Released: 2015, Massacre Records
ALL ETERNITY and JADED seem like a long time ago for To/Die/For, those albums in many ways being a high water mark for the band. Signed by Nuclear Blast, touring with country mates Sentenced and other big names of the day, the future was bright. A few things happened to rob them of momentum, namely being lumped in with HIM as “love metal” and of course the band’s temporary implosion in April of 2009, before reuniting 3 months later. The lineup changed, and the music never reached the heights of the heady days of JADED.
CULT is the band’s 7th LP, first on Massacre Records, and one where they have any many ways emulated Sentenced. The reason for that is Jape Perätalo’s suddenly ragged and gruff vocals. The only explanation is that his voice must be shot, and he does not sound like any of his previous albums. It is a bit unsettling to hear such a transformation, but it does have the added bonus of bringing some heaviness and aggression to the songs. Musically, CULT is not significantly different from previous albums, To/Die/For continuing to offer poppy Gothic metal.
“In Black” opens thing respectably, the Sentenced influence being especially prominent in Perätalo’s vocals and the verse riffs. The same could be said for the next track, “Screaming Birds” also proudly waving the Sentenced flag. “Unknown III” is classic T/D/F, referring back to the “Unknown II” from JADED and one of the signature tracks until the briefly awful vocoder inflected female voice takes over. All told, CULT is a fairly short album, with 8 tunes clocking in at only 37 minutes. The band focuses on melodic guitar lines and mid-paced tempos, while the keyboards are used more for layering and texture and not as an overblown means to an end.
CULT is good album, but not a great one. The main problems are Perätalo’s blown vocals, which now have less variety and power. The biggest misstep though is the band’s confusing choice to cover Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” (It is surreal writing Paula Abdul’s name in a metal review). Yep, this song is as bad as you could possibly imagine, making this in effect a 7 song album, which leads to another problem. It has been four years since SAMSARA and 7 good songs and an atrocious cover is all the band has to offer? It’s a shame, because I can imagine most critical reception is going to focus on Abdul’s song and lose sight of an otherwise decent album. If you can adjust to Perätalo’s vocals, then CULT is a quality Gothic metal album that should please fans of the band and others that enjoy Sentenced and HIM.