Review Summary: With the help of Julie Christmas, the band remains as consistent as ever.
Over the course of their career, Cult of Luna have formed quite a niche for themselves in the post metal community. When it comes to consistency, they’ve never had any problems. Every one of their releases have been nothing short of brilliant. For a couple albums now, the band dedicated a lot of their sound to a more sludge metal driven sound. This time around, that sound still exists, but the band chose to showcase their signature sludge metal/post metal sound with a female perspective. With the help of Julie Christmas, they still keep their title as one of the biggest post metal titans even seven albums later with Mariner
. Though her screams can be a tad irritating, her clean voice reveals itself as a compelling performance and their usual harsh vocals remain as masterful as ever. In addition to this, their intimidating instrumental deliveries still remain intact. Aside from some inconsistent vocals from Christmas and some moments of self-indulgence, Mariner
proves to be a compelling, more vocally driven experience.
One of the key differences in the band’s sound here obviously resides in their collaboration with Julie. While it’s both a blessing and a curse in some ways, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. With the exception of “The Wreck of S.S. Needle” which is driven by her solo performance, the strength in the vocals here shows when each vocalist is feeding off each other’s energy. For example, after a nearly three-minute buildup of ambience in “A Greater Call,” both Julie and Johannes pummel onto the scene in grand fashion. His vocals are as intense as ever and Julie’s passionate performance soars onward in the background. Coupled with some engrossing riffs brooding drumming and chilling soundscapes that aid the vocalist’s interplay, this makes for one of the band’s best songs to date. “Chevron” also continues their vocal chemistry. A meaty bass riff helps drive her solo performance in the beginning, but it’s all about when Johannes and Julie continuously trade off screams. Their interplay suits the sludgy intensity so well and it really grips the listener.
Despite the brilliance of the fantastic main riff in “The Wreck of S.S. Needle,” this song is where her flaws start to show themselves. It doesn’t help that Johannes is completely absent in this song, but her vocals also prove inconsistent. She has a fantastic clean voice, but she strains quite a bit to belt out those screams. The meat of the song focuses on her performance and that hard hitting main riff so it certainly helps that the second half consists mainly of her catchy clean singing. There’s a certain quality to be admired about Julie’s charisma here too. Despite her inconsistency, there’s something to be said about how well her voice truly stands strong in the mix and along with Johannes. Even with that said, it’s worth mentioning how the album works better when they're both trading off lead vocals.
It’s also admirable how the record never seems to drag up until “Approaching Transition” as well, which exists as a common problem for post metal. Most of the song consists of a lengthy buildup to no true payoff. For what it is, the song as a whole is quite engaging. The brooding guitar motifs are well written and the drums keep a steady rhythm on the climb up, but unfortunately the view isn’t as much of a spectacle as we want it to be once we reach the top. Nothing about it is bad, but the fact that the payoff isn’t quite as explosive as the buildup envisioned just makes in a bit self-indulgent. Luckily, the band closes things out in grand fashion with “Cygnus.” Rich with a fantastic guitar solo and a more satisfying buildup, it doesn’t disappoint. From its brilliantly executed musicianship to the compelling vocals, it’s got everything one could want.
exists as a welcome addition to Cult of Luna’s discography, but for different reasons. It sees them remaining consistent, but also embracing an almost entirely female driven perspective which is rarely seen in metal. While her screams don’t always impress, she holds her own with valiant charisma just as much as Johannes does. In addition to this, the band themselves reveal to be top notch here. Their signature screams, intimidating sludgy atmosphere, and crisp drums remain intact. It helps that the bass has a much needed larger presence here as well. It’s not clear whether or not Julie continue working with Cult of Luna, but there’s definitely room to grow in that outlet.