Cult of Luna - Somewhere Along The Highway
Earache Records
Ambient Sludge, Post-Rock
7 songs (1:04:40)
Release year: 2006
Cult of Luna, Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Heading to Sweden today, Somewhere Along The Highway was something of a watershed album for eight-piece Cult Of Luna. These Sludgers have a rightful reputation for violence in their music, their first two albums being Oceanic waves of aggressive brutality, and even the rather more spacey Salvation having enough powerful riffs to knock any Red Sparows fan into a pulverised daze, yet Somewhere Along The Highway tuned things down enough for eyebrows to be raised. By no means is it a complete wimp-out; it has more than enough drum rolls and big riffs to keep the most soporific of listeners gripped. Yet there is a notable shift towards pastures more melodic, a movement towards atmosphere and post-rock territory that takes a little longer to get into if, like me, you've been following the band more or less chronologically. Three-minute opener, Marching To The Heartbeats, for instance, is a Jesu-esque droner that has distorted clean vocals beneath the layered guitars - hardly building tension, as past intro tracks tended to do.

There is tension aplenty to come, however. The droning riffs continue in Finland, backed by militaristic stomping percussion and drawn-out shrieks, slowing into a melancholic interlude which introduces tinkly post-rock melodies. They form a sort of Sigur Rós-esque tune before getting subtly heavier, a dark and stormy atmosphere growing with ominous intent. It's a rich, lush track, full of atmosphere and one of the best ways to spend ten minutes and forty-six seconds that I can think of right now, despite not even being the best track on the album. You could debate forever which piece that award could go to, although the seven-minute Back To Chapel Town is a real contender, building up wonderfully into a muscular yet tortured giant. And With Her Came The Birds is another, although for a very different reason, turning to pastoral folk territory as Marching To The Heartbeats' clean vocals return, backed by restrained acoustic guitars, organ, banjo and jazz-brush-played drums.

Bands often attempt something out-there like this, but it often suffers from a lack of authenticity - Cult Of Luna avoid this, partly because it just ineffably works in that strange way that music has, but also because of the situation in which the album was recorded. Somewhere Along The Highway has an enjoyably organic and raw sound which was achieved by a remote studio in northern Sweden formed out of an octagonal wooden barn apparently surrounded by 'Blair Witch' scenery. The songs were recorded live, and mixed with the low budget and spooky sightings of Wiccan witch women dancing in the woods, created the perfect ambience for the album. It was definitely here that the band went from being another post-Sludge unit into something greater, more artistic, the group that gave us Eternal Kingdom's eerie theme. And With Her Came The Birds could be from Steve Von Till's excellent solo album A Grave Is A Grim Horse, touching on that almost esoteric 'otherness' that the best folk music can, shadows of wicker men dancing in your mind as the music takes you away.

The album draws to a lengthy close with three tracks over nine minutes each, which may sound off-putting but by the time you've got this far into the album it seems a crime not to follow the highway and see where the band take you next. Dim, at eleven minutes plus, is a personal highlight, building on the impressive work done by Thirtyfour with strangely cinematic hums and buzzes in the background, building into the kind of epic tune that you could sit and listen to for hours. There are no vocals at all until around the nine-minute mark, some shouty aggression and electronic strangeness bringing you into finale Dark City, Dead Man. At over fifteen minutes the longest track on the album, it takes a languid, laid-back approach that's at once gripping and calming, and it's hard to believe that over sixty-four minutes have gone by when it and the album are over. Somewhere Along The Highway is ultimately the sort of genius-touched atmospheric experience that generally happens very rarely in the Metal world, not to be missed - like some distant comet briefly becoming visible on its endless voyage through space. Although missing the album this time won't mean a seventy-five year wait, it's certainly no reason to avoid listening. Highly recommended.

Killing Songs :
Finland, Back To Chapel Town, And With Her Came The Birds, Dim, and Dark City, Dead Man
Goat quoted 90 / 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 - 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 - Eternal Kingdom reviewed by Adam and quoted 90 / 100
Cult of Luna - Salvation reviewed by Dee and quoted 83 / 100
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