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Eternal Kingdom is one of those albums that seems to get better with each subsequent listen. My first experience with it a couple of years ago got a pretty lukewarm reception from me, and I passed it off as an inferior offering from the Swedish post-metal stalwarts, who just couldn’t seem to top 2004’s Salvation. However, I came back to it a couple of years later with renewed interest, and since then it’s just been growing on me more and more. It is a flawed record, I won’t deny, but its moments of brilliance shine far brighter.
The sound of the band feels like a very logical progression from the melancholy atmospherics of Somewhere Along the Highway, and many of the songs don’t break from the feeling that it was created in a dark, lonely cabin in the middle of the winter forest. The first three tracks are all brimming with a dark, slow energy, with Owlwood being a faster, more abrasive offering that tapers off into acoustic instruments and slowly into nothingness, while the title track is a grooving, lurching elephant that could have been stretched out longer but was wisely pruned to a more manageable time, and Ghost Trail, the longest song on the album is a more progressive composition, taking its sweet time to develop. Other cuts on the album I recommend are Mire Deep, which starts with some sparse keyboard effects and then abruptly becomes another undulating groover, and The Great Migration, which is a dark and trippy song that puts the listener ill at ease.
The production is slightly distorted with fuzz, overdub and reverb very prevalent, and the whole thing sounds as if it were recorded in a cabin, which lends a very nice richness and warmth to the sound while also accentuating the darkness of parts of the music. The vocals are your standard post-metal/sludge grunting growl, with periodic clean vocals that add a nice touch, and the guitars crunch. The bass and drums sound loose and anchor the sound well. Altogether, the songwriting evokes the intended feelings, but some parts may strike people as odd, such as the end of Following Betulas or the outro to Owlwood, or other experimental touches throughout. Some work beautiful, but there are quite a few that don’t seem to fit in. These flaws are a lot more prominent and affect the score, but I don’t find myself bored or trying to find stimulation in the music, because it’s already there.
Overall, this is a fine record, and this band is able to compete well with the other heavies in the post-metal world. Not every gem will be without a flaw, but that doesn’t stop it from being a gem.
This record has one of the most interesting concepts I have ever heard of. While practicing in what was once a mental hospital, the band uncovered the diary of Holger Nillson, a man who killed his wife and blamed it on owl and tree men. He titled this diary "Tales from the Eternal Kingdom." This album is based on that diary.
They start this affair off with the two best songs. The sludgy atmosphere in "Owlwood" is irresistible, as is the memorable start-stop chord progressions on the title track. While the rest of the songs aren't as amazing, there is not one song on the record that is not good. The groggy sound of the dissonant chords draw you into this album's unique atmosphere. The dirty plodding pace and grimy feel is perfect considering it is meant to represent the mind of a madman. Not all of this is gloomy sludge, there are many atmospheric parts that have a wide variety of influences. Some of them even have vague hints of jazz and electronic music. These atmospheric interludes make up some of the best parts of the album. "Ugin", an interlude, is one of the greatest songs. Seeing that the non-metal parts are often the best, it would be interesting if they moved into new territories separate from metal on their next album.
While many of this band's albums feature lots of gradually evolving behemoths of songs, that is not the case with this record - only one song breaks the ten minute mark. The main thing that stops this album from being a classic is the sheer lack of variety in the vocals. Clean vocals often added a unique layer of depth to other Cult of Luna albums. On this one, we are only treated to one style of vocals. The typical sludge metal growls are very strong but them alone leave me craving more variety. The addition of female vocals would have been a nice touch, but just having the regular clean vocals that were displayed on other albums would have been enough.
While this is a really good album, I can't help but feel that Cult of Luna could have done better. While this record was well worth the time, it can't stand up to some of their previous albums. None of the songs can compete with the classics in Cult of Luna's discography such as "Back to Chapel Town" and "To be Remembered." This album isn't pure gold like a few of the other ones they have released, but you can't have every album in a quickly growing discography be astonishingly amazing. Don't get me wrong, this release is great, its just not their best. Comparisons to past albums aside, this album can stand strong as its own entity. Fans of heavy experimental music should find this album quite rewarding.
I bought the recent Cult of Luna album, "Eternal Kingdom", from having heard interesting things about them and their musical output and realising that I knew nothing about what to me was a 'scene'/sound that had always passed me by. Probably mistakenly as I hope some of you can correct me on, but I had always grouped CoL, Neurosis and Isis together, performing some kind of sound, often called 'post-metal' or something equally pretentious. Having listened to "Eternal Kingdom" many times now, and read on their Metal-Archives page that they are "Atmospheric Sludge/Progressive Metal/Post-Hardcore", which means nothing to me, I am still completely clueless as to a pigeonhole for them . This is great because it means I listen to this with no preconceptions, no real idea of similar bands or even their previous albums - the best way of listening to a band or album.
For the above reasons | have found "Eternal Kingdom" difficult to review but I shall give it my best shot. The one hour of music I spent my money on is of a generally slow pace but is not doomy per-se, full of discordant sounding riffs, pleasant sections of feedback-laden soundscapes and a vocal style part-barked, part-hoarse and part-gargle, something all new to me. I particularly like the ambient free-flowing moments, such as "Ugin" which make me think of the pleasantness of the latest Earth album and the mellower moments of Katatonia (a band that I so frequently seem to hear in albums). The feel of the album can be summed up as being quite loose, especially as it nears its end through "Following Betulas", where the sound of brass can be detected and the flow is even looser than earlier. Album highlight "Ghost Trail", strong in its Earth-isms, is a journey in its own, morphing from a freeform jazzy feel through settlements of sweetly played solos to pastures of heavier imposing riffs and beyond in its 12 minutes, giving the feel you've travelled a long way since it kicked off. The tone could be said to be rather monotonous, for the pace and rhythmic base of songs like "The Great Migration" and "Curse" fall squarely in the Doom category of slow and somber, but have the added exponent of at least one guitar playing off the rest to produce greater melody and progression than mere slow (which I do love, don't forget!). The benefit of having three/four guitarists in a band I s'pose.
Worthy of mention is the great album artwork and layout, which is always pleasing to someone of the old-school like I in an age when many fans of the band may not even see it. A lot of effort has clearly gone into the making of "Eternal Kingdom" as the songs feel languid yet full of pent-up aggression, much to do with Klas Rydberg's vocal style, and like the band are just holding back from full-out explosion. This is complicated stuff but doesn't feel like it; it can be both draining and invigorating depending on which point you the listener is at. I've no idea how it compares to the Swede's previous four albums, but I do know I will be checking them out on the basis of "Eternal Kingdom".
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
Critics have always lambasted Cult of Luna as the followers of Neurosis and Isis. Had their previous release “Somewhere Along the Highway” not already cast this into doubt, this new release shatters all expectations. Many who were worried about their firm foray into post-rock with their anterior album will be relieved to hear that while keeping such melodies, the album portrays a far less tranquil side of the band. It matches their debut in terms of intensity and aggression in many ways, but holds onto the dynamics of “Somewhere Along the Highway” while securing the density of “Salvation” perfectly.
Their song writing feels more confident than ever, no longer consumed by the incessant need for growing crescendos in every song. This makes all the songs far shorter than usual with only one breaking the 10 minute mark. For all intended purposes the album although 10 tracks long would feature 7 songs with the other 3 acting as atmospheric interludes. The songs length does not alter their development and variation within songs but forces a more cohesive approach. While this at first may feel disorientating for the first time listener due to its insatiable desire for permutation, songs will soon begin to correlate. There are no forays into clean vocals as with the previous release, but a constant hardcore shout. This is a shame and has most certainly withheld the act from progressing further then their talent warrants. It is the only aspect of the band which could be concluded to be weak.
As always, the production feels spacious, but without any instruments feeling distant in the mix. The guitars sound powerful yet hold an air of precision and the bass is given it’s biggest sound so far. It would have been impossible to create the towering walls of sound found within this release without it. In many ways this album tends to mimic the direction Neurosis took with ‘Given to the Rising’, but with far more style. It’s riffs crush, yet weave melodies within their slow plod through the song. The rhythms are a touch experimental, allowing for distinctly more unique compositions. Drums are relentless, never letting your attention waver, while augmenting each shift within the music; calling your attention as it changes direction into a fill. The synthesizer is impeccable, delicately adding another layer within the recording while still engaging it by developing melody and furthering atmosphere.
This is a tenebrific recording. A characteristic of which is easily picked up on while listening. Certainly the end result of the articulation of the themes involved with the writing of this album. Another exceptional recording from the band and hopefully one of many to come. A sturdy 92%.
Cult of Luna. A name that has been apparently wandering the ridge of sludge, progressive and post-hardcore music scene. My first encounter with them was at the Summerbreeze-Festival in Dinkelsbühl, Germany in the year 2008. Whereas the live presentation was of arguable success, their music on CD is without doubt stunning. After such astonishing masterworks as their "2004 - Salvation" and "2006 - Somewhere along the highway" one question arises; how much longer will these young musicians from Sweden be impressing open minded people with their expressionistic music?
Their newest album up to date, "Eternal Kingdom", is truly a one of a kind concept album, as it is based on the diary of a "Holger Nilsson", previously an inmate of the now long demolished mental hospital. It is in this old building where Cult of Luna do their rehearsals and upon inspecting the site further, they stumbled upon this very diary entitled "Tales from the Eternal Kingdom". Holger was convicted of murder on his wife, but explains in this diary why he is innocent. He blames the murder upon strange beings, such as owl and tree men or satan.
The conceptual design of this album is based on this story and reminds somewhat of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings";
"The white birches are alive, they are marching." (lyrical extract from the final track entitled "Following Betulas")
The man who wrote that diary must have truly been a schizophrenic and a madman. The result of processing and fitting this madman's fantasy into music is truly amazing. Cult of Luna do not cease to amaze on this LP. The song structures are not pattern-like, as one maybe is accustomed to, but proceed in a linear manner, slowly climaxing towards the end. The guitar work is, as always, heavy. The songs themselves contain both aggressive and discharging parts as well as calm, hypnotizing melodies which can not be categorized into one exact genre. Technically this album, like its precursors, has it all: time changes, advanced notes and a guitar tone that varies through the album. Just listen to track 05 - Mire Deep to see what I mean.
One thing that differs from the other albums is the lack of clean vocals, but as far as I'm concerned, this does not bother at all. It provides somewhat of a severity throughout the album. Without doubt this CD will stay in your CD-player for awhile before you get tired of it.
Standout tracks: none, as it is a concept album and should be listened to as a whole, rather than singularly.
In recent years, especially on internet communities, a genre known as ‘post metal’ has become increasingly popular. Bands like Isis touring with huge names like Tool have gotten these bands some exposure, with more success coming to these sonic conjurers who combine post-rock tranquillity with cascading, crushing metal. Cult Of Luna is one such band. Their cult fanbase (no pun intended) has consistently sung the praises of their works which have found a very unique atmosphere and touched a place in the listeners mind that not many bands can. Their sound is not accessible and just sticking an album like ‘Salvation’ or ‘Somewhere Along The Highway’ on your iPod when you’re walking to the shops just doesn’t do their sound justice. Getting into this band’s music is not something that can happen overnight. In fact, I cannot even remember how I found them or got into their music, but once you have there is no turning back. So, with both of their previous albums mostly gaining ‘masterpiece’ status amongst fans, they go for the hat trick with ‘Eternal Kingdom’.
The most instantly noticeable thing about ‘Eternal Kingdom’ is the tracklisting. At least a couple of 10+ minute epics are expected to be on a Cult Of Luna album, but this album has but one. No matter though, so long as the music is good, its length should not be a problem, especially considering the fact that ‘Eternal Kingdom’ still contains an hour of music. This hour contains troughs and peaks, highs and lows, moments of reflective ambience and moments of uncompromising attack. It cannot be said that there is really anything new here, and on the surface this may seem like a routine album from Cult Of Luna. The first two tracks. ‘Owlwood’ and ‘Eternal Kingdom’ can be misleading, as they twist and turn in an almost tediously expected way. While they are not of course without merit, they in a way switch you off and stop you from taking notice of the rest of the album. There’s no ‘Finland’ to make you stand and take notice here, which is something that caused me personally to initially find this album rather dull. However, from the 12 minute journey ‘Ghost Trail’ onwards, this is pure Cult Of Luna brilliance. The work on guitar and bass from Johannes Persson, Erik Olofsson and Andreas Johansson is far from flashy but their downtuned dirges are essential to the sound of ‘Eternal Kingdom’. The only other member with such an important influence is drummer Thomas Hedlund. His style is fairly simple however the way that it locks in with the music certainly is not. His drumming often dictates the mood of the music single-handedly, with the difference between a big heavy riff and a downtime verse section decided simply by how he plays his drums. This is something that not many drummers can say they do, but Hedlund manages it with style and finesse.
One thing which is disappointing is the lack of clean vocals throughout the whole album. While far from integral to Cult Of Luna’s sonic palette, some of those vocal parts gave their last album ‘Somewhere Along The Highway’ a very special touch. This time, Klas Rydberg’s vocal contributions are entirely in the form of his gut wrenching scream. While his timbre is excellent and perfect for his band, there are times on this album where they do sound fairly out of place, and where some more clean vocals akin to ‘And With Her Came The Birds’ would have done wonders. Thankfully these moments are few and far between, and for the majority of ‘Eternal Kingdom’, Rydberg compliments what’s going on with the rest of the band perfectly. When it comes to complimenting the band rather than being a focal point of it, sampler Anders Teglund and ‘sound-scaping-additional-percussionist-and-guitarist’ Magnus Lindberg really do have to be mentioned. The sound engineering on the album is unfortunately not quite as good as on previous albums; however what they have done musically works perfectly. In fact, their contributions really make a few songs, examples being ‘Osterbotten’ and ‘Following Betulas’.
While it is difficult to say that there are any tracks that really do stand up against Cult Of Luna’s back catalogue as true classics over songs like ‘Leave Me Here’ and ‘Finland’, there are moments on this album that are absolutely incredible.
The concept behind this album is a massively intriguing one. It is based on a book which the band found in an old mental institution (which, in oh-so-post-metal style, has been their rehearsal space for years), written by a man convicted for his wife’s murder, entitled ‘Tales From The Eternal Kingdom’. I will not go into depth about the concept here, but the lyrics and music alike are based closely on this journal and the very surreal stories this man committed to paper. The lyrics are very good, as always, but the eerie nature of this concept and its history adds another level of interest to them. The stories to be found on the CD and in its artwork are deeply mysterious even though explanations can be found from Johannes Persson on the internet. This is testimony to the fact that Cult Of Luna can take a bizarre concept and by transcribing it into lyrics, can make it even more twisted and surreal.
I must say that ‘Eternal Kingdom’ is not an improvement on the last, which their last three arguably have been. I have faith that Cult Of Luna will continue to make greater and greater albums, however ‘Eternal Kingdom’, despite the very impressive writing process and end result, is not the album to top ‘Somewhere Along The Highway’. What it is is yet another essential album from Cult Of Luna, another album that will grow on you the more and more you listen to it, another album filled with absolutely mesmerising tracks like ‘Curse’ and ‘Ghost Trail’. If you’re new to Cult Of Luna, its must be noted that any one of their albums must be given time to fully blossom. If you are an existing fan, you will know to give the album a chance and a chance is most certainly what it deserves from anybody with an interest in progressive music.
Originally written for www.ultimate-guitar.com
Cult of Luna have always been compared to and even been accused of being ardent followers of the post-hardcore scene which was crafted, perfected and made famous by Neurosis. They also had a short stint with post-metal on the last two releases.
Anyway, ten years and 4 albums later, Cult of Luna released their heaviest and I think the most well written album to date. Eternal Kingdom is a bizarre concept album based on a diary titled ‘Tales from the Eternal Kingdom’, kept by Holger Nilsson, a former prisoner. They found the diary in a demolished mental institution while switching rehearsal spots. It’s a crazy cranial expedition into a madman’s fantasy land of Owlmen, Treemen and the Nacken, who he claims responsible for his wife’s death by drowning.
Sonically, they have gone back to their doomy post-hardcore roots and there’s also a good amount of rock (Radiohead, Mogwai) in here. But running for a little more than an hour, the album tends to drag a bit after 6 or 7 songs. Also, the album lacks dynamics and I can understand if someone not familiar with the band finds them repetitive. I’m one of those people who find these accusations as being a tad too harsh and I see a wealth of potential in these guys that’s just ready to explode anytime from now.
Being a fan of the gentler, more post-rock leanings of COL's last album Somewhere Along The Highway, I was a bit surprised to see that on their latest release, Eternal Kingdom, they somewhat returned to their heavier and more chaotic roots. I don't think that's a bad thing at all, but it seems like a step backward for such a creative band--not to say that Eternal Kingdom lacks creativity, though. It's a great album chock-full of fantastically lush and complex melodies and solid songwriting. But it's the first COL album to feel like a COL album--it almost feels as if there's nothing new here. On Salvation, the tracks were long and filled with lengthy buildups of ambiance and noise, but here, the songs usually start in a high gear and stay there until they are finished.
There's a slight lack of the gentler melodic passages that so eloquently punctuated the walls of crushingly heavy riffage--or maybe vice versa--and as a result, the album seems to repeat itself frequently. A lot of the tracks seem to run together, and the only big standout is "Ghost Trail", which weaves together a bunch of elements from COL's past effortlessly and is easily the best song on the album, as well as the longest. All of the tracks here are drastically shorter than they were on past albums, and some of them feel like they haven't been given the chance to develop enough. The album on a whole feels harsher than Salvation and SATH--not nearly as harsh as the self-titled album, but significantly more intense than recent efforts. Some people will love that. Personally, I miss the long melodic buildups and dwindling guitar passages. Whereas SATH had a very organic, almost live-like sound, Eternal Kingdom is as straightforward and sharp as a scalpel.
There are three ambient interlude tracks that aren't especially noteworthy, although they provide a nice respite to the harshness of the rest of the album. Nonetheless, the ebb and flow of harsh riff and gentle melody that COL relied on in the past isn't present. Those melodic passages taken on fuller effect when they are in the context of a larger composition, and the heavy parts jolt and stun as they thrash to life from out of a slow ambient section.
Now that the bad is out of the way, we'll move on to the good. The musicianship, as usual, is fantastic. The band works together very nicely and the production is very balanced--I love the warm and subdued drum tone in particular. Some of the tracks are laced with eerie synth and keyboard effects that weave in and out of the music very effectively--something that COL hadn't yet perfected until now. In that sense, it reminds me of Neurosis' Given To The Rising, an album that melded ambient electronica and crushing riffs together fantastically well, and was an overall mixture of the band's past styles. Eternal Kingdom is the same way--it's a mix of everything that makes COL such a great band, but it seems to have lost the spark of creativity and depth that so strongly drove their earlier works.
"Ghost Trail" is the longest song on the album and churns away for 11 minutes. It's also my personal favorite and it's probably the most varied song on the album as well. There's a fantastic guitar solo/lead in the first third of the song that leads back into the song perfectly.
"The Great Migration" would probably make a good single. It kicks off immediately in a great, ominous riff that is classic COL, and some great rhythm guitar work reinforces it. The song is well-composed and dynamic--if only it was longer.