Cult of Luna - Eternal Kingdom
Earache Records
Ambient Sludge Metal
10 songs (60'54")
Release year: 2008
Cult of Luna, Earache Records
Reviewed by Adam
Album of the month
I have found that there are times when you are better off listening to an album that you have no preconceived notions toward. I tend to read advance reviews or press releases from bands and form an idea of what I think an album will sound like. I made this mistake with Eternal Kingdom, the latest release from Swedish sludge metallers Cult of Luna. All of the advance reviews I have read, in addition to comments by the band, have hinted that this album would be a return to a much heavier sound as opposed to the calm, post rock leanings of their previous effort Somewhere Along the Highway. Upon hearing that, I was expecting a furious assault in the vein of their second album The Beyond. Though I will agree that it is heavier than their recent work, I think a more accurate description would be that Eternal Kingdom is a ranging mesh of every style in the Cult of Luna repertoire.

The concept behind this album is quite unique and fascinating. The band have been rehearsing lately in what used to be a mental institution in the 1920's. As they were cleaning out the space, they found a journal entitled "Tales from the Eternal Kingdom" penned by former patient Holger Nilsson. In it, he details a fantasy tale that explains how he came to be wrongfully blamed for his wife's death. I don't want to go into great detail, but I would encourage anyone interested to read guitarist Johannes Persson's account and explanation here. The album's content deals with this story from Nilsson's perspective. In accordance with this intent, the riffs are very eerie sounding and make for an aggressive mood. The opening track, Owlwood, is a good example of how Cult of Luna have mastered the art of riffing that sounds heavy without necessarily being loud. I realize that sounds strange, but listening to the unsettling and odd riffs of Owlwood it should become apparent quickly. Vocalist's Klas Rydberg's hardcore approach lends a bit of anguish to the overall sound to match the feeling conveyed by Nilsson's tale. However you wish to describe it, the sound on Eternal Kingdom is a very dark departure from the serene atmosphere of Somewhere Along the Highway. Once again, the production is outstanding and lush, allowing for the full effect of the 8 members of the band to be felt. This is evident in the stunning third track, Ghost Trail. A beautiful and trudging, almost psychedelic melody drives the early portion of a varied approach that contains guitar soloing, a hypnotic central passage, and a massively crushing close.

You might not know it without looking (I certainly didn't) but Eternal Kingdom is actually the shortest Cult of Luna album since the self-titled debut. One possible explanation is the inclusion of three mood setting interludes to accompany the epic sound of the main songs. On their own, these interludes (The Lure, Österbotten, and Ugín) are not particularly noteworthy, but put in the context of this album they serve their purpose as atmospheric segues quite well.

As most of the tracks have a similar atmosphere and sound, making the album blend together, it is hard to pick out favorites. That said, in addition to the two tracks I have already mentioned, the chaotic and aggressive riffing during the ending to Mire Deep stood out to me, furthering the notion of the "heaviness" of Eternal Kingdom. This is truly one of those albums where you can sample one track and get a real sense of how the entire album sounds. I am not saying that there is no variation from track to track, but the changes are subtle and the album feels like one big song, as it should with its stated concept.

I can say with relative certainty that fans of this band will not be disappointed. If you are new to Cult of Luna, this is as good a starting point as any. In my opinion, Eternal Kingdom is the culmination of their musical journey to date, encompassing their hardcore roots and recent post rock influences into one beautiful and engaging story. Outside of the originators and reigning kings, Neurosis, you won't find a better sludge band.
Killing Songs :
Owlwood, Ghost Trail, Mire Deep
Adam quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Cult of Luna that we have reviewed:
Cult of Luna - Vertikal reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Cult of Luna - Somewhere Along The Highway reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Cult of Luna - Salvation reviewed by Dee and quoted 83 / 100
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