Cult of Luna (CoL) is a heavy metal band from Umeå, Sweden. When I say "heavy metal" band, I mean far from ordinary "heavy metal". The band mixes a variety of genres and styles together into a sound and musical direction unique unto itself. Their genre mix includes atmospheric sludge, progressive metal, and post-hardcore. Their instrumental makeup further adds to the uniqueness of this band, which includes guitar, bass, drums, vocals, samples, synthesizers, and a trumpet! CoL brings to the New Year an excellent album full of superb songs, crystal clear production, and drumming to make the best of drummers' mouths water.
The musical compositions contained within this album are one of kind. Each song conveys a different mood, a different feeling, or a different idea. No two songs sound alike; each one bringing something truly unique to the table. I particularly loved the influence of European house music in "Vicarious Redemption" or the full-circle song structure of "Synchronicity", or the tasteful use of synthesizer in "The Sweep". At a more in depth look, "Vicarious Redemption" breaks from a heavy, distorted assault and drives head on into a synth-driven house style section. After a small, tasteful use of synth, the band begins to build upon the riff before driving back into a heavy, distorted ending. "Synchronicity" is another amazing track because it starts and ends in the same vein. The song begins with one guitar chord strummed in a 4/4 pattern. The guitar pattern begins to grow more elaborate, and the band follows the build of the complexity. Finally, at the song's end, the band fades to nothing - the guitar stands alone and the elaborate riff fades back to nothing. Finally, "The Sweep" begins with a beautiful synth introduction. During the middle of the song, just when the listener begins to feel the synth has gone on too long, the band roars into a heavy melodic passage and it ends, setting up a beautiful introduction to "Synchronicity". Each song showcases something new, and something great. CoL definitely understands that sludge metal can become repetitive and bland, and they step further and further away from those two words as the album progresses.
The production on this album is another element that makes it stand out to the listener. One can hear everything in the mix, and it can be heard crystal clear! The synth is present, but not overbearing. The drums are huge, but do not dominate the mix. The vocals are superbly recorded and the right amount of reverb, and other various effects, is used very tastefully to achieve a desired effect. The guitars are huge and heavy, but sit comfortably amongst the rest of the instrumentation. The samples are present, but not obnoxiously present, or overbearing. The production showcases every song, every member, every sample, and every nuance in CoL's unique sound.
Finally, the drum work on this album is phenomenal. What seems complex and "too busy" at times, is exactly what particular songs call for. For example, give a serious listen to "Synchronicity". The opening drum work is a particular section to note. At first listen, it seems erratic - almost wrong - but as the song progresses, the drumming fits the music around it (and continues to build with the other instruments throughout the song). Thomas Hedlund does all the right things to bring out the best in each song. A truly great drummer with extremely diverse musicality!
I very much enjoyed Vertikal by Cult of Luna. The musical compositions were exquisite, the production was everything, and more, and the drum work was particularly enjoyable to listen to! I have come to hold this band in very high regard. Isis and Neurosis high regard, to be exact. If a band can stand on the same playing field as Isis and Neurosis, then the band is a true gem. Atmospheric and progressive sludge tend to cater to many Isis and Neurosis "wanna-be" bands, yet CoL offer a completely different take on the genre Isis and Neurosis pioneered. I highly recommend purchasing this album. Your senses will thank you for this delightful treat!
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