2 out of 5
Produced by: Kurt Ballou
At some point in the past few years, there’s been – from my limited point of view – another resurgence of metal / hardcore acts wanting to be taken “seriously” by the wider press / a more general audience, leading to the incredibly creative and no-one-else-is-doing-it decision to mix non-metal and non-hardcore elements in to the next big release. It’s the band “maturing,” and people take notice of these brave choices, and their uniqueness, and goal achieved, I guess.
There are absolutely talented people working in bands that have taken this route, and my description makes it sound wholly disingenuous, when I’m sure it’s generally sincerely motivated: you want your band to stand out, and you have some ideas itching around, and then some other band does kind of what you were thinking and so you start doing it to… and then there’s a trend. The only problem with this, from my highfalutin vantage point, is that it results in a lot of bands, ironically, force-fitting themselves to this design, instead of pursuing something perhaps more natural for what they bring to the table.
Cult Leader has very much taken this all-styles-in-the-bucket approach on their sophomore release, A Patient Man, and it’s only served to produce quite an unsatisfying mishmash of post-rock, thrash, and hardcore. Producer Kurt Ballou doesn’t seem to know what to do with it, neither committing to his usual brawly low-end sound, or something cleaner, to capture Anthony Lucero’s occasional weepy baritone and the slowly strummed guitar, and thus delivering something rather middling from an aural standpoint as well. When the group sticks to a standard hardcore model – such as on Craft Of Morning – it’s nothing special, but it has power. Elsewhere, though, whether it’s the speedy thrash which opens the disc, or the Sub Pop-style slocore of A World of Joy, it feels like a band out to prove something: we’re frikkin death metal; we’re goddamned sensitive. …And the harder you try to prove those things, well, the less sincere they feel. It doesn’t help that Lucero’s lyrics are, unfortunately, quite immature. I don’t doubt the emotions that fuel them, but the reality is that we’ve heard these “my life is blackness” odes countless times, and the notebook-scribble artwork doesn’t help to elevate the subject matter.
The album is not boring or, as mentioned, lacking in showmanship – although some of the attempted time changes feel a bit flubbed, again suggesting that the group’s reach exceeded its grasp on most occasions – it just doesn’t feel nearly as unique or “real” as I suspect Cult Leader wanted, to the extent that it becomes ultimately unsatisfying.