The Swedish kingpins of ethereal sludge, CULT OF LUNA, have stretched the boundaries of the genre on a few occasions ever since the band’s formation in Umeå, Sweden, in 1998. First, in 2013, the band brought the Blade Runner synths prominently to the forefront on their sixth album, ”Vertikal,” dissolving the music’s heavy, NEUROSIS-like doom to quite a remarkable effect. Then, on the 2016 release, ”Mariner,” the band collaborated with the critically acclaimed, eccentric American post-metal and noise starlet, Julie Christmas, whose textured vocals introduced new, even more darkly shaded layers to the band’s music. Their previous studio outing, ”A Dawn To Fear,” released in 2019, was maybe not so surprising but a killer album nevertheless. Now, CULT OF LUNA is back with a new sonic offering. The band released a 40-minute EP, ”The Raging River,” on February 5th, 2021, via the band’s own label, Red Creek. The EP is the label’s first release, limited to 500 copies. However, the band has made a promise of a second pressing to follow later. While the new EP is largely resorting to the band’s old bag of tricks, it has a few surprises hidden up its sleeve. That said, also those tracks that most conform to the band’s tried-and-true formula sound as immersive and engaging as ever. ”The Raging River” is a pure treat for the fans and all post-metal-loving music aficionados alike!
The EP opener, ”Three Bridges,” is a 9-minute epic of crushing guitar riffs, following the fine tradition of vintage CULT OF LUNA songs such as ”Finland” and ”Ghost Trail.” We are lured into the song by an ominous guitar intro, backed up with some tribal rhythms, and when the vocalist, Johannes Persson, steps in to deliver his dark sermons, I cannot but grin idiotically: YES! Then, six minutes into the track comes the oh-so-familiar plateau of soothing arpeggios and synths wailing in the distance. It has been a kind of trademark of the band for years and oh, boy, does it work – again! I would be willing to deem this EP as a manifestation of pure awesomeness on account of this one single track but wait! There’s more!
There is a little bit of everything on this EP, with regard to the things we most like about the band. ”What I Leave Behind” takes us back to the sonic realms of the band’s 2008 album ”Eternal Kingdom,” with a bit more synths. Then, ”I Remember” is another epic, clocking 8 minutes and resonating with the air of the album, ”Salvation,” released in 2004. It incorporates the very essence of post-metal by blending celestial, ambient textures with the most brutal metal expression.
Okay, maybe I was a bit hasty when I classified those two aforementioned lengthy tracks as epics. Namely, the track, ”Wave After Wave,” is a 12-plus-minute EPIC, that showcases all the best practices of the genre: it slowly builds a sonic narrative that develops profound, genuine character. It has all the potential to first crush you and then heal you.
The absolute stand-out track is, however, the one featuring the talismanic, whiskey-burnt baritone of the former SCREAMING TREES frontman Mark Lanegan, ”Inside Of A Dream.” It is a relatively short track but does not shy in comparison to the lengthier tracks on the EP in terms of impact. CULT OF LUNA is no stranger to building a sense of drama in their songs, but it is a cold, hard fact that Lanegan can breathe soul even into a reading of a phone book with his signature, fractured gravitas.
We no longer may have the thunderbolts of Zeus, but we have CULT OF LUNA. Yes, we have probably heard the band pull these sort of maneuvers before, but the new EP, ”The Raging River,” is not merely a service of remembrance of some golden era in the distant past. The band still knows how to impose diabolically mesmerizing sonic incantations upon us. While offering us something familiar, the new EP also has a bit of that pleasant new-car smell. More importantly, these Swedes guide our souls towards home, like a true psychopomp, with this new selection of sonic lures.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Three Bridges
- What I Leave Behind
- Inside Of A Dream
- I Remember
- Wave After Wave
Johannes Persson – guitars, vocals
Magnus Lindberg – percussion, guitar
Andreas Johansson – bass
Fredrik Kihlberg – guitar, vocals
Kristian Karlsson – keyboards, electronics, vocals