Cult Leader won’t escape its comparisons to Gaza, at least not with a debut release that functions as a seamless followup to the defunct Salt Lake City band’s final release. Cult Leader, comprised of three former members of Gaza and newcomer Sam Richards, was born in the wake of Gaza’s dissolution. The band parted ways with frontman Jon Parkin to adopt a separate identity; thankfully, on Nothing for Us Here, the most memorable aspects of that band’s devastating brand of sludge are intact.
Cult Leader’s lineup was initially confusing to some. The band’s personnel are predominantly Gaza-affiliated, but notably, the new singer and new member are not the same person. Gaza bassist Anthony Lucero put down his instrument to take over on vocals, and Sam Richards of Reviver now plays bass.
Lucero is a more-than-competent replacement. His guttural howl is absolutely crushing, and while there may be a tinge of death metal leanings, it’s multifaceted. “Mongrel” is a groove-heavy, moderately disturbing song written from the perspective of a “loyal dog;” its menacing attitude evokes Entombed’s bold and threatening “Wolverine Blues.”
Nothing for Us Here has moments of honest vulnerability as well, and that’s where Cult Leader shows its highest potential. “Driftwood” is a phenomenal, heartbreaking tale in which Lucero desperately pleads for a loved one to come home; concurrently, he acknowledges in gruesome detail the reason this person can’t. It’s a gut-wrenching, emotional narrative that sets itself apart from all of Gaza’s material.
From the oppressive feedback of its introduction to the stunning, climactic soundscapes of “Driftwood,” Nothing for Us Here is a unique slab of sludge-oriented hardcore. The bulk of this six-song release is mean and aggressive, but it’s neither posturing nor insincere. And while Cult Leader is unmistakably a continuation of Gaza’s music, the band is positioned to begin a new, perhaps more emotionally fulfilling chapter.
Nothing For Us Here is available April 15 via Deathwish, Inc.
Review by Anthony Glaser