Culted - Oblique To All Paths“Oblique”  – indirectly stated or expressed, not straightforward.

Well, that sums this up nicely, I’ll press on, but we’ll come back to that.

Culted are described as blackened doom, but there’s a post metal feel to the middle of epic 20 minute opener ‘Brooding Hex’ which has a trembling, almost hopeful air under the singer’s growls which is then flattened by digitally fuzzed crashes and spooky circular guitar patterns. Think early Alcest. The song comes to a churning crescendo of reverb and muffled thunder, ending with solemn notes from a piano.

‘Illuminati’ is a down-tuned late Celtic Frost style head-nodder of blackest malevolence. Howling guitars and heavily treated vocals, like sheets of sandpaper blowing in the wind, swirl and scorch. It becomes more agitated, with a classic if over-used doomy riff before fading back into a sort of industrial murk. Intriguing.

Next up ‘Intoxicant Immuration’  ( no, me neither ) has guitars which intone like church bells over atmospheric samples at a funereal pace before the spoken black metal vocals emerge again and the pace picks up ever so slightly. The track kind of swings like a coffin in the back of a hearse driven by a drunkard. The competing vocal lines and sound effects highlight that this is very much a studio production, not necessarily built for the stage. And here is where we return to the definition at the top of this review. Culted is less a band than a collective, with three Canadian musicians, lead by Michael Klassen, also featuring Matthew Friesen and Kevin Stevenson, who have never met their Swedish vocalist, Daniel Jansson. The album was written around the guitar compositions of Klassen with Jansson then adding his sullen black metal vocals and ideas via the net before bass is added and the whole thing is reassembled and edited into individual songs. It is complex and rich sound, sombre and complex, and although the bottom end’s a bit muddy there’s a nice piercing quality to higher range. It is what I would describe as a headphones album. It needs your full attention to cast it’s dark spell.

Back to the tunes then and the shorter ‘March of the Wolves’ is rather trad and pedestrian compared to what’s come before, but things get interesting again on the sample-heavy ‘Transmittal’. It has a woozy and psychedelic air, like a priest with a bad hangover receiving confession from a demon.

There’s a lot to take in but closing track ‘Jeremiad’ seems a jumble of rhythms and ideas, like an assembly of cast off’s from previous songs. It never rests long enough to build sufficient tension or get into a groove and thus is rather unsatisfying.

I have given this album all due attention and it’s many facets have revealed themselves, showing this to be a very interesting album. That said if I want to listen to expansive, experimental music I don’t really want to listen to it in the form of blackened doom metal and so as accomplished as this is it really isn’t my cup of tea. However, those who enjoyed last year’s Deafheaven album as much as many did at TINAS should certainly get Culted at the earliest opportunity.

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