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Cult Of Luna - Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas: Mariner CD (album) cover


Cult Of Luna

Experimental/Post Metal

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5 stars With Isis broken up and Neurosis' Honor Found in Decay proving less satisfactory to fans than most of that seminal band's previous releases, a strong case could be made that Cult of Luna are now the standard-bearers of post-metal. They have released a string of genre-defining masterpieces, amongst them their self-titled album, Salvation, Somewhere Along the Highway, and Vertikal, and there are really very few other artists in the genre who manage the sophistication of their music.

Their latest work, Mariner, is a collaboration with renowned post-metal vocalist Julie Christmas. If anything, I would say the addition of Christmas to their sound has pushed the quality and scope of the band's compositions to new heights. This album is a concept album about space exploration, and the music is suitably grandiose to match. Christmas is an absurdly versatile vocalist, capable of evoking every emotion imaginable impeccably through both her beautiful clean singing and her spine-tingling screams. The Cult of Luna vocalists throw in some of their own vocals for contrast, and they too vary between harsh vocals and clean singing. There has never been more vocal versatility on a Cult of Luna album, and the benefit to the music is immense.

The compositions on this album include some of the band's best, but particular standout tracks include the opener "A Greater Call", which sets the tone of the album superbly, and the closer "Cygnus", which may honestly be the single best post-metal song I have ever heard. The band layers walls upon walls of everything into the song as it builds to its climax and the effect is like nothing I've ever heard before. The vocals in particular stand out (I know I've already spent several sentences praising the vocal work on this album, but really).

I would recommend interested listeners pick up either the vinyl edition of this album or the Japanese import, as both feature as a bonus track "Beyond the Redshift". It differs from most of the rest of the content of the album by being a serene ambient piece with only occasional wordless vocals in the background preventing it from being a complete instrumental.

My only significant disappointment about this album is that they apparently aren't planning on performing any of its material live. I can't express how much I'd love to see this material live. I find myself strongly wishing the band would invite Christmas to become their permanent vocalist and perform the whole album live. That would be an experience I would be sure never to forget.

This album is monumental, and is likely to be viewed in ten years' time as one of the defining works of post-metal. The only release I have heard this year that I would rank above it is David Bowie's Blackstar, and I have a very difficult time imagining any metal release this year topping this.

Report this review (#1555971)
Posted Tuesday, April 26, 2016 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I've been a fan of Cult of Luna since 2013 when I saw them live here in Stockholm. The energy in their live shows is off the wall and I can highly recommend the band as a live act. A few years and a couple of live shows later I'm still quite fascinated by the band's amazing live antics but I've so far felt that their live energy has never been able to translate to their records. Fortunately for me, Cult of Luna finally made that transition with the release of Mariner.

2016 saw the band doing a unique collaboration with the New York-based vocalist Julie Christmas and this is something that the band have been interested in for some time. Luckily, both parties found the needed time and recorded Mariner over the course of about a year. I have to say that this is not the most obvious combination of artists put on paper but hearing the final product really puts it all in perceptive and sets all the components in the right place. Hearing Johannes Persson mixing his brutal vocal delivery with the unique voice of Julie Christmas is magical and completely re-arranges the otherwise very bleak and harsh style that the band have been going for throughout the years.

The album consists of five compositions all clocking over 8 minutes with the final track Cygnus being almost 15 minutes long. So there is definitely enough time to broad out the scope of each work, but with the flip-side of making some of the compositions a bit longer than they need to be. I personally prefer the three relatively shorter tracks with A Greater Call being the most memorable of the bunch while The Wreck Of S.S. Needle is the most intense one. I really like the structure of the latter track which lets Julie Christmas to really flesh out her vocal range, especially towards the end of the composition.

The two longer tracks are pretty good but I feel that both of them overstay their welcome by quite a few minutes. Approaching Transition is a meditative track that isn't really going anywhere and therefore could have easily been cut short by a few minutes. The closing Cygnus has some of the album's best moments but I feel that they're too far between and thus don't create the landmark that the track otherwise might have become.

If you still haven't been hooked by Cult of Luna then definitely give Mariner a shot! I think that this record really deserves more attention and it has the capacity of bringing a completely new fan base to the band and their unique take on the post-metal sub-genre.

***** star songs: A Greater Call (8:19) The Wreck Of S.S. Needle (9:33)

**** star songs: Chevron (8:53) Cygnus (14:50)

*** star songs: Approaching Transition (12:59)

Report this review (#1639925)
Posted Sunday, November 6, 2016 | Review Permalink

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