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I thought Cult of Luna's album Salvation couldn't be topped. When I got into Salvation, I was convinced for a long time that it was one of the pinnacles of the genre they play. Atmospheric, sludgy progressive... metal. This style is becoming more and more prominent in the metal scene these days, with Neurosis having spear headed it nearly ten years ago, and ISIS taking up the helm later on. Cult of Luna not only is able to keep up on adding their own style to this genre, they are able to perform it admirably.
Somewhere Along The Highway is no different. While it took me several weeks to fully digest, once I got it, I really got it. It sank in deep, like a movie you feel compelled to watch when a specific mood you feel needs to be accentuated. It sank in to my head and body like those rare albums do where it almost feels as if it is a part of you in some inexplicable way. As if you possibly could create something similar in another time and place.
This album is a very lonely album, portraying a mood of 'Saudade' thanks to the spacious soundscapes of exactly what the title hints at. While it is not without plenty of dense riffs, plodding bass and its share of screaming, it always manages to leave plenty of beautiful open air between moments of pure chaos. The two "bridge" sections in the song "Thirtyfour" has probably one of the most addicting and infectious percussion beats I've ever heard. Intertwined with this beat are very subtle vocals ringing out a melody which bring the two chaotic parts these bridge sections separate back together flawlessly.
The building crescendo on "Dim" is fairly reminiscent of a track from their previous album entitled "Waiting For You". What seems to start out mellow builds and compounds atop of its self until the momentum of the song is so dense, the only option for it ultimately is to come to a crashing end. Not only is this arguably the climax of the album, but if it isn't, it sets up the scope for the last few minutes of the album.
The use of synthesizer not only in this album, but by this band is so crucial to their overall atmosphere and the moods they attempt to convey. It tends to subtly layer a melody underneath several chugging guitars, which may even be mistaken for guitar its self. But on the biggest crescendos, it seems almost necessary.
However the synthesizer is not the only instrument responsible for some of the sounds in this album that almost sometimes go un-noticed. Other subtleties you may notice are that of the cabaça, samples of rhythmic hand clapping, tambourine, ebow and various uses of guitar feedback.
Probably what is the most mechanic track of the album would be the second one, "Finland". When I use the word mechanic, I would refer to this song as one that sounds almost like a steam engine pounding away at its pistons, giving the necessary momentum to get an album of this magnitude off the ground. While the first track "Marching to the Heartbeats" does the task of introducing the album, it gives more of a foundational feeling for the shape of things to come. However, until track two a new listener may not really know what they're knee deep in, for the remaining hour.
Melancholic and beautiful, this album paints a lonely and abandoned feeling which is unlike any other I've felt from an album. It sinks in with every swell of guitar distortion, cymbal crash, or agonized wail of vocals. With this album, Cult of Luna proves to me that they're on top of their game, and only getting better with age.
Lonely, expansive, no end in site. This is what it feels like to be somewhere along the highway.