CULT OF LUNA — A Dawn To Fear (review)

CULT OF LUNA — A Dawn To Fear album cover Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
adg211288
A Dawn to Fear (2019) is the eighth full-length studio album by Swedish atmospheric sludge metal act Cult of Luna. As their last album Mariner (2016) was a collaboration effort with vocalist Julie Christmas (Battle of Mice, Made Out of Babies), A Dawn to Fear marks the first 'pure' Cult of Luna studio album since Vertikal (2013). It is a double album consisting of eight tracks, most of them lengthy, with half passing ten minutes each. The total length just passes 79 minutes, which is actually about what a standard CD can handle at a push, but I guess the decision was made to play it safe from a technical point of view, since I have heard of CDs having playback issues on their final tracks when the maximum duration is reached. Still, it's on the line enough to avoid accusations of passing a single album off as a double, unlike the couple of minutes shorter Hardwired... To Self-Destruct (2016) by Metallica, which really should have been a single CD, not a double with a double's price to go with it.

But even if it would fit on a single disc, we can forgive Cult of Luna more than we can Metallica, because unlike the legendary on/off thrash metal band, Cult of Luna has delivered exactly what any fan of the band would have wanted in A Dawn to Fear. This could possibly be their best album to date, which is coming from someone who was so blown away by Mariner that he had to confess to wishing several times that Cult of Luna + Julie Christmas would become a permanent thing. Then they release this. The kind of album that immediately grabs your attention and drags you down into its atmospheric sludge metal and softer post-rock passages, leaving you submerged in it's sound, which is distinctly that of Cult of Luna even if the only prior album you've heard happens to be Mariner, for its duration and only allowing you to surface upon its conclusion. A conclusion which seems to come around much sooner than it's near eighty minute length would suggest it should.

On a personal level I first heard Cult of Luna's music with Vertikal. That album was very likely also my first taste of the atmospheric sludge metal style. It quickly became an album I enjoyed very much, but it was only with Mariner that I started to really pay attention to how good the band actually was. I've since been back and heard fan favourite albums Salvation (2004) and Somewhere Along the Highway (2006), both of which are also excellent releases that cement Cult of Luna's reputation as the world's premium, not just atmospheric sludge, but sludge metal in general, act. It's to my own detriment that, including A Dawn to Fear, my knowledge of the band's catalogue only extends to just over half the the studio albums.

Mariner has, in the few years since it's release, become one of only a few albums released since that time that is still in a fairly regular rotation for me. It has that indescribable something that keeps pulling me back. While it is still early days, I can't see that A Dawn to Fear is going to be any different in that regard. Mariner was a grower; the kind of album you suddenly realise is one of your favourites. A Dawn to Fear is instant satisfaction. There was never any doubt in my mind that it would be good, but this good? Truth be told, it's single-handed got me out of a slump regarding new music. This is actually the first review I have written since November 2018. That's how good it is.

Saying any more about the album's specifics feels like I would be doing an injustice to the experience that Cult of Luna has created in this album. A Dawn to Fear offers up tracks that are each substantial enough to be taken as individual entities but like with many atmospheric albums it's surely best taken as a whole rather than try to pick it apart as say this song or that song is a highlight. If you've listened to the band before at any point in their now twenty+ year long career, even if you only came to them on Mariner through Julie Christmas, then stop everything and do yourself a solid: buy A Dawn to Fear immediately. For this listener's money, it's quite likely the album of 2019.
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