Cult of Luna - A Dawn to Fear
Metal Blade
Ambient Sludge
8 songs (1:19:06)
Release year: 2019
Cult of Luna, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Goat

Back with a seventh full-length and their longest to date at nearly eighty minutes' length, Swedish sludge sextet Cult of Luna have had a pretty flawless run thus far. This is especially true since 2006's marvellous Somewhere Along the Highway opened up their violent post-hardcore style into greater and greater experimentation, resulting in such gems as 2008's Eternal Kingdom and 2013's Vertikal, not to mention 2016's Mariner collaboration with Julie Christmas. So this was always going to be an album to mark the calendar for and although in some ways their most straightforward release in years, this is still hugely impressive. As you'd expect from an eighty-minute album split up over only eight songs, there is much to take in (although the longest song present is only slightly over fifteen minutes' long, far from Vertikal's nearly nineteen minute monster Vicarious Redemption). And there's no immediate gimmick to pull you in, none of the mysterious mental patient notebooks or eerie industrial themes of yore. Instead, we have that ominous, oddly disturbing black and white artwork, perhaps the bleak morning of the album's title.

It's certainly no less heavy than previous works, from riffs to guitarist Johannes Persson's harsh vocals. The album begins without obvious subtlety, pounding in through feedback as that classic Cult of Luna heaviness makes itself known amidst squalling organs (not synths), opening up around three minutes in to something more melodic and even grandiose as the guitars build to a crescendo before falling away. Ensuing wistful ambience feels alive beneath the clouds of guitar noise thanks to a complex percussive backing, building smoothly again. It's a hell of an opening track, not least for its ten minute plus length which flies by, and introduces the rest of the album perfectly, not least the following ominous monolith that is Lay Your Head to Rest, more of those backing organs helping enhance the blunt, deceptively simple impact of the guitars and bass riffs while the drums almost dance beneath - a marvellous piece of heavy music, whatever the genre tag.

What makes A Dawn to Fear remarkable, once you've given yourself time to get to grips with the colossal album, is that despite the relative lack of breadth to their palette, the band still paint with something of a varied style, making each piece feel different in its own right. And the album sounds incredible! The production highlights each instrument, making the swirling, woozy guitar leads beautiful and even giving the bass rumble an earth-shatteringly heaviness. It truly comes to the fore on the bleak noise rock of Nightwalkers, moments of organ backing adding to the darkness before taking the lead in bizarre melodic counterpoints to the rumbling metallic backing. And gentler moments like the clean guitar that opens Lights on the Hill are just as enhanced, and gives the track as a whole an oddly cinematic feel, as if the band were covering some classic Morricone piece in their own style. Despite the length of the album nothing seems out of place or cuttable, whether it's the dark lullaby of We Feel the End with some rare but appreciated clean vocals or the gentler title track. Time will tell where exactly in your personal ranking A Dawn to Fear lies, but it's another excellent album from the Swedes that more than fits into their increasingly mandatory discography.

Killing Songs :
Lay Your Head to Rest, Nightwalkers, Lights on the Hill
Goat quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Cult of Luna that we have reviewed:
Cult of Luna - The Raging River (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Cult of Luna - Vertikal reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
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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