Cult Leader’s Second LP Has a Little Something For Everyone

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.

     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.

7/10

HEAR A PATIENT MAN: https://open.spotify.com/album/1OPpVnWDfL3YKmIqxuVRdZ

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Revocation Drops Thrashing but Technical 7th LP

While the record is flawed, it’s a passionate attempt to balance loud, thrashing instruments with virtuosity and precision which, when it works, works gloriously.

     Revocation is a thrash/death metal trio based in Boston, MA. They founded nearly two decades ago and quickly gained notoriety from a very strong, self-released EP and a follow up LP in 2006 and 2008 respectively. After signing with Relapse Records in 2009, the group went on to release three very successful projects, the last of which, 2013’s self-titled album, actually charted in the billboard 200. Recently, they’ve signed to Metal Blade Records for 2014’s Deathless and 2016’s Great Is Our Sin, each of which charted and received heavy critical acclaim in the US and parts of Europe.

   The groups is known, first and foremost, for their technical abilities on each instrument and attention to detail in every riff and fill. This serves them well in a genre which caters to fans with a strong knowledge of musicianship and provides a window in for listeners from outside the genre who don’t necessarily know what to listen for in heavy metal. They’ve gone through a few lineup changes over the years, with frontman David Davidson remaining as the only member of the original cast, but they haven’t lost any of their edge or skill. With that, let’s take a look at The Outer Ones.

   The backbone and workhorse of this group is Ash Pearson on drums. Having just joined in 2015 to replace longtime and founding member, Phil Dubois-Coyne, Pearson stepped into big shoes, which he filled instantly. His ability to switch from complex groves to ridiculously fast, driving passages is extremely impressive. This shines a lot on tracks like “That Which Consumes All Things,” or “Fathomless Catacombs,” but it is the spine of the record as a whole and allows Revocation to put clear separations between their thrash and death metal influences.

   While the drums may be the bedrock, you could be forgiven for missing much of Pearson’s work thanks the distraction of David Davidson’s soaring lead guitars. The solo on the opener and my favorite cut, “Of Unworldly Origins,” just cuts the very dense mix in half with power and direction and the way he toys with atonation and dissonance on the opening of the title track gives an eery feel which is far too rare on this record. This, of course, not to mention the lead only passage on the closer, “A Starless Darkness,” which is simply fantastic.

   The rhythm guitar is excellent is as well. Davidson’s tone and chunky play works well over the drums to enforce the rhythm well on tracks like “Vanitas.” Throughout the entire album, this guitar is an essential part of pulling listeners along for the constantly changing rhythms and tempos that The Outer Ones throws at them.

   Vocals are a much weaker area as Davidson is a much better guitarist than vocalist. While he has high points like “Luciferous,” where his more thrashing voice comes through to imbue the track with a certain epical feel, most of his performances aren’t memorable, and tend leave listeners waiting for the next virtuosic instrumental passage.

   The bass guitar is very nearly non-existent on this project. Brett Bamburger’s work peaks its head out in tracks like “Luciferous,” or “Vanitas” but weather its buried in the mix or just forgettable and unnoticeable, the bass can hardly be heard outside of these few spotlighting moments. Because of this, every single track is wanting of a depth which just doesn’t come from the rest of the rather narrow instrumental pallet.

   Easily the album’s worst quality, though, is the production. Accomplished metal producer, Zeuss takes the reigns on The Outer Ones and paints this record with more than a few cliched choices. The swirling fade in on “Blood Atonement,” is extremely overused and dated and the fade out on “A Starless Darkness,” is simply unforgivable and all but ruins one of Revocation’s strongest pieces in the tracklist. Beyond this, the entire project has a very thin sound, the bass guitars are buried through much of it, and what stereo imaging there is comes off as gimmicky and unnatural. This seems to be simply a case of trying to fix what isn’t broke.

   All together, The Outer Ones is a fun, heavy release from one of the most talented groups in rock music. The less than 50 minute runtime doesn’t overstay its welcome, tracks are well paced and consistently entertaining, and the musicianship is nothing short of fantastic.

   While the record is flawed, it’s a passionate attempt to balance loud, thrashing instruments with virtuosity and precision which, when it works, works gloriously.

6/10

HEAR THE OUTER ONES: https://open.spotify.com/album/1Ela7sSi5MIp9HmEuLbCdY