Cult of Luna
The Raging River


3.9
excellent

Review

by Johnny[well] STAFF
February 6th, 2021 | 215 replies


Release Date: 02/05/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: no splish-splash, nothing but the best (please)

What do you do when you’re at the top of your game? Where do you go if you’ve supposedly been there a while? How do you cope if, say, you’re a band riding high from a universally acclaimed work a couple of years back and all anyone wants is more of whatever that was, but you play a style of atmospheric post-metal slow and spartan enough that anything bordering on a rehash or lack of innovation is instantly shown up like an inauspicious moon phasing on clean sheets? Damn. Is it any wonder that few bands in this genre have managed to keep a hot streak going for as long as Cult of Luna? I don’t envy them one bit; with every solid release, the pressure on their quality standard has increased; with each fine-tuning or alteration they’ve made to their sound, the conceivable possibilities for their next step have only grown smaller. For the most part, they’ve dealt well with this: 2008’s murky Eternal Kingdom and 2013’s dystopian Vertikal were both interesting as minor departures, yet 2019’s A Dawn To Fear trotted out all their familiar strengths in a display equal parts impressive and thoroughly familiar. In this sense, it reminds me of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Dissociation, a passionate showcase of proficiency that confirmed everything everyone already knew about that band and challenged none of it. Dissociation was an appropriate final statement because of and in spite of how it hinted that the Dillinger Escape Plan were finally running out of things to say, yet Cult of Luna likely (hopefully!) have a long career ahead of them. A Dawn To Fear gave me a slightly ominous aftertaste on this basis; with Cult of Luna’s legacy secured several times over, the expectations for their future output are more overweight now than ever before. What happens next?

Well, their new EP (read: minialbum) The Raging River does! How exciting. It squares up to these misgivings over The Tightrope Of Cult Of Luna’s Future Prospects, and addresses and reinforces them in equal measure. On the one hand, the band are as watertight in craft and steadfast in performance as ever, and they set their sights on their darkest atmosphere since Eternal Kingdom. This is very much welcome, but the motions that carry them in the opening tracks are somewhat conservative. “Three Bridges” teases strong melodies and accentuates its final buildup with accompanying chimes, but its shape and scope feel overrehearsed, almost stiflingly dutiful to the band’s precedents for peaks and valleys. “What I Leave Behind” suffers more gravely from the same pitfalls, as it avoids the same clear-cut climaxes and mires itself in a single-wavelength sludgy onslaught that evokes the more tedious parts of Eternal Kingdom. There’s nothing misgauged or bad about these tracks, but they come off as old-hat and a little underwhelming from a band who’ve repeatedly hit greater highs with a near-identical toolkit - and underwhelming is perhaps the most ill-boding of descriptors for the all-crushing immersive atmosphere this sound lives and dies by.

Things get more interesting in the midway lull “Inside of a Dream”, less of an interlude and more of a full reset. Although vastly subdued and bitesize compared to the rest of the EP, it is fleshed out with similar depth and actively resists the segue value that might usually apply to another track in its position. Ex-Screaming Trees soloist Mark Lanegan’s surprise vocal feature reflects this; he’s a little incongruous with the EP’s wider murk and very much his own character, so much so that his inclusion doesn’t so much bridge the gap between the first and second halves as it exaggerates the space between them. I am personally a big fan of this decision, because the final two tracks boast easily the strongest ideas on the EP and benefit from a tastefully partitioned space to show this off. “I Remember” is quick to reassert Johannes Persson’s vocal presence, kicking off with brutish heaviness before panning out into a highly dynamic showcase of tension. For the first time, there’s a real unpredictability over which direction the band could take from section to section; Cult of Luna are masters of the good ol’ post-metal ebb-and-flow, but many of their finest cuts thrive off a middle-ground suspense where things could blow up or simmer down at any moment (think “Finland” for the clearest case study). “I Remember“ has this in spades; its momentum is thunderous throughout, but the band are guarded in their tells, constantly seeming as likely to draw back for a few bars as they are to dish out a no-holds-barred knockout. There’s a real sense of stakes and danger here, and so when they finally go all out (and phowar boy, doesn’t they just), the payoff feels electrifying and entirely well-earned. This is how it’s done.

But that’s not the end of it. If “Three Bridges” and “I Remember“ are respectively predictable and riveting takes on the model Cult of Luna song, closer “Wave After Wave” is the EP’s clearest step forward. An absolute monster of an epic that stands as their finest track since the now-classic “Dark City Dead Man”, it embraces an obsessively dark tone, restructures the band’s arrangements, and churns through a twelve-minute runtime with the force of one breathtakingly elongated moment of seamless confidence. I don’t think there’s any other track in their discography that rolls quiet like this one; its oppressive doomscape and two-phase verse/chorus approximations have common ground with “Into The Beyond“, but the band expand their vocabulary with hi-hat heavy beats and pulsing synths that fill the space whether the rhythm guitar would typically be, all while launching their guitarsenal into e-bow heavy eeriness that earlier work has only teased at. It’s an inspired switch-up, matched by some of their most compelling atmospheric work to date; the song nails down the specifics of its bleak tone within moments, and the band tighten their veteran grip around it with merciless increments of intensity, firing on all cylinders with unwavering focus. Whatever reservations I had over how Cult of Luna might raise the bar for themselves, this track is resounding proof that they’ve got what it takes to keep that sweet, smokey trail blazing for the time being. Some of The Raging River might pose a cautionary tale of a band vulnerable to their own standards, but at its strongest, this EP is a firm reassertion of why it’s become quite reasonable to accept nothing but the very best from them. Live and let live.




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user ratings (248)
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Robert Davis CONTRIBUTOR (4)
A seamless sonic flow which never seems to dwindle or deviate from its course....



Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2021


33525 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

this EP has many dynamics

i have already listened to it more times in its entirety than ADTF

anyone dropping butt-tier "wow omg cant believe this is an ep it's so good lawl" takes please listen to more EPs

love y'all

Digging: Lane Shi Otayonii - Ming Ming

LeddSledd
February 6th 2021


4181 Comments


this has got to be a joke, there isn't any good post-metal

Digging: Pharoah Sanders - Karma

evilford
February 6th 2021


50800 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I take offense to that good sir

Digging: Thanatos - Realm of Ecstasy

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2021


33525 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

post-metal is the only good metal, the other metals are either false or bad or bad fakemetal

farmerobama
February 6th 2021


349 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Second listen was great, these guys don't know how to disappoint.



Digging: Five The Hierophant - Through Aureate Void

porcupinetheater
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2021


6879 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

wow omg cant believe this is an ep it's so good! lawl

Digging: Bongripper - Satan Worshipping Doom

Pikazilla
February 6th 2021


15064 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this album is a worthy successor to A Lawn to Deer

nightbringer
February 6th 2021


1717 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sect of Moon Female do it again

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2021


33525 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

defs a worthy successor, final two tracks are better than anything on that album probably

Pikazilla
February 6th 2021


15064 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Better? Doubt it. On par with the best? Yes. Wave after Wave is fucking monstrous.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2021


33525 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

my issue with ADAF to general is that despite being impeccably crafted, its best bits were never more than satisfying. this, on the other hand...

pity that the first two are hmm less than satisfying

Pikazilla
February 6th 2021


15064 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First two? You don't like Three Bridges? Johnny pls

nightbringer
February 6th 2021


1717 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Burn the witch

AxeToFall93
February 6th 2021


280 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty solid first listen, although not feeling is as much as the last one. But knowing it's CoL I'm most likely gonna bump this rating up in the future

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2021


33525 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Three Bridges is autopilot CoL boi

it's also a small town near Brighton iirc. not sure how this impacts my judgement

Gyromania
February 6th 2021


31959 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Johnny boi gave this a 3.9. What he means to say is this is a 4.

Digging: Daniel Knox - Won't You Take Me With You

Tundra
February 6th 2021


5714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Guys guys, did yall know this sounds a bit like CoL...? just letting yall know that, its wild, man

Pikazilla
February 6th 2021


15064 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Johnny boi gave this a 3.9. What he means to say is this is a 3.92.

SacredSerenity
February 6th 2021


748 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

First run through and I am of the same opinion as the reviwer. Wave After Wave is massive

Pikazilla
February 6th 2021


15064 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you for letting us know



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