Review Summary: Cult of Luna's seminal masterpiece is a work of beauty and sheer agony.
Everyone has 'that' album; y'know, the one that made you cry like a little school girl? Yeah, that one. When talking about such a broad thing like 'music', one has to remember and consider the varying emotional responses from each of its listeners. For example, someone may find a piece of music that is considered 'harsh' and 'cruel' to be rather 'uplifting' and 'cathartic'. The point is, music is more than just a form of enjoyable audible entertainment, it's a thing of sheer beauty than can affect an individual's life at a certain point at any time. Why is all this information important? Well in the context of Cult of Luna, it is very important as this LP's power lies within its interpretable nature.
Within the genre known as 'post rock/metal', there are many bands which have made quite a name for themselves. Isis, Neurosis, Rosetta and The Ocean have all carved out their own respective niche to gain acclaim from their fanbase and critics alike. With this acclaim comes the obvious 'highlight' in each of these bands' discography, the one which has helped them place their signature sound on the map. When relating this idea to Cult of Luna's 'Somewhere Along the Highway', it could not be more fitting to describe this album as their so-called 'masterpiece'.
The things that you come to expect from this particular genre are all present on this release: emotion, dissonance, beauty, minimalism etc. However, everything on this LP is cranked up to 11 from the word go. Subtle and foreboding opener, 'Marching to the Heartbeats' would seem to lay out a cruel and bleak passage for the rest of the album to follow upon first listen, however this couldn't be any further from the truth in reality. Just when you think you have Cult of Luna's style pinned down, 'Finland' explodes into acres of sheer atmospheric beauty and feels like the complete binary opposite of what you have previously just heard. The schizophrenic personality of this record is almost exemplified with every passing track. This is where '...Highway' succeeds phenomenally; in forcing the listener to make a conscious emotional decision. One that I'm sure will be very different depending on the listener.
Twist and turns come in full force upon this LP, some individual songs work fantastically on their own e.g 'Dim'. Whereas other tracks such as 'And With her Came the Birds' work far better within the context of the album. To really soak in the experience of this album it is a must to hear as a whole, the replay value only becomes more valuable with each passing listen. Like many traits within the 'post rock/metal' genre, there are subtle differences every time you revisit a track or the LP as a whole, making every revisit all the more valuable. With the album clocking in at just over 60 minutes, it can be a lot to take in first time round. However, don't all emotionally challenging albums take a while to hit home fully in some instances? In this case, that statement would be correct.
What 'Somewhere Along the Highway' boils down to is its sheer diverse nature as a record. There are moments which evoke feelings of sadness and solace and other moments which are filled with catharsis and invigoration. Those emotions are left up to you the listener to decide whether they apply to you or not. With this, Cult of Luna have created a unique album which breaths life into the genre and makes for one hell of a ride every time it is visited. Therefore, this is why 'Somewhere Along the Highway' will always be 'that' album...at least for me.