Writing a title-track to depict a record’s chosen concept, emotion, atmosphere or ideology can often be no simple task. Writing a band-title-track, however, must be an even more well-considered process in order to come up with that perfectly self-defining sound that will inevitably become your band’s signature, your statement of intent and your career staple song. Many of the greats have succeeded: ‘Iron Maiden’, ‘Motorhead’, ‘Angel Witch’, whilst countless other lesser known eponymous songs lie unused, unplayed and unwanted; destined to remain idle as dust-gathering album tracks or, in the worst cases, as unwanted old-era material. Rounding out their utterly devastating debut full-length with the sprawling, vast and mesmerisingly horrific ‘Cult of Occult’, the band of the same name have absolutely nailed it in the most brutal fashion possible. This one track alone is a near perfect template of scintillating death-doom, with as much sludge and gore as you could yearn for from a quite remarkable new act.
Hailing from Lyon, France, COO’s moniker may initially give off the grimacing thunder chills of some freakishly patronising gimmick. But after just 5 seconds of opening barrage ‘Blurry and Muzzy’, all notions of this being a potentially humourous romp into tired NWOBHM pastures have been crushed under a bloodied size-12 jackboot. Acting as the anaesthetic to a torturous extraction of grizzled ear membranes, this 8-minute lead-off pitch numbs the mind with a blunt, yet refreshingly straightforward sludge bludgeon. A ‘sludgeon’, if you will…anybody?!
It’s becoming rarer and rarer to find vocalists with such sure-fire ferocity as to sound as though they’re gargling the blood of some recently sacrificed mountain goat, but COO have one such force behind the mic. His gut-wrenching howl doesn’t leave the ears after the end of each bout of riff-surging venom and marries perfectly with a bass-end rumble which sits lower than an Atlantis basement. By choosing anonymity for the names of their band members, these filth-blending Frenchmen clearly wish to remain as an entity, rather than a humanoid collective and with simple and dark, yet powerful artwork courtesy of CPG, this does feel very much like a demonic cult.
‘Walking in the Desert’ unleashes a brooding streak of dynamism that this genre has yearned for since the lone outpost of Disembowelment’s majestic ‘Transcendence into the Peripheral’ disappeared over the horizon. It sounds weirdly like the type of output Josh Homme would achieve if he invited Obituary out to his Rancho de Luna in the Californian desert to record a bunch of Kyuss covers. Groovy in tone yes, but equally crushing in delivery. ‘Perfect Love’ retains the harrowing energy of the near-demonic Occultists, but yet somehow also clings to a more traditional sludge mould. A groove is established and built upon before being rolled down a hill of dizzying speed, not unlike classic-era Eyehategod or even Black Cobra hitting up on muscle relaxants in the jam room, all carefully conducted by whoever is crushing his might of iron behind the kit.
The punishing title track is a slow burner to begin with, but from around its 4:00 mark to a mind-collapsing conclusion after well over 10 minutes, it becomes the devastating exploration of a single colossal riff, which feels as though it was forged by orks in the thick mud at the foot of some ancient obelisk. Normally when bands explore and dissect a riff for this long it becomes monotonous, boring and self-fulfilling, but not here. The track of their own name is as grim as it is expansive, thought-provoking and claw-summoning, and each scrape of the E-string becomes unique within the confines of an identical structure of riffage. Truly bowel-wrenching.
Cult of Occult liken themselves to Corrosion of Conformity and even Danzig, but do not be fooled, this is deadly, murky, ugly, flesh-savaging doom of the highest order and not for the faint of heart, ear or mind. In fact, those comparisons are far too lazy and over-arching to depict what will go down for me as one of the best underground doom-sludge behemoths of 2012.
Scared? Tortured? Impaled by your headphones? You will be. Come join the cult. Join us…
Scribed by: Pete Green