There was a time when a new Cult of Luna release was as certain as the turning of the tide or the changing of the seasons; a steady biennial cycle of albums and tours grew to feel comfortable for fans, until the release of ‘Eternal Kingdom’ (arguably one of the band’s greatest ever records) – there was a five year wait for ‘Vertikal’ and suddenly the announcement that Cult of Luna would be taking a rest – this felt earth shattering, for a band with such regularity, who’d worked so hard disproving their doubters who’d labelled them “NeurIsis” – could it all be over? Thankfully, Cult of Luna’s definition of “taking a rest” just meant falling into the habits of any normal band, still touring and writing new material, just not constantly. If anything, pumping the brakes a little helped to bolster the band’s creativity.
‘Vertikal’ saw them push the envelope further with electronic effects, while the buzz from 2016’s collaboration with Julie Christmas ‘Mariner’ has yet to fade. The band have been steadily moving away from their post-hardcore roots and into more progressive territory and, despite there being a six year gap between ‘Vertikal’ and newest opus ‘A Dawn to Fear’, it really doesn’t feel like any time has passed at all as their output has been near constant in that time.
‘A Dawn to Fear’ traverses back through the musical evolution Cult of Luna have undergone, pooling resource from earlier albums ‘Salvation’ and ‘The Beyond’ – the pace and dynamic feels similar to that of ‘Vertikal’, however, the ferocity and impact is reminiscent of their much earlier material. From the opener ‘The Silent Man’ to closing song ‘The Fall’ every part of this record feels staggeringly huge. Even in its slower, more subdued moments it never loses momentum, forever bludgeoning listeners with both a weight in atmosphere and crushing instrumentals. Johannes Persson’s bestial roars sound rejuvenated as they ring out alongside a meandering riff on the title track.
For listeners who’ve been with the band since the beginning, ‘A Dawn to Fear’ will feel like a welcome home, whereas for those enticed in by Cult of Luna due to their more recent efforts, this album is a demonstration of the band at their best and most capable. This is without a doubt their heaviest release to date and at a mammoth 80 minutes long, the sheer force of its carefully arranged yet monolithic riffs will leave you feeling both exhausted and awestruck. It’s an intense listen, however, thankfully with their output being less frequent you’ll have more time to process and recover before pressing play again.
(8/10 Angela Davey)