Cult of Luna’s previous album, Eternal Kingdom, was released way back in the summer of 2008. But despite a near-five-year gap between LPs, the Swedish post-metal outfit has lost none of its power.
While Eternal Kingdom was inspired by recording in a disused mental hospital, Vertikal is an altogether more calculated beast. With a concept loosely based upon Fritz Lang's dystopian science fiction film, Metropolis, it sounds as stark and uncomfortable as you might expect.
The One opens proceedings with two minutes of a sparse, spacey superhero theme tune-style sound; but the calm is harshly interrupted by the nine exceptional minutes of I: The Weapon. Almost certainly one of the finest songs in the band's catalogue, it features furious hardcore roars melded with tantalising keyboards and a sensational atmosphere.
The track ascends into a tumultuous cascade before petering out into the 19-minute extravaganza that is Vicarious Redemption. The longest song they have ever released, it tells its own story. Progressing through long passages of near-silence before exploding into potent discharges of anger, it showcases every side of this wonderful band.
If you need to understand ugliness for beauty to truly shine, then Cult of Luna have both on display here, right next to one another, time and time again. The three minutes of odd instrumentation in The Sweep will evoke memories of 20th century science fiction, and the curious piano-led 45 seconds of Disharmonia is sandwiched between the boisterous Mute Departure and the slow-burning barbs of In Awe Of, highlighting the expert aural dynamics that this band has mastered.
While the band is still active, and Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg also work together in Khoma, every Cult of Luna release and tour must be savoured, as this is a so far ahead of its peers. They have tested their boundaries, and they will test yours. That the Swedes are still succeeding like this on their sixth album is testament to both their quality and vision.
The end-of-year lists for 2012 are barely gone from recent memory, but you can expect to read about Vertikal again in 11 months’ time.
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