From Sabbath’s Iron Man and Deep Purple’s Space Truckin’, through Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime and Maiden’s Dune-inspired To Tame A Land, right up to High On Fire’s recent opus, the time travel epic De Vermis Mysteriis, the realm of science fiction has long provided fertile inspiration for bands and artists at all ends of the metal spectrum and as perfect as the marriage that exists between drug-sewer noise rock and Predator 2 there can surely be no more appropriate a band to tackle Fritz Lang’s 1927 expressionist/sci-fi masterpiece, Metropolis, than Cult Of Luna.
For the Swede’s sixth studio album, and their first in five years, it’s not, however, the film’s narrative that provides the LP’s concept – although its strong socio-political undertones and rather melancholic, fairytale-like central message of the heart providing the link between the mind (the bourgeois) and the hands (the workers) likewise seems a perfect fit for the band – rather Vertikal focuses on the visual imagery.
Whilst continuing the darker tone set on the stunning and twisted Eternal Kingdom, largely through the intermittent orchestral synth passages such as opener The One, which in its Vangelis-like nature conjures up images of the opening scenes of Blade Runner as much as anything else, there’s stark coldness at the heart of Vertikal that perfectly encapsulates the hard, almost constructivist vision of Fritz Lang’s cityscapes.
Elsewhere the relentlessly metronomic and pounding central riff of the contorting, 19-minute epic Vicarious Redemption and the repetitive, mechanised drum patters of Synchronicity sublimely capture the ceaseless toil of the film’s subterranean workers, whilst the propulsive disharmony of In Awe Of harks back to the desolate wanderings of 2006’s Somewhere Along The Highway. In short, a masterpiece in sonic representation of a timeless visual marvel.