Sounding like the illegitimate bastard of Italy’s FLASHGOD APOCALYPSE and America’s THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, Icelandic death metal band CULT OF LILITH will surely make their mark on the extreme metal scene with their debut album “Mara,” which is scheduled for release on 4 September 2020 through Metal Blade Records. Weaving in complex classical structures with touches of progressive metal and a solid death metal sound, their music is brutal and violent, with accents of groove metal and a dash of drama.
This turbulent music is the stuff nightmares are made of, as the way the songs are constructed and the vocal lines are delivered can easily put the listeners in a state of unease. The constant shifts and intricate dynamics within the tracks also affect the flow of the album and, while it may not be the rollercoaster-type of album with many ebb-and-flow moments, or even have a fluid transition from track to track, the way “Mara” is put together still feels very organic and well-balanced. At a superficial level, one could say that everything sounds hectic and loosely connected, but on a more careful look (or listen) there’s more at play than what initially meets the ears. Taking into account the fact that album title, “stems from the Icelandic word Martröð or Nightmare,” as founder and guitarist Daniel Þór Hannesson states in the press release, everything is intentional and interconnected. To quote him further, “with the lyrical content seeming like an assortment of different dreams and nightmares, it made for a fitting title for the record.”
Overall, it feels like the guitar is going on different tangents than the rest of the instrumentals, creating this state of frenzy and anxiety, while the frenetic vocals only add to this feeling. The harpsichord intro to “Cosmic Maelstrom” starts things off with a smooth, albeit ominous tone but once the guitars and double pedal drumming come in, everything twists and turns in unexpected ways. The many vocal styles that Mario Infantes Ávalos uses not just throughout this track but on the whole album only enhance the mood and bring a dose of theatricality to the compositions; here his lows sound very demonic, while the screamed, almost clean, chorus sections feel maniacal. A SF-ish sounding keyboard opens “Purple Tide” but once the distorted guitars take over they push the track in different directions as the vocals and drumming keep everything grounded and moving along in a groovy manner. Being inspired by a video game, “Enter the Mancubus” features some interesting drums/guitar patterns, a section of whispered vocals, and some electronic elements towards the end that create a very dystopian sound, perfect for this dark futuristic tale. It is obvious that CULT OF LILITH has a broad sonic spectrum and is not afraid to explore every inch of it.
Opening on beautiful guitar lines, “Atlas” seems to be a more straightforward track, with a nightmarish ambiance to it that is only boosted by the crushing riffs and hefty bass lines courtesy of Samúel Örn Böðvarsson that merge so well with the vocals. The feeling of uneasiness mentioned earlier is very much at home on “Comatose,” an intense piece of music that is in equal parts distorted and chaotic with the piano melody at the end bringing a bit of serenity to the listener and offsetting the choir of voices from earlier in the track. The agitated and fast-paced guitar and vocals duality of “Profeta Paloma” suddenly give way to an extended flamenco section that really feels out of place, so when they come back to the forefront, things get back on track. Just because JINJER pulled off some weird stuff on “Macro” (2019), like the reggae/ska moment in “Judgement (& Punishment)” or the jazzy moment in “Home Back,” doesn’t mean that everything you throw into a metal song actually fits, unless it plays off the ambiance and vibe of that particular track. And to go from relentless death metal to flamenco music is the only part on the entire album that I feel doesn’t belong and, as far as I’m concerned, ruins a great song otherwise perfect for headbanging. Brutality and intensity abound in “Zangano,” where violent vocals are unleashed upon the listener, as the guitars are again doing some intriguing lines and riffs though the solo is quite melodic. Acoustic guitar and operatic vocals give way to heavy drums and aggressive guitars as the closing track, highly theatrical “Le Soupir du Fantome,” unfurls at a galloping speed, while some symphonic accents pop up here and there, mostly in the form of gentle piano notes.
A diverse, refined, and unforgiving record that melds many different influences in a rather cohesive sound, “Mara” is not for the faint of heart. This is extreme metal delivered at quite a brutal level of technicality and it does take a while to fully digest everything that it has to offer. Mario Infantes Ávalos is the real MVP of the record as everything gravitates around his raw-sounding vocals, which he delivers with confidence and gusto, and which in turn make every song stand on its own. It’s not an easy feat to be this creative on an album, but CULT OF LILITH have knocked it right out of the park with “Mara,” and have found their niche within the death metal sub-genre.
Written by Andrea Crow
- Cosmic Maelstrom
- Purple Tide
- Enter the Mancubus
- Profeta Paloma
- Le Soupir du Fantome
Mario Infantes Ávalos – Vocals
Daniel Þór Hannesson – Guitar
Kristján Jóhann Júlíusson – Guitar
Samúel Örn Böðvarsson – Bass
Kjartan Harðarson – Drums
Metal Blade Records