Originally written by Ramar Pittance
So, what does “heavy” mean anyway? This term, which was the requisite prefix to metal during the genre’s formative years, has been stripped of its context and shifted about the lexicon. In the process, people who dig this metal shit seem to have lost sight of what it really means. What we are, as fans and critics, are victims of relativity. If the modern metal fan equates heaviness solely with the decibel levels captured on a recording, thenDisturbed outheavies Black Sabbath, Korn crushes Priest, and Accept is trampled under the feet of the monolithic … Godsmack. Clearly, this definition of heavy, the true soul of all things metal, cannot stand. It worked in the early days, as Sabbath were in fact the loudest thing on the planet. But, their heavy actually derived from a much more important and eternal place. A place that becomes ever clearer as the years go by. What heavy really signifies, is an ability to convey emotion. It’s the ability to entrance a listener and swallow them whole. And, bands can do this regardless of speed or volume. It’s nebulous, dudes. But when you hear it, you know it. And, even though Somewhere Along the Highway isn’t quite so heavy, as defined by modern metal standards … it crushes me in the ways that truly matter.
I fell for Cult of Luna immediately upon hearing the song “Further,” off of 2003’s The Beyond. A monolithic, three chord manifesto on the rules of shifting sonic mass. The song rocketed this band to the very top of theNeurosis-core pack, in my ears. Two albums later, their position is more entrenched than ever. But, oh how things have changed. The transition to a softer, more ephemeral approach that began on 2004’s Salvation has been fully realized here. However, (and this is where what I was trying to say in the introduction becomes more important) the heavy remains. These songs aren’t just exercises in slow melodic riffing, accompanied by a suitably gravel voiced singer, as has become common to this scene since its postThrough Silver in Blood/Oceanic explosion. Instead, the listener is presented with fully developed and thematically coherent songs. “Finland” escalates by layering riff upon riff upon sample upon bassline until they all cohere and drive the song to its satisfying crescendo. Why this is actually interesting to listen to, and not just another boring lesson in organic song construction, is that these developments are made so logical and clear to the listener, that the build up is almost as satisfying as the come down.
The storytelling continues to improve upon previous efforts, as witnessed on “Back to Chapel Town,” and “And With Her Came the Birds.” I might be one of the very last stalwarts who doesn’t dismiss the lyrical prowess of EVERY band playing heavy music, but the fusion between lyrical themes and song structure on this album is impressive. The latter depicting a lonely journey on a desolate road as well as any song I’ve ever heard.
Somewhere Along the Highway, these tracks must end.
Dead man with pitchfork arms tells me all he knows
Leave me here for the crows
in the fog, she came back
and with her, the birds.
Esoteric? Maybe. Pretentious? It’s metal, get used to it. Either way, it conjures an image.
I’ve got little else to say. I don’t like to nitpick and point out flaws that lay on the periphery of great albums. You can point those out yourself, and call me an asshole later. The thing is, people who care about heavy music need to hear this album. It’s meticulously written, produced, and performed. There’s a solidarity among this collective, and their vision is being executed here. Great album, so heavy. Buy or die.