Cult Leader rise from Gaza’s ashes and prove just a volatile on debut ‘Nothing for Us Here’

Cult Leader
Not all bands get a chance at new life. Most have whatever run they’re on before they disintegrate, fade into existence, or simply lose it completely. For a band to have a chance to move from one plane of existence to another is a special thing reserved for very few.

Iron Maiden, the mighty and hallowed, were able to do it by bringing back members of their classic lineup and getting their creative juices flowing again. That new run has last more than a decade now, and it’s been amazingly fruitful. You also can look at a different kind of example like Triptykon, that grew out of the ashes of Celtic Frost and gave Tom G. Warrior another chance to spread his reignited fire to the rest of the metal world. The spirit has carried from band to the next, and now Warrior’s already revered name has taken on more meaning and weightier importance. Now we can add Cult Leader to that list of bands that saw one era of their existence come to an end only to find them rising out of the ashes and breathing new life.

Cult Leader coverYou probably remember Gaza, the physically imposing, supremely heavy band from Salt Lake City that released three volatile full-lengths and an EP, none of which pulled any punches either musically or lyrically. But after they put out their third record “No Absolutes in Human Suffering,” the band hit trouble spots (most notably a controversy surrounding Gaza vocalist Jon Parkin), and eventually the group was brought to an end. It seemed kind of premature since the band was gaining momentum and didn’t seem to hit their peak yet, but that worry didn’t last long. Out of the chaos rose Cult Leader, combining the remaining three members of Gaza–Anthony Lucero (moving from bass to vocals, and more than capably, might I add), guitarist Michael Mason, and drummer Casey Hansen–along with bassist Sam Richards, with the same levels of black violence, hardcore-style chaos, and blunt force trauma. Really, if you already liked Gaza, you’ll be pretty at home with Cult Leader’s ferocious debut “Nothing for Us Here,” as the colors and shades are pretty similar. But it isn’t a copy of what they did as Gaza by any means, and Lucero adds his own personality and power to the vocals, so it’s a way for these guys to experience that new life on their own terms. The only direction for this band is up.

The album opens with “God’s Lonely Children,” giving you the sense that this band will carry over some of the same lyrical positions Gaza held. The song boils in lava, heavy but formless, as Lucero howls over the cauldron, “Nothing for us here! Move on!” That spills into “Flightless Birds,” where the band hits on all cylinders, clubbing and smashing with a frenetic pace, vicious vocals spilling out and punishing, and thick feedback swelling over and stinging the senses. The music is thick and muddy, and the vocals are gruff with pain and anger. “Mongrel” follows, with some of the darkest, bruised lyrics on the record, with Lucero howling, “I am a loyal dog/My name is sorrow.” His point is that, like a dependable dog, sorrow is the thing nipping at his ankles, constantly behind him, just not in the loving, giving way as a beloved pup. The riffs are grimey, the pace is slow-paced and killing, and the entire thing feels horribly menacing.

“The Indoctrinator’s Deathbed” is fast and thick, with guitars trudging through like a runaway freight train, with vocals that sound like they’re trying to burn your skin, and pelting drums that not only damages Hansen’s kit but could put welts on your chest. “Skin Crawler” is doomy and mucky, with Lucero unleashing screamier vocals and the rest of the band settling into a thrashing pattern complete with gut-wrenching drumming and burly guitar work. Closer “Driftwood” is the longest cut on the record by far at 6:06, and it’s the most varied track of the group. The band plays a little slower and adds reflective textures to the mix, while the vocals remain harsh and bloody, with Lucero wailing tortured lines such as, “How could I have known?” in the middle of what’s a thorny diatribe. The song stretches out and lets the band experiment a little bit, proving they’re capable of doing more than just demolishing your senses, and once the track fades into space, you’ll feel like you took a trip with the band you might not have expected.

Cult Leader certainly have picked up where Gaza left off momentum-wise, and with this new formation and their fiery ambition, the sky’s the limit for the band. This EP is a great first step, a perfect serving size for those who missed what these guys bring to the table and a promise that they just might go in some unexpected directions in the future, if the final song isn’t a red herring. It’s great to see these guys thriving in their new existence, and hope springs eternal for what they will bring on their debut full-length, no matter how much it’ll bloody our lips.

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