Album Review: Cult of Luna Reveal Vulnerabilities on A Dawn to Fear

It’s tough being a post-metal band in 2019 not named Neurosis. The form feels done to death at this point, and it’s not like it’s a genre that has killer hooks to make up for the been there-done that feeling. Still, out of all the heavy valley-peakers to come through silver in blood, Cult of Luna consistently prove one of the most adventurous. Their 2017 collaboration with Julie Christmas, Mariner, just placed 25th on our 25 Best Metal Albums of 2010-2019 countdown. Now we have the Swedish act’s long-awaited follow-up.

A Dawn to Fear is their first release for Metal Blade, and, appropriately, possibly their heaviest album to date. It’s also really dense. There’s a lot to unpack in its 80-minute runtime, but this being post-metal and all, that’s a plus. At eight tracks long, you can do the math as to the average song length. Tunes like the quarter-hour-long “Lights on the Hill” feel positively cinematic — something CoL have always excelled at — and in these cases, they’re literally the lengths of short films.

One of the more fascinating aspects of A Dawn to Fear lies in the sequencing. Like the latest Tool record, it uses the album format itself to build tension. Unlike the new Tool record, they get to the good stuff a lot quicker. Still, the first few songs are amongst the most impenetrable. “The Silent Man” and “Lay Your Head To Rest” feature densely-packed, crushing riffs (with a few jazzy fills for variety). It isn’t until the title track that it starts to open up, and then on “Nightwalkers” it provides a glimpse of the soft white underbelly of vulnerability underlying the whole thing. The understated “We Feel The End” lays that bare. It’s almost like a flower opening to reveal the beauty within. You just have to get through the tough outer layers.

Cult of Luna continue to set the bar high. Even at its extended length (or perhaps because of it), this feels like a journey, something few bands achieve. It may not be as dynamic as their collaboration with Christmas, but it’s still an emotional gauntlet. Despite the vampiric title, A Dawn to Fear does not suck.

Cult of Luna’s A Dawn to Fear comes out Sept. 20 on Metal Blade. You can listen to “The Silent Man” here and pre-order the album here. Listen to our interview with guitarist/vocalist Johannes Persson here.

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