Thursday, 14 August 2014

Choice Cuts: Cult of Luna - Somewhere Along the Highway


Years active: 1998-Present
Records to Date: 7 LPs, 1 EP, 1 Split
Genre: Post-Metal, Sludge Metal
Labels: Earache, Indie Recordings

The Band:

  • Andreas Johansson | Bass
  • Thomas Hedlund | Drums, percussion
  • Fredrik Kihlberg | Guitar, vocals
  • Magnus Lindberg | Drums, recording and mixing
  • Erik Olofsson | Guitar
  • Johannes Persson | Guitar, vocals and lyrics
  • Klas Rydberg | Vocals
  • Anders Teglund | keyboards and electronics

Other personel:

  • Martin Gustafson | Backing vocals on "Marching to the Heartbeats"
  • David Sundqvist | Intro loop on "Dim" and programmed drums on "Dark City, Dead Man"

Review:

For most bands, the first few albums usually show their influences on their sleeves before stepping out into their own sound. Cult of Luna's 2006 masterpiece “Somewhere Along the Highway” is their first record that significantly departed from the Neurosis/Isis post-metal template and fully embraced their differences between them and their contemporaries. A concept album loosely based on the novel Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Croetzee, “Somewhere Along the Highway” deals with themes of male loneliness and disassociation from society.

It begins with the minimalist atmosphere of “Marching to the Heartbeats” which displays sparse vocals and a surprising lack of percussion. An unusual slow tension build throughout the song flows directly into the next track “Finland” which starts with a military drumbeat under splashy chords; laying out a powerful melody which builds into the screaming vocals which dominated their earlier releases. The tension continues to build into an expected “huge riff” section and this is where Cult of Luna first departs from the expectations of the genre and lets you know this album is going to be different. Transitioning into another minimalist section where chords ring out over an almost jazzy backbeat, the strong melodies which are a hallmark of this album begin pouring in. Slowly building using songwriting reminiscent of classical music, by reintroducing instrumentation into a shift into the next section, while continuing to build tension so when the distortion kicks in, the payoff hits that much harder.

After the close of “Finland,” the third track “Back to Chapel Town” begins with an airy section reminiscent of the first track. However, unlike the previous tracks, Cult of Luna avoids a common album pitfall in this song by beginning to build a little quicker once the drums kick in, making sure the listener does not get used to a particular songwriting trick. In addition the previous songs switched between loud/quiet relatively frequently and once this track goes loud it stays loud until the end.

The fourth track “And With Her Came The Birds” is a departure from Cult of Luna's sound and from earlier albums in particular with a minimalist almost folksy vibe as the song progresses. The raw production of this album really shines through on the acoustic section in the middle of the track significantly enhancing the mood with raw acoustic instrumentation and confessional level vocals. Despite being one of the shorter tracks, and not involving the huge dynamic shifts of the rest of the album, this intimate interlude breaks everything up nicely and sets up the vastness of the closing three songs nicely.

The final three tracks are where this album really shines. Covering huge dynamic sweeps with epic songwriting ‘Thirtyfour’, ‘Dim’, and ‘Dark City Dead Man’ each make a powerful statement. I feel like you can't really review these tracks separately because they flow together so well. The sections in these songs are so moving you get the feeling that the entire album was a build to these moments. My personal favorite song on the album is the second to last track ‘Dim’. Which starts with a truly awesome instrumental section with some great counterpoint, and culminates with a huge grooving riff the type of which Cult of Luna explored further on their subsequent release “Eternal Kingdom.”

I was lucky enough to see Cult of Luna on their last US tour and they played the album closer ‘Dark City Dead Man’ and it was absolutely huge live. Interestingly there is a Czech pianist who does a cover of this entire album, which I linked below, that is also pretty amazing and helps shine a light on just how good the melodies really are.

In closing, this is what I would call a “deep” album in that it's a little hard to get into but the more you listen to it the more you stay with it. This is the kind of record that you might not be into until you hit a down moment in your life and need something to take you on a journey. I encourage anyone that hasn't heard it to wait for that moment, light up if that's your thing, lie down, and go somewhere.

Words & Recommendation by: Chris Tedor



You can pick up a copy in the usual places

Album Details:

“Somewhere Along the Highway” is Cult of Luna's fourth full length released via Earache Records on April 24th 2006. The album was rated 5th on Decibel magazine's top albums of 2006.

Music by Cult of Luna.
Produced and arranged by Cult of Luna.

Recorded Winter 2005 at the Octagon Barn and Tonteknik Recording, Umeå, Sweden.
Mixed at Tonteknik Recording.
Mastered at Tonteknik Recording.
Graphic design and photo associate Erik Olofsson

“Somewhere Along the Highway” track Listing:

1). Marching to the Heartbeats 03:13
2). Finland 10:46
3). Back to Chapel Town 07:09
4). And with Her Came the Birds 05:58
5). Thirtyfour 10:00
6). Dim 11:46

7). Dark City Dead Man 15:49

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