Cultro - Phlegethon

12 Dec 2021 - Knut

Post-Metal, Atmospheric Sludge Metal, Avant-Garde Metal, Darkwave | Eibon Records | Release date: 10 Dec 2021

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I really thought that when I reviewed the last release by Hemelbestormer and the last release by Five the Hierophant that those two albums would be both the heaviest and the most visionary albums I would review this year. But the year has not ended and Cultro comes thundering to the scene with Phlegethon. An album so remarkable and inventive that I just want to write “this is good, buy it and enjoy.” The music is so broad, deep and mighty that it goes far beyond their peers in Post or Atmospheric Metal.

The band formed in Rome in 2014, released an EP in 2015 and the full length Horizon in 2017. These visionary musicians have now further developed their ideas with this new release. The band has a creative way of releasing the album as they release the tracks one at a time via Youtube and Bandcamp plus they have the whole album for sale as a CD on Bandcamp, but you can also buy the digitally released tracks as they are released. Through the kindness of the band, I got the possibility to listen through the whole album in the last couple of weeks. And it blew me away.

The title of the album refers to Dante´s last and deepest flaming river in the Seventh Circle. The tracklist has titles from western mythology´s darkest themes, ”Golem”, ”Medusa”, ”Atlas”, ”Banished” with a short acoustic title track in the middle that serves as an intermezzo for catching your breath. As you probably will need after listening to the first two tracks.

This is a post metal release, but even such a mighty genre is too narrow to describe the music on this album. The band has continued the path they started on Horizon and have taken many steps further. What becomes clear on the first track ”Golem” is that the wall of sound they build around you is dominated by the bass guitar that thunders, rumbles and grooves deep down in the sonics accompanied by mighty drums that sometimes sound like timpani. And around all of this, there are the ever-shifting guitars, sometimes heavier than Iommi´s doomiest riffs and sometimes so light and melodic that they lift the atmosphere.

In among the heavy soundscape there is a clean vocal that sometimes sounds a bit like the vocals on Cult of Luna´s ”And With Her Came the Birds”. It is very effective in the vast soundscape Cultro creates not only with guitars and drums, but also with sound effects. On the track ”Atlas” they are joined by the Dark Wave masters Lycia and the beautiful vocals of Tara VanFlower floats in and out of the many layers this album contains.

It becomes clear as you get immersed in the first track ”Golem” that the music of Cultro is created by dipping their magic wand in other genres and sprinkle those over their Post Metal compositions. The song starts with sparkles of sound effects echoing through your eardrums. A clean guitar rises into the soundscape to accompany the dreamlike echo-based vocals. The sound begins to build up behind the vocals until it is released as a gigantic and heavy soundscape with the prominent bass that pushes the music slowly against the borders of what this genre is known for. The music slowly paces toward what becomes a desolate plain of sound effects that brings us into the Dark Wave genre. It stays a while on the plain giving us a feel of vast emptiness before the bass and drums begin to rumble in the depth of the vaults of sound and the music glides into Industrial Metal soundscapes. But soon the gigantic heavy soundscape is back with heavy riffs that leads to an abrupt end.

The following tracks are as impressive as the first one. Although they are cut from the same genre, they are very diverse and create a feeling that you are in a vast dark vault that is filled with this heavy intense and fervent music. Sometimes it is repetitive and when you think you have had enough, there comes a release and the music flows beautifully, driven by the bass. The second track, ”Medusa” is a good example of how they manage to hold your attention as the bass rumbles with the sound effects and the guitar holds a musical theme. Within the dark sonics there are some vocals. The bass begins to speed up the pace and the music becomes more and more powerful until the guitars take over in glissando mode and you glide with the music towards an open empty space with sound effects echoing from distant walls.

The ideas and visions behind crafting such an album as this are really impressive. The sound quality throughout the album is outstanding. And the way the music pans out it might be one of the best soundtracks for the times we are living through these days. It gives us hope when a band manages to make a compassionate release like this during an ongoing pandemic. A release that reflects the ups and downs and loneliness we all must feel sometimes.