Cult Leader – Lightless Walk (2015)

Author: Bloodshot Grub

Artist: Cult Leader

Album: Lightless Walk

Label: Deathwish, Inc.

“Once we were another band, now we’re a better one.”

The opening line from Cult Leader‘s press packet gets right to the point. The other band that they were was Gaza, whose 2012 album No Absolutes in Human Suffering was widely and justifiably lauded as a high point of modern metalcore. Three-quarters of that band went on to form Cult Leader, and, high as the bar is, Lightless Walk is indeed the output of a better band.

Cult Leader is first and foremost a hardcore band, leaning in the general direction of the metallic mathcore produced by genre luminaries Coalesce and Converge, but with hefty doses of crust, grindcore, sludge. Notably absent is the influence of Swedish death metal, which is prevalent among similar bands. They spend a great deal of time tearing through one dissonant, high-impact riff after another, making use of each one for only as long as it takes to get the point across. They’re also entirely willing to take their time, pausing to let notes hang and die, or to roll with a d-beat groove just long enough to get your head banging before they start switching up the rhythms in typical mathcore fashion. It’s a solid variety of ideas that serves to keep things from becoming fatiguing or fading into an undifferentiated froth of rage and riffs.

Anthony Lucero’s vocal performance is both savage and personal, ranging from the gutteral, full-throat animalism of Jacob Bannon to something approaching a death metal version of Randy Blythe. Gaza was pure ferocity, with vocalist Jon Parkin, the one member not present in Cult Leader, seeming sadistic and deranged. Lucero, the former Gaza bassist, offers an equally intense but much more focused rage. On opener “Great I Am,” he seems to be screaming down at you from above, one boot on your chest, the band punctuating each line with a sledgehammer blow to the face. On “A Good Life,” and “Lightless Walk,” he brings out a sullen baritone reminiscent of Nick Cave and Michael Gira, and that in combination with the more subdued tone taken by the band on those tracks makes for an introspective but disturbing respite from the chaos and brutality that characterizes the other songs.

Lightless Walk feels taut and determined. No fat, no filler. Even so, I was surprised when I checked the album length and saw that it’s only 36 minutes long. I suspect that it feels longer, though not overlong by any means, because it feels like a journey rather than a race. And as good as they are when playing at full tilt, it’s the slower moments that really make the album memorable. They showcase a breadth not often seen in metalcore of any variety.

If, like me, you were disheartened by news of Gaza‘s demise, Lightless Walk will clear that right up. Those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing Gaza but who are enjoying the current wealth of crusty death metal and grind will find much to enjoy here. Let Cult Leader take you on a walk. You’ll be glad you did.

9/10

  • Bloodshot Grub

Check ’em out here: https://cultleadermusic.bandcamp.com/album/lightless-walk

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