Culted
Oblique to All Paths

The transatlantic collaborative beast known as Culted is back with album number two for Relapse. Their 2009 debut Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep was a heavy, fuzzed out dagger of blackened doom and sophomore effort Oblique to All Paths continues the established formula of shambling guitar and thick layers of distorted vocals. A few twists arise in the form of archetypal sludge grooves, a greater emphasis on atmosphere, and a larger death/doom influence, to up the ante and deliver a superior second album.

Oblique… opens with the band’s longest, most ambitious song yet. “Brooding Hex” sprawls forth from a dark atmospheric opening before shifting in to the band’s established black/doom plod. Additional layers of synth and noise give the crawling guitar and distorted vocals a more typical black metal feel, before breaking off for the guitarists to churn out a dark groove. The synths and noise spring back several minutes later for more plodding doom and an extended droning coda to wrap up the final four minutes of the 19 minute monster.

It’s a fitting opening, one that sets the table for a feast of oppressive metal. They continue with some bleating riffing on “Illuminati” that would be home on any number of noisy hardcore albums, and drag an epic Candlemass-esque riff through the dirt on “March of the Wolves”, while copiously using drones, noise, and feedback to segue between songs. The use of drones and noise has been expanded far beyond that of their debut and the overall flow of the album is improved. Like the stellar III by Portland’s Hell, the quiet moments, the drones, the build ups turn what often sounded like slow black metal on Below… into genuinely crushing monuments of doom. Mastering the ebb and flow is a big part of what makes great doom great, and Culted have really improved on that front.

Culted have slapped a sizeable portion of flesh on the skeletal black/doom of their debut. The new meat is welcome, though the extended running time (at 62 minutes Oblique… is about 15 minutes longer than Below…) and droning segues make the last portions of the album an endurance test as the murky production starts to wear on the material. Some of the segues could be pared down and the noise and feedback more married to the music proper, but Oblique to All Paths is still a solid album on the merits and a nice improvement on the band’s take on doom.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chuck Kucher
March 11th, 2014

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