If this album doesn't establish Cult Of Luna as one of the best bands of their genre and present them to a wider audience then there is no justice in the world, which there isn't so it's unlikely that CoL will get the recognition they deserve.
"Somewhere Along The Highway" continues the progression that the band have gone through. Their first release "Cult Of Luna" was probably the most aggressive of all their albums. Thier second album "The Beyond", toned the dischordance and tempo down, their third album "Salvation" was their most serene album so far yet still had an unmistakable heaviness to it. "Somewhere Along the Highway" can be considered to be heavier than "Salvation" although not just heavy in the guitar/bass sense but in it's atmosphere.
On this record Cult Of Luna become an eight-piece:
Johannes Persson — Guitar and vocals (including lyrics)
Klas Rydberg — Vocals
Magnus Lindberg — Drums, recording and mixing
Erik Olofsson — Guitar
Andreas Johansson — Bass
Anders Teglund — Keyboards and electronics
Thomas Hedlund — Drums and percussion
Fredrik Kihlberg — Guitar and vocals
Their newest member being Fredrik Kihlberg whose vocals i think after hearing this album will be essential to all future CoL records. They provide a different extreme to Klas Rydberg's throat-tearing vocals and without them "And With Her Came The Birds" would not be the absolute stunner of a song it is.
The album begins with "Marching To The Hearbeats" which is a relativly quiet affair that utilises Fedrick's vocals, and on first listen this song may seem a tad underwheming but there is an undeniable feeling that a storm is on the way (of course it is, it's a Cult Of Luna record!) although on repeated listens it's turns out this track is perfect, it shows that CoL don't have to start a record with a bang and is not what you expect at all.
Then begins "Finland" and straight away the drums start pounding in a manner very unlike the drums on the track before it, Klas' vocals then join them to start the build-up of the song and then... it all stops and breaks into a lovely section of bass,drums and guitar that is actually very relaxing and catches you totally off-guard then at then the pace starts to pick up again and a weird sound can be heard in the background and then suddenly we're straight back into heavy territory. All in all this track seems reminiscent of the style used on "Salvation" but at the same time seems to be a darker version of the CoL that was heard on "Salvation".
"Back To Chapel Town" starts with beautiful guitar and slowly builds along with keyboards, then drums and bass and then later vocals and is good enough already but i cannot express how brilliant the song then becomes at around 3.35 before fading out in the style in which it came in, and although it still seems reminiscent of "Salvation" there are new aspects that greatly enhance the song and somehow exceed that albums quality.
The next song however is a totally different aspect of Col that we have never seen before, "And With Her Came The Birds" is excellent in every sense of the word, it's not heavy at all really sonically but it is increadibly heavy atmospherically, and even uses a banjo to good effect, the banjo is perfect, the guitar is perfect, the bass is perfect and the drums played with brushes add to the song greatly and CoL new vocalist Fredrik completes the song, i'm sorry to say that if Klas had sung on this it would probably not be as good as it is at all, I hope that in future CoL move in this direction, although I still want the heaviness that Klas' vocals bring.
"Thirtyfour" starts ominously and continues to build until a sound effect comes in at around 2 minutes, this then stops and the song starts to build again and sounds very sinister while doing so, and then everything comes in and sounds absolutly epic when another keyboard sound joins the other instruments at 4.50 minutes and then it all breaks down and becomes very calm and this is where their new sound starts to creep in again with "ahhhhhhh" vocals which compliment the music perfectly until Klas' vocals and the instruments storm in again.
The next song "Dim" takes while to build and goes through various changes and although it is similar to some parts of "Salvation" the keyboard sounds and the general atmosphere of this album seem to take the song into a totally different realm than the material on that album.
The album then finishes with "Dark City, Dead Man" which starts off with keyboard and guitar that sound very dark. Most of this track seems to be lighter than what has come before sounding almost like mogwai or explosions in the sky until near the end when it explodes with Klas' vocals and the odd guitar combining to create an excellent finish to an excellent album.
Some people seem to be of the opinion that this album does not touch "Salvation" and whilst still being good is nowhere how good that album was. I personally think that that album was excellent yet somehow to me this exceeds it as it builds upon its foundation and moves into uncharted territory for CoL. There is not much metal around that seems to hold my attention these days but Cult of Luna do catch my attention and i'm fully prepared to say that this is honestly one of the best albums of 2006 so far and in my opinon is a stone cold classic, not just for within the genre but in general.
P.S. I don't care how ass-kissing this review sounds, I really don't care.