Winter hasn't quite relinquished its grip on the weather which means although March is just round the corner we're still faced with dark evenings and harsh temperatures. I personally am pretty much done with this whole cold season business and can't wait for some proper T-shirt weather - plus they close the bloody park early so if I want to get a run in I've got to rush home. BOOOO. On the upside, meteorological grimness and months of infinite darkness are the ideal breeding environment for some fine slabs of bleak, punishing metal to guide you through the coruscating emptiness and Swedish hardcore hippies Cult of Luna have brewed up one staggering avant garde stormblast with their first LP of the decade. If you think it blows watching the sun go down at 7pm in Paris or Leeds then spare a thought for these dudes from Northern Sweden who probably get about fifteen seconds sunshine a day round this time of year, although by all accounts they've been staying in a bit recently working on this deeply complex beast of an album. Luna were one of the best post-metal groups to emerge in the noughties and for my money their 2004 LP 'Salvation' is one of the most indispensable listens of the decade but they'd kinda strayed from my radar over recent years and seemed to be going round in circles - 'Vertikal' sees them relocate from the vegan hippie countryside of Umea to one of Sweden's relative metropoles (I say relative because that whole country is so scrubbed clean everything looks like some kind of Nordic Disneyland to me) and the move seems to have instilled a bit of welcome big city paranoia and noise-addled sleepless nights into the mix to devastating effect. Where their previous pastoral efforts recreated the feeling of watching from the shore as a tornado bore down on you, the thunderous waves of sound here are sprinkled with nervous electronic interjections and industrial creaks and spasms - instead of watching the rural landscape lurch into seismic eruption this is more like seeing an asteroid land on your neighbour's house and listening to the cacophony of sproings and clanks as their flatscreen shatters and their garage door buckles under meteoric lava. Opener 'The One' hums into earshot like ELP's 'Fanfare for the Common Man' resonating from inside a hollowed-out planet before 'I : The Weapon' slow boils like foaming mercury over nine minutes of jagged, tremulous riffs dragged across a cold synthetic landscape. 'Synchronicity' sounds studio-sheened yet resolutely human and 'Mute Departure' channels the looming urban menace of Ridley Scott's 'Blade Runner' through another epic symphony of anaesthetised electronics and rampaging hardcore onslaught (if you like the sound of this then check out Axis of Perdition from the mid 00s for more of the same). All this is merely a casual aperitif compared to the eighteen gargantuan minutes of 'Vicarious Redemption' which threaten to create a black hole from which you're not even certain to emerge, expanding beyond earshot like a solar system collapsing on itself and then being reborn as something even more immense. This is heady, vital shit that demands your full attention but won't disappoint once you grant it - I can get a bit dismissive over modern metal these days but 'Vertikal' hit me like a shotgun blasting the T-1000's head apart in 'Terminator 2', leaving my warped mind struggling to morph back into its normal shape for long enough to fully appreciate the scale of what I'd witnessed. Don't pull the old 'I don't like it when the singer screams' shit with me, there is no reason whatsoever for you not to bathe in the transgressive delights of 'Vertikal' without further ado and marvel at the what these guys have come up with. Luna, I wrote you off at my peril - thank you for proving me wrong.
Check out : let's not beat around the fucking bush here people : VICARIOUS REDEMPTION!