Cult of Luna – Vertikal II (Indie Recordings)

Brooding, building and boiling, absorbing the listener in a dramatic world of technology with a human face.
Release Date: 
20 Sep 2013 (All day)

Until the release of Vertikal earlier this year, it had been damn near a decade since I was this excited about Cult of Luna. Back in 2003, The Beyond was, for me, the album of the year. While Metallica released the fetid abortion that was St Anger (confirming my most cynical anxiety that they’d long since ceased to exist as a worthwhile creative unit and were engaged in nothing more than directionless profiteering) and scores of other noteworthy metal bands did what they’ve always done and released solid but unspectactular albums, here was something … new. Alongside similar releases such as Isis’s 2002 extravaganza Oceanic, and the concurrent discovery of Neurosis, Cult of Luna formed the core of what eventually became known as ‘post-metal’.

Looking back, it’s hard to separate the origins of this movement from good old doom, and even 10 years since the release of The Beyond, Vertikal II bears the doom legacy. Technically, Vertikal II is an EP, but the four-tracks clock in at over half an hour. There’s also the long, slow, repetitive, crushing sections of doom, albeit played with a greater sense of light and shade, and with that post-rock structural development that’s become so familiar (slolwly evolving song patterns that inevitably lead to a crushing climax, often followed by a delicate coda).

Sadly, in the decade since post-metal came to be, this formula has become so familiar as to be, in the wrong hands, stale and monotonous. What’s so exciting about Vertikal II is that, unlike so many contemporaries still plying the trade, Cult of Luna are still doing something new and exciting.

Vertikal II is a companion-piece to the full-scale album, Vertikal, released earlier this year. The songs were written during the same session as the Vertikal album (with the exception of Justin Broadrick’s (of Godflesh fame) lush remix of the song Vicarious Redemption; seriously, this guy never disappoints). The Vertikal-session songs were inspired by Fritz Lang's classic 1927 science-fiction film Metropolis, and it’s ever so tempting to fire up this silent classic and have Vertikal and Vertikall II play as sonic accompaniment (if only the Queen soundtrack to Metropolis wasn’t already burned into my adolescent memory to allow this).

The congruences between the film and the albums are remarkable: they both brood, build and boil, completely absorbing the individual in a dramatic world of technology with a very human focus; the sharp edges of the machine are rounded off in a very human way. Similarly, in both the film and the albums, there’s such a strong mix of the familiar with the foreign that it’s impossible not to be completely engaged by the complex intertwining of the two. 

If you haven’t seen Metropolis, or heard Vertikal II (or Vertikal), you owe it to yourself.