Cult of Luna
Somewhere Along the Highway


3.5
great

Review

by BMDrummer USER (56 Reviews)
June 9th, 2024 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Sometimes, style is substance.

"Bands" generally function as two distinct "vehicles," if you will: a culmination of parts that form a greater whole than the sum of the personalities involved, and a means through which individual personalities showcase their distinct identities. In other, less pretentious words, I would argue that bands exist on a spectrum of culmination and the sum of their parts; some bands lean to one end, others lean to the opposite. Truly great bands, in my mind, exist right in the center of this spectrum. Despite my personal bias, I think I am in good company in assessing the group Unwound, for instance, as a perfect example of this balance. That is to say, each member's individual strengths and characteristics are always visible and at the forefront, but the(ir) music maintains a distinct character that ceases to exist beyond the group itself. Oftentimes, when the balance on this spectrum is out of whack, we wind up using phrases such as “less than the sum of its parts,” or sometimes “greater than,” but that assessment is certainly less common. Many “supergroups” wind up this way for the very reasons described; just because one is good in their own unique way does not mean they jell in every situation with everybody.

For some groups, though, the opposite is the case. This is to say that, despite synthesizing and mixing in every ingredient “correctly,” their lack of distinct personality makes music that is otherwise remarkable, or even great, unremarkable. Oftentimes, this is reduced down to the assessment of “style over substance,” but I think this spectrum I mention is a little more nuanced than that. For one, style and substance are not mutually exclusive, but also, there are cases where style almost equals substance. What I mean by that is that sometimes a “style” is done so well that, despite lacking distinct personality, this feature alone becomes a sort of abstract substance itself. Thus, we arrive at Cult of Luna’s Somewhere Along the Highway.

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to make it clear that I actually think this is a rather fine album. It has a wonderful sense of tension and release, the melodies are applied in wonderful proportion to the harsh, sludgy riffs, the vocals are convincing and get the job done, and perhaps my favorite quality of all, the drum sound is absolutely wonderful in all its dry glory. Listening to it again for this review, all of these qualities stood out immediately in the first real track on the album, “Finland.” So, it’s safe to say, I should really enjoy listening to this album. My grievance rests in the fact that this assessment is a very frustrating one, related to the reasons I described earlier. Cult of Luna do everything right, but by doing so, are actually holding themselves back from the greatness of their own sound.

If it’s not obvious, I happen to quite enjoy the “post-metal” or “atmospheric sludge” sound, although I often prefer to just view it as bands attempting to do what Neurosis did from the 90s onward. This isn’t to say that [Artist8954] are a band who simply rip off Neurosis, because the two actually do have plenty of glaring differences. Many groups in this style are playing something closer to Mogwai-esque post-rock in Drop C with screamed vocals, which again, is not an issue in and of itself. The issue, of course, is that even if this is what we expect when we put on an album by such a band, one still implicitly expects a distinct spin on this style. Again, Cult of Luna actually do kind of have a “spin” on this sound, at least on this album. I’m speaking specifically of “And With Her Came the Birds,” which is a remarkably pastoral song with whispered vocals and a distant, lonely tremolo guitar part. Hell, there’s even some banjo here and there. Again, though, it’s not that this feels unnatural or simply there to arbitrarily mix things up, rather, it’s that it functions, but it doesn’t exactly work.

Everything about Cult of Luna in my experience thus far is incredibly functional. As I said earlier, there’s no distinct quality within their overall sound that doesn’t work. What really happens is that nearly every time I listen to this album, by the time I reach the back half, I simply know what to expect, and this greatly dulls the emotional impact of music that is actually very emotional. It’s almost as if they know what they’re doing just a little bit too well, and therefore, this rather commendable display of competency comes off feeling almost antithetical to a type of music that places so much emphasis on emotional heaviness. I’m reminded of that dry spell Mogwai hit near the end of the naughts, with albums such as The Hawk is Howling; an otherwise very emotional and singular music reduced to a caricature of itself. The difference here is that in Mogwai’s case, their snarky qualities became more worthy of focus due to such dullness, whereas Cult of Luna actually have the, albeit Potemkin-like, appearance of a great band.

This review was not one I actually wanted to write, because I genuinely want to champion Cult of Luna as a band worthy of time and attention. In one sense, they really are; some of these songs are pretty damn good, especially in the latter half. It all comes back to the fact that their music leans hard on one end of the spectrum I mentioned early on in the review. The music on Somewhere is itself quite well-written and performed, but the music is so competent within its niche that many of the moments that should crush the listener instead rarely inspire much more than a nod of approval. Even latter-half highlight “Dim” suffers from this quality; the first build in particular is quite beautiful and powerful, but the issues come when the latter-half of the song does exactly what was expected, thus negating much of the thrill that was promised early on in the song. Despite all of this, I still maintain that this album can survive on its competence alone. Everything on here is done tastefully, but the music often exists on that razor-thin line between style and substance, which can certainly produce good music, but rarely can it elevate beyond just “good.” In short, a style done this well is commendable, but not maximally rewarding.
B



Recent reviews by this author
Silkworm FirewaterSilver Jews The Natural Bridge
Eyehategod In the Name of SufferingAda (ME) Ada
Vic Chesnutt At The CutBonnie 'Prince' Billy Master And Everyone
user ratings (1282)
4.3
superb
other reviews of this album
Gmaj (4)
Sweden's post-metal stalwarts have put forth yet another droney, powerful effort. A little repetitiv...

Confessed2005 (5)
Timeless piece of post metal genius, rewarding in every way imaginable....

My Name Is Mud (5)
Cult of Luna's seminal masterpiece is a work of beauty and sheer agony....

Jupro1 (5)
...



Comments:Add a Comment 
BMDrummer
June 9th 2024


15135 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

decided to start writing again, been wanting to put my thoughts down on why this album frustrates me for a while and finally did it

FowlKrietzsche
June 9th 2024


1145 Comments


Very nice review, you placed a finger exactly on why this band has never ascended beyond pretty good for me. pos'd!

BMDrummer
June 9th 2024


15135 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

okay thank god, i was really hoping i could capture what everybody says about this group! it's a very frustrating dilemma to want to like something more than you actually do

Confessed2005
June 9th 2024


5631 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I disagree with how you view the record but the review is excellent, have a pos.

VlacDrac
June 9th 2024


2582 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed with your point, BM drummer. Don't get me wrong, the band is but far from a household name within the genre.

Relinquished
June 9th 2024


48797 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

They’re literally top 3 in their genre and



what the heck is going on



bmd bro I love you but review sounds like you’re the one holding yourself back than the band with all these self-imposed and placed expectations you mention

VlacDrac
June 9th 2024


2582 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nah, only Neurosis and ISIS matter.

BMDrummer
June 9th 2024


15135 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

bro believe me i’ve been trying with this band for over a decade now ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Relinquished
June 9th 2024


48797 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@vlac - lol we could let ourselves feel and accept more



@bmd - I feel you dude I don’t disagree how and why you feel that way, but idk how to word it but it feels like there’s too much dot connecting and not enough letting it be for what it is

BMDrummer
June 9th 2024


15135 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i get that completely, tbh i will not be surprised if i come around to this album in the near future



more than anything else, i just wanted to have a coherent understanding of my present difficulty with this band in the hopes that by analyzing it, i can sorta overcome it or something

Hawks
June 10th 2024


89494 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Amazing band yeah.

MeatSalad
June 10th 2024


18637 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Good review. This is also right around where I started in terms of appreciation for this, albeit I grew onto it a lot more quickly than you by the sounds of it

Senetrix666
June 10th 2024


1602 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

bm drummer you ever listen to Salvation or Beyond? I think those are better entry points to the CoL catalogue

BMDrummer
June 10th 2024


15135 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

heard bits of both here and there but don't think i ever finished either one, gonna listen to more of their discog though for sure

Relinquished
June 10th 2024


48797 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Go in chronological order

Titan
June 10th 2024


24946 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yes, only backwards

Butkuiss
June 11th 2024


7215 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this isn’t poorly written but it’s an exceedingly odd premise for a review of a nearly 20-year-old album. Anyway bump Salvation [4]

Demon of the Fall
June 11th 2024


34284 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fair effort. It's always difficult writing a 'middling' review for a widely considered genre classic and it seems you're battling yourself here in many ways (as Wolfe said, perhaps a little too strongly analysing the 'why?' here, rather than letting it be - but I suppose you essentially admitted that was the case). Otherwise this is a decently put forward argument. Pos.

...and I hope you can overcome this barrier!

Ryus
June 11th 2024


37256 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

based

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
June 12th 2024


4045 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

your review was a little hard to read (too many sentences with commas) but it was well-written, and makes a great argument about this album that I would have agreed with a few years ago. cheers



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2023 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy