CULT OF LUNA- ‘A Dawn to Fear’

Victims only of their own success, Cult of Luna have written perhaps the best post-metal album of the year here and yet it still feels just a little underwhelming. That’s because as good as ‘A Dawn To Fear’ is (and it’s very very good) it still bobs under the high-water marks of 2013’s ‘Vertikal’ and the Swedish outfit’s last album, ‘Mariner’.

It’s made of much the same ingredients- there are familiar cinematic swells, icy lows, and Johannes Persson’s gravelly barks. Opener ‘The Silent Man’ pivots between stomping rhythms and gloomy intensity while ‘Nightwalkers’ runs evil experiments on a single excellent riff. But there are new textures too. The record is underpinned by organ, not synth, and not only shades of grey but big beams of light are allowed to penetrate the darkness. The title track is earthy and open, not mechanical or cold, and ‘Inland Rain’ positively soars to a close.

Some people will tell you that a reduced running time and the better breathing room make this a more digestible effort than ‘Vertikal’. But that’s a lie. ‘A Dawn to Fear’ is still 80 minutes of intense art featuring a 15-minute centerpiece with lyrics about wanting to watch the world burn. Of course it’s a challenge. But I think it might even be built like that, designed to weed out the preoccupied and the less willing. There are moments here made to make your mind wander but if you don’t watch your step, and instead, say, watch something on your phone, you’ll lose your place and risk never finding it again.

Those that stick with it, however, will walk through a forest of rare sonic quality, discover clever heaviness both familiar and new, and hear music that further elevates its composers above genre or comparison. A record to revere.

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