Cursus
Cursus

Though labeled simply as “doom/stoner” metal, Texan duo Cursus deliver an album that plays out more akin to an expansive, ever-changing soundtrack as opposed to a collection of headbanging riff-y groove assaults.  Those looking for instant gratification might not make it past the first track but those hunting for an explorative exercise in atmosphere (that does include more than enough fearsome downtempo skullfuckery) will want to strap in for the long haul of Cursus’ debut Self-Titled LP.

Opener “Her Wings Covered the Sky” nails a cycling, repetitive funerary vibe overflowing with Eastern tinged synths (and possible string samples) and Sarah Ann Roork’s hypnotically tribal tom-tom poundings as multi-instrumentalist CJ Salem contributes a minimalistic, begotten fuzz doom riff that propels things forward alongside his gnarled death metal growls.  It’s the equivalent of a funeral procession hitting black ice on the way to a church service with literally every fucker in tow ending up at the county morgue thanks to the resulting slip n’ slide carnage.  Shades of Morgion, Samothrace, Asunder, Evoken, the first two Celestial Season records and Cathedral (ala “Cosmic Funeral”) color in the foreground/background with a 1,000 year long eclipse yet this is just one of the many moods on the record.  A few of the riffs buckle at the knees with slight touches of Sabbath but these moments are fleeting breaths of smoke lost amidst a shroud of fog so dense that no mortal eye can see through.

“Waters of Wrath” ups the ante considerably as it spews forth sludgy, grinding power chords and a rotten percussive thickness sure to please fans of Celtic Frost, Winter, Autopsy or other seminal purveyors of slovenly death/thrash played at a doom crawl.  The recording is refreshingly raw n’ wide-open like a days’ old wound that’s been picked to death by dirty fingernails though there’s plenty of clarity between the drums, guitars and vocals…enabling the rising tides of aggression to really stick out.  Salem straddles the fence of madness with a balancing act of pained, throaty screams and more traditional death carnage while the tune’s opening groove decays into violent thrash riffage that ascends up n’ down the guitar neck (see the murderous display of hatred at 1:33 for reference).  Oddly the psychedelic touches mixed with combative, deadly heavy doom/thrash could be a smash hit for fans of Warhorse, Soulpreacher’s 2nd EP and Sin of Angels as well.  If High on Fire’s too poppy for your tastes when it comes to doom bands fucking with more extreme sounds, this could very well be exactly what you’re looking for.  The trippy, melodic lead guitar work run through Satan’s pedal board during the song’s climax further sold me on this Biblical beast of a track.  Working a similar template to perfection “The Guardian” swings like a noose in a hurricane with war-march snare fury and desolation doom riffing that schizophrenically mutates into hooky, nightblack 4/4 blues doom grooves where the cavernous death vocals morph into hallucinatory cleaner howls.  2:40 brings in a Slayer on ‘ludes riff that mows down the masses of Babylon with precision staccato drumming and throne stomping pure metal riffing.  Molten doom lunges, white-washed lead guitar melancholy and melody raped vocal hollers send this heathen jam off to an appropriate close.

With the strength of the original material on this record, I was a little unsure of the decision to include a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.”  Cursus couldn’t have picked a better Floyd song suited to their strengths.  They absolutely nail the weird hymnal droning, off-kilter noise FX and LSD-damaged atmospheres.  CJ’s impersonation of Waters is a fairly dead on recreation as well, if you ask me.  Of course playing a cover simply straight in 2017 is kind of ridiculous if you’ve got the ability to transcend it a bit and Cursus does just that by implementing ripping vocal anger, dominating doom riffs, throbbing bass plunges and ultra-heavy percussive thunderfuck into the original’s psychedelic brew of madness.  If I wasn’t such a monster fan of the source material, I would have hailed this as an original masterpiece in Cursus’ canon but on its own terms this is a pitch-perfect blend of Floyd’s weirdness and these Texan terrors’ own heaving charms.  Taking a pinch of Pink Floyd, some post-rock akin to later period Neurosis and maybe a few cues of Isis and Godflesh’s prettier stuff, the cut “Trail of Tears” operates on a Spartan set of hypnogogic melody riffs, buried synths, plaintive vocal chants and drum beats smothered in clouds of THC.  Dramatic (not operatic) surges of riffery shine a nod of stalwart blues to the forefront but the band mostly plays things restrained here.  Closer “The Empire will Fall” is an industrialized drone; the likes of which you might have heard from somebody on the Release/Relapse roster years ago.  It effectively ends the record with an audio plague of noise that while perhaps fitting…well, it would have been cool to hear another full song in its place since I like what Cursus have to offer musically even more.  Still, it’s a chilling piece that’s not exactly out of place on an album brimming with oddities.

I’ve seen this band savaged on a few online forums and I can’t say I agree at all.  I’m thoroughly enjoying the ratty, dank basement sound of the doom on offer here.  The recording IS solid enough though, so that it really shines on headphones with enough filth to please fans of the dirtier side of the spectrum as well as those that look to the style for the surprising amount of experimentation it can offer.  Cursus are a damn fine outfit…I for one will certainly be looking forward to their next record and I dug this one plenty.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
June 8th, 2017

Comments

  1. Commented by: Grindymcgrinder

    The mini midi contoller he’s playing around the campfire is f’n hilarious!!! Pass though,that song bored me to tears. How about a review for nostrum:https://transylvaniantapes.bandcamp.com/album/nostrum-infernal-tomb


  2. Commented by: Jay

    I’m not gonna lie and will also say that video was pretty cheesy, myself. Ha ha. Still dig this album plenty though.

    Loving Nostrum’s music so far. I’m down for a review on that.


  3. Commented by: Jay

    Thanks for the tip by the way man!


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