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As a knuckle-dragging Metaller, I’ve always thought of “background music” as a term of abuse – insipid, weak, unchallenging sounds for people who can’t take their music kicking them in the face. Culted, however, seem determined to reclaim this phrase, writing sinister, languid Doom that slips into the back of your mind and then proceeds to lay its rancid eggs there.
The basic sound of Oblique To All Paths (Relapse) is akin to Through Silver In Blood-era Neurosis stripped down to its bare skeleton, and then built back up into something very different with the use of ambient drones, atmospheric noise and sparse instrumentation.
Opener ‘Brooding Hex’ charts out the shape of the whole album in microcosm (although not that micro, at just over nineteen minutes long), leading us from whispered atmospherics into waves of dense, slow-motion riffing underscored with shifting, chittering electronic noises and distorted yelps. After nineteen minutes it fades out in a pulsing, irregular tattoo of drums and noises, and then the album goes back through the whole thing again, breaking it down and drawing it out to almost painful lengths. It’s not an easy listen, be prepared to invest three or four spins before you start getting any kind of attachment to it, and it is perhaps too long for what is essentially a one-dimensional affair, but it takes a distinctive, unsettling approach to an over-saturated genre and delivers something quite special.
There’s something oddly passive, something unconfrontational about Oblique To All Paths which for a Metal album seems as though it should be a failure, but very much works in its favour. There are plenty of other bands ready to smash you in the face, or blast you with arcs of searing energy, or drown you in coils of writhing black tentacles if that’s what you really want (and you should, because it’s awesome), but Culted instead take you by the hand and lead you very gently, very calmly into a place filled with unspeakable horrors and then whisper terrible secrets sweetly into your ear. Or, you know, something.