Cult of Luna - _Vertikal_
(Indie Recordings, 2013)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (9 out of 10)
After a lengthy period of nearly five years that followed 2008's _Eternal Kingdom_, Sweden's ambassadors to the world of post-metal Cult of Luna have finally released their sixth album _Vertikal_. Exceeding the hour mark as is customary, this is an album that sees the band move one step ahead in terms of sound and definitely in terms of production. If you've ever seen live footage or been lucky enough to attend any of their performances for yourself, you know that these dudes produce massive sound waves from many instruments. The line-up includes two drum sets to begin with, then you have three guitarists (two of which do vocals), a bassist and another guy who handles keyboards and electronic samples. So it goes without saying that producing an album with so many layers is a job that needs immense attention to detail.

_Vertikal_ sees the keyboards pushed a bit further into the foreground than seen on earlier albums like _Somewhere Along the Highway_ and _Eternal Kingdom_. This point is made very clear as you're greeted by the two minute intro track "The One". The massive highlight on _Vertikal_ for me is the gigantic "Vicarious Redemption" which is almost nineteen minutes long. It is Cult of Luna's longest track to date and it makes up more than a quarter of the album. This is where they give us a lesson in how to create a massive build-up, use two drum sets to maximum effect, and coordinating some fine electronic samples with the most dense and down-tuned guitars.

Having completed this arduous yet enjoyable journey within a journey, a metaphorical rest is due and it comes in the form of "The Sweep". This is Cult of Luna putting an album together with the utmost care and the foresight of producing a coherent artistic experience. The plodding rhythm of "Synchronicity" gets things moving again and by then it starts to sink in. Cult of Luna has moved from the sound of _Salvation_; an album that is believed by many to be their finest offering. Though I am an avid fan of this 2004 release, I see _Vertikal_ as a step in Cult of Luna's career. Every album they've put out seems to have a character of its own, and _Vertikal_ is no exception.

"Mute Departure" will hypnotize you with its engrossing electronic samples and driving rhythm, then set you up perfectly for a crushing minute and a half in its end that will have you struggling to keep your headphones in place. Another marvelous example of Cult of Luna being at the top of their game is "In Awe Of". This one missed the ten minute mark by a few seconds, and it forms yet another gripping journey where everyone gets some space for experimentation without wandering too far from the main theme. The wailing guitars, dense chords and pounding drums will masterfully elevate you and then hand you over to "Passing Through" to close the album on a rather sedated note.

Cult of Luna have sculpted another work of beauty out of the darkness and unleashed it in a _Vertikal_ trajectory. This is an album that keeps on getting better after each listen and even gets better as you're listening to it. Despite how early it is in 2013, I can totally see _Vertikal_ in my year end list.


(article published 31/3/2013)

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