Cult Of Luna

The Raging River EP

Written by: AP on 17/08/2021 21:09:58

Ask, and you are unlikely to find many people who would dispute the notion that Cult of Luna has been operating on an almost unreal level of musicianship ever since the release of their collaborative album with Julie Christmas, “Mariner”, five years ago. For me, that record was and still is the pinnacle of the Umeå-born post-metal band’s career thus far, and it seems to have awakened something within the six musicians — an explosive intensification of the creative flame that was always there and has earned them an iconic status, but which is now burning with the luminosity of a million stars. 2019’s masterful “A Dawn to Fear” was another powerful demonstration of the creative impulses propelling the band toward immortality, and some global pandemic was never going to stop them. No, the sextet put their downtime to good use and followed their train of thought ever further, setting to work on a companion EP, which, according to the two founding members, Johannes Persson and Magnus Lindberg, would be a seamless continuation of the writing process and creative mindset that had sewn the seed for their latest album. The effort was christened “The Raging River” and arrived earlier this year to strong accolades from fans and critics alike — a praising choir that I, too, am compelled to join.

This is not the first time Cult of Luna have expanded upon their work; their 2013 album “Vertikal” was followed by the “Vertikal II” EP nine months later. But where the latter outing felt like mere leftovers from the recording sessions, “The Raging River” plays much more like an independent body of work, with some of its constituent material even surpassing that found on their previous album. It takes the band deeper into the abyss they discovered on “A Dawn to Fear”, adopting a grim and foreboding tone from the get-go with the opener and lead single “Three Bridges”. This is an archetypical Cult of Luna piece from the topmost drawer, delivering a lesson both in building tension and in gradually unfurling a soundscape by way of layering guitar and keyboard melodies and percussive elements into a dark, yet grandiose mastodon of a song. The devastating middle part, in which Lindberg loses his guitar in order to provide additional drumming alongside the band’s main kit man Magnus Lindberg, not to mention the vast, final crescendo, are both perfect examples of how to take the listener’s breath away without suffocating them beneath the sheer weight of the music. It is very heavy, very dense, yet bristling with beautiful melodies that shine through it all with the greatest clarity.

One track on “The Raging River” that is not archetypical is the centrepiece “Inside of a Dream”, a brooding, but also tranquil song featuring a guest spot by the renowned folk rock musician Mark Lanegan. It would not be amiss to think of it reprising “And with Her Came the Birds” off “A Dawn to Fear”, which the band originally wrote in 2005 under the working title “The Lanegan Song”. The six musicians envisioned his longing, baritone voice to be the perfect match for the death gospel stylings of that song, but lacked the confidence to even consider asking the former Screaming Trees frontman for a collaboration. This has well and truly changed, however, with Cult of Luna having long since established themselves as genuine heavyweights of the post-metal genre, and thus “Inside of a Dream” could hardly be a more fitting title for their dream to come true at last. In the context of the EP it plays the role of a respiting quietus sandwiched between some of the heaviest material these Umeå-born visionaries have created to date, culminating in the spine tingling finale “Wave After Wave”. It is a long and at times droning piece in which the deceptively simple drum pattern evokes a sensation of a hypnotist’s pocketwatch swinging before your eyes, drawing you deeper into a trancelike state until esoteric swirls of melody start erupting all around you as the track closes in on its cathartic grand conclusion.

I remember thinking that it would be nigh impossible for Cult of Luna to continue maintaining such a high standard as they have kept since “Mariner”, yet here they are again, likely making most of their peers bury their heads in their hands in despair of how to ever match such grandeur. It may be only an EP, but it has the impact to leave most full-length endeavours trailing in the dust — the sheer wealth of emotion packed into its 39 minutes of runtime even comes very close to equalling “A Dawn to Fear” itself. Indeed, if all EP releases had this much to offer, I’d be willing to consider abandoning my skepticism toward the format for good.


Download: Three Bridges, What I Leave Behind, Wave After Wave
For the fans of: Amenra, Isis, Neurosis, The Ocean, Rosetta
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.02.2021
Red Creek

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