Looking at Cult of Luna’s second EP The Raging River we are joined by Federico Bernardinelli, music enthusiast and ex-Arctic Drones writer. Below you will find his words on the Swedish post-metal masters’ latest.
When speaking about music one can conjure up endless similes. How certain songs trigger visions of a Dickensian vertical urban jungle or stir up in our hearts the roaring oceans all but testify to the power in music. To awaken one’s imagination and to embrace feelings they might have even been oblivious to—Cult of Luna’s music has that power within it.
Those familiar with the band will know that this Swedish sextet has a talent for crafting full-immersion atmospheric opuses. Those unfamiliar will just have to ride along this beautifully austere journey. A Dawn to Fear—the band’s latest album released in 2019—was a tour de force in the solemn world of post-metal and a sombre allegory of humankind’s role in the destruction of its own home. Standing against the backdrop of the global Covid-19 pandemic their poignant admonishment sounds negligible, but the inescapable irony is that while stemming out of the same recording session, the five songs on The Raging River end up ringing much less oppressing and much more hopeful.
Conceived during the same session that gave us A Dawn to Fear but born out of the forced self-isolation of the pandemic, The Raging River sees Cult of Luna competing with themselves as to who can write the most massively atmospheric, slow-burning gigantic odes to hope and renewal. The handful of songs presented on The Raging River sound as much a companion to their bigger older relative as much as a stand-alone addition to the band’s growing catalogue of cathartic post-metal masterpieces. The sprawling cycles of the previous release are in the forefront as “Three Bridges” clocks in with its marching anthem, and while ordering us down a similar path, it eventually leads us to a different conclusion than its counterparts on A Dawn to Fear.
The Raging River’s power lies in this relentless building of cyclical climaxes that dwell on long after their departure, a Swedish masterclass in weaving intricate beautiful stories, virtually unmatched in this corner of the ‘metalsphere’. The way these songs linger long after bidding their sad farewell shows Cult of Luna’s aptitude at storytelling.
Truly remarkable about ‘anything Cult of Luna’ is how strikingly familiar it all sounds. Add a synth intermezzo and any of these five songs could feature on Vertikal, slow them down them and they’d fit perfectly on Eternal Kingdom. If anything, The Raging River is quintessential Cult of Luna. The comforting, vaguely familiar-yet-also-strangely-unfamiliar soundscapes of The Raging River tell a story worth listening to. Our world is slowly burning and fading away under our touch. On this record, Cult of Luna continue this narrative from A Dawn to Fear with a set of songs of the same fatalistic character, yet here there’s hope to be found in the same hands that yield this destruction. In this sense, The Raging River is vaguely hopeful, sentimental, and strangely human.
The Raging River is one of the first metal releases of 2021 but stands as a strong contender for best record of the year. I’m under the impression (call it gut feeling) that 2021 will be a great year for music. Conceived during a tragic year, these “2021 babies” will be a message of hope—a testimony of resilience hope and renewal that is most often found in artistic discourse—an art form telling us that hoping for a better future is painfully human and therefore perfectly okay.
This album is… *****enlightening.
The Raging River was released via Red Creek Recordings on February 5, 2021. The album is available in vinyl and digital formats via the Red Creek Recordings webstore.