Review Summary: The perfect conclusion to Vertikal, the communal soul of Cult of Luna has proved to be still strong and fierce.
Whilst for some, Vertikal
didn't quite reach those dizzying heights that were grasped by previous Cult of Luna albums, it certainly reassured many fans that the band still had it in them to craft something close to a masterpiece. From the opening ambiance of “The one” to the grandiose closing moments of “Passing through”, there was very little left to be desired. It didn't matter how many times you listened to the album in one sitting-Vertikal
showed that Cult of Luna were back doing what they always have done best. So, further down the line, the band haven't quite taken a break yet, and it's left to latest EP Vertikal II
, to build on the momentum created by its predecessor. The new EP features three new studio tracks, as well as a new version of “Vicarious redemption”, remixed unsurprisingly by none other than Justin Broadrick, who almost turns the song into a completely different beast.
In promoting the album to Metal Injection, frontman Johannes Persson said that “Vertikal II
is the continuation of our journey into the harshness of the monotone city landscape”. He couldn't be more right. The first three songs on Vertikal II
certainly come across as the soundtrack to a bleak, grey-skied landscape filled with the direst of life's experiences within the casual city. Opener “ORO” is charged by echoed, ambient sounds which are only ever overpowered by Persson's quiet, reserved voice as he harmonically sings slowly but surely, possibly causing the listener to fall into a instantly deep sleep. However, the two songs which follow “ORO” are definitely more immediate and serve as the pinnacles of Cult of Luna's latter musical work. “Light chaser”, which ends up being a song monstrously channelled into unknown, darker territories thanks to Persson harshly growling “Onward, Forward” until his voice almost breaks, is ambitious even if it is the shortest song on the EP. It's brief moments of soulful aggression and effective yet eerie synthesiser notes are no laughing matter. “Shun the mask”, which undoubtedly proves to be Vertikal II
's centrepiece, brings about a much more spiritual quality to Cult of Luna's visceral, dark-tinged soundscapes, every instrument taking its time in making sure the atmosphere is as bleak albeit epic as humanly possible. Persson's voice as he slowly but surely urges us all to “Shun the veil, Shun the mask” makes sure that every listener feels the full wrath of his own chords, and the song naturally amounts to a grandiose, ambitious finish.
There's nothing too interesting about Vertikal II
's final track, a remixed version of “Vicarious redemption”, and even Persson himself admitted that it was a surprising finishing touch to the EP. Yet it doesn't quite scupper the idea that Cult of Luna are obviously back in a world of their own, and they are once again crafting music with strong confidence and fierce passion. Listening to both Vertikal
and its neighbouring EP will surely be the very action that turns more heads than ever before, and it's only a matter of time before the band erupt into the grandiose presence they once were a few years ago.