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To/Die/For - Cult (2015) - Review

Band: To/Die/For
Album title: Cult
Release date: 26 June 2015
Label: Massacre Records

01. In Black
02. Screaming Birds
03. Unknown III
04. Mere Dream
05. You
06. Straight Up (Paula Abdul cover)
07. Let It Bleed
08. End Of Tears
09. Dying Embers (Demo 2001) [Digipak Bonus]

One of the most significant bands that is counted as one of the inventors of the sound that became known as "Suomi metal", together with Sentenced, Charon, Entwine, HIM, Poisonblack, etc, are back with a new album, their seventh. To/Die/For have a turbulent past behind them, from hitting the charts with their early albums, to having a real misfortune with constant line-up changes, they even went through a quite long hiatus due to personal and health reasons after the in 2006 released album Wounds Wide Open, but came back in full shape and glory with Samsara in late 2011. I don't have any intention of going into details with their story, but those who don't known must note that the band was born back in 1993 under the name Mary-Ann, then in 1999 changed it into like it is today. The band now consists of, beside singer Jape Perätalo and guitarist Juppe Sutela, who are the only original members, also of guitarist Eza Viren, bassist Samuel Schildt and drummer Matti Huopainen. I must admit that To/Die/For never really dragged me with their kind of melancholic gothic metal or whatsoever style, but with Cult, unlike most of their former fans, they got my attention more than ever before.

Cult serves with eight rough, rocking, in a way simple, but intense pieces. The album is the least complicated, the least layered thing this band ever did, but instead of some childish sad emotional melancholy, Jape & co. kick ass seriously this time, with a sound that is energetic and at the same time catchy, heavy, raw, dark, as well there's still a lot of melancholy and nice driving heavily distorted, yet a bit tunned down guitar sound, moody synths which are used less than ever before, dense atmosphere and strong well balanced rhythmic line. On Cult also you won't find that much electronics like on most of their previous albums, but you'll get some truly fantastic guitar leads, thunderous drums and  strong bass lines. The biggest change comes with Jape's voice which is harsher than ever before, not brutal in any way but his voice sounds raspier, yet powerful without losing the emotional character, a bit similar to the one of Ville Laihiala from Poisonblack/ex-Sentenced, I can say he matured, yet it gives even more heaviness to the overall heavy sound and I don't miss his clean crisp deeply sadened vocals at all. Several catchy choruses sound more impactful, almost imposing and won't leave your head for a while.

The mellow opener "In Black" and absolutely fantastic nicely flowing "Let It Bleed" are the most direct tracks up here with a raw heavy energetic gothic metal drive, yet bleak sound, without any compromises the band hits in your face with those simple but effective song structures. Then, tracks like "Screaming Birds" or "Unknown III" (whose first two parts were featured on Epilogue (2001) and Jaded (2003); this one is dedicated to the late Tonmi Lillman (1973-2012) who played drums in the band until 2010 and then joined Lordi), are somehow typical To/Die/For compositions with many elements taken from gothic rock tradition but played in "Suomi" style, with clean melancholic mellow parts that nicely transforms into raging refrains and the solos in both tracks are fantasticaly spicing the stuff. "Mere Dream" is a too short gothy semi-ballad with a nice gloomy ambiance, deepened with some sparkly piano touches and a couple of doomy riffs. To create highly emotive ear pleasing and popy melodies was never a question with To/Die/For and you'll hear those all over the album, but the unpretentious, almost danceable melodic line in "You" is something that I believe it will make the audience on their shows ecstatic. Even if the band did some controversial covers before, the rather bizzare decision to cover Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" is a risky move, but I like it, it gives some freshness and a nice twist to the album when it became most needed. This time Jape is singing in a duet with female vocalist (I don't know who she is because the promo sheet doesn't came with this information) and it works out just fine, in a way lightly erotic, the same female singer is also heard on the before mentioned "Unknown III". The best is reserved for the end and the track named "End Of Tears", it reminds me to something I've heard before and it bothers me because I can't figure it out. Anyway, it's one of the best songs To/Die/For ever did, it has a nice multi layered rich and atmospheric dark vibe on the border of gothic doom metal and is maybe one of the gloomiest things these Finns ever did. A change comes also with the productional approach which this time is a bit more hard, giving more significance to the sound of guitars, it's more dirty, thus powerful and adds some deepth to those compositions.

With Cult the band seems to be more alive than ever and I hope this line-up is here to stay. I believe that the tracks on this album are primarly composed to be played on stage and that's the place where will shine in all its glory. Musically speaking Cult doesn't bring anything revolutionary, instead of that it shows a band that went through a lot of bad things in a new light. I know that their former fans will be all sniffy over this album, but on the other hand those who were not convinced by their past endeavours should give it a try, it might surprise you, like it positively surprised me. Digipak edition of the album comes with a cool bonus track, "Dying Embers (Demo 2001)", whose original version was featured on in 2003 released album Jaded. Recommended!

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 8/10