The title suggests a journey and for vocalist Johannes Persson the writing and recording of the ninth Cult Of Luna album was just that. WIth lyrics for this record dating back to 2016’s Mariner sessions, Persson himself views this album as a culmination of his recent mental and spiritual journey, with last year’s The Raging River EP being a connective bridge between this album and 2019’s colossal A Dawn To Fear. As one might expect, The Long Road North is a huge sounding record, a towering and cinematic listen that ebbs and flows from seismic riffs and intense vocals to quieter moments of reflection and intimacy.
Opener ‘Cold Burn’ sets the tone perfectly. A surging nine minute epic, the track is propelled by pounding drums, colossal, chugging riffs and ethereal keyboard flourishes; it’s everything Cult Of Luna have become known for and excel in. The equally monumental ‘An Offering To The Wild’ is another of the album’s many high points; running in at over 12 minutes it’s the longest track here, and demonstrates the band’s impeccable musicianship, in particular the flawless interplay between drummer Thomas Hedlund and the driving bass lines of Andreas Johansson, who create a surging torrent of energy on which the rest of the band effortlessly traverse. Persson’s raw vocals have never sounded better too, delivering a particularly savage performance on the track’s ferocious midsection and throughout the equally devastating ‘Blood Upon Stone’.
Outside of the raw intensity of the album’s bigger tracks, there are moments of calm too, such as ‘Beyond I’, which features guest vocals by Mariam Wallentin, vocalist with Swedish jazz duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums, whose haunting voice compliments the subdued, eerie track perfectly. The otherworldly, dreamlike balladry of ‘Into The NIght’ offers some respite too, albeit in the form of a melancholic, almost waltz-like cut, full of shimmering guitars and Persson’s tender croons. Similarly, the album’s unnerving, industrial tinged closing track ‘Beyond II’ finds the band in more subdued territory and, fittingly for an album that feels so cinematic, guest features musician Colin Stetson best known for composing the original soundtrack to Hereditary.
Persson has stated during the writing of the album, he spent time exploring the more isolated, rural parts of Northern Sweden, and this shows through the sheer scale and ambition of the record. Indeed, by continuing with the sound they perfected on A Dawn To Fear, with The Long Road North, Cult of Luna have somehow managed to create an album that’s even more far reaching, heart-rending and vivid. Furthermore, with each release Cult Of Luna have pushed themselves ever forward and The Long Road North may just be their most affecting and expansive set of songs to date.
The Long Road North is released 11th February via Red Creek Records and Metal Blade Records and can be purchased here.
Words: Adam Pegg