In 2016 Swedish avant-garde metal titans Cult Of Luna collaborated with US underground noise siren Julie Christmas to produce one of the most stunning and beautiful albums of that year, if not the decade in Mariner. Dripping with emotional depth and expansive, vast progressive soundscapes this album cemented Cult Of Luna as one of the creative forces operating in music today worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Tool and Neurosis.
Mariner built upon an already impressive back catalogue including seminal albums such as Somewhere Along The Highway and Vertikal. This year saw the return of the band stripped back to their core line-up as they attempted to produce a follow-up worthy of the critical acclaim they had garnered
It is safe to say that A Dawn To Fear delivers this on all levels.
The first release for Metal Blade Records, their latest album clocks in at an impressive 79 minutes of post-apocalyptic metal spread over eight varying and intriguing tracks. Epic in length and impressive in vision, the Swedish sextet deliver a benchmark album that rivals anything in their catalogue.
The pounding 10 minute opening and guttural roar of The Silent Man is a huge statement of intent from the band, full of driving riffs and cinematically soaring guitar work, topped off with Johannes Persson’s rasping intonations. As the track spins off into dizzying, yet mellow heights this only serves as a moment of pause before the rhythm section comes back in to pummel you once more.
This fluid dynamic continues on the towering follow-up Lay Your Head To Rest as military tattoo like drumming provides space for the guitars to craft a landscape that is ice cold bleak and yet somehow beautifully ethereal.
Cult Of Luna have always cultivated a flair for the cinematic and with A Dawn To Fear they have written their most ambitious, most moving and dense album to date.
Somewhere (along the highway) Cult Of Luna have become absolute masters at creating musical dimensions that are filled with spiralling tension and moments of cathartic euphoria.
The epic title track starts a 10 minute journey with almost chamber music like chanted vocals over an echoing passage that reminds this listener of a sci-fi version of sludge masters Crowbar’s To Touch The Hand Of God, before breaking out into a muscular ballad the manner in which only Cult Of Luna could produce.
In comparison Nightstalkers is almost a straightforward piece of slamming sludge, (comparatively) simplistically doubling down on down tuned riffs and blunt force brutality. This works as a breathing space that is much needed before the band embark on the 15 minute epic centrepiece of the album, Lights On The Hill, a huge towering piece of song writing that is a high water mark even for this Grammy award winning band. Despite the raw vocal barks the heavyweight emotion invoked, the track is as powerful as anything I have heard recorded since Yob’s Marrow. The cosmic ringing tones of epic post-metal echo long in the mind after the track has stopped playing.
The muted, mournful and melancholy come down of We Feel The End serves as a juxtaposition with its stripped back minimal approach, offering a pause and a chance to take a breath before Inland Rain with its shoegaze like approach washes over you. Here the dual gravel dragged vocals provide tension that builds a bridge to the epic closure The Fall.
This colossal near 15 minute track manages to distil everything that has gone before in one single passage of music. In truth, the ambitious nature of this piece doesn’t quite hit the earlier heights of the album but is nevertheless breath-taking in its scope and vision.
Cult Of Luna have always cultivated a flair for the cinematic and with A Dawn To Fear they have written their most ambitious, most moving and dense album to date. Given my love for a certain long absent and now re-emerging prog metal band it comes as a delightful surprise to say that A Dawn To Fear is hands down my favourite album of the year.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden