Sometimes worlds collide, and sometimes two already amazing entities transform into one. Sometimes the most provocative and most profound results can be achieved by the union of two seemingly unlikely sources. Such is the case with the stunning new collaboration between Sweden’s Cult of Luna and American vocalist Julie Christmas.
Since their first studio album arrived in 2001, Sweden’s Cult of Luna have been at the forefront of the post-metal movement thanks to their orchestrated and progressive take on doom metal. Their name has become almost synonymous with music that is monolithic in scope and equal parts crushing and elegant. Vocalist Julie Christmas, albeit a slightly lesser known commodity in the metal world than her collaborators, has spent time fronting the sludgy noise rock outfit, Made Out of Babies, the post-metal ‘supergroup’ Battle of Mice, and releasing her own critically-acclaimed solo album. But as the page has turned, 2016 has brought Christmas and Cult of Luna together to deliver an album that stands up against anything else culled from either artist’s exceptional discographies.
Mariner is a space odyssey in both the literal and figurative sense. It’s a concept album about space exploration, the final frontier where the last vestiges of hope lay for humanity. It’s also and album that expands outward with each listen like the universe itself propelled by dark energy and forces more powerful than we can possibly imagine. It’s an album that simply engulfs the listener from note one, not relenting until bitter end. It is within these five tracks that two stars, which shine so brightly on their own, have collided to create a black hole worth getting lost inside of.
The addition of Christmas fluctuates between subtle and absolute. But whether her vocals are simply used as a beautiful accoutrement or allowed to unleash unbridled fury, front and center, the compliment they give to the already resplendent arrangements laid forth is phenomenal. Looking back on some of Cult of Luna’s best works it’s hard to imagine in what ways they can be improved upon, yet on Mariner, the addition of Christmas has seemingly taken their sound into another orbit. Meanwhile, Christmas is given an already opulent canvas yet allowed to work her magic to make the superb become extraordinary.
If Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas never collaborate again after this release, then at the very least we have been gifted this moment in time when two colossal talents came together to lift each other even further into the stratosphere. A moment we can happily relive over and over again.
Mariner is out April 8 via Indie Recordings. You can experience the opening track, “A Greater Call” at the Indie Recordings YouTube channel.