Cult of Luna - The Raging River (EP)
Red Creek
Ambient Sludge
5 songs (38:34)
Release year: 2021
Cult of Luna, Red Creek
Reviewed by Goat

Following on from 2019's remarkable A Dawn to Fear, we have a new EP from Swedish sludgelords Cult of Luna, only the second EP they've released in their career and the first release on their own new label Red Creek. This nearly-forty minute record would be enough to be classed as a full-length from many others but you can see Cult of Luna's thinking after just one listen; the band tend to change things up between albums, especially in the latter half of their career, and The Raging River seems very much a continuation of territory covered by A Dawn to Fear. Opener Three Bridges especially could have fit on that album, all torrential build and release with plenty of backing keyboards and percussions to add flavour - the performances (particularly drummer Thomas Hedlund) are fantastic and the production is crystal clear.

Quite whether you love or disregard The Raging River will depend on how you reacted to A Dawn to Fear, really, as it's easy to see this as a collection of B-sides. Still, even if so, Cult of Luna have a high threshold for quality control, and the likes of the atmospheric What I Leave Behind with its oceanic rise and fall are remarkably solid bursts of sludge that even manage to incorporate some semblance of hooks amidst the chaos. The centrepiece of the EP, and the most heavily-marketed, is a guest vocal appearance from Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, etc) on bluesy ambient interlude Inside of a Dream, and although it does act as a solid enough breather between the heavier pieces, at just three minutes or so long it feels insubstantial and not a little ill-fitting, as though it were from a different album altogether. It even changes the feel of the EP, which flows smoother when it is skipped thanks to how immediate and threatening I Remember is.

Still, you can't fault Cult of Luna for having Lanegan on, especially given that apparently they tried to have him for an appearance as far back as 2006's Somewhere Along the Highway. And his appearance does cast the band's music in a different light, suggesting an alternate universe where they dropped the aggressive hardcore roars in favour of a more indie-friendly vocal approach. It's intriguing but ultimately a reality best forgotten; the steel spine to Cult of Luna has always been effective in allowing the subtle melodies to bleed through at the edges. These experiments with other vocalists can work very well indeed for Cult of Luna - look at 2016's Mariner, with Julie Christmas! Yet if The Raging River proves anything it's that the band's base sludge sound is perfectly good when left to its own devices, as here on twelve-minute closing piece Wave After Wave providing a foreboding build to an almost cinematically beautiful peak. Ambient sludge, like post-rock's more dangerous cousin, may conform to its own set of rules and rigid logic but the results are often magical, and Cult of Luna providing this EP even as an addendum to A Dawn to Fear will be very welcome to devotees.

Killing Songs :
Three Bridges, What I Leave Behind, Wave Upon Wave
Goat quoted no quote
Other albums by Cult of Luna that we have reviewed:
Cult of Luna - A Dawn to Fear reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
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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