Originally written by Ramar Pittance
What comes after? After you prove yourself. After you ascend to the top of your field and quiet all detractors. Where do you go from the top? Do you allow entropy to take its hold and simply maintain, or do you set a new set of goals for yourself, and continue to climb higher. These are the kinds of questions that must have floated trough the heads of the men in Cult of Luna after they released the magnificent The Beyond. That sophomore release went further than just fulfilling perceived potential, it proved Cult of Luna was a great band. So, now what? Their newest release, Salvation, shows that Cult of Luna have chosen the more daring of the two options presented to bands in just their situation. As a result, they may have released one of the finest albums of the year.
For those unfamiliar with Cult of Luna, imagine a combination of Isis and Neurosis with thick accents of sludge and swedish hardcore. Their previous release saw the band relying heavily on those latter elements to create a dense, encompassing wall of sound. Clearly not ones to rest on their laurels, Salvation marks a noticeably more subdued and atmospheric iteration of the band’s sound. Rest assured, this album does get heavy, and those moments are just as satisfying. However, the truly crushing moments are handed out more stingily, and the some listeners may find themsleves getting lost in these often wandering compositions.
“Echoes” begins the album and is undoubtedly one of those tracks in which a listener might lose his way. Sparse and ever so short of belaboring in its execution, this song is a good example of how to frustrate a listener just enough as to make the rewards you bestow all the more satisfying. This, like many songs found on Salvation, isn’t quite so much pummeling as it is stirring. They strike the right notes at the right time and allow the goosebumps to blossom. “Leave me Here” has a rhythmic, tribal build up and features some well executed melodic vocals. It also features a clean guitar tone that is strikingly reminiscent of Neurosis. However, allusions to genre forefather’s are easily overshadowed by the intimate connection the band makes with the listener on this track. The fact that this band features seven members is actually a rare example of more chefs producing a better soup. The various members make use of an array of instruments including steel guitars and synthesizers and add a new dimension to the already deep compositions. Magnus Lindberg, in addition to taking on guitar and percussion duties, did a fine job a engineering this album. Everything is well balanced, but still rough enough around the edges as to not castrate the band.
Many tracks on this album work less as songs on first listen, and more as varied soundscapes that function as soundtracks for whatever the listener may come up with. At one point you may picture yourself walking down a street you’ve never seen before as a fresh coat of snow covers the ground. At another, you’re floating along in space as new galaxies are born and die right in front of your eyes. Basically, the atmosphere is not enforced, it’s simply background noise that lubricates the flow of the listener’s subconscious. However, the more time a listener gives to these songs, the more their success as coherent compositions come to light. The subtle recurrent melodies become more apparent, and the songs, more gratifying.
Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed with Salvation upon my first listen. I wanted to be taken over, I wanted to be destroyed by songs like “Circle” and “Further” from The Beyond. However, the more I listened to this album the more it became apparent that Salvation is a cooperative experience. It requires effort from the listener to dive into these songs, root around, and discover just what this album holds for them. As result this album is definitely not for everybody, and is perhaps aimed at a slightly more pretentious crowd who take pride in being getters of the elusive “it.” Fans of meat and potatoes metal should be very wary before investing in the album. However, Cult of Luna have provided everything requisite of a remarkable experience for those who are on board for the journey. This album is not a huge step up from The Beyond. Cult of Luna already were an amazing band before they released this album, and Salvation only proves that they still are.