It’s been nearly five years that the world has yearned for a new Cult of Luna record. Strangely, on first thoughts, 2008’s Eternal Kingdom doesn’t feel like it was that long ago but on closer inspection, the realisation sets in that the Swedish experimentalists have spent far too long in the shadows, especially considering the wonders they’ve perpetrated multiple times over, down through the years. Five years is too long to wait for that wonder to dawn again. Objections with waiting aside, in the here and now, Cult of Luna have returned to our sphere with what is easily the first wonder of 2013 – Vertikal.
Much like all of Cult of Luna’s records, Vertikal is a challenging listen. It’s heavily layered and detailed, with each of the compositions exposing a new facet of themselves on every listen. The record can be equal parts cathartic and effusive or brooding and melancholic, the band truly accomplish this by moving, with ease, between different tempos. I: The Weapon is a track that erupts with corrosive guitars that hark back to the band’s hardcore roots but soon descends into slow eerie passages, reminiscent of Somewhere Along The Highway.
The sprawling 19 minute Vicarious Redemption is one of the album’s undeniable centrepieces, where the band distil all of their captivating components into one sublime piece that soars and plunges through staggering peaks and troughs.
The throaty rasping of Johannes and Fredrik add another layer to Cult of Luna’s already coated versatile sound. On Vertikal they have eschewed clean vocals in favour of maintaining bristly cries. This becomes all too clear with In Awe Of, which stands triumphantly with imposing whirring guitars, cascading atmospherics and emotionally charged vocals that scale to that all-important crescendo where Vertikal really hits its zenith and bleeds into the spectral and haunting close of Passing Through’s serene vocal textures that call an end to Vertikal.
Cult of Luna have every right to be considered an enigma. Records don’t come along too often, meaning they’re a sight and sound to behold with awe, and Vertikal very much continues the band’s ever enthralling trajectory. It’s expansive and ambitious; everything that we would expect from a Cult of Luna record but simultaneously, it’s breathtakingly refreshing. Cult of Luna have gloriously forced themselves back into our consciousness.
Vertikal is released January 29th through Indie Recordings