I’m embarrassed to say it, but my time with Cult of Luna has been a relatively short one. I only discovered them about a year ago through a friend, and even then their music didn’t engage me to the extreme that it did for most others. That all changed about 4 months ago, when I entered this bizarre post metal funk that I still, admittedly, am in. I quickly blew the dust off of Salvation, Somewhere Along the Highway and Eternal Kingdom, which only furthered the extent of my moody dwelling. Therefore, it almost seemed like fate when, after fully engorging myself on their previous efforts, Cult of Luna announced the coming of Vertikal, their first album in 5 years.
1. The One
2. I: The Weapon
3. Vicarious Redemption
4. The Sweep
6. Mute Departure
8. In Awe Of
9. Passing Through
Vertikal sees Cult of Luna return to their thematic roots of overarching authority and corruption in high places. Based off of the 1927 movie Metropolis, Vertikal is Cult of Luna’s take on a dystopian universe, and while the movie was made over 80 years ago, it’s message is still just as relevant today. With the recent scares from SOPA, PIPA, and the Patriot Act, it’s not hard to see why the band chose the material that they did. However, it can be difficult to convey a message through a different media while still successfully conveying the same intended meaning. Cult of Luna seem to be aware of this, though, for they have created a work of art that not only keeps itself true to its origin’s content, but transcends it as well. From the album cover’s abstract illustration of desolate skyscrapers to the raw emotion that is employed dexterously, Cult of Luna can consider Vertikal a remarkable achievement regarding the communication between the listener and it’s social commentary.
An album with a clear and engaging concept behind it accounts for nothing if it’s not supported by a strong musical force. Fortunately, Vertikal sees Cult of Luna further their trademark sound even more, letting songs naturally evolve as opposed to rushing head first into a melody or theme. This time around, though, the band utilizes much more atmospheric and electronic sounds, contrasting some of the immediacy apparent in their last album, Eternal Kingdom. While Cult of Luna has always exercised some electronic influences into their sound, it’s never been as prominent before as it is in Vertikal. Dubstep comparisons aside, the new style gives the album a mechanical air to it, as if the audience itself was placed in an industrial environment. This dark manufactured sound meshes incredibly well with the concept of the record, thus creating an enthralling experience that delivers one dismal blow after another.
It’s worth noting just how remarkable each and every track is, and the important role each one plays. While “I: The Weapon” lays the groundwork for the rest of the record, “Vicarious Redemption” builds upon that infrastructure, which in turn helps to elevate the following two tracks to an experience greater than the sum of their parts. However, “Mute Departure” utterly ravages the metropolitan that had been carefully and painstakingly constructed and compounded upon, while the last three tracks allow the listener to traverse through the wasteland that once contained this thriving city. Overall, Vertikal is one of the best structured albums in recent memory, not just in song arrangement, but in concept as well.
Have you ever listened to music for the sole purpose of deconstructing your very being? Do you curl up all alone on your disheveled bed whilst concentrating on instrumentals that entrap your psyche? If not, Vertikal may not quite be your brew of choice. However, if through discomfort and adversity you can truly find yourself, this record will reverberate and ripple throughout your anatomy, your constitution, your mortality. With Vertikal, Cult of Luna realize their full potential, and in doing so help us all realize our own. It is made to thrash our true essences, for the betterment of mankind. It is made to challenge our individuality, to broaden our freedom. It is made to teach a lesson, one that we will never forget in our meager lifetimes.