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Cult of Luna - The Long Road North Award winner

Cult of Luna
The Long Road North
by Justin "Witty City" Wittemeier at 14 February 2022, 1:20 AM

CULT OF LUNA is a metal band from Sweden, who formed in 1998.  Their sound is dynamic and varied, including elements of atmo, post, sludge, doom, hardcore, and prog.  “The Long Road North,” is their eighth full length studio album (nine if you count their “Mariner” album with Julie Christmas), hot off the heels of last year’s “The Raging RiverEP. I have become a rather big fan of CULT OF LUNA but that has happened only in recent years—my past experience with them have been tumultuous.  I discovered them years ago in the mid 2000’s with their 2004 “Salvation,” album.  I found that album enjoyable but it didn’t blow me away.  I had trouble getting into their other stuff fully and found most of it hit or miss.  However, when the band released the masterpiece “A Dawn To Fear,” in 2019, the band suddenly clicked with me.  Chalk it up tp either maturity of taste or it just being that damn good of an album (I’ll say it was both), but “A Dawn To Fear,” made me appreciate the band for the special entity they truly are. Over the last couple years, I have devoured most of their releases and have found a new love for them.

Why am I talking about this?  Because “The Long Road North,” is a journey that requires growth and patience, not unlike my experiences with the band as a whole.  Listening to a CoL album for the first time is never an immediate experience.  Time to indulge, digest, and re access is always needed. So what do I make of “The Long Road North?”  Well, everything I just said applies to this album.  It is absolutely immense, both in song writing and production.  I don’t know how it was done but the album has a huge sound but also plenty of roughness to it, which makes their metallic elements all the more heavier but their more atmospheric, introspective moments shine all the brighter.  With that being said, it is still CoL.  Long songs, without much structure, and plenty of layers make this an album with much depth that needs much time to explore.  I wouldn’t have it any other way and it seems the band feels the same.

Cold Burn,” opens the album with the music providing a built in warning to the dense sounds and riffs that are about to flatten my face into batter.  Despite its length, this track is pretty direct for the standards of CoL and was a smart choice for the album opener.  I bet this song slays live and will go over well with the audience. As intense as “Cold Burn” is, “The Silver Arch,’ takes that intensity and expands it out into longer stretches of post metal.  As such, the track is both more introspective yet heavier in its own way but the beginning and ending of the song show the band can still get all fired up when need be. “An Offering To The Wild,” is mysterious and spends the first half unraveling what it has to offer.  Ambient sounds peak out from the build up of guitars and drums.  Around the 5:38 mark, the song explodes little by little, small bursts of energy gaining momentum until it becomes a cerebral dirge.

Into The Night,” is the “quiet” song on the album but I find it to be just as potent, just from a different perspective.  This song very much so has a KATATONIA feel to it, and that probably says enough about it right there.  But I just love how seemingly endless waves just crash into the song as it builds itself up with layers.  This one definitely deserves time with headphones, especially near the end when the song gets a bit heavy. The title track has some of the best guitar riffs the band has ever done plus the track really encompasses the direction they have been on since “A Dawn To Fear.” Even more so than the others, this is very much a CULT OF LUNA track because it is incredibly in your face yet has a restrained feel to it that resonates from the cold beauty of it all.

Blood Upon Stone,” is not only the best song on the album but one of the best the band has ever written, period.  At nearly twelve minutes in length, it flows more smoothly than it has a right to but is just methodical enough to warrant about a million listens because there always seems to be something missed about the track and more to discover. I am taking points off because, honestly, there is some filler here.  Two of the tracks, “Beyond 1” and “Beyond II” aren’t bad tracks but I find them to be pointless in the grand scheme of things.  The interlude “Full Moon,” is a little better because it comes out of the silence of the previous track and slides into the beginning of the title track.  But were the track removed, nothing of importance would be missed.

My nitpicking aside, “The Long Road North,” is a trip worth taking and another stellar released in the discography of a band who can seem to do very little wrong.  While I don’t think it is as great as “A Dawn To Fear,” which will probably always being my favorite CoL album anyway, it is next step in the expansion of their sound and incredibly heavy as it is deep and thoughtful.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Cold Burn
2. The Silver Arc
3. Beyond I
4. An Offering to the Wild
5. Into the Night
6. Full Moon
7. The Long Road North
8. Blood upon Stone
9. Beyond II
Lineup:
Magnus Lindberg - Guitars, Percussion
Johannes Persson - Guitars, Vocals
Andreas Johansson - Bass
Thomas Hedlund - Drums
Fredrik Kihlberg - Guitars, Vocals
Kristian Karlsson - Keyboards, Vocals
Record Label: Metal Blade Records
     


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Edited 04 October 2022
 

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