Monday, August 22, 2011

Cult of Luna - The Beyond (2003)

The Beyond is a definite step in a new direction for Cult of Luna, and shows many of the features of their music that will become relative constants throughout their later releases. This is the first time that the overtly political side of Cult of Luna is on display, and this album shows a refinement we didn’t get on Cult of Luna.
The first track is an ambient intro that features the quote “If we surrender our liberty in the name of security we shall have neither." It sets the tone for the album well and also sets up a preoccupation with politics and social control that is expounded upon through this album and their later releases. Those not interested in their trademark politics can also find something to like here as the music is pretty damn good.
The following track, “Receiver,” shows a new side of their songwriting. This track, and the rest of the album while I’m at it, is much more firmly rooted in metal than hardcore, though there are still lingering elements of hardcore. One thing I never got from Cult of Luna is evolution, and we get that in spades here. The songs aren’t long just because they chug on interminably but because the songs go places.
“Genesis” is an excellent example of the style Cult of Luna perfects throughout their career: it starts a bit jazzy and evolves in to a post-metal juggernaut. This track is ponderous in the best possible way. It is at times rather difficult to listen to, as it’s hard to get a feel on what’s going on. They never allow their melodies to stagnate here, and the repetition lulls listeners in to a sense of familiarity before changing it up and destroying any sense of rhythm we may have become accustomed to.
“Circle” is another song that shows the band evolving. While Cult of Luna featured softer sections with strings, “Circle” takes a similar approach with synths. The track starts slow, with only a synth melody, minimal guitar, and barely noticeable drumming. It’s peaceful and almost soothing despite being melancholy. This ambient intro builds to eventually add a little bit more power and adds the bass. However, the first four minutes stand in contrast to the middle portion of the song, which unleashes their full force. I also appreciate their attempt at creating more involved riffs in the heavier portions of their songs. While they still chug along, there’s a bit more to it here.
This isn’t to say that Cult of Luna has shed all of the hardcore trappings that all but defined Cult of Luna. “Leash,” in particular, calls back to that first album. And, although it’s over seven minutes long, it is fairly relentless throughout. In fact, this song seems to take a lot of cues from Snapcase, particularly on End Transmission. “Deliverance” also feels like a more metal oriented harcore track in places.
Unlike an album that is structurally complex but accessible, like In the Absence of Truth, The Beyond is exhausting. While it is certainly a great album, it asks a lot of its listeners. This is not to condemn it but to praise it. Cult of Luna is attempting to decry political processes that feel outside of the control of individuals, and it seems only fair that their album does the same. Though this is not the best example of this aspect of Cult of Luna’s sound, this is certainly the beginning of this approach to structure, and this is probably the first album in which the band displays a signature sound. This is not Cult of Luna’s masterpiece, but already at this stage in their career they were miles ahead of Pelican, The Red Sparowes, and most of the other disciples of Neurosis.
Verdict: Win [7/10]

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