…And today in "Young bands set to become industry leaders," we have Utah's Cult Leader. The hardcore quartet's A Patient Man is out now, and the record stands heads and shoulders above almost everything else the genre has put out in recent memory. While Cult Leader might be a relative newcomer to the scene—A Patient Man is the band's sophomore record—its members' years of experience are apparent in every aspect of the music. Everything, from the acrid, biting vocals to the pummeling, dissonant fretwork is emblematic of hardcore punk's best traits. When A Patient Man clicks, which it does the vast majority of the time, it's genuinely without fault.
The record doesn't always click, and we'll get to that, but I'd be remiss to not also commend Cult Leader's more contemplative side early on. Several of A Patient Man's tracks partially table the biting hardcore pace to explore sludgier, comparably restrained, territory. The results are frequently breathtaking. This is hardly the first time the two styles have intermingled, but few bands have managed the fusion in such dazzling style.
But make no mistake, A Patient Man is a monstrously heavy record, and listeners will have to earn those moments of calmer beauty. Lead single "I Am Healed" tears the record open at a breakneck pace that is full of all sorts of menacing vitriol. Guitarist Mike Mason’s aggressive shredding hits all the high points you’d expect and is frequently amplified by technical forays or excerpts of dissonant guitar squealing. The latter half of the song gradually slows the tempo and settles for a hypnotic, albeit still thoroughly pummeling pace. Sludgy undertones permeate both sides of the track and add the perfect amount of gritty weightiness to the rest of the music.
That song, and tracks such as “Curse of Satisfaction” and Craft of Mourning,” best showcase Cult Leader’s violent tendencies. The latter two pieces succeed in ways similar to “I Am Healed,” thanks to their rolling waves of punishing guitar riffs, gut-wrenching vocals, and chunky bass. This is one of those records where clichéd descriptors such as “monolithic” or “crushing” truly fit the music. There are a few moments, particularly the savage first vocal lines on “Curse of Satisfaction,” that are contenders for the top musical moments of the year.
Another one of those moments is in “A World of Joy,” the record’s best track and one of several that move at a predominantly measured pace. If comparisons had to be made, “A World of Joy’ and A Patient Man’s other slow tracks are strongly reminiscent of Deathwish Inc. labelmate Converge’s more epic pieces. That’s high praise but well deserved. Vocalist Anthony Lucero falls back on deep, melodic singing for much of the track, which meshes perfectly with the moody, quiet instrumentation. The song boasts a thrilling final minute that brings the intensity back to the forefront, and the track’s phenomenal outro is nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Unfortunately, Cult Leader doesn't quite maintain that magnificent level of quality throughout the record's final few songs. A Patient Man peaks at the one-two punch that is "A World of Joy" and "Craft of Mourning" and what follows is a handful of tracks that are definitely good, but not quite on the same level as the record’s phenomenal high points. The somber title track is the best of the record's final few songs, but others, such as “Share My Pain” and “Aurum Reclusa,” come off as less inspired takes on the album’s fantastic openers. They’re still enjoyable, decent songs, but I imagine I’ll be skipping over them on subsequent album listens in the months and years ahead.
More importantly, A Patient Man is absolutely a record I’ll be returning to in the long-term. So much of the album stands out from anything Cult Leader’s contemporaries are doing that I can’t help but be enamored. Having a few songs that are merely “good” is hardly damming, and they don’t do much to hamper A Patient Man’s glowing successes. More, please.