For more than two decades, Sweden’s Cult Of Luna has forged a sound that has grown incomparable to others. Ambitious, epic, visceral, and drenched in emotion, they frequently craft songs that clock in at over eight minutes, but always while making every single moment count. Some would argue with 2019’s A Dawn To Fear the band reached career highpoint, and on the 2021 EP The Raging River they continued that journey. Now in 2022 they are back with The Long Road North, an album released back on February 11th through Metal Blade Records.
The band’s eighth overall studio record, it consists of 9 songs that lasts just over an hour long. Another work of passion from Cult of Luna, one of their primary driving forces, Johannes Persson (vocals/guitar), states, “I think one of the reasons why we have been able to be so productive the last couple of years is that we have been consistently writing from the heart. We have let our instincts guide us, and I think it’s getting clearer where we are heading.” These thoughts in mind, The Long Road North is arguably one of their most dynamic and beautiful works to date.
It all begins in grandiose fashion with “Cold Burn” which features an interesting digital horn-like sound that sets a droning vibe. From here edgy drums enter the fold adding to the darkened atmosphere while distorted bass add a pulsating groove. An impressive opening, it has an unquestionable experimental feel with unusual vocal placement entering just after the one minute mark. This is while extensive verses progress towards sludgy chorus adding yet another layer of intrigue. Furthermore, ambient sections also dominate the landscape around the halfway mark of this 9 minute long introductory song.
Thereafter “The Silver Arc” is more lively, but retains a similar sound and feel to its predecessor. It is an ambient soundscape that drips with a darkness that is soothing yet sinister. This is while in a twisted turn of events “Beyond I” produces a more subtle approach with the vocals of Mariam Wallentin singing the eerie lyric “Someone’s calling out my name” at around 39 seconds in. Later on “Into The Night” haunts you further with its droning slightly depressed tone. A chill out track that adds an edge to The Long Road North, it has a less aggravated approach. Additionally it is slow and deliberate, thus requires a certain degree of patience to fully appreciate the climax…which is onslaught of Cult of Luna’s signature sludge attack.
Out there and certainly an experience, The Long Road North hits a nerve. Full of peaks and valleys all the way through, as stated, you need to be willing to dive into the abyss. Having been around for 24 years Cult Of Luna has no doubt honed their craft pioneering a niche market in the Post Metal world, and that is commendable. All this in mind, The Long Road North may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the production and instrumentation is admirable, but most of all different than anything else you will here out there right now. For these reasons Cryptic Rock gives this album 3.5 out of 5 stars.