In January 2013, Cult Of Luna released 'Vertikal', five years after their last offering, the concept album, 'Eternal Kingdom'. Now just eight months later they return with 'Vertikal II'.
As 'Vertikal' marked the beginning a new chapter for the band, with the trimmed down line up of seven members and vocal duties being covered by guitarists Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg, 'Vertikal II' now almost seems to mark the end of that era.
It is once again distilled throughout with themes of machinery, repetition and clear, linear structures honed to the visual imagery of Fritz Lang's classic expressionist science-fiction film 'Metropolis', brooding and boiling for a second time in true Cult Of Luna style as always without being over complex.
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It also seems to be more of a companion, a conclusion EP, as well as being another mood and thought creating endeavour and this time around there are three new tracks and a shorter remix of 'Vicarious Redemption' from 'Vertikal'.
The album opens with 'Oro', a beautiful atmospheric piece with pulsating electronics that build with the gradual layering of guitars, then clean vocals, with more harsh tortuous vocals in the latter part. 'Light Chaser' has hypnotic pulsating rhythms that build and are overlaid with harsh vocals, an interesting track that is dense and smothering but at the same time has an effervescent quality.
The longest track of this release at twelve minutes, giving ample time to build and develop, the darkly psychedelic 'Shun The Mask' has distorted waves of sound that wash over you repeatedly, heralding the arrival of the pounding drum rhythms that build in intensity and the harsh agonising vocals, a track with a beautiful yet tortuous quality to its construct. The drum work across the track plays a very prominent role particularly in the intense sections of the track and is executed to precision and there is also a hauntingly beautiful mellow section midway breaking up the intensity.
Then original version of 'Vicarious Redemption' was an absolute marathon at a mighty nineteen minutes long. Here it has been trimmed and remixed down to half that length by Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) This time it's not quite as desolate or darkly haunting, the original opener which had the suggestion of an almost bleak, barren and unnatural landscape is gone so now it has more of a beautifully atmospheric and melancholic feel to it and a slightly cleaner sound than the original. Once again there are no vocals until midway and Justin has kept the same strong distortion on them, as with the original version.
It is very difficult to choose a favourite track because they are all excellent and coexist with each other so closely. If you have 'Vertical' in your collection you must have 'Vertical II', the perfect companion.
I was absolutely entranced with 'Vertical' and I am equally so with' Vertical II'. This is another masterpiece from the atmospheric progressive Metal septet from Umeå.