Earlier this year the highly regarded Cult Of Luna released Vertikal. A concept album based on the proto-sci-fi movie Metropolis by Fritz Lang, it was met with widespread acclaim. Certainly for long time fans of the band Vertikal could very well land high on respective year end lists. Personally, the album never quite clicked until the impending release of Vertikal II forced me to revisit the full length. Vertikal II being the EP that completes the Vertikal picture. Three tracks plus a remix by JK Broadrick. Perhaps digesting CoL’s Vertikal vision in a smaller portion helps to appreciate the grandeur of the full meal to a greater degree.
As has come to be expected from CoL, the band mixes the peaceful with the provoked, gently settling into ambience only to explode behind beastly bellows. The majority of ‘Oro’ is gentle and somber. It peacefully projects a feeling of calm reflectiveness and acceptance. But the fire is awakened in the track’s latter third. Defiance and bitterness become the controlling moods, pounding out those feelings with punctuated thumps only to fade away.
‘Light Chaser’ is more lush. A swirling keyboard riff, cello and synths mesh over a stead martial beat. Johannes Persson’s harsh growls seem somewhat dispassionate for the most part however. Almost mechanical. The circular repetitiveness of the track reflects the cityscape of a metropolis yet the way the synths and keys swirl and dance the melodies informs of a deeper sense of beauty in the harsh lines.
The third original track, ‘Shun The Mask’ has a very spacey, sci-fi ambience. The synths are fuelled by an alien force. Heaving spires of sludgy riffs thrust upwards with dramatic force. The middle section is quite airy with very sci-fi keys providing the eerier backdrop. The epic track is decorated with layers of nose and anger. A fitting and dramatic end to the Vertikal story.
Broadrick’s rendering of ‘Vicarious Redemption’ cuts the song length in half and hardly resembles the original. Not that it isn’t good. He’s taken a small portion of the music and worked his magic on it. What’s he’s done fits well with the general tone of Cult of Luna’s work.
Vertikal II (and I for that matter) takes some time to really assimilate. Its depth, while apparent at first glance, really sinks in after multiple spins. Together the LP and EP make for over and hour and a half of music. CoL fans will be very pleased with the EP and perhaps fans of Metropolis will garner a deeper appreciation of the film due to Vertikal.