Sound: In recent years, especially on internet communities, a genre known as 'post metal' has become increasingly popular. Bands like Isis touring with huge names like Tool have gotten these bands some exposure, with more success coming to these sonic conjurers who combine post-rock tranquillity with cascading, crushing metal. Cult Of Luna is one such band. Their cult fanbase (no pun intended) has consistently sung the praises of their works which have found a very unique atmosphere and touched a place in the listeners mind that not many bands can. Their sound is not accessible and just sticking an album like 'Salvation' or 'Somewhere Along The Highway' on your iPod when you're walking to the shops just doesn't do their sound justice. Getting into this band's music is not something that can happen overnight. In fact, I cannot even remember how I found them or got into their music, but once you have there is no turning back. So, with both of their previous albums mostly gaining 'masterpiece' status amongst fans, they go for the hat trick with 'Eternal Kingdom'.
The most instantly noticeable thing about 'Eternal Kingdom' is the tracklisting. At least a couple of 10+ minute epics are expected to be on a Cult Of Luna album, but this album has but one. No matter though, so long as the music is good, its length should not be a problem, especially considering the fact that 'Eternal Kingdom' still contains an hour of music. This hour contains troughs and peaks, highs and lows, moments of reflective ambience and moments of uncompromising attack. It cannot be said that there is really anything new here, and on the surface this may seem like a routine album from Cult Of Luna. The first two tracks. 'Owlwood' and 'Eternal Kingdom' can be misleading, as they twist and turn in an almost tediously expected way. While they are not of course without merit, they in a way switch you off and stop you from taking notice of the rest of the album. There's no 'Finland' to make you stand and take notice here, which is something that caused me personally to initially find this album rather dull. However, from the 12 minute journey 'Ghost Trail' onwards, this is pure Cult Of Luna brilliance. The work on guitar and bass from Johannes Persson, Erik Olofsson and Andreas Johansson is far from flashy but their downtuned dirges are essential to the sound of 'Eternal Kingdom'. The only other member with such an important influence is drummer Thomas Hedlund. His style is fairly simple however the way that it locks in with the music certainly is not. His drumming often dictates the mood of the music single-handedly, with the difference between a big heavy riff and a downtime verse section decided simply by how he plays his drums. This is something that not many drummers can say they do, but Hedlund manages it with style and finesse.
One thing which is disappointing is the lack of clean vocals throughout the whole album. While far from integral to Cult Of Luna's sonic palette, some of those vocal parts gave their last album 'Somewhere Along The Highway' a very special touch. This time, Klas Rydberg's vocal contributions are entirely in the form of his gut wrenching scream. While his timbre is excellent and perfect for his band, there are times on this album where they do sound fairly out of place, and where some more clean vocals akin to 'And With Her Came The Birds' would have done wonders. Thankfully these moments are few and far between, and for the majority of 'Eternal Kingdom', Rydberg compliments what's going on with the rest of the band perfectly. When it comes to complimenting the band rather than being a focal point of it, sampler Anders Teglund and 'sound-scaping-additional-percussionist-and-guitarist' Magnus Lindberg really do have to be mentioned. The sound engineering on the album is unfortunately not quite as good as on previous albums; however what they have done musically works perfectly. In fact, their contributions really make a few songs, examples being 'Osterbotten' and 'Following Betulas'.
While it is difficult to say that there are any tracks that really do stand up against Cult Of Luna's back catalogue as true classics over songs like 'Leave Me Here' and 'Finland', there are moments on this album that are absolutely incredible. // 9
Lyrics: The concept behind this album is a massively intriguing one. It is based on a book which the band found in an old mental institution (which, in oh-so-post-metal style, has been their rehearsal space for years), written by a man convicted for his wife's murder, entitled 'Tales From The Eternal Kingdom'. I will not go into depth about the concept here, but the lyrics and music alike are based closely on this journal and the very surreal stories this man committed to paper. The lyrics are very good, as always, but the eerie nature of this concept and its history adds another level of interest to them. The stories to be found on the CD and in its artwork are deeply mysterious even though explanations can be found from Johannes Persson on the internet. This is testimony to the fact that Cult Of Luna can take a bizarre concept and by transcribing it into lyrics, can make it even more twisted and surreal. // 10
Overall Impression: I must say that 'Eternal Kingdom' is not an improvement on the last, which their last three arguably have been. I have faith that Cult Of Luna will continue to make greater and greater albums, however 'Eternal Kingdom', despite the very impressive writing process and end result, is not the album to top 'Somewhere Along The Highway'. What it is is yet another essential album from Cult Of Luna, another album that will grow on you the more and more you listen to it, another album filled with absolutely mesmerising tracks like 'Curse' and 'Ghost Trail'. If you're new to Cult Of Luna, its must be noted that any one of their albums must be given time to fully blossom. If you are an existing fan, you will know to give the album a chance and a chance is most certainly what it deserves from anybody with an interest in progressive music. // 9
- Duncan Geddes aka duncang (c) 2008