Recently signed to Metal Blade, for 20 years Cult Of Luna have been developing their post-metal sound with each epic album release, their evolution tracked through their mesmeric long-form songs, shifting tones and monumental crescendos. A Dawn To Fear is their eighth studio album, their first non-collaborative recording since 2013’s Vertical, and is arguably the most magnificent and captivating album from the Swedish sextet yet.
Many of Cult Of Luna’s previous albums revolved around a particular theme or concept – Vertical was inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and Mariner, their astounding 2016 collaboration with Brooklyn-based vocalist Julie Christmas, an epic cosmic voyage – but on their approach to A Dawn To Fear lead songwriter Johannes Persson had the following to say:
“We knew exactly the album we wanted to make, and that was the antithesis of everything we’ve done before… and I wanted this to be a completely spontaneous process.”
Even though A Dawn To Fear has less of an overarching concept than Cult Of Luna’s previous recordings and is more a collection of individual songs, that does not mean that the expansive 80min album lacks cohesion. The eight compositions work very effectively together and the natural journey through A Dawn To Fear is not hindered at all by this singular approach to the songwriting. Through the use of organs and other non-electronic keyboards and instruments the songs on A Dawn To Fear sound more natural when compared to the Vangelis infused, synth-led tracks that filled Vertical.
Cleverly beginning with the pounding percussion of lead single “The Silent Man”, Cult Of Luna sound utterly compelling on what is the most direct track on A Dawn To Fear. The combination of organ and synths layered over the crushing crescendo further increases the impact of this colossal introduction. Similarly, the final refrains of the doom-laden, menacing “Nightwalkers” provide one of A Dawn To Fear’s most devastating moments as the steadily building tiers of instruments come to a head in the closing minute with Persson’s guttural roars at just the right level in the mix.
Lowering the tempo and constructing tension by bookending “Nightwalkers” are two of the more subtle and restrained tracks on A Dawn To Fear, the sombre title track and the impressive post-rock of “Lights On The Hill”. Ordering the tracks in this way demonstrates that even with this “spontaneous” approach Cult Of Luna have considered the dynamics and flow of A Dawn To Fear, balancing light and soft with dark and unyielding. At 15 minutes “Lights On The Hill” is the longest on the album and features a calm and soothing ambience to its first half that through repeated and layered mesmeric elements guides the track to the eventual release of the affecting, instrumental finale. To finish, the penultimate track, the choppy, Burst-esque “Inland Rain”, fades out to the droning synth and mellow lead guitar intro to the marvellous “The Fall”, which bears all the hallmarks of a Cult Of Luna song and earns its place as the closer to this majestic album.
It may be a cliché, especially when discussing intricate and layered post-metal, but for those that give the crushing A Dawn To Fear lots of headphone time, there’s much to unlock and unravel within this enormous, sprawling and accomplished work. Even with following and marvelling at Cult Of Luna’s output since first hearing Salvation about 15 years ago, each subsequent release has still had the power to surprise and captivate me, and A Dawn To Fear easily ranks as one of my favourite albums of this year. I’ve already spent many an hour delving into A Dawn To Fear and relish the chance to listen to this masterpiece again.
A Dawn To Fear is released on 20th September