Right now, a rolling wave of metal attracts fans who previously were not acquainted with the genre. Sludge and postsludge bands like Cult of Luna are riding the crest of this wave, lead by the mighty albeit slightly more accessible Pelican. However, Cult of Luna, like Neurosis before them, have opted to incorporate a heaviness rooted in hardcore - this swedish seven-piece was formed from the ashes of a hardcore band and remnants of their past are evident in their music, especially the vocal delivery.
Heaviness is not all they have, however; the album begins with an echoing selection of guitar notes which together form various minor or sustained chords. Much of the work on the album is in a minor key, so there will be no Pelican-like rays of light for the casual listener; the reprieves between the heavier sections should be enough once you are familiar with the band's style, but even these moments are frought with tension. It's a cliche, but these are merely calms before a relentless storm.
As the first song, "Echoes" progresses, we can hear how the band use different textures and percussional elements to evince different moods in the listener. The knowledge that harsh vocals lurk ahead keeps us in a state of apprehension, which is exactly where they want us and they toy with us for six minutes, cycling through various stages of gentle instrumental coercion before unleashing their anger upon us.
Mercifully, the vocals aren't particularly high in the mix and so we are saved an ear shredding so early into the album. Additionally, they do not scream at us for long as at this point they are still setting the scene, painting a desolate landscape with their instruments but allowing us to observe for now. The promise of being lost in that picture of course occurs to us, once the echoing fades.
At this point, relevant comparisons can be made with the obvious Neurosis, but also Snowblood who have a similar musical etiquette, demanding that we experience their music from different points of view as their songs progress.
"Vague Illusions" opens with a little more urgency, and before long a bilious voice confronts us with tales of futility, describing how we are trapped in a cycle of making mistakes and then apologizing for them. We are still spared a direct assault as the heavy chords are allowed to ring and fade, and half way through the song we are steered to a more tranquil place. Of course, we have not been set free - just surrounded, and as the song drops into a driving 3/4 progression with heavy bass the inevitable voice returns, and it does not bear kind words.
"Leave Me Here" follows on from there, and it is a faster, more riff-based song. Here the monstrous voice is actually gloating about its ability to lead us down a path of its choice. This momentum does not continue for long, eventually dissipating so that xylophones and fair, clean vocals may emerge. This should be another brief reprieve so we gasp for air, and sure enough the anger returns, but something is missing - the guitars do not quite support the screams which seem now to struggle. This is a decoy and the full force of the band hits you a moment later.
The next three tracks progress in a similar vein. "Waiting for You" is slower, placing more emphasis on an indie-rock style progression and the thoughtful, quiet, humming vocals appear again here. "Adrift" is a lot like Vague Illusions in that it maintains a certain level of pressure and has many notes repeated in sequence. Oh, and the insistent screaming. "White Cell" also seems furious, but it lets the guitars have more say over the melody and seamlessly explores some interesting six-away chord leaps.
"Crossing Over" is an oasis of reflection, an amalgam of echoing, shimmering elements and melodies which define the track neither as minor or major. This made me think of the beginning of YOB's glorious "Asleep in Samsara" and evokes a similar lethargic calm. The hardcore vocals attempt to creep around the corners, but the smooth sliding guitar tames them to the point where they remind me of nothing so much as the whispering of the sea lapping against the shore.. and trust me, the shade here is cool and relaxing.
The final track, "Into the Calm" begins with lightly brushed snares and a bassline which would carry a riff if it was played louder, but as it is, serves as a focal point for the attention, guiding you through the jangling tremolo sea of guitar noise. At 2:45 they decide to drop the bomb, treating to you to a seven man wall of noise. This sequence is repeated, but after the seventh wave washes over you this time, the heaviness is maintained and taken to unfamiliar places. Over the last five minutes of this track I feel myself reflecting upon what I've heard, which is a mistake not to be made as I almost daydreamed through the most beautiful part!
If you do decide to experience this album then a) play it loud and b) play it only for yourself. Don't take anyone else on this journey.
Along with the above recommendations, fans of Isis, Jesu and post-rock/metal in general should set aside an hour and a quarter to experience this. The hardcore vocals may initially turn you away but be aware that this album would not make nearly as much sense if it were entirely instrumental.
Killing Songs :
Echoes, Crossing Over, Into the Calm
|Dee quoted 83 / 100|
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