Formulaic isn’t necessarily bad. Especially when the formula works so freaking well.
But a formula in music should be a skeleton, a framework upon which something better is made. Yesterday, I was harsh on Tool for being too formulaic on their latest album, Fear Inoculum. But today, I am going to praise a band that has a definite formula.
Well, here is the thing: Cult of Luna have a formula. You know there will be crushing guitars, hardcore vocals, pounding drums, and moments of quiet peace. There is the formula.
However, what makes Cult of Luna so amazing is their ability to build on that formula. Maybe it’s a 10+ minute song. Maybe it’s only 6 minutes. Maybe there is a slow build. Or perhaps the song punches you in the face from the very first note. A slower, more quiet song? They have those.
A Dawn to Fear is the seventh album from these Swedes. And they haven’t released a bad album yet. Their previous release, Mariner, a collaboration with Julie Christmas, remains one of my favorite albums of all time. Their third album, Salvation, was one of my introductions to post-metal and all the beauty and brutality that genre entails. A Dawn to Fear is a more than welcome addition to this titanic band’s oeuvre.
This is a heavy freaking album. First track, “The Silent Man” enters with pummeling drums (after a short feedback intro) and the guitars and bass kick in heavy and in your face pretty much right from the start. But we also have some amazing organ to temper the guitar and drums. Harsh vocals from Johannes Persson punctuate the instrumentation. And we see variations of this formula throughout.
However, it manages to never get boring because the formula is just a framework. Title track, “A Dawn to Fear” takes a full 5 minutes of slow building, clean vocals, clean guitars, before it drops the metal bomb on you. These are post-metal veterans at work here, showing how to manipulate dynamics to create atmosphere, to build and release tension, and to pull an emotional experience from the dense music at hand.
This is a long album, weighing in at 80 minutes. But unlike some other albums, I never find myself getting bored. Cult of Luna is so adept and creating tension and then building that release, that A Dawn to Fear thrills me throughout.
I don’t know where I would rank this album as far as Cult of Luna releases go. Doesn’t really matter, because these guys are such accomplished artists at this point. A Dawn to Fear is a thriving, emotional, epic ride from start to finish and is another piece of proof that Cult of Luna know their formula and are skilled to make the very most of it.