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Cult Of Luna - The Long Road North review




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Reviewer:
8.0

196 users:
8.09
Band: Cult Of Luna
Album: The Long Road North
Release date: February 2022


01. Cold Burn
02. The Silver Arc
03. Beyond I [feat. Mariam Wallentin]
04. An Offering To The Wild [feat. Colin Stetson]
05. Into The Night
06. Full Moon
07. The Long Road North
08. Blood Upon Stone [feat. Christian Mazzalai & Laurent Brancowitz]
09. Beyond II [feat. Colin Stetson]


The Long Road North is a good Cult Of Luna album, but it feels like it’s missing a little something.

It’s weird for me to look back at the time when I truly became a Cult Of Luna fan, back in 2014, when I saw them for the first time at Beyond The Redshift festival (devastatingly, the proposed second edition of this that was going to happen next month has been postponed, due to you know what); as far as I was aware at the time, that was going to be something of a farewell, even if temporary, as the band had announced plans to go on hiatus following the release of Vertikal. Well, in the nearly 8 years since that show, I’ve seen Cult Of Luna a further six times, and as of this weekend they’ve now released four records; when you consider two of those years have been spent in a world-stopping pandemic, they’ve been remarkably prolific for a group that was planning on slowing down. Not only that, but they’ve cemented themselves as a benchmark for reliable excellence, with Mariner and A Dawn To Fear elevating an already staggering discography. For me, The Long Road North isn’t at the level of the previous decade’s incredible trio of records; however, it’s still a respectable addition to the Cult Of Luna oeuvre.

When I reviewed A Dawn To Fear, I mentioned that the record represented a slight shift in sound from the synth-heavy atmospheres of the two albums prior. I would say The Long Road North is something of an extension tonally of A Dawn To Fear, or more specifically the song “Inland Rain” from that album, as well as some tracks from last year’s The Raging River EP. There’s a more ‘earthy’ atmosphere to the album, with the keyboards more in the background, and the record feels more geared towards post-rock than the band’s last few efforts. I’ve seen ‘cinematic’ used in a few places to refer to this new album, which I can perhaps see to some degree. Funnily enough, despite this approach to the album’s sound, the make-up of The Long Road North’s tracklist is actually closest to Vertikal: nine songs, of which three feel more like interludes (“Beyond I”, “Full Moon” and “Beyond II”), one is a softer track (“Into The Night”) and five are ‘typical’ songs.

Now, what can one expect from those different tracks? Well, from those ‘interludes’, “Beyond I” stands out as something of an extension of last year’s collaboration track with Mark Lanegan, although this time around it’s Mariam Wallentin who’s singing on an otherwise stripped-down piece instrumentally. There’s further collaborations on The Long Road North (which seems to be a direction Cult Of Luna are eager to expand into), with saxophonist Colin Stetson featuring on the dark ambient closer “Beyond II”. “Into The Night” sounds like it could have another guest vocalist on, but it’s actually Fredrik Kihlberg who’s doing the singing; typically restricted to only the most hushed of vocals previously, he has some slightly more full-voiced sections on “Into The Night”, and his voice generally sounds a bit different to on past records. This is a slow burn of a song, very post-rock-oriented but with a subtle eerie undertone that gradually grows towards a slightly louder climax.

Then we get onto the ‘meat’ of the album, and where I have to voice my reservations about The Long Road North. The album has definitely grown on me with extensive listening since it came out yesterday, but the concerns that I had on the first couple of listens have remained. Basically, it’s an album that’s lacking compared to previous records in terms of immense climactic moments, as well as missing the emotionally evocative tone that makes songs such as “Finland” or “Lights On The Hill” work so well. Additionally, the core body of the tracks, the brooding mid-tempo riffing and gradually shifting soundscapes, overall feel a bit ‘Cult Of Luna-by-numbers’; there’s generally a degree of memorability and visceral potency missing on The Long Road North that means that it doesn’t connect with me to the extent that the last few albums have. I also find a couple of the songs are slightly undermined by bearing similarities to songs from previous records (such “Cold Burn”, with it’s danceable rhythms akin to “Nightwalkers” and “Wave After Wave”, and “An Offering To The Wild” sounding not unlike “The Fall” in quieter moments), without having the same impact of those songs they bring to mind.

At the same time, as negative as the last paragraph was, there is a base level of quality that Cult Of Luna can be relied upon to bring, and that base level is still high. That aforementioned rhythm of “Cold Burn” gives a good energy to the opening of The Long Road North, and the layered post-rock guitars during the middle of the song do deliver a moving climax. “An Offering To The Wild” is a slow burn, but one that does go hard when it brings the volume, with a noisy storm of sound that builds midway through and a bulky closing riff. The two strongest songs on the record are the title track and “Blood Upon Stone”. The former again slowly builds from ambience, but features an exciting drum-driven build late on that peaks satisfyingly, while “Blood Upon Stone” is more immediate to begin with, while also featuring the strongest integration of post-rock during the midsection, with some great use of post-rock tremolos.

The Long Road North is the least ‘immediate’ album Cult Of Luna have done since arguably Salvation, which does place it in the ‘grower’ category of albums. As a result, I may find myself over time considering it another superlative entry in one of my favorite discographies out there. For now, however, it does feel a bit like Cult Of Luna, considering that streak of resoundingly successful productivity after those talks of a hiatus, may be slightly low on ideas at the minute; nevertheless, the end result is a record that, while not revelatory, is still very enjoyable.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Production: 8





Written on 12.02.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 13   Visited by: 211 users
12.02.2022 - 23:46
Rating: 8
I agree this doesn't have the same initial impact as A Dawn To Fear. It's interesting you bring up Cult Of Luna going down a musical route via the "Inland Rain" song because I think that's why it didn't hit me as hard as, say, they focused more on the build-up and atmosphere of "Lights On The Hill" (which got me into them initially) for this album. "Blood Upon Stone" is the immediate hit for me, but as you say, it's still an enjoyable album.

Side note: fifth full paragraph in, final sentence, there's a typo for "Blood Upon Stone" being written as "Blood Beyond Stone"
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13.02.2022 - 10:28
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by LifelikeAdvisor on 12.02.2022 at 23:46



Side note: fifth full paragraph in, final sentence, there's a typo for "Blood Upon Stone" being written as "Blood Beyond Stone"


Thank you, have corrected it
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13.02.2022 - 10:49
Rating: 9
Nejde
Philosoraptor
There's a layer to the music I guess is more relatable to Swedish listeners and especially us from the north and that is the actual long road north singer Johannes Persson took when he moved back home to Umeå from Stockholm. He has also said that while writing many of the songs he was travelling around the remote parts of the countryside of northern Sweden and trying to capture the impressions in both notes and lyrics. The other part is about the long road to finding yourself again and the inner turmoil that comes with it, a journey that started with A Dawn To Fear and continued through The Raging River and now this album. Even the album titles refers to this journey. All this gives the album a depth that many people might miss. This is why I disagree on the quite low rating of 6 on originality an 7 on songwriting which I think are the stronger parts of the album. It's still a phenomenal album either way.

I gave A Dawn To Fear a well deserved 10 and I thought about giving this a 10 too but decided on a 9 because I hold the former slightly higher. Although Cold Burn is probably one of the best songs they've written I might add.
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"You have the right to believe in what you want. I have the right to believe it's ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais
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13.02.2022 - 12:25
Enemy of Reality
Account deleted
For me it's better than A Dawn to Fear and easily their best album after Vertikal and Salvation. It flows so well, it's a fantastic voyage. I can't see this album by its parts (songs) but as a whole and that feeling directs me towards their aforementioned 2 albums where every riff and every chord seems set in place to fulfill a bigger picture. If i had to choose one moment from the album for everyone to hear i'd go with Blood Upon Stone. It's simply just larger than life. Cult of Luna are masters of build up and atmosphere in this song in particular. This is another brilliant chapter for a household name in music no matter the genre.
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13.02.2022 - 13:47
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by Nejde on 13.02.2022 at 10:49

There's a layer to the music I guess is more relatable to Swedish listeners and especially us from the north and that is the actual long road north singer Johannes Persson took when he moved back home to Umeå from Stockholm. He has also said that while writing many of the songs he was travelling around the remote parts of the countryside of northern Sweden and trying to capture the impressions in both notes and lyrics. The other part is about the long road to finding yourself again and the inner turmoil that comes with it, a journey that started with A Dawn To Fear and continued through The Raging River and now this album. Even the album titles refers to this journey. All this gives the album a depth that many people might miss. This is why I disagree on the quite low rating of 6 on originality an 7 on songwriting which I think are the stronger parts of the album. It's still a phenomenal album either way.


Honestly, I feel like most of that stuff is ultimately fluff when it comes to evaluating the record for a general metal audience. I do find the backstories to the artistic process of albums and bands I love interesting, and this is even a band where I've interviewed the mastermind about that very thing. But I feel like it's ultimately somewhat irrelevant to the enjoyment of an album for anyone apart from diehard fans - there's no time to look up the background information for every record one listens to, so for the large majority of music, people are only going to be engaging with it at the level of listening to the music, which is fundamentally the most important part of the equation.

The Long Road North may have been part of a journey of self-discovery achieved through exploration of remote landscapes, but it's also an album that, when I listen to it, features too many extended sections that fit the template of what I expect Cult Of Luna to sound like without having a flair that elevates them to the level of the music that makes me love Cult Of Luna. I also didn't spend any time looking into the background information for A Dawn To Fear when it came out, but even just judging that album purely on what I could hear whilst listening to the album, I heard a tremendous balance between old and new ideas, heaviness and subdued darkness, all brought to life with a diverse selection of incredibly memorable and impactful songs, which is why I slapped a 9.3 on it when it came out. The Long Road North is a solid album, and I'm sure over time I'll grow to love it in its own way, but when albums such as A Dawn To Fear, Vertikal, Somewhere Along The Highway and Mariner exist as diverse examples of what peak CoL sounds like, I just don't feel inclined to rate it any higher than this (as much as I inherently want to give a CoL album a huge score), I just don't hear an X factor in the music that compares.


Written by Nejde on 13.02.2022 at 10:49

Although Cold Burn is probably one of the best songs they've written I might add.


I can't agree with this tbh - this is the band that has recorded Echoes, Finland, Dim, Dark City Dead Man, Ghost Trail, The Weapon, Vicarious Redemption... Cold Burn is a very nice song, and one of the stronger ones on this album, but it, nor any other track featured on The Long Road North, is even going to threaten to make a top 10 CoL songs list for me, unless I have a substantial re-evaluation of this album over time.
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13.02.2022 - 14:42
Rating: 8
Chumb

Nice review! Love CoL but not quite sure what to make of it yet (after listening to the album 3 times). It grows, like a good album should do! An offering to the wild my favourite, love the melancholic guitars!
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13.02.2022 - 15:10
Rating: 7
Netzach
Planewalker
Totally agree with every word you've said in this review. It's a lovely listen (I mean, it's still one of Sweden's best bands, hands down) but compared to most of their albums there is very little that jumps out and grabs me immediately. There are no riffs of the same unforgettable quality as "The Fall" or "In Awe Of", no melodies as gorgeous as "Lights On The Hill" or "Cygnus", generally a bit of a slow burn that I found detracting in the latest EP... But it's only a disappointment in relation to an amazingly stellar discography, and maybe it'll grow on me, because I intend to keep listening until my ears bleed like I've done to every album they've released.
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13.02.2022 - 17:51
yronnen

Listened twice, still feels like "run of the mill" Cult of Luna album. Just like a Toyota...effectively takes me from A to B, but never blows me away.
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13.02.2022 - 18:31
Rating: 9
Nejde
Philosoraptor
Written by musclassia on 13.02.2022 at 13:47

I can't agree with this tbh - this is the band that has recorded Echoes, Finland, Dim, Dark City Dead Man, Ghost Trail, The Weapon, Vicarious Redemption... Cold Burn is a very nice song, and one of the stronger ones on this album, but it, nor any other track featured on The Long Road North, is even going to threaten to make a top 10 CoL songs list for me, unless I have a substantial re-evaluation of this album over time.


Without quoting everything above I just want to say that I understand what you mean. No one checks the background story of every band and album they listen to. I sure don't. Most bands don't even write personal music/lyrics or make concept albums. But at the same time an interesting back story to the music and lyrics can elevate the listening experience, at least for me. Also Cult Of Luna has always been closest to home because I used to hang around the same people as Johannes back in my early 20's some 20 years ago. He's such a nice guy. So yeah, I'm definitely biased when it comes to this band.

When it comes to best songs it's impossible to pick out a top 10 list since everything they've done is close to perfection. Even if I made a list I could still change all 10 songs the following week and it would still be a phenomenal list. So I agree on all the songs you mentioned but two other songs that instantly popped into my head is Nightwalkers and The Wreck Of S.S. Needle.
When it comes to Cold Burn I've had that song more or less on repeat since they released it. I love the epic soundscape and Thomas Hedlund's drumming on this track is just pure bliss.
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"You have the right to believe in what you want. I have the right to believe it's ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais
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13.02.2022 - 19:16
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by Nejde on 13.02.2022 at 18:31

Without quoting everything above I just want to say that I understand what you mean. No one checks the background story of every band and album they listen to. I sure don't. Most bands don't even write personal music/lyrics or make concept albums. But at the same time an interesting back story to the music and lyrics can elevate the listening experience, at least for me. Also Cult Of Luna has always been closest to home because I used to hang around the same people as Johannes back in my early 20's some 20 years ago. He's such a nice guy. So yeah, I'm definitely biased when it comes to this band.

When it comes to best songs it's impossible to pick out a top 10 list since everything they've done is close to perfection. Even if I made a list I could still change all 10 songs the following week and it would still be a phenomenal list. So I agree on all the songs you mentioned but two other songs that instantly popped into my head is Nightwalkers and The Wreck Of S.S. Needle.
When it comes to Cold Burn I've had that song more or less on repeat since they released it. I love the epic soundscape and Thomas Hedlund's drumming on this track is just pure bliss.


Yeah that's totally fair - my feelings towards band statements about albums, interviews, 'making of' documentaries are that they're nice additional ways to expand enjoyment of something I already love, but will only really look into it once the album's made its impact without it. And yeah, I imagine that personal connection definitely helps make that back story more resonant for you, so totally understand why you feel more positively about this record than I do.

And the ... in my first list was just so I didn't waffle on for too long, but yeah I would easily also have Nightwalkers and Wreck Of SS Needle in contention as well, along with In Awe Of, Light Chaser, Cygnus, The Silent Man, Lights On The Hill and The Fall. And even then after naming 15 songs now, there's at least another dozen that I would love to sing the virtues of, so compared with that class of songs, Cold Burn isn't in the conversation for me. But yeah, I love the drumming
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13.02.2022 - 22:35
Rating: 9
Nejde
Philosoraptor
Written by musclassia on 13.02.2022 at 19:16

I imagine that personal connection definitely helps make that back story more resonant for you, so totally understand why you feel more positively about this record than I do.


Umeå is a rather small town with around 100k people so I see the band members from time to time. Andreas, the bass player actually trains at the same gym as me and I've seen Thomas more than once with his kids. It's also quite cool to walk through the city centre and suddenly Tomas Haake walks by. I've also partied with Andreas Nilsson from Naglfar and I've been sauna bathing and drinking beer with Jens Carlsson from Persuader who he went to school with a friend of mine. I guess this is the pros of living in a small town with world famous metal bands even though I sound like a lame fan boy namedropping people But in other words I feel a little extra for these bands other than the great music they make. Cult Of Luna is the cherry on top though.
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"You have the right to believe in what you want. I have the right to believe it's ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais
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16.02.2022 - 06:14
tuuheapauli

Good discussion here, interesting to read. Thanks guys!

I would say that A Dawn to Fear had more satisfying stand out moments (The Fall, Inland Rain, The Silent Man and Lights On The Hill). However, I think the album could have used some trimming. The slower songs (Lay Your Head To Rest, A Dawn to Fear, We Feel The End) take over 22 minutes of the total runtime. For me, that breaks the flow of the album little. Maybe one slow song too many.

I think The Long Road North as an album flows better. To me it has no filler moments and the slower songs are bit shorter. It's just incredibly enjoyable to listen from start to finish and I love the eerie frosty atmosphere. The first spin of this album was really memorable. When Blood Upon A Stone ended and Beyond II started playing, it was one of the most perfect moments in music for years. I just sat quiet for about 10 minutes when the album had ended, I was emotionally empty. What a journey!
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08.06.2022 - 05:39
Rating: 9
tintinb

Cult of Luna truly can become a benchmark to which all future post metal may be measured to.
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Leeches everywhere.
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