Group Review: Cult Leader, A Patient Man
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Cult Leader’s A Patient Man was one of Metal Lifestyle’s most highly-anticipated records of the year, as most of us have followed the band since before Nothing For Us Here and eagerly watched them ascend the ranks of hardcore toward their inevitable place at the top of the heap. In brief, we agree that A Patient Man represents another enormous step up for the band as musicians, songwriters, and performers, and that it is unquestionably one of the most important and engaging records of the year.
Although we were almost unanimously enthusiastic with the results when A Patient Man finally arrived last week, it seemed unfair to load any one of with the burden of reviewing the record alone and implicitly speaking for all. So, in only the second of such endeavors, we have decided to compile our individual reviews in one place in order to capture the nuances of our opinions and offer a more complete picture of A Patient Man through the eyes of three pretty big fans. Three members of the team have contributed to this group review: Alex Brown, Alex Bugella, and Brian Lesmes.
- The Metal Lifestyle Team
As soon as “I Am Healed” kicks off, mosh mode is on. Within a few seconds, Cult Leader reach levels of extremity that even surpass their Gaza days. Every aspect of this band is now out to rip your head off. The guitar work by Mike Manson on these first two tracks is nothing short of absolute madness and anger. This is most prevalent in their intense build-ups that lead to absolutely chaotic conclusions. This is also one of the few works of metalcore where the bass has a strong presence in the music. Cult Leader is a very heavy band, and Sam Richards adds to this heaviness with an intense rumble on his bass. He isn’t just grooving along with the track like most bassists do, but is very much his own entity in Cult Leader, adding to its nasty, sludgy feel. The drum work is as punishing as you would expect from Casey Hansen. This can be in the form of something blisteringly fast, such as on “I Am Healed,” or something that is much more groovy, such as “Aurum Reclusa.” There are really intense performances on “Curse of Satisfaction,” especially that introduction. The one thing left to capture this anger to its perfection is vocals, and Anthony Lucero really hits it out of the ballpark with this one. Somehow, his vocals have managed to get even more sinister than they were on Lightless Walk. His repetition of the words “Heal me” on “I Am Healed” hits harder and harder each time, leading to the gut-wrenching screech at the end of the track. His vocals match so perfectly with the rhythm, too, as shown on “The Curse of Satisfaction.” He also gets much more dreary on the title-track of this LP, a brooding sludge metal ballad with a very nice buildup that unfortunately kind of leads to nowhere, which is one of my few issues with this LP.
On these tracks, it seems Cult Leader have amped what they did on Lightless Walk 100%. As incredible as these tracks are, where A Patient Man truly shines is when Cult Leader goes all out and experiments with different sounds. There are instances on this LP where Cult Leader experiments with slowcore, which is something I would have never expected from the group, but god fucking damn does it work. I know many people have complaints that the two tracks play right after one another, but I think this works to their benefit. They are the only two tracks on this record that really have this feel to them, so it feels natural for them to be played one after another. “To: Achlys” is six minutes of pure anguish. While sonically not one of my favorites on the record, the emotional impact it leaves the listener within the lyrics is so strong. Anthony plays a desperate person that is pleading to see a new light to his life, and is so assured that he’d be saved from this. This person has left a toxic situation, but not without the damage it has done. After comes “A World of Joy,” which is probably my favorite track on this LP. It plays much like “To: Achlys” does, but the instrumental is much more interesting here. The song deals with being in a relatively positive setting, yet being so depressed that you feel like if you let your emotions loose, you’re going to ruin it. The power behind lyrics like “There’s no place for me in a world of joy” is sometimes too much for me to take in. This all comes crashing in the last minute of this track, which is nothing short of pure chaos. We are first met with a super heavy, sludgy breakdown, and then given about ten seconds of the most intense chaos on this record. The flow from one section of this track to the next is simply incomparable. It showcases every noise that this record brings to the table coming together in the most powerful six minutes A Patient Man has to offer.
Tracks like “Isolation in the Land of Milk and Honey” and “The Broken Right Hand of God” showcase crescendos that perfectly contrast Cult Leader’s chaotic anger. There is not a single performance I can say is more gut-wrenching than when Anthony screams “I am all I need, alone with my enemy.” Every damn time I hear that line, I choke up. The rage and heartbreak those words are tragic and powerful, especially against that brooding post-metal crescendo. This is no different on this LP’s grand finale, “The Broken Right Hand of God,” which is as emotional as sludge metal can get. There is an acceptance that is found on this track, but it’s not a positive one at all. Life is shit, but as Anthony screams, “we must walk on.” There’s something remarkably comforting in these words.
Cult Leader packs every negative emotion you could imagine into this 47-minute record, with stronger musicianship and a more experimental attitude toward their songwriting. A Patient Man is further proof that Metalcore is having an incredible year.
VERDICT: A Patient Man was worth the patience it took to arrive.
What made Lightless Walk such a resonant album, earning its way into nearly every best-of-the-year list, is the honesty in its pain. The ravenous album tears from end to end, despite the last two tracks, which dig deep into its wounds in order to understand and come to terms with it all. Now, what makes A Patient Man just as impactful is how it doesn’t try to start from square one, but festers in those old wounds and explores their lasting effects. Cult Leader give themselves the opportunity to stretch their legs, as well as the time to do so. For real, a hardcore album where half of the songs are longer than five minutes.
The band comes out of the gate swinging, showing that acclaim hasn’t hindered their progression. The anxiety-inducing riffs tear, and the vocals are more vile than ever. These tracks bring instant crowd-favorite chants of “All I want is everything!” and he line many people have latched onto: “Heal me!” Later, “Craft of Mourning” and “Share My Pain” work together so well they might as well be halves of the same song: one is the chaotic maelstrom, and the later its vulgar breakdown. There's no denying Cult Leader’s grasp of the genre, and the first unique moment of the album comes from “Isolation in the Land of Milk and Honey,” as the band takes a step back and let the claustrophobic nature of the auditory assault do the talking:
“The world seeps in through the cracks
as distant laughter
a spreading plague of joyful corpses
Warmth, wealth and love lay outside these walls
I am all I need, alone with my enemy”
The prevailing feeling is the near helpless nature of abuse. While the abuse itself isn’t new for the outfit (“Mongrel” continues to be a calling card since 2014), it's never reached this level. It’s most evident on “To: Achlys,” where the leaching presence of a “mother of misery...daughter of the dark” seems to refer to a loved one who will never reciprocate that love due to their own baggage. The plodding cascade carries through “A World of Joy,” the title track, and “Broken Right Hand of God.” All prove the nihilistic prophecies the band has been cultivating since inception, the feeling that existence is designed only to break you. “I will not weep,” and the cathartic snap, could make any seasoned veteran grip their teeth at the sheer insanity. What helps is the nearly 48-minute gauntlet comes to the soul-crushing realization that no matter how many times you tell yourself you “must walk on,” the brutal, honest truth is that “we will fail.”
At this moment, a week after the initial listen, A Patient Man surprises after every spin and solidifies itself as an improvement on every conceivable level. I am positive that Cult Leader will climb back into everyone’s top-of-the-year list. If there is heavy album to cite as a showcase of what this side of the hardcore spectrum is capable of, its this. It dominates the listener without a dull moment. That melancholic riff of “The Broken Right Hand of God” will continue to ring out as it buries its way into your deepest vulnerabilities.
“We will fail...”