Cult Leader Make Democracy Work on 'A Patient Man'

Photo: Bobby Cochran

BY Joe Smith-EngelhardtPublished Nov 6, 2018

Cult Leader have been blasting people's ears with hyper-aggressive chaotic hardcore since the demise of their former band, Gaza, five years ago, but now the band have flipped the script and dug more deeply into the dark brooding epics they've experimented with on previous releases.
Fans of the band got a glimpse at what they were capable of in terms of writing clean epics, alongside vicious bangers, on their first few releases, but on their sophomore record, A Patient Man, they fully embrace this side of themselves.
"It's something we've been exploring since our second release [2015's Useless Animal EP]," vocalist Anthony Lucero tells Exclaim! "I think it took more of a finished form on this record more than anything. It's something we've always flirted with, I just think this is the first time that it has ever fully formed as what you hear."
The band's latest sees their sound fully coming together, but it wasn't made without difficulties. While topping a record as strong as 2015's Lightless Walk is a hefty achievement, it happened because of the band's dedication to cut any material they couldn't all agree was worthy. Lucero says the band's writing process leads to some frustrating disagreements among members, but ultimately gave them a much stronger record.
"We have standards set for ourselves and each other that, if we don't meet that standard, then nothing happens. I think the way we approach music with each other is that we all write together and everybody has veto power to say 'That riff doesn't work,'" says Lucero. "It's super-frustrating a lot of the time, and it causes conflict and tension, but I think that in the end, our sorting process really helps inform the end product."
Although Lucero delivers a grotesque demonic growl when the band are tearing through blast beats and razor-sharp riffs, he stands out the most when using his low, clean voice. The singer comes across more confident in his capabilities on the new album, but says he'll likely never be fully comfortable with his performance.
"I don't spend a lot of time questioning if I am capable of pulling something off anymore, which was a big part of the earlier releases," says Lucero. "I always want to stay pretty far outside of my comfort zone and try a whole bunch of shit that I'm not totally positive about being able to pull off, but at least within the confines of what we've done, I know that I've been able to accomplish the things that I've had in my head."
During the recording process, the vocalist wanted to read his lyrics to the rest of the band, to discuss where he was coming from in his writing. While doing so, he and the rest of the band felt the song "A Patient Man" captured what the entire album was trying to encompass in its overall tone and decided that would be the album title.
"Just through discussion with everybody, [that] was the line that stood out the most, and it encompassed what we were trying to accomplish with the general vibe and tone of the record. Through a lot of conversation with all of us that was the one that kind of claimed the title of the record," says Lucero.
In the same fashion as their debut, the band recorded with legendary producer and Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou at GodCity Studio. Although Ballou and the members of Cult Leader are friends, Lucero says the admiration they have for Ballou's work pushes them to create the best material they possibly can.
"At this point, it's really just going in and doing what we do and trusting his opinion and his capability. A big part of it is you don't want to go in and look stupid to someone like Kurt. You want to go in and be as prepared as you can possibly be, and give it everything you've got," says Lucero.
A lot of the bands signed with Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon's record label Deathwish Inc. share a similar approach to their music, and Cult Leader are no exception. The band are very much shaped by a DIY attitude and have been able to learn how to treat it like a job more effectively from spending time with artists like this.
"When you're surrounded by all of these guys who are on this level that you respect and they make music that you respect and they have a position within the scene that other people respect and you've got to work with them, spending months on the road with these guys and you're doing these things you want to be able to show your best face," says Lucero.
Whether it's due to the bands they associate with, their legacy carrying over from Gaza, or simply their raw energy and skills, Cult Leader are one of the most impressive rising metal bands around at the moment. Despite the attention they're getting though, the band are compulsively driven to make music and would do it no matter what.
"We would have made this record if no one listened to it ever. It's fantastic and surprising and it helps validate what we do to a certain degree but it doesn't drive us," says Lucero. "First and foremost we do this so we can get whatever it is inside of us out and doing it as a group has a special power for us."
A Patient Man comes out November 9 on Deathwish Inc.

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