Cult of Luna’s new EP a transition? Or rather, an elaboration?
The Raging River EP (2021), the debut release from Cult of Luna’s newly-founded record label Red Creek Recordings, finds the band at an interesting development in their career. Starting off initially as a championing and burgeoning force in the world of post-metal alongside contemporaries like Sumac, Neurosis, ISIS and Old Man Gloom, Sweden’s Cult of Luna have made quite the name for themselves in the early 2000s through multitudes of successful EPs and full-lengths with Earache Records and Hydra Head Records, as well as frequent touring. Since 2013’s more progressive approach found on Vertikal, however, the band has further embraced and elaborated on these flavors, building up anticipation to the new EP, about which the band has stated, “It feels more like a bridge. A midpoint that needs to be crossed so we can finish what we started with 2019′s A Dawn to Fear”.
On The Raging River, Cult of Luna finds the perfect medium, setting a patient, linear atmosphere that doesn’t overstay its welcome one bit. As the opening track, lead single and second-longest song on the album, ‘Three Bridges” carries the same bite it had when it was released in 2020. The buildups and crescendos, in classic post-metal fashion, are equally as devastating as they are satisfying, balancing tension and release like opportunity and failure. The low bellows, hard-hitting drums and beautifully mixed guitar riffs dance, no, duel, with opposition from the twinkly synthesizers and sparkling clean guitars.
The crescendoing fades into oblivion, leaving a spacey yet sorrowful ingenuity perpetuated by Cult of Luna’s flirtatious dealings with spacing and dynamics on “What I Leave Behind.” The song features some interesting studio effects and panning, whether on the heavy guitars and synth lines, or on Johannes Persson’s vocals.
However, considering the contextual nature of the following track “Inside of A Dream,” (long story short–Cult of Luna wrote this song with Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan in mind ever since its inception in 2006), it’s somewhat disappointing. The track suffices as a delicate and necessary interlude to beckon the listener to the other side, but that’s honest-to-god, just about it. There really isn’t an ‘A-ha!’ or dream-come-true moment, since the song is pretty drab dynamically and compositionally. Much better time and resources could have been provided in order to best service Lanegan’s raspy and dusty vocals.
Winding nearer to the end, “I Remember” unfortunately does not consider pacing or leave any staying power for re-listenability, especially considering its fairly long runtime. That being said, the murky depths and vibes established by dirty bass lines, marching snare lines and cavernously echoing guitar parts come off as sincere and organic. In this regard, something important to consider is the building of tension and closure that defines and outlines post-rock/metal, with rock instrumentation taking the shape of more orchestral-like conventions and harmonies. This is clearly and beautifully executed on the final track, “Wave After Wave,” on which the band balances lull and thrill with the same decorum as they do with straight-up metal excitement and artistic ambiance.
The Raging River EP offers something for both the hardcore Cult of Luna elitists and the casually participating observant of contemporary post-rock and metal. Better yet, it offers something for helping sway music releases into a better direction. Much like the recently released Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou collaboration The Helm of Sorrow (2021)–an effective conglomeration of B-sides, rarities, cuts and beyond–the release presents something far greater and impactful than the sum of its parts, thriving as its own entity, be it a full-length record or not. Well, in seeing how promising (for the most part) the transition from 2019’s A Dawn to Fear has been thus far, Cult of Luna’s bridge has been built, the cement dried. We’ll see you on the other side.