REVIEW: CULT OF LUNA – “A Dawn To Fear”
2019 has been an incredible year for metal releases, and as we enter the chilly autumn months, we fittingly see a wave of new and exciting music emerge from Scandinavia. With albums from Sweden’s Sabaton, HammerFall, and Entombed A.D. already out, and Opeth’s highly anticipated ‘In Cauda Venenum’ soon to come, it’s unfortunately easy to forget about what I feel will be one of the top albums of the year: Cult Of Luna’s ‘A Dawn To Fear’.
For roughly twenty years, Cult Of Luna has been a driving force for the post-metal subgenre, 2013’s ‘Vertikal’ having a profound effect on many fans, and the more recent collaboration with Julie Christmas still resonates within the depths of my soul. In many ways, ‘A Dawn To Fear’ picked up from where ‘Mariner’ left off, while still remaining true to the band’s rooted sound. The instrumental interludes that utilize ambient distortion and pulsating hi-hats are particularly reminiscent of ‘Mariner’ – “Lay Your Head To Rest” and “Nightwalkers” being prime examples.
The first track and single from ‘A Dawn To Fear’, “The Silent Man”, is a great hook for the album, presenting a regimental, Rammstein-esque 3/4 opening. For the first few spins, I instantly gravitated toward it, having immediately received 100% of my expectations going into the record. The shortest track, clocking in at six and a half minutes, is “Lay Your Head To Rest”, which begins similarly to the previous album’s “Chevron”, but morphs into the band’s classic ‘Eternal Kingdom’ era sound. However, the title track “A Dawn to Fear” becomes my favorite song of the record more and more with each listens. It has a way of lulling you into a trance of beautifully executed ghost notes and an aura of nordic folk, which transitions through hovering, organ-backed, foreboding vocals into a perfect ebb and flow of heavy sludge and clear, sparkling waves. The aquatic atmosphere continues in the sombre “We Feel the End”, where what I refer to as the “underwater” vocal effect from “Passing Through” resurfaces.
“Lights on the Hill” and “The Fall” are not only the two lengthiest tracks, but they are also the most akin to the ‘Vertikal’ album. Using a rather repetitive structure to establish heaviness on which to build is something that the band has been doing since their debut self-titled album in 2001. While they have calmed down in a way, and refined their sound since then, the gently aggressive intravenous drip that is a Cult Of Luna album remains. That being said, I do feel that in some of the more intense sections throughout ‘A Dawn To Fear’, the treble of the cymbals and guitars can tend to overwhelm the bass in the mix, particularly at the end of “Inland Rain”.
With each and every release, Cult Of Luna has a way of instantly grasping your attention while also slowly revealing elements that went initially unnoticed. Original member, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist Johannes Persson describes the writing process of ‘A Dawn To Fear’ as more “spontaneous” than the albums that came before, preferring to embrace the natural pace of life rather than setting out purposefully to tell a story. This approach has lead the band to create a very special and unique piece of music that inspires a variety of emotion, from helpless desperation to empowered growth of spirit. The journey from “The Silent Man” to “The Fall” can be described by the lyrics, “in the absence of light, we merge with our shadows”, which ties fairly well into my personal feelings that this album should be used as the soundtrack to a remake of “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer”.
On September 20th, every metal fan must hook themselves up to the glorious, seventy-nine minute IV entitled ‘A Dawn To Fear’, and slip into a gritty trance that Cult Of Luna is so very good at creating both in-studio and live on stage. Every member of the band brings their best to the table, which becomes even more impressive as the years pass.