Cult of Luna - Vertikal (2013)Release ID: 918

Cult of Luna - Vertikal (2013) Cover
Shadowdoom9 (Andi) Shadowdoom9 (Andi) / September 12, 2020 / Comments 0 / 0

There seemed to be a lot of anticipation going during the 5 years of absence for Cult of Luna, on whether or not a new album would come. With other bands of the ambient post-sludge metal scene either also taking a break, splitting up, or moving to a different sound, the fanbase was really getting hungry for new music. Fortunately, I joined the fan-group super late (4 months before this review), so I wasn't that hungry. I still feel how joyful those fans are when the band announced this album Vertikal!

According to a secret-unveiling interview, this album is based on one of the oldest movies to be set in an industrial dystopia, Metropolis (NOT the Dream Theater concept Metropolis, though that would've been something). Quite a charming concept, but many fans weren't ready for a radical sound change showing different unusual sound layers to the band's earlier material. Industrial machinery soundscapes paint abstract monotone soundscapes like that of the cover art (Did I mention how much I like abstract arts?) mixed with sonic layers of electronic noises, giving the album more ambience than the band has had before. It's quite a challenge...

Different strokes of composition are already hinted track #1, "The One", the opening intro that demonstrates the band's new electronic tendencies, unleashing a slow gentle beat, entering the bleak desolate dystopia. "I, the Weapon" jumps right in with a modulated vocal trade-off between screams and cleans, alongside distorted guitar and synth-bombs. The song may seem simple at first, then the dynamics constantly twist and turns as you roam through the hazy misty city. This emotional rollercoaster has been structured to take you straight through a climatic line without ever needed to build up for a bit of cohesive tension throughout. Then at the 5-and-a-half-minute mark, the instrumentation takes a break for some air and a perfect beautiful feeling of closure to transition to the next track that's much longer...

I'm not kidding when I say that the epic "Vicarious Redemption" is so amazing and long that they should've made an EP consisting of this song and the remix by Godflesh's Justin Broadrick so I could review them on my own. It is the longest song made by Cult of Luna with a staggering yet glorious 19 minutes in length! I must admit though that it's easy to get lost in the overlong 5-minute intro of repetitive beats and light chords with the feeling of walking into a deserted factory. Soon the abandoned furnace starts coughing up smoke. You realize what's gonna happen and begin to run away to avoid the explosion and get fresh air. Around the 7-minute mark the riffs builds up as the furnace opens and you see the bodies of the factory workers who have perished by the furnace. Once the heaviness comes in and the vocals begin, tension builds up as you get pummeled and the revived machine begins its objective to devour you. You run on the conveyor belt that goes as fast as a treadmill on steroids for several minutes. Right at the 11-minute mark, there's a dubstep break (you read right, F***IN' DUBSTEP!!), and after that, you get tossed away by the conveyor belt's fast speed during the most amazing guitar exchange in a two-minute crescendo. The trade-off ends and finally, there's the last 5 minutes of beautiful tension and blissful anger, as you try to find the turn-off-switch for the furnace. You managed to turn the furnace off, and the factory becomes cold again, though your blood feels warm after feeling the furnace fire. You leave the factory and vow never to go back there again. A mighty pinnacle of the band's tenure!

Bordering this midway point of the album is the uneventful interlude "The Sweep", probably the weakest part of the album, and this next track doesn't help. "Synchronicity" is a bad song. Not saying it's bad enough to be a sh*tter (otherwise this album would go less than 4.5 stars), but it leaves me out in the coldness of the negative unrelatable space within the band's universe. It has curious layers of synths and guitars, but it's not that interesting. Unlike the better "Mute Departure", which starts with an immerse industrial keyboard intro. The voice of an angel appears, singing into your ear a lullaby to put you in an ecstatic trance. This song is so emotionally crushing that I would consider it the second-highest point of both the album and the band's career (the first of course being "Vicarious Redemption"). It drags you through an atmospheric escape from reality with ravenous vocal fury. Beginning the last quarter of the journey is another pointless disharmonic interlude "Disharmonia". Then "In Awe Of" is more similar to the band's earlier works, especially the riffing with a sense of comfort. Finally, quieter times arrive with the soothing yet sinister ending song "Passing Through".

It is quite shocking that Cult of Luna has kept staying fresh and original after being absent for so long, yet at the same time, they picked up new electronic experimentation along the way. It was a kind gracious time, and their sense of identity was renewed and transposed into sonic brilliance for listeners to escape the dimension that is Vertikal. Their other albums were emotional, but this one have a feeling of balance between harsh mechanical coldness and humane solace of warmth. And I'm sure many fans have appreciated the sentiment given from those godly post-sludge masters. While almost every song is a puzzle piece of a masterpiece, the interlude and song in the middle aren't that strong though still a bit decent. However, with immensely high quality in every other song, it's impossible not to love an amazing album like Vertikal. Cult of Luna took a radical leap into something different, and in the end, I can marvel at another one of these magical post-sludge wonders!

Favorites: "I, the Weapon", "Vicarious Redemption", "Mute Departure", "In Awe Of"

Daniel Daniel / January 27, 2019 / Comments 0 / 0

I had some high expectations for this album as Cult Of Luna have always been consistent & “Vertikal” hasn’t let me down at all. I recently revisited 2006’s “Something Along The Highway” & enjoyed it quite a bit but this one has definitely got a darker, heavier feel which really appeals to me. This can be directly attributed to the band’s conscious effort to focus on thematic content similar to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” & it’s really quite noticeable. The production is top notch & helps to present the themes nicely. It’s interesting to note that this release is the first not to feature the vocals of founding member Klas Rydberg. I honestly wouldn’t have noticed had I not read this in an online review but I’ve since found myself enjoying the vocals more than on past COL albums. Johannes Persson’s performance seems less grating & quite powerful.  

Stylistically Cult Of Luna haven’t made any major departures from the sound they are known for but they have taken a few risks with varying degrees of success. For example, “Vicarious Redemption” features the use of a dubstep bassline & a house beat at one stage while “Synchronicity” takes an industrial direction & is clearly influenced by early Godflesh. There is also a stronger integration of electronics than on past releases which helps to promote the industrial/urban themes. These flashes of experimentation don’t alter the signature Cult Of Luna sound too drastically but they certainly add a level of interest to a band that has at times hit flat periods during their more atmospheric & experimental moments. The album highlight is undoubtedly the epic “In Awe Of” which is a realization of everything that COL do well while haunting closer “Passing Through” leaves me wanting to experience the whole thing all over again.  

As with all good post-metal “Vertikal” requires your full attention & multiple listens to open up. I will definitely be checking out the “Vertikal II” E.P. which features other material from these sessions as this is a focused & impressive release from a really professional outfit.


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Ratings: 3 | Reviews: 2


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Cover Site Rating

Ratings: 5


Cover Clan Rating

Ratings: 5

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