Culted – Oblique to All Paths | Review

A number of things link the countries of Canada and Sweden (besides being my two favourite). Both have similar climates, Green elected officials, excellent hockey and killer metal. Which brings us to Culted. This blackened doom group is a collaboration of members of both countries. Michael Klassen (guitar/bass/percussion/noise), Matthew Friesen (guitar/bass/percussion/noise) and Kevin Stevenson (drums) hail from Canada and vocalist Daniel Jansson from Sweden. Despite the distance and Jansson never having met the other three, Culted operate as a unit, at least musically if not spatially or temporally. Their shared vision resulted in debut Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep and 2010's Of Death and Ritual EP. Four years have passed and now Culted return with Oblique To All Paths, a stunning example of the way doom can be the most powerful form of expression.

For over an hour Culted envelope the listener in a vast array of emotions through layers of guitar, bass, noise, ambience and savage vocals, starting with the 19-plus minute “Brooding Hex”. Beginning an album with its longest track (of 7) is a bold move but it never feels stagnant and so it keeps pushing the listener forward until it circles back around to the main riff. A riff that inspires dread through its immensity. As with most of the album, elements drift in and out, back and forth, balancing the heaving might with elegant beauty. It's like getting a glimpse of hope through oppressive clouds heavy with discontent. “Illuminati” takes a more forceful path. Thunderous doom with a more classic bent, driven by a momentous riff, simple yet effective. Just as the Illuminati is multi-tiered, the track is stacked with layer upon layer of dry feeling (tonally) riffs, ambient noise and Jansson's equally dry yet harassing vocals.

“Intoxicant Immuration” sounds like defeat. It's slow, brooding cadence pulls you deep into the pits of despair. It's so melancholic you can taste it, before rising from the depths to imprison the listener within walls of massive doom and disconsolate melody.

Culted's melodic and varied darkness carries through the album's later half as well. “March of the Wolves” purposeful cadence leads in to the noisy “Distortion of the Nature of Mankind” and the weathered “Transmittal”, a track bleeds with more progressive and experimental vibes yet remains ungodly heavy in unexpected ways. The track is swollen with drama and shifting moods leaving the listener beaten and exhausted.

Closer “Jeremiad” brings Oblique To All Paths' harrowing journey to its conclusion. Its slow and methodical doom is threaded with industrious noise and a cursed malevolence. As with the rest of the album, its shifting moods resonate deeply making its integration with the soul complete.

Nothing about Oblique To All Paths can be taken for granted. Culted's commitment to the expression of anguish, pain and isolation is unwavering while refusing to follow the path laid before them. The use of nuance, atmosphere, ambience and variation is reverent and painfully affecting. It's also telling of the care and engagement essential to its creation. After a multitude of listens Oblique To All Paths continues to blossom, revealing untold depth beneath its suffocating doom, making it unquestionably essential.

Matt Hinch 

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Matt Hinch lives an unassuming life on the backroads outside Forest Mills, Ontario, Canada. He packs in as much metal as he possible can amid factory work, raising three daughters with his wife and working the land. In addition to Scratch the Surface Matt also writes for Hellbound, Ghost Cult Magazine, About Heavy Metal and his own blog, Kingdom of Noise.
Keep up with him on Twitter @KingdomofNoise.