Album Review: Cult of Luna – ‘The Raging River’

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With Neurosis in a five-year holding pattern and Isis long defunct, nobody does (sigh…) metalgaze with more intoxicating immersion than this veteran Swedish collective. That said, even the most ardent Cult of Luna stan has to admit that shit’s gotten a little… samey over the years. You’ve heard Johannes Persson’s raspy roar over downtuned chugs and martial percussion once, you’ve heard it a thousand times—probably literally, in this discography.

What keeps COL so compelling after almost a quarter of a century are the experimental flourishes, be it the subtle organs on last year’s A Dawn to Fear or the frenzied chirps of Julie Christmas on 2013’s Mariner. Like the latter—which us geniuses recognized as one of the 100 best albums of the decade—The Raging River is a short (for them) form triumph: five songs in 38 minutes, again ceding the mic to an surprisingly perfect fit of a guest star, grunge grandpa Mark Lanegan (if only for one song). And his haunting, druggy aside, “Inside of a Dream,” cleaves this very good EP neatly in two: two combative songs and two contemplative.

Cult of Luna are obviously a digest-the-whole-meal kind of band, but occasionally it’s nice to not have to wait 17 minutes for the holy-fucking-shit part. The remaining four tracks on The Raging River are by no means terse, ranging from six to 13 minutes, but there’s a little less space devoted to atmospheric buildup (with the exception of appropriately titled closing dirge “Wave After Wave”). Opener “Three Bridges” is the most pugnacious, pivoting deftly from one eruption to another, and the entirety is arresting enough that future cameos remain a cherry on top, not the main selling point.

Review taken from the March 2021 issue of Decibel, which is available here.