Culted - Nous

Angry Metal Guy 50

Ah, despair. I’m a happy person. I smile and laugh. Sometimes I like to wear a blue shirt instead of black and I always make sure to amicably doff my cap to my neighbor and smile a crooked British smile. However, I’m drawn to despair, doom and misery in music in a way that’s difficult to understand. Some of the most dense and horrible sounding music is beautiful. There’s beauty in the expression of extreme emotions, a vulnerability perhaps. It’s strangely alluring when a singer screams their lungs out without a care in the world. We all hold close to our hearts those special tracks that feature a riff or transition that pummels you to the ground for no good reason. These moments in music are special. For me, they often appear during records that carry a hefty sense of despair. Up steps the Canadian-Swedish outfit Culted. Despair is their game and Nous is their third full-length.

Nous is a record that swallows a listener into a chasm with little room to breathe. Opener “Lowest Class” is rough and sparse as chunks of rusted doom churn beneath crusted vocal bellows from Daniel Jansson. In an area beneath the lowest levels of the abyss the track descends, its low-end throbbing with more and more pace as the song unravels and spins to a noisy, droning conclusion. The heaviest track of the record, the penultimate “The Grid,” is brown noise levels of stomach churning as it reaches into the gut to pull out dense, hopeless drones. Other tracks attempt to claw a listener back into the world of light, if only briefly. “One Last Smoke” balances shards of off-kilter melody against warbling, modulated vocals and a deep, funerary low-end. The track, like many on the record, feels on the edge of toppling into unhinged, formless territories.

Culted’s strongest trait, however, is holding their blackened doom vehicle on the precipice in a position of ultimate unease. Like the similar sounding Drug Honkey, Culted’s approach relies heavily on elements of noise, ambience, and programming to cocoon their bereft vessel. Eighth track “Crown of Lies” is a solid example of this approach. Its spacey throb wobbles and sways before a noisy, overwhelming breakdown of noise counters its airy build up. Nous is a record of oscillation. “Ankle Deep” begins as a tender lament – a final farewell to a loved on. Open string plucking tickles like candle flame and a sense of delicate unease settles. Then, death infests the room. The track quite literally billows out into a horrendous din of throbbing density. Monotone riff waves are veiled in cranking amp noise and a general sense of well-honed despair. Culted impressively move from the tender to the explosive.

Though the atmosphere captures despair excellently, the blackened sludge at the record’s core lacks identity. Tracks like “Lifers” and “Maze,” though decent, fail to conclude satisfyingly. “Lifers” opens with droning guitars and a wash of whispering vocals before modulated, synthy noise rips the song open at the chest. A mid-paced groove steams ahead, roughened up by visceral snarls, but it lacks a final third punch and chugs to a standstill. “Maze” is more traditionally doom laden, rocking with simple mid-paced riffs. The cavernous effect is present again as vocals writhe on the high altar above whilst instruments fight for space with the fanatic congregation below. Bluesy licks caress the flames, but the track can’t be saved from monotony. Part of the issue is the mixing of run-of-the-mill riffs and guitar rhythms. Though the experimental elements of the record sound great, the actual core lacks. Listening with headphones I feel distant, as if an obfuscating barrier has been placed between me and the band.

It’s a shame that the record lacks a solid foundation because there’s a lot here that satisfies my itch for depressingly dense and affecting music. Culted do well in conveying their absorbing sense of despair through different lenses. Nous is not just a downcast, low-end throb of atonal sound. Rather, Culted utilize fragments of melody, segments of accessible groove and post-rock style instrumental segues to convey despair as a rainbow of emotive states. What Culted do poorly, however, is the basics; there are too many of these poorer moments over the record’s 63 minutes. Some, not all, of the riffs that drive tracks are not effective enough to uphold the experimental, ambient, and industrial decorations. A solid cover of Godflesh’s “Crush My Soul” to end the record isn’t enough to sway me. I want to love Nous but its flaws are frequent enough to leave me feeling the cold of dissatisfaction rather than the heat of despair.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2021

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Mon Mar 01 20:53:56 GMT 2021