Over the last few years, Cult of Luna have established themselves as the current demigods of the post-metal world. The Ocean have come fairly close to topping them with their two most recent albums, but Cult of Luna’s two latest releases, A Dawn To Fear and Mariner, their collaborative effort with Julie Christmas, have proved that the Swedes have the edge in this battle.
Upon listening to their latest release, The Raging River, it’s clear that the band have no plans of slowing down any time soon. Despite being marketed as an EP, this is a 40 minute long release, longer than some full-length albums released over the last few years and only 15 minutes shorter than the aforementioned Mariner. None of the 40 minutes are wasted either, with opening track 'Three Bridges' being a trademark Cult of Luna rager, nearly 9 minutes long and packed with dense, layered and sludgy guitars, a slow but steady rhythm section and visceral, powerful screams. In spite of experimenting a little more with clean vocals since the release of their Vertikal album in 2013, The Raging River features almost exclusively harsh vocals. The one exception to this rule is the third track, 'Inside Of A Dream', which features the vocals of alt-rock legend Mark Lanegan, otherwise known for his work as a solo musician and as the frontman of 90s grunge heavyweights Screaming Trees. His vocals fit perfectly in this song too; whilst it is only three and a half minutes long, 'Inside Of A Dream' is a great contrast to the rest of the album, providing a calm centre point in the middle of an otherwise raging storm that can best characterize the rest of this album.
Other than this track, Cult of Luna never stray too far from the sound that fans have become familiar with over the past few albums, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s a sound the band do very well, and as previously mentioned, better than any other active post-metal band right now. Some of the extended musical passages even pay respects to some of their contemporaries; the mid section of 'I Remember' sounds very heavily inspired by The Ocean’s most recent material. Overall though, in spite of being very much in their comfort zone on The Raging River, this still feels like a natural progression in the band’s sound rather than a moment of stagnation. Better still, having learned how to better compliment the heavy moments of songs with the soft moments and vice versa on A Dawn to Fear, it could be said that this is a technique the band have come close to perfecting on The Raging River.
Make no mistake; The Raging River is proof of a band that is still firing on all cylinders. In spite of its shorter run time than Cult of Luna’s other recent outputs, not a single moment is wasted, and there is proof of a continued desire to push the boundaries of their signature sound, both on this album and whatever they decide to release next.
The Raging River is released February 5th via Red Creek.