What made Lightless Walk such a resonant album, earning its way into nearly every best-of-the-year list, is the honesty in its pain. The ravenous album tears from end to end, despite the last two tracks, which dig deep into its wounds in order to understand and come to terms with it all. Now, what makes A Patient Man just as impactful is how it doesn’t try to start from square one, but festers in those old wounds and explores their lasting effects. Cult Leader give themselves the opportunity to stretch their legs, as well as the time to do so. For real, a hardcore album where half of the songs are longer than five minutes.
The band comes out of the gate swinging, showing that acclaim hasn’t hindered their progression. The anxiety-inducing riffs tear, and the vocals are more vile than ever. These tracks bring instant crowd-favorite chants of “All I want is everything!” and he line many people have latched onto: “Heal me!” Later, “Craft of Mourning” and “Share My Pain” work together so well they might as well be halves of the same song: one is the chaotic maelstrom, and the later its vulgar breakdown. There’s no denying Cult Leader’s grasp of the genre, and the first unique moment of the album comes from “Isolation in the Land of Milk and Honey,” as the band takes a step back and let the claustrophobic nature of the auditory assault do the talking:
“The world seeps in through the cracks
as distant laughter
a spreading plague of joyful corpses
Warmth, wealth and love lay outside these walls
I am all I need, alone with my enemy”
The prevailing feeling is the near helpless nature of abuse. While the abuse itself isn’t new for the outfit (“Mongrel” continues to be a calling card since 2014), it’s never reached this level. It’s most evident on “To: Achlys,” where the leaching presence of a “mother of misery…daughter of the dark” seems to refer to a loved one who will never reciprocate that love due to their own baggage. The plodding cascade carries through “A World of Joy,” the title track, and “Broken Right Hand of God.” All prove the nihilistic prophecies the band has been cultivating since inception, the feeling that existence is designed only to break you. “I will not weep,” and the cathartic snap, could make any seasoned veteran grip their teeth at the sheer insanity. What helps is the nearly 48-minute gauntlet comes to the soul-crushing realization that no matter how many times you tell yourself you “must walk on,” the brutal, honest truth is that “we will fail.”
At this moment, a week after the initial listen, A Patient Man surprises after every spin and solidifies itself as an improvement on every conceivable level. I am positive that Cult Leader will climb back into everyone’s top-of-the-year list. If there is heavy album to cite as a showcase of what this side of the hardcore spectrum is capable of, its this. It dominates the listener without a dull moment. That melancholic riff of “The Broken Right Hand of God” will continue to ring out as it buries its way into your deepest vulnerabilities.
“We will fail…”