London’s Cult Burial are a metal enigma. People associate them with the doom metal genre, but their influences extend far beyond Cathedral and YOB to the point where classification becomes impossible. It’s enough to make the underground sit up and take notice, with Metal Injection premiering their latest EP and a trail of critics queuing up to praise last year’s blistering debut. On the evidence of this latest record, you can see why this band is in the ascendancy.
Opener and title track, ‘Oblivion’, will astonish you in its creative ambition and ability to make nine minutes feel like five. How many extreme metal bands forget about the importance of mood and ambience in their quest to bludgeon the listener? Cult Burial are not one of them and draw upon the work of Ulcerate and Inter Arma in this department. Listen how the droning keyboard notes experiment with the threat of a melody among the reverb-heavy whispers and churning bass guitar incursions. This is how you compose an intro and prepare the listener for a sonic overhaul of black metal shrieks and pounding drum snares. Here, they ask you to imagine how things might develop if an atmospheric post-metal band were to cover Obituary and add in a smattering of death-doom posturing. The malevolent vocals and vicious guitars sound even more pulsating with such a crisp drum mix cutting through the distortion. You’ll forget their doom metal origins within three minutes and remember them again after six, when they slow the tempo down to a brooding sludge of chugging bass guitar vibrations. And yet they achieve a latent imperious stride through these morbid metallic transgressions, like a chauvinistic Dissection mired in the angry introspection of Cult of Luna.
Fans of the band will already know ‘Parasite’ as the single that preceded this three-track EP. Again, they take the anxiety of the lower bass strings as their metric and build on the steel-plated sounds with ringing guitars and a muscular roar at the beginning. The tremolo passages sound much more sinister with a death metal production powering the rhythm section instead of the standard lo-fi black metal synonymous with the atmospheric genre. Cult metallers, Epiphanic Truth, are a good comparison here in the way they stride through numerous tempo changes without you noticing. Only towards the end of the song, when the drums change from eighth-note patterns to triplets, do you realise that everything is leading to a climax. Nothing is inevitable or predictable here, nor is it perplexing for the sake of being different.
Final track, ‘Paralysed’, is the tipping point where the band could lose their momentum, but their decision to embrace a more atmospheric death metal approach is a clever move. Those of you that enjoyed the latest Celestial Sanctuary release will find much to admire here. The grisly vocal lines and overpowering fifth chord passages work well in tandem with the mid-range fretwork, yet Cult Burial choose not to go down the route of exploring dissonant chords when traditional harmonic minor patterns can do the job just as well. This is what gives the song its unique DNA – how do they manage to introduce an element of self-satisfied muscle-flexing in such an unforgiving and morbid headspace?
Lyrics about standing at the edge of a precipice and staring at a disbelieving reality are what you’d expect to accompany music as dark as this. The misanthropy dripping through the microphone reads more like an eighteenth-century misery memoir than a treatise on existence by Friedrich Nietzsche, but you can’t fault the might of César Moreira’s voice or his passion. Oblivion is a record that annihilates everything in its path to the point where the motivation for such a colossal destruction is of secondary importance. Cult Burial exist; therefore, they are.
Release Date: 10/09/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout track: Parasite
Suggested Further Listening: Mastiff – Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth (2021), Oldblood – Arms to the Sky EP (2020), Epiphanic Truth – Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms to a Sordid Species (2021)