Cult Of Luna are positively glacial. Epic in sprawl and protracted in their sense of movement, it’s as though there are ancient secrets to be found buried in the Swedish band’s deep expanse of ice and stone.
However, this doesn’t mean that they’re cold nor barren. Their music springs from a deep well of feeling, a place further below the ice where the pressure of the Earth shifts structures into new and impossible shapes. ‘The Raging River’ continues where 2019’s ‘A Dawn To Fear’ left off, with Cult Of Luna in an especially elemental place. Unlike 2013’s ‘Vertikal I & II’, which was constructed atop a machine-like bed of electronica, ‘A Dawn To Fear’ replaced that project’s steely, modernist focus with something more wind-swept and grand in its scope.
This approach suits Cult Of Luna perfectly. Although ‘Vertikal I & II’ was excellent, there’s something about the character of post-metal that suits an elemental and natural style, as if the music is emulating the crashes and rolls of a violent tide or the birth of a mountain range. It’s tempting to imagine the fiery and visceral ‘The Raging River’ as a journey into an underworld, much as 2016 EP ‘Mariner’ was a voyage through the cosmos. This is one of Cult Of Luna‘s most eerie releases, a muscular and fierce portrait of a harsh, uncompromising landscape.
Featuring five songs of incredible linearity, the band leave little room for noodling or scene-setting. ‘What I Leave Behind’ bursts into life like lava from a volcano, driving ahead into doomy sections led by haunting and simple synths. ‘Three Bridges’ features a masterly construction, leading to a beautiful, xylophone-adorned build-up and a closing stretch of impossible grandeur. ‘Wave After Wave’ guides us out, with a towering back half that gradually points towards the light, back to the surface once again.
However, the true blockbuster moment of ‘The Raging River’ is ‘Inside Of A Dream’, which features the legendary Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees, Queens Of The Stone Age) on vocals. One of Cult Of Luna‘s most quiet and delicate compositions, Lanegan‘s bourbon-soaked rasp perfectly befits the melancholic mode of the track. ‘Inside Of A Dream’ is so gentle and relaxed that it’s initially disarming, until it soon unfolds into something memorable and poignant. An exquisite track, it’s as though on their journey through the depths, the band have encountered a fallen angel singing a ballad from the heavens.
‘The Raging River’ is borderline faultless. It’s not quite as much of a fleshed-out, masterful artistic statement as some of Cult Of Luna‘s other efforts, but its concision makes it approachable enough for a newcomer to dive into, without sacrificing any of the integrity and ambition that long-time fans have come to expect. It’s also one of the band’s most dread-soaked releases, perhaps a reflection of where the world is at right now, however, as ever, it’s a vision that’s also heart-stoppingly beautiful. Cult Of Luna are at the top of the game right now, and it’s tantalising to imagine where they might go next.