Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cult of Luna - Salvation (2004)

I will say up front that I consider Salvation to be not only Cult of Luna’s masterpiece but also the masterpiece for all of the bands crafting their sound in the wake of Neurosis. Salvation is a refreshing blend of ambient droning and post-rock lilting with a heavy dose of sludge to tie the package together. Although I have highlighted the mellower aspects of the album, of which there are many, the album feels heavy even in the quieter sections, which generally invoke feelings of paranoia rather than being soporific.

The album begins with “Echoes,” which features a dreamy, expansive opening section. After about two minutes the simple, echoing melody picks up a bit in terms of volume and presence, but it’s essentially a repetition of the same basic melody. It isn’t until a bit after four minutes in when the mood changes suddenly, and the serene scene dissolves into something truly menacing with the introduction of a single distorted riff that very quickly builds to include drums and a pulsing bass line. “Echoes” is one of many songs that hits hard once it gets going, and it sets up the rest of the album beautifully.

“Vague Illusions,” the second track, introduces the jazz elements that Cult of Luna use to great effect on this album. Slower syncopated rhythms intermingle with post-rock inspired guitar lines that are just varied enough to not get boring. And, ultimately, this is why Cult of Luna succeeds so admirably on this album while imitators fail to craft an engaging album: the slower portions are interesting. It seems like a basic concept for any post-metal band to keep in mind, but I’ll be damned if most bands don’t just keep time while expecting their audience not to get bored. Cult of Luna is better than that, and the effort they put in to the slower portions of the album adds to the sense of tension that is constantly mounting throughout the album.

“Vague Illusions” gives way to “Leave Me Here,” which is the standout track on the album for many people. It’s a bit more straightforward than the rest of the album, and, if they were to ever release a song for the radio, this would be it, which isn’t to disparage the song, as it is excellent and fits the rest of the album well. “Leave Me Here” features the vocals a bit more prominently than other tracks on the album, and I always find myself turning up the volume when the vocalist screams “Just leave me here.”

The rest of the album continues in a similar fashion by blending the slower, jazzier elements with the heavier ones, and it manages to do all of this while staying fresh for eight songs, many of which are over 10 minutes long. “Waiting For You” may be the heaviest song on the album, but it is blended seamlessly with a slow introduction, and when it picks up and gets heavy, it feels as if it does so as part of a logical continuation of the slower portion. Many bands in the genre mix slow and fast and quiet and heavy, but here it feels like both sides are merely different ways to explore a single idea rather than a gimmick to make heavier parts seem heavier than they really are. This is something that Neurosis does well, and it’s something that Cult of Luna does well on this album.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10]

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