Upon hearing the band name, TRUE CULT CLUB (or Trve Cvlt Clvb, as it has been annoyingly stylized) may bring to mind bands like INSOMNIUM or pretty much any black or extreme metal. Thus, this heavy pop metal band fronted by Asim Searah (WINTERSUN, DAMNATION PLAN, CANTILENA) was not what we expected. This debut show followed not long after the release of two singles, “Empty Alley” and “Touch Me,” released earlier in August. This debut show, taking place at On the Rocks in Helsinki, was meant to feature SILENTIUM and THY ROW as openers, but unfortunately, both bands had to cancel at nearly the last minute due to personal reasons.
We were running a little bit late on arrival, with “Touch Me” coming loud and proud from the basement as we descended the stairs. This RAMMSTEIN-makes-porn-music track is extremely weird and catchy, and there is nothing “trve kvlt” about it in sound, thus leading listeners to feel like this band is definitely poking fun at certain genres. This was an exciting night, as we only had two songs to give us an idea of what to expect, with neither single having a lot in common with the other. Heavy trance/pop seemed to be the flavor of the night though, as the second song, entitled “Take Off,” was also extremely bouncy and upbeat in sound.
After a few songs, Searah greeted the crowd, seeming genuinely pleased to see how many had come out. The floor was indeed quite full, considering people were at least making an effort not to crowd the place. The music of the night often blended a really strong ’90s synth sound into the mix, which made it quite delightful that Searah had adorned a glimmering shirt and tight pants. I’m not totally sure what level of camp they’re going for, but in many ways it doesn’t even matter. The music is just kind of fun.
The sound balance in Rocks is notoriously suspicious if you’re not on the floor, yet we could tell that there were a few out-of-tune higher notes/wails in a couple songs. Regardless, Searah was a delight anytime he dipped into his deeper range, where he sounds really gloriously deep in tone, with added effect created by tossing his glorious mane about. His WINTERSUN bandmate, Jari Mäenpää, was also in the crowd shouting… well, is love heckling a thing? He shouted out his love a few times from the crowd, which was fun for the audience to see, though it was severely unclassy when he came up to the stage just to announce, “I love pussy and ass.”
A lot of the sound, as mentioned, was heavily driven by the synths, but that is not to say that the others were slacking off. Miiro Varjus‘ guitars were swift, with heavy drums and bass (by Rolf Pilve and Jaakko Nikko respectively) counterbalancing any potential for the pop elements to overwhelm the overall sound. While I didn’t know any of the songs’ names in the moment (save the singles), the show left me with a definite desire to hear more of it in the future.
There was also a ballad included in the set, “Till Death Us Do Part,” with Christian “Chrism” Pulkkinen taking most of the musical parts to begin, with the band joining in after a short while. It was a good showcase of Searah‘s vocal potential and he was more tender than I might have expected. Also, shout-out to Chrism, who really shined a few times when he got the spotlight with a keytar towards the end. He really has flare.
Searah spoke in several random accents while talking to the crowd about such things as global warming, making him a weird but entertaining frontman. His stage presence was confident at all times, even in tracks like this where he had a more feminine poise. Side note: I would pay serious money to see him in drag… I can’t even imagine how fabulous he would look. There were no dull moments, as every song was a bit different, with songs with strong alternative vibes, others with rock or pop, even a touch of KLAMYDIA-style punk in “Anymore,” and a lot of heavy metal. Former bandmate Mikko Salovaara also made a comedic appearance in the crowd as a “sponsor” and they even included a cover of INFECTED MUSHROOM‘s “Saeed” near the end – a rare band to hear covered and very fitting as done in their style.
The show was quite short, seeing as this was a debut show, with “Empty Alley” of course as the closer. They definitely saved the highest power for the finale, as this catchy, emotional song was a definite highlight of the evening.
Funky bass lines, fabulous keyboard solos, stylish guitars, thick drum beats… this show had a bit of everything. If you’re not too sensitive to heaviness in your music, TRUE CULT CLUB made for a weird and wonderful evening. This show was a little rough around the edges at times but nevertheless proved to be an awful lot of fun and these guys will definitely be a hit in future festivals. They may not quite be what metalheads are expecting, but if you don’t mind heavy pop, this is definitely a band worth checking out.
1. Touch Me
2. Take Off
3. Fire Away
4. Behind Dark Clouds
5. DM Me
6. Till Death Us Do Part
7. Eternal Heat
8. My Muse
9. Saeed (Infected Mushroom cover)
11. Empty Alley
Written by Bear Wiseman