Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas’ Mariner: Mood, Atmosphere, and Metal


For a forward-thinking band with supposedly out-of-the-box ideas, Cult of Luna sure looks to the past for inspiration.

Not a criticism. Just a truth. A good truth. Mariner is everything you’d expect from the always captivating Swedish band, now on album number eight. It’s an evolution, for sure. Here, that means enlisting vocalist Julie Christmas (ex-Made Out of Babies/ex-Battle of Mice) for a full-on collaboration. Stretching five songs into fifty-plus minutes. Outer space vibes in the lyrics. And constantly tinkering with the band’s post-metal sound.

Is that truly “new,” though? It’s been done in ways before: Doomy orchestral rock with 70s sci-fi keyboards flitting in and out, “ethereal” vocals (and us, as reviewers, having to again use “ethereal” to describe anything), tribal drumming and occasional lapses into, oddly, a hint of Pigface — “Chevron” (not the gas station) has that Lesley Rankine/Meg Lee Chin early 90s pseudo-industrial/noise trip going on.

So not revolutionary. But cool in that “A Greater Call” can spend three minutes building on just a mood. Or how the songs here embrace repetition without boring the listener (well, me). How the album as a whole lacks hooks but not not things you can latch onto, i.e. you could almost sing along to the finale of “The Wreck of S.S. Needle.” Or that you could slip “Approaching Transition” into a Pink Floyd medley and somebody would just wonder if they had missed that prog giant’s noisier B-sides.

Best of all, it’s still, you know, metal. All the mood and atmosphere here — yes, you can name drop  Radiohead and Mogwai all you want, certainly add the aforementioned Floyd and maybe Bjork — doesn’t mean “Call” or “Cygnus” won’t totally pummel you by song’s end.

So yeah, praise Cult of Luna for their vision. It’s always been there: these guys just give it… all of it… a welcome reprise.

Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas’ Mariner is out today on Indie Recordings. You can stream the entire album here and purchase it here.

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