Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas
Mariner

If Vertikal and its companion piece Vertikal II were Cult of Luna’s final, triumphant shout, then it’s poetic that silence followed afterwards. The band has created a career from the interplay between thunderous, violent peaks, and soft, hypnotic lulls. All the same, I was disappointed to learn that there’d be no more brilliant and mesmerizing releases on the way – especially after contemporaries Burst, Iron Thrones, and Isis had also called it quits.

“At the end of Vertikal, we stood in the cold harshness of the mechanical city and looked up onto the stars. We lost ourselves in the awe of their grace and thought that maybe the answer is to be found above. The ship was leaking and by the look of it, our home was dying. No room for fear when a greater call demands your full attention. So, we left… Onward, forward. Like the old seafarers, we explored the vastness of space. Not bound by physical laws we pass the speed of light and chase the expansion of space until we reach its limit. And then, we continued on and disappeared. This is our story.”

And then they returned. Changed, and now with a challenging and captivating new voice in Julie Christmas (ex-Battle of Mice, ex-Made Out of Babies), but in many ways, still the same.

I’ve never heard her before, but she’s an inspired addition. Part Bjork and part Siouxsie Sioux – sometimes affecting a childlike call (“A Greater Call”) and sometimes a mysterious sneer (“Chevron”). It’s a welcome and magnetic performance. Her screamed and feral vocals are a bit of an acquired taste, but the music helps ground them – it’s hard not to be swept away by the power of tracks like “Cygnus” or “The Wreck of the S.S. Needle.” The juxtaposition of shrill screams and sludgy, martial thrum does gel much better with headphones; you’ll also catch a lot more of the cold, otherworldly effects flowing in and out of the mix.

As for Johannes Persson, his vocals are more accompaniment this time than starring role. He provides shouts and bellows as counterpoint to Christmas’ croons and sighs. Together, they create a wonderful complement to the band’s soft vs heavy dynamics. Persson only takes the lead on the mournful “Approaching Transition,” with a haunted and watery gurgle for most of the track before he finally fills his lungs and explodes with a roar.

As for the music, it’s as cinematic and thrilling as Vertikal, and works with a very similar palette. If you loved that album – as I did – then you can consider this a satisfying reprise. Once again, Cult of Luna has found catharsis and beauty in crescendoes and crashes, and in the layered murmurs of each deep and atmospheric track. Christmas’ vocals ultimately make the greatest impression here and bring the most life to another gloriously desolate and hypnotic journey – one I’ll be making many times throughout the year.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
April 18th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: Guilliame

    Love this band. Really like her vocals. A nice bit of teamwork here!


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