For the mere mortal bands, the ones who have not fully embraced the rocky road known as a career in the music industry, one album every few years might be enough. A consistent schedule of touring and album release, followed by downtime to accept accolades and praise. But for the true iron men, it's never enough. After lying dormant for five years, Cult Of Luna awoke from their self induced slumber to tell the tale of a city on the verge of ruin. The first installment of the "Vertikal" series was a revelation; they managed to capture the desolation and class struggle of a futuristic city in mere beats and notes. How they did it is anyone's guess. But the story wasn't finished, and the band had more to tell. The second part, recorded during the same sessions, may not match the first in length. But what it does is bring the story to a neatly wrapped conclusion without losing any of the blustery energy and rough around the edges style that the first was so high on. Their second offering this year, and a stunning means to an end, "Vertikal II" is tension incarnate.
Ominous and somewhat haunting tones, which were plentiful on the first installment, become a key component early in the second. Despite the mechanical nature that "O R O" brings to the table, it feels natural; the swaying vocal melodies don't come off as manufactured. But that same sense of foreboding and despair rings true throughout, from the vocals to the echoing cry of guitars. It isn't until almost five minutes in that the teeth of the track emerge, a set of calloused screams cutting through the ambient energy. What was a minimalist approach becomes a grating, metal on metal cry for reason. One look at the waveform for "Light Chaser," the beautiful upward slope of sound, and you begin to fully appreciate the approach here. A repeated guitar melody is the lead, in a sense, but the relationship between light and dark is the true star. The clarity with which each instrumental piece is delivered provides one half of the equation, while a fragmented screamed vocal supplies the other. They would thrive perfectly on their own; but together, they are an exercise in the harsh arts. By track's end, the overwhelming distortion engulfs all. The longest, and not coincidentally most complete, track on the album, the twelve minute "Shun The Mask" is an apt conclusion to this musical venture. It rises and falls, exploring both the crushing blows of percussion and voice, and the moving joining of melody and ambient sounds. As the drums fade in for the final assault, nearly nine minutes in, no one could prepare themselves for the terror of those blood curdling screams.
There is a danger in being so prolific; if your second is not as well received as your first, fans and critics will wonder why more time wasn't taken to perfect the pieces of the puzzle. Cult Of Luna knew the risks before they slapped the labels on the EP, and they felt strongly enough about the material present to go ahead. Looking back, there is not one reason to think they shouldn't have. On music alone, "Vertikal II" is every bit as terrifying as it's predecessor. They, once again, put class struggles and city struggles onto recorded media in the most profound of ways. But the most impressive aspect in the series is the way they take hopelessness and despair, and translate it into a series of riffs and drum patterns. I, much like many of you, have not passed the Rosetta Stone lessons necessary to make this leap from emotion to musical language, nor will I ever truly be able to decipher the subtleties and nuances. But here, on the second half of a milestone in modern metal, it doesn't matter. Cult Of Luna have done the work for you.
Official Site - http://cultofluna.com/
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