Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – “Mariner” (Indie Recordings)
After the success of the “Vertikal” releases 3 years ago, and a legacy spanning some 18 years over the Cult of Luna’s career making them one of post metal’s legends, the all important question arrived: where do we go from here? One possible reason prompting this was that keyboardist Anders Teglund had left during the recording sessions, and founder guitarist Erik Olofsson also wanted to take a back seat, prompting the band to recruit fresh blood in Kristian Karlsson (Pg Lost) and David Johansson (Kongh) respectively. Additionally, the man machine harshness of “Vertikal I & II”, themed on industrialized cityscapes as inspired by Fritz Lang’s legendary 1927 film “Metropolis” was reflected by the heavy use of electronica. By the time it came to this 7th release, the band understandably looked around and finally up at the stars, its vastness providing them with a challenging journey into the unknown, but also one with endless possibilities. And they were not to be alone. Enlisting Brooklyn’s post metal starlet Julie Christmas (Made Out Of Babies) in this unique collaboration, Cult of Luna have blasted out of orbit into a trajectory probably for the next universe! This isn’t one of these ‘guest vocal’ slots but a true partnership and Christmas certainly makes her presence felt, at times providing her girlie vocals but also soulful wails either in contrast to Cult of Luna’s beastly roars and raw screamo, or subtly in the complex range of sounds and samples, and in some cases actually dominating them through her own power and mesmerizing potency! She has been the perfect choice and her femininity has added the necessary touch of beautification in what has been hitherto a manly effort in musical brutality. Still, Christmas is definitely not Santa Claus as her dark and weird touch is at times reminiscent of Kate Bush in all her wackyness, but the results of this eclecticism are nothing short of spectacular by drawing out dazzling melodies from Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg shoegaze strummed guitars, as well as some truly far out sounds from Kristian Karlsson’s keys. Like I said, Christmas is all over songs like ‘Cygnus 1’ and ‘The Wreck Of S.S. Needle‘ although on ‘Approaching Transition‘ her presence is hardly noticeable on this dramatic piece of cold, raw bleakness with its raw vocals, crashing guitars, droning feedback and huge, strummed bass. Guess that might be to remind everyone that Cult of Luna haven’t forgotten who they are, and where they still want to be in their hearts. Either way, “Mariner” is a monumental achievement, not just for its participants, but also in pushing the envelope to a whole new level altogether.