This is the highly anticipated follow up to 2019’s immense A Dawn to Fear, and gives us 69 minutes of new material from this always-impressive band.
Cult of Luna once again drown us with an ocean of emotion. The Long Road North is a broad soundscape of expressive grandeur and understated immensity. The band have long ago mastered the post-metal art of the build/release mechanic, as well as how to craft a massive wall of guitars or the most fragile of introspective light interludes. This new album builds on all of their previously established strengths, while also allowing them to develop some new ones too.
The songs are big and bold, at least when they need to be. Their assured delivery is a mark of master craftsmanship, and the entire album is well-structured so as to flow from one immersive experience to the next. The core Cult of Luna sound is present and correct, but augmented with a wealth of creative ideas and subtleties.
When the band are at their loudest they’re brimming with emotive heaviness and crushing apocalyptic melody. When they’re more restrained and lighter, they’re delicate and nuanced, and rich with textured colour. Of course, the two states frequently blur into each other or overlap, creating songs that offer deep substance across their sometimes lengthy running times.
Cult of Luna have always known how to make use of resplendent melody, but have not always seen fit to use it all of the time. The Long Road North does break out these sorts of melodies a bit more than, say, A Dawn to Fear did; compared to its predecessor this new album has more beauty and less darkness in its makeup, although lovers of the darker side of the band will still find much to be enamoured with here, it must be said. Taking both of these aspects together, The Long Road North is an atmospheric marvel, one that draws you into its world and pulls you close, before revealing a wide vista of sights to be explored.
Each track is a world unto itself. Some songs delve into less-explored waters for the band, (Into the Night, for example), or show a Vertikal-esque experimental/industrial influence, (opener Cold Burn), or remind of some of the epic slow burning songcraft from Salvation, (An Offering to the Wild – at least in places, other parts of this song are much more free form in feeling). There are guests on the album that help to add even more flavour, bringing their own interpretation and personality to the music. This is most notable on the tracks Beyond I and Beyond II.
The Long Road North is another top drawer album from one of the best heavy bands to ever release music. Don’t you dare miss out on this absolute gem.
As essential as it gets.