Four Canucks and a Swede go in, blackened doom metal comes out. Thanks to the miracles of the internet, Daniel Jansson, vocalist of Culted, has helped his kindred spirits in Canada uncage a few releases despite having never been in the same room with them (sounds like a bad sequel to Swordfish waiting to happen). Culted's brand of doom has a distinct tint of black metal seasoning lingering in the discordant, uneasy nimbus of abrasive textures conveyed through a sense of dilapidation. "Oblique to All Paths" leaves me feeling in a bit of a quandary despite its unique color (or lack thereof) and ability to sound cold and disheartening. Culted is utterly brilliant when it has its stars of sensory manipulation aligned, but this style, big on the concepts of risk and reward, regularly falters when a screw within the complex machine that is "Oblique to All Paths" comes loose.
Riffs that churn slowly are recurrently strewn over strange black metal parts lurking deep in the chasm of "Oblique to All Paths," while samples and feedback augment this forlorn world to make it feel uneasy and calamitous. These songs are shackled in line by their relative uniformity, and hardly trod down atypical angles that would otherwise divert the group's musical direction, for better or for worse. Culted depends on the dreary fog created by the sweltering riffs mixing with crushing rhythm sections and Jansson's distressed shrieks and whispers, which are both amplified regularly. Picture an isolated, dejected atmosphere à la Neurosis' "Souls at Zero" bound to stronger metallic elements of doom and black metal with wider passages of samples and feedback used to enhance the feelings of remoteness.
The seams of this approach, while ironclad and impenetrable on the surface, tend to wobble after holding up such an upsetting edifice for sixty minutes and some change. Culted starts off with nineteen minutes of familiarizing their forlorn dimension on "Brooding Hex," which does a remarkable job transmitting the amalgamation of sample-heavy structures and disjointed blackened doom metal "Oblique to all Paths" is based upon. "Illuminati" and "Jeremiad" show the direction in its finest form, the colossal fractures of roasting riffs and gnarled sequences unrelentingly disturbing. Unfortunately, Culted's design, though open-ended, seems more like a checklist than a harrowing adventure on "Intoxicant Immuration" and "Transmittal," both songs too long and too paltry.
Needless to say, the anxiety-provoking rhythms and tumultuous puzzles coursing through "Oblique to All Paths" lose their grips midway through, and the essence of asphyxia becomes customary. The band's routine is anything but, yet there is certainly a degree of inconsistency that mires a substantial portion of Culted's esoteric cognitive dissonance. It warrants an investigation based on its unique approach and astonishing application of dire atmospheric elements, but the pieces here have their moments of weakness. Despite the perplexing mystique surrounding both Culted and its members, the music feels either red hot or cold as ice, and although I'd say the good moments outweigh the bad, "Oblique to All Paths" ends up sounding rather mottled.