Cult of Lilith – Mara (2020) – Review

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I don’t like tech death very much, I don’t like the mayhem it creates, and I don’t like the lack of coherence it usually engenders. Good dissonance is distinctly different and just screaming your way through a complicated mush of styles often leaves many of these bands on the road to perdition. A desolate place where only an imbibed few will utter the praise they crave.

Because their style – like it or not – will never hit those large fan crowds. And besides, just showing your wares as a tech master will only soothe the souls of nerds, those that don’t require at least some substance to thrive on their metal.

So, any band that makes it onto our RMR listening stream, either needs to be really good or will be confined to the terrible dungeons. The horrible oubliette that only sports an escape hatch at the ceiling with no ladder for ya. And only we got the key.

So, here we have Cult of Lilith from the cold island of Iceland. And already the cover of Mara – their new album – gives me pause. Boy, this looks strangely like something I would expect to see from our Italian friends of Fleshgod Apocalypse. And sure enough, the Law of Awful Predictability™ kicks in straight with their first track Cosmic Maelstrom.

The baroque first avalanche truly sounds like a stronger (aka weirder) version of FA. Something that wasn’t invented yet. And suddenly, the brand Pyrrhic recently added to the blog sounds better now than it sounded only a few weeks ago. It’s all in the perspective, right?

Mara seems hellbent to bludgeon you into submission without any room to breathe. And truly so, the record throws a hodgepodge of styles at you. As if the band wants to prevent the listener to leave by the sheer power of noise. Or to prove that they got the goods – in all styles, flavors, and directions. Whatever comes first, I guess, and through breakneck speed. So that even those radar speed traps won’t be able to catch ye.

Our metal detectors sniffed traces of tech, tech death, death, progressive, melodic, and some deathcore. Whereas the glue clearly seems to have Technical Death Metal at its core. So, whilst Icelandic brethren of Cult of Lilith like Sólstafir first dabbled in the black art before they expanded their offering, here these guys really just stepped into the fray.

You’ll even find weird acoustic and ambient passages that suddenly appear out of that volcanic landscape of theirs. Like that Spanish flavor of flamenco1) that gets carelessly displayed on Profeta Paloma. And that’s the track that again sports that eerie closeness to FA and its own sometimes disturbing meanderings. And – unsurprisingly – this is one of the better-suited tracks to get into this grouchy crew’s good graces.

Indeed, one of the weak points of those adepts of the Queen of Hell is that they hide the true golden nuggets in those somewhat messy arrangments. And those are the sturdy riffs and – for sure – the solos that blew me away. If ever I was able to detect them in this free-for-all race to metal glory.

One thing is certain, though. Mara showcases the outstanding musicianship of the band members. Metal by itself usually likes to display highly technical structures in its songwriting. But here, Cult of Lilith add a few layers for good sport. And in turn, they make the whole record sound as if there’s nothing to it. A little jam before breakfast, because – you see – the coffee machine needs a few moments more. And that’s the kind of careless geekery that actually made us stay with them throughout the mercifully short duration of the album.

So, where does that land us?

Mara is a tour de force of technical and musical mastery, no doubt about it. However, that somewhat breathless strategy to heedlessly pile one element on top of the other kills the cat at the same time. This leads to a lack of coherence that the team over here found difficult to stomach. In a way, the album sounds like one of those scientific papers written by a bunch of Einsteins with tunnel vision. An overly complicated language that caters to a nerdy few, but risks losing the metal crowd.

And that’s never such a good thing.

Record Rating: 5/10 | LabelMetal Blade Records | Web: Official Band Site
Album Release: 4 September 2020


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