At some point after the release of Verikal, Cult of Luna came to the conclusion that the only way forward was upwards. Humanity has made such a mess of the current landscape, with very little left to create from its dwindling resources, therefore evolution must move to the skies; this journey forms the basis of Mariner.
The Post Metal Swedes have carved out critically acclaimed album after album. Always evolving their sound to mirror a conceptualised mood and impression. However, after six full length albums, how can a band continue to push that envelope and adopt an approach that will allow them to realise their vision and create something renewed?. Enter Julie Christmas – best known for her work with Made out of Babies and Battle of Mice. It’s not uncommon for metal bands to use female back up or guest vocals to accompany an arrangement, while adding flavour and depth. Yet Cult of Luna avoid this approach, Julie is front and centre at times, even taking the lead on the gripping The Wreck of S.S. Needle, this is a partnership, and a truly collaborative one at that.
Mariner clocks in under the hour, which is a shorter album compared with recent efforts from the band. The timing of the albums key moments is one of the areas that Cult of Luna have cultivated to perfection. They can write riffs so staggering and memorable, like the gravity shifting turn of The Greater Call. Yet, the band do not fill the album with crushing guitar sounds. Mesmerising moments of perfectly measured and overcast drone shift gradually back and forth with industrialised textures throughout, while profound sections of unfamiliar doom inhabit Approaching Transition. Mariner at times mirrors the movement through the vast quiet space, yet these moments never last too long, as Cult of Luna and Julie transform the lenient into demanding at the flick of a switch.
Mariner is a journey to the unknown, and this is the perfect metaphor for what Cult of Luna have endeavoured with Julie Christmas. She is not merely an instrument to add warmth and depth, she can let loose in ways more striking than Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg (Guitars and vocals). The Wreck of S.S. Needle sees Julie handle vocals on her own, while she does add a personable touch to the Cult of Luna sound, her toungue spitting delivery here and as Chevron unearths itself is remarkable.
Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas have created an album that does not have boundaries. While ISIS were once the godfathers of atmospheric Post Metal, they never reached levels like this. Mariner opens up the senses and can lift the listener out of the mundane metal landscape that has so far been 2016. Early contender here.
1 – A Greater Call
2 – Chevron
3 – The Wreck of S.S. Needle
4 – Approaching Transition
5 – Cygnus