It has finally arrived. It is something I have been searching for months now and feared did not exist. It is the ultimate doom metal/post rock album. I'm sure most of you will grumble that this has been done to death. But, my friends, do not write this off as another Neurosis and/or Isis rip-off, because, it is not.
The idea behind this kind of music has been around for a while now. I myself jumped on the Isis bandwagon at first because they were the only band I had heard that sounded like that. Then I heard Cult of Luna, a band that quite simply puts Isis, and plenty of other bands, to shame. A culmination of several solid releases, Somewhere Along the Highway is absolutely crushing and uplifting in every way.
Seriously, put on Panopticon from Isis, then listen to this bad boy and you will be astounded at how different it is. This is what bands like Isis have tried to achieve but just couldn't fully realize. Cult of Luna at its doomiest is cataclysmic and earth shaking, injecting some much-needed raw power that is absent from a lot of their contemporaries. And even when they calm down, they are haunting in every sense of the word. This is an album that never fails to give me goosebumps and I have been listening to it in my car basically every day for the last month. This is a doom metal revelation.
The album opens with "Marching to the Heartbeats," which much like the later track "And With Her Came the Birds," digs deep into the recesses of your mind with jaw-dropping post-rock that never gets boring. Then out of nowhere comes the opening salvo, "Finland," with thunderous drumming, soul-crushing riffs, gut-wrenching vocals, and interludes of pure serenity only to be washed away by the oncoming hurricane of heaviness. "Back to Chapel Town" follows in a similar fashion, except with a more straightforward song structure and some of the most massive fucking riffs my tired ears have ever heard. After a couple more colossal tracks, we end up at "Dark City, Dead Man," the album closer and a hell of a tune. I have to mention this song because the last five to six minutes of this fifteen-minute masterpiece is one of most hauntingly serene and emotionally heavy moments in music that I have ever heard.
Anyone who loves awe-inspiring, epic music should buy this immediately, crank it up as loud as you can tolerate (an important ingredient), and let the sheer power envelop you. The idea behind this album isn't the most original, but this is the very first band I have heard that pulls it off in a convincing way. These Swedish gods bulldoze absolutely everything in their path, and I feel privileged to be able to witness it along the way.
Cult of Luna is a guilty pleasure of mine. They are a good band that has the tendency to get hammered by the music press for being derivative of Isis and Neurosis, in essence a third generation Neurosis influenced band. Prior to this album, the band's sound has progressed along the same general game plan that was set up by Neurosis (to an extent, although wholly without intention) and then followed by Isis.
"Marching to the Heartbeats" is a calm, bleak opener for Somewhere Along the Highway. It is mellow sounding and the vocals have a depressed tone to them. "Finland" explodes from the speakers as Cult of Luna has established themselves to do before falling into a Panopticon-esque calm, almost shoegaze passage with a complete lack of vocals. From there, Cult of Luna moves the song through a strummed droning part before bringing the growled vocals back into the mix. This definitely has the feel of being heavily influenced by Panopticon (which has been the Cult of Luna MO for quite some time) almost to the point of it being an outtake of that album.
"Back to Chapel Town" begins with a slow organ like introduction with electronic treatments. As the song starts to move towards the meat of the track, the whole band fleshes out the arrangement rather well. This song's heavy part really isn't that heavy, but the vocals make it such. It works, and the part immediately following is really good. The guitar lead has a great tone and fits well. My only wish was for more bass in the mix. The song bowls you over with mid-range but lacks a little bottom for the sounds you feel in your gut. I really enjoy the way that the song fades out. "And with Her Came the Birds" brings a huge shock. The guitars have that spaghetti western sounding guitar that Earth showcased on their last album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method. The vocals return to that depressed tone that was employed in the first track on this record. As the banjos come in I am both psyched because it seems that Cult of Luna is moving on with something that takes them out from under the shadow of Isis and Neurosis, but then remember how much this song reminds me of that last Earth album. Again, they have used instrumentation like the lap pedal steel guitar in their prior work (see the song, "Circle", on The Beyond, their second album).
Somewhere Along the Highway continues its epic journey with "34." It has more bottom than the early songs, which is good. I wish they would explore that opening riff more before going into the crazy tempo change. It is well executed, but I dug that opening sequence. I like the drum pattern employed in one of their calmer moments during the track. The wispy sounding choir-like vocals (those ethereal "Ah's") that appear here are a neat effect. There is something about the way that "Dim" begins that immediately draws me into the song. It actually sounds really pretty. I am not sure if that is an e-bow affected guitar that they use, but that sound is pretty good. It might be a Theremin. The song ends in this weird heartbeat sounding electronic movement. The album closes with a monstrous track called "Dark City, Dead Men." The manner in which the song starts relates well with the way that "Dim" ended. The pulsed out electronics underscore a strummed guitar. The guitars in general sound pretty good with this track, especially the bottleneck guitar. At the midway point of the song, or thereabouts, is an interesting percussion part. I think this song is a good example of where Cult of Luna could go.
As listening to this record, I find that I truly despise riding these guys as unoriginal. There are not enough good versions of the genre of music that was pioneered by Neurosis and subsequently Isis. Cult of Luna does this style well and maybe that is how they need to be viewed as a good band that creates great music in a new genre of music. After all, if enough bands attempt to sound this way, is it not a new genre rather than a bunch of bands ripping each other off stylistically (in essence, the eventual watering down by imitators contributes or flat out creates a new musical genre or style). Regardless of the comparisons to their overly obvious influences, this is a good record and a huge progression for them. Slowly but surely Cult of Luna is establishing a name for themselves. Somewhere Along the Highway is a further step in their vision as well as in creating a name for themselves. This is easily their best album to date.
8.2 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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