Apparently, the four band members of Culted, though they’ve been a band for about ten years now, have never been in a room together. Three of the band members are at home in the Canadian prairies, while one of them lives is Sweden. In the digital age, such an international collaboration is, of course, not that unusual and also increasingly more common. Still, it would be interesting to interview the band about their music making process and its advantages and disadvantages. Do they feel that some form of connection is missing and are they planning on ever trying to bridge that gap? Or are they quite content with things as they are?

Interestingly enough, their new EP, their fourth release in total, is themed around a common denominator, something they all share – and that is geographical width and climate, or as the press info quite poetically puts it, “the rime-incrusted lands all of them inhabit”.

And the music is cold all right. Icy, in fact. The EP cover, also, is held primarily in frosty colours, in blues and greys. A bit of cold light shines from above on a scene in which death is omnipresent, where there is nothing but death. There is a bit of warmer light from below, but that’s probably hellfire, if I’m interpreting it right.

Apart from coldness and death, the other connotation being evoked, by the EP’s title to be precise, is that of a mass being celebrated. Culted’s Vespertina Synaxis, or evening service, has three parts, neatly divided and coinciding with the EP’s three tracks: A Prayer for Union, Dirt Black Chalice, and A Prayer for Emptiness. The music they feature ranges from experimental and industrial synth/electro sounds with added acoustic guitar tunes to blackened doom.

The first track, A Prayer for Union, serves as some form of introduction. With four and a half minutes, it is the shortest of the EP’s three tracks. To disturbing and unnerving industrial sounds, the sad, melancholy tune of an acoustic guitar has been added, providing vulnerability. There is no singing, but there is the recording of a speech to be heard, sounding like a monologue from a movie. The monologue’s subject, from what I’ve been able to understand, is losing yourself or your sense of self. In any case, the speech sounds acted rather than presented or read. I don’t recall hearing it before. In addition to the monologue, there is whispering in the background. Altogether, the song’s multiple tracks create a threatening and ominous atmosphere, with a hopeless and vulnerable individual in it.

The second track Dirt Black Chalice offers a complete turnaround, featuring mighty, colossal riffs. The vocals are growly and subdued, and the reverberating bass completes an overall grinding sound. This track is, for the most part, a mighty, meaty monster, flattening everything in its path. I was primarily reminded of Dirge (who are no longer active) and their last album Lost Empyrean. In the track’s finale, however, the vulnerable-sounding acoustic guitar returns. I quite like that, because otherwise the track would have been too testosterone-laden (like Dirge’s last album).

The EP’s closer and simultaneously its longest track, A Prayer for Emptiness, features primarily emotionless, repetitive, industrial noise, again with dark whispers in the background. It successfully evokes the feeling of a mass in progress, a mass attended by “the ghosts that I called, and now can’t get rid of” (Goethe, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

This is dark, depressive and vulnerable, but also mighty and trippy – especially when listened to on headphones, with the music swirling around your head.

(7.5/10 Slavica)