Cult of Luna – Vertikal Review

Is it post-rock or is it heavy metal? When is a carrot not a carrot? Is the new Cult of Luna album any good. Grumpyrocker Editor Harry answers at least one of these questions. Hopefully not just the one about the carrot.

It’s not really metal, I’ve seen written. It features many of the tropes of metal, but it isn’t metal. But if Cult of Luna’s epic – yes epic – new album Vertikal is not metal then Black Sabbath isn’t metal, and that means there never has been any metal. Suddenly the carrot isn’t a carrot and nothing makes sense.

Sorry. I have a banging headache. Coherence isn’t my strong point this morning. Can we start again? Wait a moment while I find some paracetamol.

Taking direct inspiration from sequences within Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis, Cult of Luna’s Vertikal offers the sprawling, beautiful, haunting soundscape of a dystopian future.

Not that you have to be familiar with Lang’s film to fully appreciate Cult of Luna’s achievement here. The brooding science fiction soundtrack – from moments so minimalistic that we have barely a sound to others of crushing doom riffing and screamed vocals – is an emotional journey of itself.

The synth work often recalls Vangelis’ wonderful Blade Runner soundtrack. But it’s the rhythm section that takes things to the next level. The importance of bass guitar in post-rock/metal can’t be underestimated and the low end rumble’s integration with the percussion gives Vertikal its momentum, preventing the the slower sequences from stopping any progress.

Joined by powerful guitar riffage and those very metal vocals we have an album that at times is quietly beautiful if unsettling and in parts throbbing with classic metal guitar. Cult of Luna’s great achievement in Vertikal is bringing all this work together into a cohesive whole.

The twin punch of I: The Weapon and Vicarious Redemption is one of the finest double acts you’ll find on a modern album. But the album is strong across the board. Like many ambient post-rock/metal albums you’ll find nods to the giants of the genre – Pink Floyd. But Vertikal isn’t a softly softly album, it retains that power and that anger you might expect from Roger Water’s finest moments, not the sleepier elegiac passages of Gilmour/Wright collaborations. Anger isn’t the only emotion featured within. The often brutal picture of the future painted by Vertikal is brought to a more human and emotional end by the final track Passing Through. A fine end to an excellent album.

2013 is already shaping up to be an excellent one for fans of progressive music. Cult of Luna has set the bar very high with Vertikal. The first essential album of the year.