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Cult of Luna
A Dawn To Fear Tom Coles , October 3rd, 2019 08:33

Swedish metal stalwarts Cult of Luna return with seventy-nine minutes of hypnotic riffs and some almost dance-y rhythms, finds Tom Coles

Cult of Luna's return treads a lot of ground, not all of it new. Nonetheless, seventy-nine minutes of new material is a mammoth offering for their re-surfacing. And whilst there's not a great deal that's dramatically changed, their latest has a huge amount of available space, which they use to play to their strengths, taking complex ideas and exploring them in full.

How does this stack up to Mariner? 2015's Julie Christmas collaboration was a career high, adding a sharp snap to a band whose weight was tempered by their dense, blunt textures. A Dawn to Fear takes a different shape; the record is slower, moodier, and less savage. Wherever it's tempting to lament the missing howl of Christmas, dropping the sturm-und-drang edge leaves space for them to be more reflective, darker, icier.

The first of two main takeaways: they use the space to play to one of their particular strengths, taking ideas and stretching them, working through hypnotic riffs, exploring every variation until the riff is completely bled dry. It's a sensible way of using more time, and means the record isn't totally overwhelming. And besides, the riffs are fun; this is an enjoyable, driving metal record even when they just reflect on their repetitive, labyrinthine passages.

The second is how classy this record feels. Luna have always been a stalwart band but here they sound particularly detached and moody. Part of this is the gloomy, bass-heavy production, and part of this is their willingness to dial the energy back. Mostly, though, is just how well everything hangs together; the deceptively ideas-light approach means that everything is worked out meticulously, all with a sweeping synth undercurrent.

For a record that focuses more on shape and mood than re-structuring the whole of the genre they helped to define, there are some notable leftfield moments. The slow burn of ‘The Silent Man’ gives them space to lay down some beautifully emotive guitar passages. The percussion is always driving and busy, but the almost dance-y rhythms on ‘Nightwalkers’ gives the track a sudden, unexpected burst of energy in its latter phase. And closer ‘The Fall’ features a riff that wails, siren-like, over a steady thump of drums. These distinctive moments add cohesion to the record.

Cult of Luna have left well alone the things which made their previous release special. In doing so, their new effort presents them as refreshed, distinguished and mature.

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