[25th January 2013]
[29th January 2013]
[Indie Recordings/Density Records]
01. The One
02. I: The Weapon
03. Vicarious Redemption
04. The Sweep
06. Mute Departure
08. In Awe Of
09. Passing Through
Many an eked-out term paper have begun with the words “Merriam Webster defines blah blah as…”. This tired approach is one that simply wouldn’t pass muster here at The Monolith. Surely, any reader would see right through the lazy, sophomoric practice of basing an entire essay, or in this case a review, on a single, measly definition of a word. That’s why this review is not going to do that. Nope. This review is going to be based on a bunch of definitions of a word! Take that, conventionalism!
The word that comes to mind when listening to Vertikal is ‘solid’. So, we’ll examine just how solid this record is, and in what ways.
Firstly, we’ll look at how it is solid when defined as “not interrupted by a break or opening”. There simply isn’t a lull to be found here. Dynamic? Abso-fucking-lutely. But there is always a purpose, always a benefit to the ebb and flow. Cult of Luna are masters of what I like to call ‘the pullback’. Bands will often make use of a sudden dropout of intensity to build anticipation for the eventual return, but the real hotness is when a song uniformly recedes. Somehow, by drawing the curtain slowly, the listener almost forgets how impactful the song was initially, and is subsequently floored all over again when it comes back. Nobody does this like Cult of Luna. The intros, interludes, bridges, and all manner of release valves peppered throughout this album perform their duties flawlessly.
Next, the album is solid when defined as “of uniformly close and coherent texture”. This is a sneaky record. That is to say, there are actually several different sounds and styles to be found within, but you don’t notice it unless you look for it. Three of the album’s nine tracks are strictly electronic. Two others have a decidedly bluesy/sludgey flavor to them, a la Baroness, and the rest are more conventional post-metal. But it never feels like anything is that great of a departure. Everything has congealed so seamlessly, it just slips by until you’re actively engaged and you find yourself asking “wait, how did we get here?” It’s brilliant, really.
When we define solid as “serious in purpose or character” the definition fits like a glove. This is a gloomy, atmospheric record. This is the kind of stuff you have to sit with, letting the music take hold. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album’s lengthiest track “Vicarious Redemption”. Clocking in at just barely under twenty minutes, the song slithers along from ominous electronic beginnings, into a brief chorded reprieve, and then begins a pattern of builds and releases that absolutely explode in the closing minutes. Emotional intensity and potency ooze out of every pore of this track.
It can’t all be perfect, though. Using the definition of solid as “of one substance or character”, we can discuss the single, yet glaring shortcoming of this album. Vertikal, the bands sixth album, is to be released in late January, 2013. It is nearly indistinguishable, in both sound and approach to their 2008 release, Eternal Kingdom. Granted, I sincerely love both albums. It just cannot be overlooked that not only was there a five-year gap in between the two, but that not much seems to have happened in that span of time, stylistically. If you told me that the band wrote and recorded the two together and just waited to release this one now for some reason, I would not be surprised.
That nearly ridiculous gripe aside, Vertikal is an instant classic. It is an almost impeccable example of post-metal mastery. It is solid on multiple levels, a new benchmark, and if you loved Eternal Kingdom, is 100% guaranteed to floor you.