Cult of Luna - Vertikal
Indie Recordings
Ambient Sludge
9 songs (1:05:34)
Release year: 2013
Cult of Luna, Indie Recordings
Reviewed by Goat

Six albums into an impressive career, Swedish sludgemeisters Cult of Luna have little to prove after the excellence of Somewhere Along the Highway and Eternal Kingdom, but it speaks much for the band that they continue to push themselves and their sound. As that wonderfully artistic cover art suggests, there’s something of the industrial to Vertikal, a cityscape both modern and ancient, skyscrapers at once rising and falling with mysterious figures watching from the murk... It’s a concept album, apparently heavily influenced by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a vision of the future classic, dated and yet somehow timeless. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe Vertikal in similar terms – it’s not immediately definable as a classic, and is not Cult of Luna’s best album – but it is an excellent addition to their discography, an interesting listen that gives fans more of the same without repeating itself, that experiments subtly and well and grows on you with each listen.

Album opener The One is the sound of electronic footsteps, rising and falling, before an ominous keyboard melody with more than a hint of classic sci-fi begins. First track proper I: The Weapon hearkens back to the band’s classic yowl, growled vocals and sludgy riffs, but a cleaner clarion call and more evocative, yearning melodies soon raise their heads, carrying you with them. The nearly-nineteen-minute Vicarious Redemption is a real slog on initial listens, with a long, slow introduction made up of minimalist percussion and ambient murmurings that doesn’t seem to do anything. Yet give it time, let it breathe, and it’s a revelation, a truly atmospheric journey that takes you through the bleak cityscape, hearing it come to life around you. The usage of electronics really comes into its own here, an industrial, practically dubstep heartbeat giving the mechanical rumble of the music an odd humanity that’s built upon with the unusually melodic lead melodies.

The Sweep focuses much more on the synths, dark and ominous, built on with Synchronicity which uses them to create something much more of a song than an interlude piece. One of the most impressive and memorable pieces, though, is Mute Departure, where the band tone everything right down, using clean vocals and soft melodies in a way that is closer to Deftones to Neurosis at times. Yet you can’t accuse the band of moving too close to the mainstream, as those hardcore bellows are still present and correct, the quiet/loud dynamic still there, at its best. Cult of Luna are about more, though; Vertikal ends with the slow, gentle Passing Through, a soft, clean-vocalled piece that despite lasting over six minutes focuses fully on the lighter side of the band’s sound and makes for a compelling finish. On the whole, Vertikal reminds me somewhat of IsisWavering Radiant in its use of synths, a comparison that perhaps not everyone will find as positive as I do. It isn’t without faults, certainly; for a concept album, the intra-track flow is flawed, songs not feeling joined-up and part of a greater whole as they really should. But when broken down to its elements and examined, Vertikal is an excellent album, another feather in the cap of an impressive band.

Killing Songs :
I: The Weapon, Vicarious Redemption, Mute Departure, In Awe of
Goat quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Cult of Luna that we have reviewed:
Cult of Luna - Somewhere Along The Highway reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Cult of Luna - Eternal Kingdom reviewed by Adam and quoted 90 / 100
Cult of Luna - Salvation reviewed by Dee and quoted 83 / 100
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