BY DEV BHAT
Cult of Luna is a band that was at the forefront of the “doom ” movement in the 1990s. Beginning as a mix of styles, they have matured over the years into one of the most focused and torrentially heavy metal acts to date. If not this, then they are certainly the loudest.
In a live setting, Cult of Luna tends to create a wall of sound that unapologetically drowns the audience. Pieces of build-up and tension will often explode into outright noise. In its current incarnation, the band consists of three guitarists (one of which takes vocal duties), two drummers, a bass player, and a keyboard/synthesizer player. In the past, they have had an additional singer for especially intense parts and volume increases. All this makes for an amazing sight to behold onstage. Every member will exhibit unabashed heart for their individual parts of the whole – they put the “perform” back into “performance art.”
The appeal and genius in Cult of Luna’s music can be found in their ability to create musical storytelling. Many of the band’s songs clock in at over eight minutes long—the band takes its time building momentum. What distinguishes Cult of Luna from post-rock acts like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Sigur Ros is that they create brilliant and imaginative atmosphere while still retaining a pronounced heaviness, both aurally and emotionally. The aggressiveness of their vocals and gritty guitars are used with careful consideration. Some listeners might find themselves in the middle of a song wondering how they moved from a fierce march of down-tuned power chords to a gentle cloud of harmonies. Notable pieces that achieve such radical changes include “Leave Me Here” from the album Salvation, also “Finland” and “Dim” from Somewhere Along the Highway (an album regarded by fans as a masterpiece). Cult of Luna’s two latest albums, Eternal Kingdom and Vertikal, have both seen a turn towards a cinematic vision. Eternal Kingdom (2008) was influenced entirely by a diary they discovered that belonged to a patient at an abandoned psychiatric institution. Its most recent release, Vertikal (released in September of this year), draws considerable influence from the film Metropolis, the main theme being that of a bleak cityscape.
Listening to the band’s music can require some patience. Cult of Luna’s music plays as if it were scored for films rather than for moshpit-filled clubs. This being said, the fans and the band have an unspoken understanding on how to enjoy the music. Listening to Cult of Luna’s music is similar to approaching a painting or great classic film; it requires time to digest, understand and appreciate. It is meant to be experienced. It is a sound that Aaron Turner of ISIS has referred to as “the thinking man’s metal.” Put simply, it is art.
Check out their live performance of “Leave Me Here.”
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