Cultic - High Command - (8/10)
Published on May 1, 2019
Genre:Doom / Death
In my experience, doom/death generally comes in one of two types. There’s the doomier approach, often incorporating gothic influences, popularized by the English trio of Anathema, Paradise Lost, and My Dying Bride. At the other end of the continuum are bands that emphasize the death part of doom/death more, like Asphyx, Cianide, and Hooded Menace. Within the death metal oriented approach we can identify a subgenre of minimalist, atmospheric doom/death, mostly known through the work of New York’s cult act Winter. I bring this simplified outline of doom/death up because Cultic’s debut album, High Command, is a fine example of Winter worship and a solid entry into an overlooked style of doom/death.
The most immediately noticeable characteristic of High Command is how simplistic the album is. Despite the medieval aesthetic to the lyrics and artwork, there are no medieval or folk touches. The riffs, courtesy of Brian Magar, are sparse and built around simple grooves and chugs. Leads are very few and far between. Rebecca Magar’s drumming is even more basic, never getting busier than sixteenth notes; there are no fills or rolls on the entire album. There are however some cool floor tom beats and effective cymbal work. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this album is even more stripped down than Into Darkness, and that album was a bleak, minimalist affair if there ever was one.
What the album lacks in technical proficiency it makes up in sheer violence. The riffs hit hard and the drumming is tight. The songs flow together organically and have a loose, almost jam-like feel to them. The vocals are gruff chants that are not quite death growls but close. They are also the only part of the album that shows any kind of variation, with the odd, King Diamond-esque falsetto appearing on “The Prowler.” The production is raw and filthy, resembling the primitive oozing of Celtic Frost.
As might be expected, the album’s simplistic nature can sometimes work against it. It can be repetitive and due to its lack of instrumental variety it can be difficult to tell the songs apart. But Cultic are onto something with High Command and it’s good to see the cult act Winter pop up as an influence. This is a raw, primitive debut with undeniable bludgeoning power, and thanks to its crudeness it has plenty of charm. Sometimes the adage less is more is true, and that’s certainly the case with High Command.