"Oblique To All Paths"

By Dr. Abner Mality

It's been half a decade since Culted's debut "Below the Thunders of the Upper Deep" was unleashed. I thought they might have been a "one-and-done", but lo, they have risen from the arctic wastes to again submerge us in a tidal wave of dark and frosty doom.

They remain a strange band even in the funeral doom genre. "Oblique To All Paths" is colder, more tortured and just plain longer than anything on the debut. This is glacial doom that seems just as much industrial as it does metal. Indeed, I couldn't describe the guitar tone here as anywhere near as crushing as stuff like Conan, Moss or Electric Wizard. It's more atmospheric than sheer sludgery but yes, there are many monolithic moments here. Whether you have the patience to find them is a different story.

When you hear three or four bleak apocalyptic albums a week, your perspective gets skewed. So maybe Culted dosn't have the same impact on me as it would on most. The trend towards 18 to 20 minute tracks is way over its expiration date. Opening cut "Brooding Hex" is a brain-frying 19 minutes plus of frozen doomy riffing mixed with creeped out vocals, samples and the same amount of cheer you'd find mopping up animal guts at the slaughterhouse. It's too long. The length kills the impact. No other way I can put it.

From there, things are a little snappier and riffier with "Illuminati", although I would hardly call it a speed freak's delight. "Intoxicant Immuration" plunges us back into a soporific trance with an 11 minute bath in frozen oil. "March of the Wolves" is shocking because the song is punchy to the point of being headbangable and comes roaring in at a very manageable four and a half minutes. It's my favorite track here. "Distortion of the Nature of Mankind" is brief, ambient mumbo-jumbo with the usual "end-times" samples. "Transmittal" is another monstrously long track, but this has got some surprising time changes as well as riffs that will make your bones shake. The album ends with a painfully bleak "Jeremiad", where there is definitely some of the harshness of Godflesh and even black metal involved. The croaking vocals are about what you'd expect.

There are more layers to this album than meet the ear, but at several points, you just get burned out and don't care anymore. If you are looking for bleak, apocalyptic doom with a difference, this might be worth a try, but pack a lunch.