CULT OF LUNA - THE LONG ROAD NORTH
WILDERNESS WALKS WITH SWEDISH POST METAL LUMINARIES
Cult of Luna’s eighth long player is a masterly extension of the Swedes’ estimable post-metal canon and underpins them as genre luminaries. Not only is Cold Burn a rousing choice for an opener it is also arguably one of Cult of Luna’s best songs. With sweeping primal waves of concussive noise akin to war horns, the track is alive and crackling with a hair-raising ominousness and an inscrutable intensity that is both physical and cerebral. Devastatingly heavy with beginning-of-the-world fluvial noise and the earthen feral vocals of Fredrik Kihlberg, it is an emboldened apogee of Cult of Luna’s elemental violence. What has demonstrably elevated this band above many of their peers, however, is that their sound is not reliant on bludgeon alone but a richness subtle strata. The tumultuousness of Cold Burn gives way to spectral light and an airy, almost hymnal finale. Similarly, The Silver Arc splices the vast bucolic harshness of Neurosis with passages of high-altitude post-metal transcendence. Thus, Cult of Luna create a wrathful, unforgiving panoramic landscape that is occasionally punctuated by tentative rays of light, veiled solace and cautious hope.
While much of Cult of Luna’s core sound is founded on punishing dissonance and lava-like viscosity, they once again here dabble with sparsity with the creepy fragility of Beyond that hosts the portentous eerie croon of Swedish art-house singer Mariam Wallentin. It is a skeletal, supernatural hush reminiscent of their cranked-down collaboration with Julie Christmas. Likewise the croaked Steve Von Til-esque narration of Into the Night has an unvarnished noir with its marching snare and stripped down meditation.
Both lyrically and in terms of imagery, The Long Road North is a narrative of solitary elemental struggle. Consistent referencing of the extremities of natural wilderness and the lonely annihilation therein are embedded in the crust of the record’s sound and psychology. While the barrages of volume informs of terror in the face of extinction, the delicate passages belie a soulful sense of survival.
All too often bands who attempt this style of music, even genre doyens, can get lost in their own open-ended vistas whereby the focus on mood strays off into meandering. Despite some of these tracks dominating an appreciable run-time, there is not the sense of The Long Road North lapsing into self-indulgence. It is a neat trick to have some songs that last nine minutes yet remain compelling.
The Long Road North has an execution that many acts attempt but few get near to matching. Tempestuous in every sense both natural and metaphysical but beneath it all Cult of Luna take what is, in essence, a simple approach and upscale it with sheer existential weight and that is a deceivingly challenging feat to pull off. Easily one of the releases of 2022.
The Long Road North is released via Metal Blade.