There are a few bands out there with the name Cultist, but the focus of today’s review hails from California and has put out two EP’s and some singles prior to this year’s Slow Suicide full length. Having joined Facedown Records last year, you’re likely to go into Slow Suicide expecting something heavy and the band certainly delivers in this regard. Going for a darker and denser sound that combines elements of beatdown hardcore with deathcore and metalcore, Cultist hits hard without stretching their ideas to the point of repetition and inject a decent amount of variety into their attack. There is room for expansion of some of the additional influences that would help these guys to stand out even further in the future, but they’re still starting off strong with this album.
Slow Suicide doesn’t waste any time in establishing heavy tonality and a darker atmosphere, as the title track delivers pounding drums, dense bass work that has some real weight to it, and guitars that hover over the recording with a darker tone. Cultist initially moves at a slower and methodical pace that sometimes come across like a stretched-out breakdown, and you can really feel each strike of the snare drum and the bass drum thumps you right in the chest. While the songwriting does emphasize this slower, chugging approach that’s somewhere between beatdown hardcore and deathcore, they do speed things up into more of a mid-tempo metalcore range throughout Slow Suicide which keeps things from becoming too repetitive. This combination of all things core works to their advantage, as the material bludgeons and batters with the force you want but the attack comes across as a bit more varied. I found Cultist to be at their best when the moodier atmosphere merged perfectly with the brute force on songs like “Memento Mori” and “I Fear Your Silence”, as there’s a consistent sense of tension that rivals that of some sludge/doom bands and then the chugging riffs and pounding drums come roaring in to knock you back to your senses. There are even just some hints of nu-metal in both the guitar tone and effects that are employed on some of the songs, and with that being back in vogue these days it only adds to the group’s arsenal. Admittedly even with the shifts between tempos and moves from metalcore and hardcore into deathcore, a few of the tracks come and go without fully sinking in. Cultist also has room to further expand on the atmosphere and other sides of their sound that make them a bit more unique in the space, but the foundation that’s here on Slow Suicide is still incredibly appealing with just how hard it hits.
The first thing you hear when hitting play are gruff screams/growls that are immediately in your face. It reminds me of the way that Impending Doom introduced their vocals on their earlier material, coming in at wall shattering levels rather than building them up. But whereas that band had more extreme gutturals and a more brutal death metal cadence, Cultist is much more on the hardcore side of the spectrum with leans into death metal. “Preacher III”, which features guest vocals from Christian Roche of Diamonds to Dust, pivots over to the more extreme side of the spectrum with extremely distorted squeals, screams, and growls, with fit well with the band’s core sound. Earth Groans’ Jeremy Schaefferalso contributes a spot on “Suffering By My Own Hand”, and I really appreciate how much the guests stick out and add their own flair to the album. But the performance on the rest of the material is just as strong, keeping things as heavy and in your face as possible without feeling overly repetitive.
Deathcore and hardcore continue to be genres that are flooded with new bands every month, and it can be hard to stand out from the pack. Cultist doesn’t quite reach that groundbreaking level, but they do shake things up a bit more than the average band and hit as hard as possible with as many chugs and beatdown worthy riffs that you could want. Not every track stands out, but there’s plenty here to keep fans of everything core coming back for more. I’d love to see the group continue to refine the blend of styles at work on this full length, as a few tweaks could easily make them reach that next level by the time album number two rolls around. Slow Suicide is available from Facedown Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg