Cult Leader Lightless Walk
Published Oct 14, 2015"We could take your pain away."
The gravity of this line on "Sympathetic," one of 11 knockdown, devastating numbers on Salt Lake crust crew Cult Leader's debut LP, Lightless Walk, is palpable. As with much of the material here, the song lands like a wrecking ball of drums, guitars and fierce, fraught screaming, here trying its best to slam through a stone wall of stolid depression. It's a relentless barrage of hyper-extended blast beats and detuned string aggression, but something miraculous happens at the mid-point: a burst of melody arrives, a rainfall of triumphantly trilled octaves temporarily dousing the hellfire of self-loathing and confusion Anthony Lucero brings as the vocalist of Cult Leader. Make no mistake: This isn't an overly cheery passage, with the moment still landing ear-blisteringly in the red and quickly followed-up with a one-note stomp-out, but it's a necessary breather from the ultimately bleak Lightless Walk.
Not every song has as cathartic a resolve. "Great I Am" dive-bombs into nuclear thrash and themes of extreme isolation, while "Hate Offering" is, as the title may hint, an exercise in modern metal barbarism. "A Good Life," however, shows that Cult Leader have learned a thing or two from covering Mark Kozelek and Desertshore's "You Are Not My Blood" on their Useless Animals seven-inch from earlier in the year. This original number plays out over a gloom-blues swing, with Lucero adopting a gravelly half-sung tone that reveals he's feeling unloved, unwanted and unwarranted. "I stand alone watching a perfect little worm as it feeds on dirt," he muses morbidly.
Lightless Walk is not a comfortable listen. Even the outrageously oppressive and damaging Nothing For Us Here EP from 2014 couldn't have prepared listeners for the overwhelming sensations of sorrow, frustration and loneliness this album brings. By that same token, it's Cult Leader's greatest achievement yet, and a testament to coping with depression through extreme art.
It's a shining moment for the quartet, one that possesses the kind of visionary brutality that could steer the metal/hardcore world towards something greater and far more gut-bustingly visceral. This could be Cult Leader's Jane Doe or Calculating Infinity, a game-changing model for a new generation of DIY extreme music-makers to use as a blueprint. That said, it all comes with the caveat that Lightless Walk may be bringing us all even further into the darkness. (Deathwish Inc.)