Released 2003 on Earache.
Klas Rydberg - vocals
Erik Olofsson - guitar
Johannes Persson - guitar
Andreas Johansson - bass
Magnus Lindberg - keyboards, samples, electronic effects
Marco Hilden - drums
Young extreme metal band from Sweden; you'd be forgiven for thinking straight off that they're melodic death. Well, there's elements of death metal in there, but without the melody and, especially, the speed of melodic death metal.
Their sound is difficult to describe; it's crushingly heavy, and very slow, but it isn't doom metal. The guitars are basically slowed down death metal, rather than doom, and the vocals are not clean or mournful; they have more in common with modern hardcore, albeit slower. There are elements of doom/sludge and death metal in there, along with the hardcore of the vocals, and some use of electronics to enhance the rest of the sound. That's not to say what Cult of Luna are doing is something never done before - lazy comparisons can be drawn to Neurosis, who pioneered the sound, and then to bands like Isis or Pelican, who seem to be developing it.
It's not easy music to listen to; it isn't immediately catchy, and almost certainly not what you'd hear on a radio station. Their appeal lies in crafting huge slabs of sound, densely layered and intensely heavy, with atmosphere and tension abundant, which just immerse the listener in their immensity - more just a vast aural experience than "normal" music - and for the most part, that is what they do. Occasionally however, they switch to low-key, vaguely psychedelic acoustics, which create a great effect when followed by music heavy enough to conjure images of tectonic plates shifting. It's also just nice to know they're capable of more than one style.
The problem inherent with this type of music is whether they can write the material to keep the listener interested, or whether it'll simply degenerate into a droning mess. For the most part, they manage to keep to the former (the first 6 tracks are top quality), but the album is 74 minutes long, and towards the end, the quality does tail off slightly, with tracks such as Leash
is exempt because at a mere two and a half minutes, it's barely an interlude). Luckily, they pull it back together for an absolutely apocalyptic closing track (my personal favourite song on the album).
This is not a world-slaying, must-hear album, and it's not an essential purchase. It is however an excellent take on a metal album, and worthy of a place in any open-minded metal fan's collection (provided you don't mind a lack of speed). It also makes me look forward to their next release - if they tighten up and maintain their quality throughout, it could be something very awesome indeed.
. Despite Further
, with its excellent drumming and a particularly good vocal performance, being my personal favourite, I think Circle
is better as an introduction, as it showcases both sides (melancholic and acoustic, and tremendously heavy) of Cult of Lunas music, as well as being one of the shorter tracks on the record. Of course, you could always just download The Watchtower
from their site, to check them out.
A solid 4/5.