Cult Leader is a tech/sludge metal band from Salt Lake City, Utah. They formed in 2013 after the break up of the band Gaza, where three of Cult Leader’s four members got their start. They made waves in 2014 with their debut EP, Nothing For Us Here, before following up in 2015 with the Useless Animal EP, was well as their first LP, Lightless Walk. The releases have been fairly successful, building on the success previously achieved by Gaza as well as forging their own identity as a group.
Cult Leader’s sound is a unique blend of several styles of modern metal music. There’s a heavy dose of sludge metal, particularly in the rattling bass guitar, but there are also hints of thrash, grindcore, and even grunge. Through all of this, the technical skill of the group shines brightly over frequent tempo and time changes. They stand as an excellent example of the many intersecting worlds of metal, a trend that doesn’t stop with their newest release, A Patient Man.
The record really falls into three parts: a brutally heavy opening section, a tame second act, and an epic, gothic closing chapter. Through this, the LP is absolutely perfectly paced. Longer songs like the title track or “To: Achlys,” spend every second of their time very wisely, developing multiple musical ideas and fleshing out each riff and hook in a really satisfying way. On the other hand, a short track like “Craft of Mourning,” feels fully realized and seems to have been given a fair hearing, despite a runtime under three minutes. It’s just a masterclass in getting the most from your songs without overstaying the welcome.
The opening portion of the record, comprised of “I Am Healed,” “Curse of Satisfaction,” and “Isolation in the Land of Milk and Honey,” is absolutely blistering. The tempos are fast, the drums are explosive, and the vocals are positively demonic. The guitar, while easily the least impressive component of the group, is used interestingly, mostly serving to build an atmosphere, while the melody and rhythm is pushed along by the drums and vocals. The bass, which is often lacking in tracks like this, is impressively present here as well, though it wouldn’t come to fruition until much later in the runtime. It’s a brutal opening, which sets an excellent tone, only to be broken in the second act.
Covering only two songs, “To: Achlys,” and “A World of Joy,” the second, slower section of the record lasts about 12 minutes and totally flips the script on what we’ve just heard. The tempos are lower, the vocals and guitars are clean, and tone is far less brutal. Instead, we listen as two gothic slogs slowly unravel into epic finishes. The bass guitar is fantastic hear, rattling out the lower end and left just clean enough to hear every imperfection and slide. These are also the best lyrical moments of the project, especially on the first of the two, which may be my favorite song on the album, which reads like a dark hymn. As exciting as this section itself, however, is the epic return of the distortion and thickness of the opening section.
Opening with “Craft Our Morning,” and “Share My Pain,” neither of which clear three minutes, Cult Leader wastes no time in ratcheting up the intensity, continuing with the brutal “Aurum Reclusa.” The final two tracks, however, bring the project full circle. The title track, and longest song on the record, is absolutely fantastic. From the howling shouts of “such sweet hell,” to the commanding drum work, to the strangely hopeful finish, this track really sums up the record, especially in it’s wide array of influence and musical idea. The closer, “The Broken Right Hand of God,” nears seven minutes as well, is equally powerful, and is one of the only well produces tracks on the album The guitars create something of a cloud of distortion, from which the drums and particularly guttural vocals burst defiantly, only to be quickly swallowed again. In the end, as the feedback and repetitive riffs trail off, this song feels like a meaningful conclusion to an excellent project.
A Patient Man certainly isn’t perfect. The production is my biggest complaint, as nearly all of these mixes severely lack texture with every instrument seeming to come from everywhere at the same level. Additionally, a few of the builds on the latter half don’t seem to pay off as they should. These of course, are small issues in an otherwise excellent second outing for Cult Leader.
A Patient Man is a perfectly paced mix of brutal energy and gothic cacophony which stands as a testament to the excellent state of metal music today.
HEAR A PATIENT MAN: https://open.spotify.com/album/1OPpVnWDfL3YKmIqxuVRdZ