Smoke rising from chimneys are fires always makes me think of doom. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the slow burning, or perhaps it’s the billowing smoke that can serve to suffocate and destroy, but it’s an image that always makes me think of that form of metal.
And that makes some sense today as we’re here to discuss “Oblique to All Paths,” the new opus from transcontinental blackened doom band Culted, their second album overall, and their longest document by far. We haven’t gotten a new album from the band in nearly five years, as their debut long player “Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep” landed in 2009 (they did follow up with an EP “Of Death and Ritual” a year later), and I was wondering if the project was still alive and kicking. But lo and behold, their new album landed in my inbox late last year, and any worries I had disappeared pretty quickly. Same with any concern if the project could match their debut.
Culted’s setup is a pretty bizarre one, not one you see very often, if at all, in any style of music. The band’s members never have all been in the same room together before and, obviously, never have performed music as a full band. They have created every one of their releases through sharing files electronically, with the band’s Canadian-based musicians Matthew Friesen (guitars, bass, noise), Michael Klassen (also guitars, bass, noise), and Kevin Stevenson (drums), who all have been a part of the band Of Human Bondage, creating the group’s hellacious compositions and sending them to Swedish vocalist Daniel Jansson (Deadwood, Keplers Odd) for his mammoth roars and fits of ambient terror. It’s a formula that shouldn’t work, but they’ve proved it does for them, and “Oblique to All Paths” is all the proof you need.
OK, so doom might not be the proper term for Culted’s music, not that there isn’t tons of that element. They’ve branched out their sound a little on this record, which we’ll detail momentarily, and have pumped way more noise, static, and horror into their formula just to keep you feeling as uncomfortable as possible. Their songs are mostly pretty long, pulling you into a slow drubbing, and if you come out the other end unbruised, consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
The record opens with the massive, nearly 20-minute “Brooding Hex,” one of the most impressive songs in the band’s catalog and a perfect example of how Culted’s sound has matured and stretched over the years. The track actually opens with some trickling deathrock and murky stretches that sound a lot different from the terrain they usually trudge, but it obviously gets monstrously heavy and vicious with chugging doom that’s matched with some imaginative psychedelic guitar work that’ll trip you out. This track will screw with your mind, as drone cascades down, heaviness keeps hammering you, and the song eventually blasts into outer space. “Illuminati” is a nasty cut, with galloping riffs that feel like High on Fire at times, layered vocals that create a trance state, and a pit of chaos that pummels until it eventually subsides. “Intoxicant Immuration” rises out of noise and rams right into cement-thick riffs, swirling voices, menacing growling, and funeral-heavy leads. As the song goes on, it gets heavier and heavier, with the final minutes rumbling, lurching, and mauling.
“March of the Wolves” is shorter and to the point, with dissonant guitars, doomy riffs, blistering drumming, and fury that bleeds into the interlude “Distortion of the Nature of Mankind,” a cut that brings down the fire momentarily before it blasts into the final two tracks on the record. “Transmittal” runs 11:52 and opens with industrial-style pounding, black metal-friendly melodies, and more psyche-smeared guitar work. Most of the song is lumbering and slowly paced, potentially lulling you into thinking things are going to stay at this clip before the final few minutes erupt into a blaze and get moltenly heavy. The ending crushes and terrifies, giving you a sobering reminder of just how nasty Culted can be. Closer “Jeremiad” is the track with the least amount of surprises, as it carves its doomy path, stays in it, and never really veers off the path. It’s sludgy, punchy, mean, and maybe just a bit formulaic. It’s not a bad cut by any means, but it feels a little static coming after six cuts with so much innovation. And trust me, it’ll bloody you anyway.
Culted have proved that long-distance relationships definitely can work, as long as all of the elements are there to keep things fresh and exciting. This may never be a band that gives us a new record every two years, but as long as they deliver mammoth riffs, horrific noise, and first-class blackened doom, who’s to complain? “Oblique to All Paths” is a massive step ahead from their debut album and the first devastating dose of doom in 2014. This is a mighty, scary band, and hopefully their campaign of disaster lasts long into the future.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Culted
To buy the album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html
For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/