CULT OF LUNA — Vertikal (review)

CULT OF LUNA — Vertikal album cover Album · 2013 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Vertikal (2013) is the sixth full-length album released by Swedish sludge metal act Cult of Luna. The concept album is the first release from the group since 2010 and the first to not feature co-sounding member Klas Rydberg (vocals). The concept of Vertikal will be concluded in a following EP, Vertikal II.

Cult of Luna plays a style of metal that I must admit I don’t tend to listen to much, but have an increasing interest in – sludge metal. Specifically they play the post-rock infused variant known as atmospheric sludge metal (aka post-metal) with some notable electronic influences (along with some other minor outside elements on Vertikal such as ambient and dubstep) included. My experience with sludge metal of any kind so far has been quite minor with Mastodon being the band I know the most by, and they’re quite far removed from what Cult of Luna is doing on Vertikal. As much as I love the former band though they never managed to inspire me to explore sludge metal properly. Cult of Luna and Vertikal on the other hand could well turn out to be a different matter, as this is really quite astounding work.

The music on the album is incredibility powerful regardless of the direct the band chooses to take it in. At times Vertikal is focused on building a pure and beautiful atmosphere, albeit with more than a trace of melancholy. At others it’s crushingly heavy while the bulk of the vocals are harsh and raw. The mammoth track Vicarious Redemption at nearly nineteen minutes in length is the best showcase of everything that the album stands for, starting off in a purely ambient style before building up into post-rock and then into the sludgy heaviness. And all of this before you’ve even heard a whisper of the vocals. Best of all it never seems to drag. Even when the music just seems to be pushing into droning territory there's never a feeling that you've lost the immersion that the album gives, allowing the generally long track lengths to flow along without a hitch.

Cult of Lune have a sound that requires a great deal of patience to really appreciate, making Vertikal's appeal strictly niche. But there's no denying that Cult of Luna are masters of their craft even if what they do isn't exactly your cup of tea. They can pull off the long songs without breaking a sweat, have an experimental side and prove that metal can be about more than just thrashing away being as aggressive as possible. An exceptional grade rating is deserved.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven:
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