From the black, desperate ashes of Gaza came Cult Leader, a band united in leaving history firmly in the past and ready to march onward into even more cynical territory. With a pair of EPs heavy enough to sink James Cameron’s boat, this regeneration of one of nihilistic music’s stand out acts had already laid stake to the claim of being one of the heaviest acts around these parts. Now, with their debut full length, Cult Leader are barely contested as one of extreme musics hottest commodities. This record is as expressive as they come, and it clearly comes from a dark, dark place, but that’s where the best art comes from; those places tucked so far away into the recesses of suffering that words barely scratch the surface of the anguish experienced by those who can’t find their way out. A Lightless Walk, one might say?

Looking for light, in any meaning of the word, is a fruitless task on this record. Every track is slathered with guitars, percussion and vocals that swamp over the listener like black tar on a life long smoker’s lungs. No quarter is given save for several minutes of eerie post-metal playtime in between consistently gut wrenching passages of desperation and negativity; negativity that is delivered in the most concise way by the vocal delivery and words of Anthony Lucero.  Finding eleven ways of telling the world that everything is terrible is no small task, but every track on Lightless Walk has it’s own message; there is a reviews worth of material to be dissected in the lyrics alone. Delivered in the manner that they are, the message behind tracks like “Gutter Gods” and “Hate Offering”, is pretty fucking clear – religion is an oppressive force that we do not need. Another favorite line from “Walking Wastelands” clears the air regards where Cult Leader are coming from on this record, leaving very little room for ambiguity. “We will die here empty and alone.” Seemingly joyless, these lyrics are only as good as the music that accompanies them, which is great. Duh.

There is a gloriously cathartic atmosphere generated by the onslaught of crust tinged metal on Lightless Walk. It’s okay to thrive in the dark places of this record, mainly because it’s a lot of fun to listen to. Far more direct than any Gaza material, “Great I Am” and “Sympathetic” take their cues from hardcore, grind and black metal; a combination that has long since become the norm today, but has not been explored as fully as found here. The combined attack of percussion and bass guitar is unflinching, with the bass becoming another element of percussion as it grinds alongside each beat in a tidy synchronized fashion.  There are no wasted moments or unnecessary fillers on any track on this record, something which is almost unheard of across the wider spectrum of extreme music. Cult Leader take the throne by keeping everything colossally oppressive and heavy, at the same time leaving gimmicks and tricks to the side. Riffs and grooves that live somewhere between Cult Of Luna and Nails are the backbone of great moments like in “Broken Blades”, but the percussion is given the time and room to shred instead of a guitar solo. A crystal clear ride bell paired with a violent blast beat is but one of the small moments of ingenuity that make this album about the band, not just the individual components. Don’t even get me started on the folk influenced closing track that bookends this fantastic album like nothing you’ve heard yet.

Cult Leader exist in the vacuum between cult notoriety and potential mainstream success. They’ll never top the Billboard 100 because music like this is too “violent” and peoples feelings are too fucking soft, but they should be lauded and revered as the perfect antidote to everything despicable with humanity right now. Whether that’s religion, poseur hardcore or just everyday life is really up to the listener and what they take from the experience of devouring Lightless Walk. It’s one of those tired metal clichés but they really have given everything on this record. It can be felt through every snappy blast of energy and each tortured rasp. Chalk this one up as an instant Deathwish classic.

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Cult Leader’s Lightless Walk gets…

4.5/5

-MM

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