Hailing from Umea, Sweden, Cult of Luna made their reputation in the metal world as one of the best and well-known acts that play the same style of sludge/post-rock hybrid as Isis and Pelican, all in the while evolving their sound to greater heights with each consecutive release. What sets apart the band from their contemporaries were their distinctive brand of darkness and dramatic atmosphere.
Halfway through the opener, “The Revelation Embodied”, those very same qualities become clear; Cult of Luna orchestrate around little changes and layers in almost every measure to avoid sounding tiresome repetitions. The guitar riffs consistently remain earthmoving and dramatic throughout the track as the drumming creates dynamic levels of intensity; the debut consists of some of the band’s most colossal riffs yet (i.e. “The Sacrifice”, “Sleep”, and “The Revelation Embodied”). Klas Rydberg debuts as feral and vicious as he is on the other records with his hardcore growling, never sounding weak or lacking emotion. The atmosphere has always been a key factor of their music; in every song, it is either dark and oppressive or somber and serious, but each one is reflective and thoughtful in their own right. The experimentation with electronic samplings bring more layers to the oppressive nature of the album. The lyrics are mostly dark and brooding, adding to the compelling atmosphere - dealing with themes such as the four horsemen of the apocalypse (“The Revelation Embodied”: A time when the curse is alive. The horsemen have arrived. Under the hoofs has the human race tread down into muddy pools of dirt
) and of Faust of German legend (“Beyond Fate”). The experimentation should be noted as they add cello parts in “Sleep”, samples within passages like Neurosis did, and the acoustic guitar at the end of “The Sacrifice”. Cult of Luna seemed to have masterfully composed a solid debut with exploding crescendos, overwhelmingly dark atmospheres, and impressive songwriting and musicianship.
Naturally, this album isn't flawless. The self-titled is wounded by its length, lasting nearly as long as an hour. The length is long because of stretched sections (the middle of “Sleep”) or extended measures in the songs (for example, the ending in “The Sacrifice”). Compared to their other albums, this is possibly their weakest effort. The debut’s sound would later be explored in the following album, The Beyond, where all aspects in this are improved.
That is not to say that this should be avoided and cast aside as an unnecessary listen in the band’s discography. No, this is recommended to be given a listen for all fans of atmospherically crushing dark metal.