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Mariner is the first album in four years since the departure of original vocalist Klas Rydberg in 2012, and the first album as a whole without their original guitarist Erik Olofsson, who left the band in 2014. In their place, Johannes Persson and Fredrick Kihlberg stepped in Rydberg’s shoes, and became the two main guitarists of the band. Julie Christmas originates from American contemporary sludge and post metal peers Battle of Mice (2005 – 2009) and Made Out of Babies (2005 – 2012), and joined the Mariner project as a collaborating guest vocalist.
A Greater Call, the first single of the new album, premiering on 11th Feburary 2016 is taken on with an ambient rock feel, very similar to the later works of Anathema (We’re Here Because We’re Here (2010), Weather Systems (2012) and Distant Satellites (2014)), Lunatic Soul and progressive metal peers Riverside (Love, Fear and the Time Machine (2015)). The most comparable A Greater Call could be to the Cult of Luna’s own discography, would be is to Echoes from Vague Illusions (2004). Then about half way, the song transcends into something heavier, with growling vocals, alluding to their doom metal influences, and the sound listeners have come to be familiarized with from Somewhere Along the Highway (2006) to Vertikal (2012), and their earlier works Cult of Luna (2001) and The Beyond (2003).
Chevron incarnates into the sludge metal sound of their previous albums, with hints of punk and noise rock and with avant garde vocals provided by Christmas, channeling Bjork and Fever Ray before going into psychedelic, distorted screams very similar to the current neofolk, drone metal and goth rock artist Chelsea Wolfe (Apokalypsis (2011)). The Wreck of S.S Needle, a song that may have been partially inspired by the wrecked remains of S.S Varvassi, a Greek vessel that was transporting cargo to Southampton, UK in January 1947, and got ship-wrecked at The Needles rocks’ lighthouse, near Alum Bay in the Isle of Wright; molds drone, ambient and sludge and doom metal into one element, with powerful vocals, Christmas’ vocals cleaner than in the two previous tracks, and more domineering.
Approaching Transition is the first track on this short album to feature clean vocals from the two main male vocalists, and follows A Greater Call into a dark ambient rock surround sound, featuring distorted techniques used by Katatonia, previously of death/doom before they ventured into the progressive/alternative and ambient (metalgaze) transition they’re known for today (Night is the New Day (2009), Dead End Kings (2011) and the up-coming The Fall of Hearts (2016)). The feeling of the lyrical content and the instrumental distribution is mournful, listless and is very reminiscence of funeral doom metal genre, before growling vocals come in nearing the end, like the singer is using his last breath to lay out the message before falling into despair.
Cygnus fuses drone, progressive and classical metal composition, with Julie Christmas’ touching on psychedelic vocalizations once more, and introduces experimentation with the synthesizers, inspired by the workings of key progressive rock pioneers Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Tony Banks from Genesis; lulls into tired ambience, conducting the arrangement of Chris Spredding on conceptual album War of the Worlds composed by Jeff Wayne, 1978 – significantly from the latter parts of The Eve of War and Horsell Common and the Heat Ray, before exploding into a climatic screaming guitars, vocals and drums, quietens and nearing the end, combines the two contrasting moments together; the quieter interlude becoming a background ambience as the growls return.