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June 15, 2008

{     Cult of Luna "Eternal Kingdom"     }    


If any band can be said to encapsulate all that the "Neur-Isis instro-metal" universe has had to offer over the course of last decade it's Cult Of Luna. In their short history they have gone from being creators of the best fist pumping, roid-raging doom this planet has heard to a group whose musical curiosity has opened a vocabulary as progressive as it is minimal, as beautiful as it is brutal, and as organic as it is taut.

"Arrival" off their 2003 album "The Beyond" is an unrelenting journey into a godforsaken wasteland of aural virulence. The buildup to a break down, filled with the echoing samples of Noam Chomsky talking about "the hijacking of doctrinal systems by corporations" is followed by burnished layers of guitar-led apocalypse that never seem to end. It is more mournful than the legacy of slavery, more furious than a napalm shower, and more metallic than the transcendental clarity of a spring sunrise over a calm lake.

"Waiting for You" off 2004's "Salvation" starts out with a simple, calm, guitar interplay that builds into a winsome melody. The lush, eloquent lullaby grows into a plaintive, complex exchange. Midway through, though, storm clouds draw near and, with a few simple bass drum kicks, war is declared.

What follows is the most straightforwardly hellish riff-fest you're ever likely to hear. Punishing revolution after revolution of intensity builds. Each passing layer heavier, denser and more powerful in its instrumentation, until when the vocals finally come in, you can't imagine anything more absolutely, headbangingly, crushing. And then, as the flesh is smoking inside your earholes, it ends.

Neurosis couldn't pull this off, Isis couldn't pull this off, Red Sparrows couldn't pull this off, sure as shit Pelican couldn't pull this off, nor Mouth of the Architect, nor Mogwai, nor Opeth, nor Mastodon, nor Baroness, etc. Only Cult of Luna could do it with that level of pure, furious, rip-your-fucking-face-off-screaming, stomping rage.

And so it was that they built their reputation when "Somewhere Along the Highway" came along in 2006. It was a curve ball for many who were looking for a fast one right down the middle. The trvest exclaimed "What the hell happened?" But those of us who had been listening to God Speed! You Black Emperor, Tortoise, Sigur Ros, Zorn, Patton, Dischord and Neurot Records (hell, even Ninja Tunes and Astralwerks) for all these years caught it and got it.

It was raw, natural, and heartfelt but still relentless and driven. Where earlier output was black science fiction this was laced with the dread of the unknowable forest; the dirty earth. And, as in all cases over the years, it still had CoL's signature moves: crescendos as epiphianic as the second coming coupled with jams as pulverizing as everlasting damnation.

In 2008 we find in Cult of Luna's latest "Eternal Kingdom" a logical, surefooted extension of everything they have done for the last several years. There is no "let's get back to our roots" regressiveness going on. If anything the moves they have made here, as on "Somewhere Along the Highway," have deepened their creative root structure making it more genuine than anything their first 3 albums could muster.

On "Eternal Kingdom," Cult Of Luna uses this to build on what they are best at: Shimmering/damningly doomed guitars, intense galloping buildups, solid breakdowns, squarely unceasing brutality, and all the emotionally complex, intelligently unpredictable progression you can handle. (Horns and Triangles anyone?)

"Ghost Trail", "Owlwood", and "Following Betulas" are standout tracks on another brilliant album by a group whose mastery displays a competition with only themselves for instru-prog-metal's crown.

Buy everything they have done and listen to it without ceasing until your last breath is drawn. If not, you just may regret having wasted your life, especially if your consciousness reaches an Eternal Kingdom.

     » Cult of Luna
     » Earache Records


P.S. Get this (lifted from the press release on the new album):

"The concept behind the album is complex, dark, and challenging, based around a diary the band discovered in their new rehearsal space which is on the site of a long demolished mental institution.

The diary was from one of the inmates and was titled 'Tales from the Eternal Kingdom'. Inside was the ramblings of the man as he explained how he had been wrongly incarcerated for killing his wife - he created a completely fictional world involving half man/half animal creatures and a character called Ugin who he blamed for his wife's death. Needless to say this discovery provided plenty of inspiration for the album."

Posted by: Aaron Zimmerman at June 15, 2008 4:25 AM
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