Sweden’s Cult Of Luna return with another typically ambitious, grand and brain crunching statement.
Release Date: 11th February 2022
Label: Metal Blade Records
Formats: CD / digital / vinyl
What was it that Alan Partridge said to his slightly psychotic #1 fan Jed Maxwell when trapped in the latter’s home with no means of escape? “I’ll level with you, I’m really scared.” Fortunately, experiencing the opening assault of Cold Burn during the day as the Winter sun makes a rare appearance diluted the effect. However, testing out The Long Road North in the dark at punishing volume would easily replicate that Partridge feeling of terror. One immediately induced by the deep bass industrial siren that introduces the return of Cult Of Luna.
The typically Cult Of Luna ambition swings straight into play with a series of epic and visceral creations. In the way that we wrote of A Dawn To Fear, “Wasting no time in pummelling the senses,” The Long Road North does the same. Whether it’s something to do with what the band calls “writing from the heart,” whatever’s going on in those hearts results in a fierce savagery. Brutally primal in the anguish and desperation that comes across in the vocal parts, the set provides a sonic connection with A Dawn To Fear with some carryovers from those sessions bleeding into the new material.
Whilst the overarching feel creates a sense of overpowering dominance, the Beyond series (pieces titled I and II) create a different type of chill. The two intensely intriguing pieces utilise guest vocalists; part I sees Mariam Wallentin (the internationally acclaimed Swedish vocalist and multi-instrumentalist known for progressive jazz duo Wildbirds And Peace) singing about “someone’s calling out my name,” while conjuring up the sort of warning you’d issue to ‘persons of a nervous disposition’. Again, avoid listening in dark rooms unless you’ve been desensitized by being brought up on some of Nick Cave’s dark moments. The haunting threat that never comes features in part II where Colin Stetson (most recently known for his pioneering experimental soundtrack work) add his qualities, as he also does on An Offering To The Wild. The latter does the decent thing; lulling with a false sense of security, yet sound in the knowledge that even the crashing guitars which wade in at the halfway point are going to be superseded by something altogether more dramatic and demonic.
It’s a common feeling. A moment’s pause for breath and respite before being dealt another crushing blow. Even on the shorter pieces, the effect is simply contained into bite-sized chunks. Into The Night broods with an impending menace while Full Moon offers less of a threat. However, given free rein to explore whatever direction the music led, the extended arrangements on several numbers add credence to the cinematic feel The Long Road North evokes. That expansive pallette rarely lapses, the ebb and flow coming in the moments where the intensity briefly dips below the red. The relentless march that occupies the middle section of The Silver Arc is finally overpowered by the return to dominant aggression.
The scope to capture the vast swathes of the Scandinavian landscape in musical form is plowed relentlessly. None more so than in the twenty-minute passage of the title track and Blood Upon Stone. Having been tormented and battered into submission by the former, the knife is stuck in and twisted.
Cult Of Luna have played to their strengths as their devastating presence continues on their path of evolution. The Long Raod North is another challenging journey, one that requires perseverance and determination, but a road which it’s impossible to resist taking.
Watch the video for Into The Night from the album here: