Cult Leader’s Lightless Walk Is Unrelenting

Salt Lake City’s Cult Leader mixes doom and progressive metal into their debut, Lightless Walk. The album, which constantly vacillates between sludgy riffs and pummeling blast beats, plays like a lesson in how to turn a feeling into something different. Moving from short but heavy punk tracks to fuzzed over atmospheric tones, Cult Leader gets the best of both worlds in Lightless Walk.

The band itself is three quarters of the Gaza. But Cult Leaders doesn’t retread territory. Throughout Lightless Walk, there’s more depth to the music, more variance on tone, and even spaces to take a breath. That said, Cult Leader’s debut seems to be more concise while swerving wider than anything in Gaza’s discography.

The album begins with “Great I Am.” The song does well to establish the feel of the album. Taking notes from The Chariot‘s feedback fueled punchiness and Between The Buried and Me‘s double bass drum led riffs, “Great I Am” shows a band that is as visceral as they are conceptual. The song bleeds seamlessly into the second track, “Sorrower.”

Lightless Walk keeps the energy from its beginning song throughout the album, mutating slightly as the album moves from start to finish. Shifting from metalcore to prog metal to hardcore and back, Cult Leader has made a collage of the heaviest aspects of each genre from which they pull. And despite its disparate influences, the album feels entirely cohesive.

Around the halfway point of Lightless Walk, the band throws another layer into their already complex sound. “A Good Life” plays more atmospheric and droning than most of the album’s other songs (except, perhaps, the title track). With lyrics that sound like Tom Waits at his prime and guitars that sound like AUN, “A Good Life” adds more depth to the album. The song’s atmospheric feel is given tension by the tom-heavy drumming. This drumming also helps the song transition into its more aggressive second half.

“A Good Life” fades into “Walking Wastelands,” which returns the album to the unrelenting sound that dominated the first half. That said, there are points in which the guitars burn above the bass-heavy riffs to give feedback bitten leads. In its second half, Lightless Walk shows more urgency than before. Its songs seem more desperate and their pace much quicker.

Seemingly, the second half of Lightless Walk whips its listeners into a frenzy before dropping them into the abyss of their final two songs. The most doom-like of the album, “How Deep It Runs” shows a band as comfortable jittering through riffs as it is creating all-enveloping walls of sound. The song’s marching beat leads it into its feedback haze and through to “Lightless Walk,” which is as masterful a song as any.

Cult Leader’s debut has all the bite of the most visceral metal and all the beauty of the most brooding soundscapes. The juxtaposition between the two elements makes Lightless Walk a solid record from start to finish–perfect for fans of early Between The Buried and Me as well as SQURL.

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