best of lists (I know it’s only January — it’s that good). Existing fans will certainly be pleased, and will, like me, be more than fine with the 5 years it took to deliver such an excellent release. A huge thank you to Density Records for allowing me to review such a great record.