Written by Melinda
This is a long running and consistently high quality band that has an impressive output rate, the result of which will either have you thoroughly impressed or completely indifferent but I do not believe it is possible to call this bad by any stretch. For many there simply is not enough re-invention of the band’s sound or the post metal genre present on The Long Road North, while others may see it as a culmination of their sounds from their entire discography like a snowball that’s been rolling and gaining mass for two decades. Personally, I cannot resist this sound and I cannot control the goosebumps. It inspires an intense daydreaming in me that makes it difficult to even write my thoughts on the matter.
Hell of an intro. “Cold Burn” really sets a menacing tone with deep toned horns that resemble an emergency of catastrophic scale or the score to an intense film, and then the music kicks in behind at full momentum. The bullet has been fired. There’s some moments on this track where my mind fills in the vocals of Julie Christmas for me as there is a lot of guitar tone similarity to Mariner here. This is by no means a negative thing – familiarity and comfort will play a large role in this album.
I’m not going to pretend to understand the deeper meaning of it, or the rest of the band’s work. As I’m surely a music bimbo in this industry when compared to all the talented musicians and 21 year olds on Adderall in music journalism, but Cult Of Luna has a consistent through line of geography. This recurring theme of roads, bridges, sun sets, horizons, oceans and traversing them feels fuller with each new release and in a way fills out a map pieced together from bits of music across decades. The gigantic rhythmic sounds of Cult Of Luna, and also the massive quiet moments in their music helps to paint these desolate landscapes and intimidating structures. An entire dead world to wander and self reflect in, for better or worse. Are you finally resigned to being and only ever becoming, the miniscule?
The Long Road North is as large as it’s existential nature at 69 minutes of riveting music. Nice. It’s like a Cult Of Luna theme park where you can observe every style the band has developed and incorporated over the years across many albums. The base framework of harsh sludge vocals over post metal guitars alternating between massive peaks and dancing emptiness propels the entire work but they have deftly added the electronic elements most strongly present in Mariner to emphasize the guitars and create unsettling environments. There’s bassy clean vocals that are very folksy and pretty, bringing me viscerally back to Somewhere Along The Highway. Quite early on with the track “Beyond I” is a most welcome guest contribution from vocalist Mariam Wallentin. All of this variety makes the journey distinct along the way, like landmarks made of sound. There’s also favorable comparisons to be made to the recent Bloodmoon: I by Converge and Chelsea Wolfe.
I suppose to not find the allure, the intrigue, the spice behind The Long Road North comes down to whether or not you already have a strong connection with the band. There’s almost a kind of chronological order to it that is best experienced over a long period of time. For me I first got a hold of Somewhere Along The Highway as a 16 year old on the internet in 2007 so these sounds have played a major role in my developing years. They bring waves of comfort and mental exploration. And so I don’t entirely blame people who have a surface relationship with the band for not being terribly impressed. I’m sure I wouldn’t be too invested in any series if I start at the middle or end, it’s certainly not how I’d read a book. It’s also super hard to get into a piece of media that has a long history, it’s daunting. I don’t blame fans of the band for wanting something more subversive in the context of the entire post metal genre but I am not willing to place the blame for that on a band who is carefully cultivating their sound to tell the story they want for the people who desire to hear it. I got precisely what I wanted here.
The Bottom Line:
This is in my top three Cult Of Luna albums just below Somewhere Along The Highway and Mariner and generally acts as a fitting follow up to A Dawn To Fear and The Raging River. There is a quality to their discography that shows no sign of stopping. They are one of those bands like Neurosis where you can enjoy their music across all of their eras and they have a premise and vision that is long reaching and evergreen. There is an impenetrable signature to everything Cult Of Luna makes, one that never fails to resonate with me emotionally.