Cult of Luna - The Raging River (2021)Release ID: 26043
The Victory Lap
I feel like an odd man out as a Cult of Luna fan who vastly prefers their newer and darker material over their more minimalist earlier albums like Somewhere Along the Highway. Mariner didn't quite do it for me either, despite the praise that Julie Christmas gets for pulling Cult of Luna in a different direction. Whatever they managed to do on A Dawn to Fear, however, captured my attention in a way that eventually led me to admit that it was, and still is, exactly what I want out of heavier Post-Metal. The atmosphere is just right and Cult of Luna are able to layer so many distinct parts on top of one another that all somehow harmonize together in an extremely unique way. The Raging River is very much a direct extension of A Dawn To Fear and while I couldn't be happier, these 4 extra songs don't offer anything particularly interesting outside of being solid modern Cult of Luna tracks.
The percussion and production surrounding it is as impressive as its ever been, flexing its dual-drummers in subtle but awesome ways throughout the tracks. It helps to drive home the buildup in "Wave After Wave" and add a ton of depth to "Three Bridges" using wood blocks and xylophone of all things, as well as creating some incredible grooves that only Cult of Luna seem to be able to pull off. The layered chugging and riffing is pretty much a carbon copy from A Dawn To Fear, although it seems like they opted for a bit more electronics in the foreground this time around, which is an interesting development that didn't necessarily do a whole lot for me. It sounds great on the transition towards the middle of "Three Bridges", but proceeds to meander around too much for the rest of the album. The riff on the shorter "What I Leave Behind" is also killer, rivaling some of their best groove-work to date.
As someone who loves the modern Cult of Luna style, there's no way that I wasn't going to enjoy this album. It's definitely less inspired and poignant than its predecessor, but if this is the kind of product that Cult of Luna can churn out without having a crazy, creative epiphany, then it's apparent how great they've become at writing stellar music. It's a shame that the Mark Lanegan feature was boiled down into a seemingly minimal effort ballad piece, especially since it ruins the album flow for me personally, but it's still neat to see Cult of Luna collaborating with other major artists.
So... 5 tracks in under 40 minutes. I guess this can kinda be considered an EP, being only half as long as A Dawn to Fear. It looks as if The Raging River was created as the then-unknown third nearly 40-minute disc for A Dawn to Fear, but and it certainly sounds that way too. This EP can be considered both a perfect post-sludge continuation to A Dawn of Fear and a look-back at their magnum opus Somewhere Along the Highway. Even the order of songs is kinda similar while staying new!
"Three Bridges" starts experimental, but then it builds up to epic post-sludge Cult of Luna fans want. The twists and turns that combine heaviness and emotion just continues rolling. "What I Leave Behind" fills your heart with pain and despair in sludgy destruction.
"Inside of a Dream" is a short pretty ballad with nice ambience. Mark Lanegan, known as a former member of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age does great soft clean vocals. "I Remember" is another epic-sounding song with better riffs and amazing vocals. The finale epic "Wave After Wave" does exactly what the title says; hit you with wave after wave of massive flowing transcendence. An epic climax of weaving instrumentation fills up the last few minutes, keeping up the band's lucky album-ending streak.
All in all, Cult of Luna have released another perfect energetic release. You can play A Dawn to Fear and The Raging River back-to-back, or listen to the EP on its own, whichever seems better for each fan. Feel the rage!
Favorites: "Three Bridges", "I Remember", "Wave After Wave"
A five-track, 38 minute EP (why not just call it an album and have done with it?) that truly lives up to the atmo-sludge tag and starts off strong, but gets better and better as it proceeds, building up to the climax of the twelve-minute closer, the awesome Wave After Wave. A crushingly heavy atmosphere perpetuates throughout, but this is no stilted sludge-bomb, maintaining velocity as it is driven forward thanks to the thrusters provided by Thomas Hedlund's kinetic drumming. The only real niggle is the loss of impetus that results from the still air surrounding the Mark Lanegan-featured track Inside of a Dream, but it's not a bad track and does provide a counterpoint to the furious, raging behemoth that surrounds it.
Overall an organic-sounding album that feels forged by the laws of Einsteinian physics and possesses a planet-killing potential energy. Me, I just had to jump onto Bandcamp and get myself a vinyl copy - it deserves that at least.