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With Pessimist's debut album 'Cult of the Initiated', one gets exactly what's promised: US death metal from 1990s. However, I do suggest you continue reading, if you have a soft spot for this music style, because while not being a highly original act, Pessimist have other fine traits in them.
After three demos, this Baltimorean band who formed in 1993, released their debut album. Some said, that death metal was already dead, meaning truly over and out. Out of fashion? Yeah, the mainstream metal folks thought that way anyway. Pessimist guys, however, didn't. 'Cult of the Initiated' is a soulful yet demonic onslaught of savory death metal. Thrash metal plays a significant part on this album.
First, the music is really rolling at times, and of course some slower, lingering bits aren't forgotten. When it's time to get intense, guys really go for it seemingly easily, both in playing and vibe. Guitar work consists of nasty riffage, evil lead guitars, and otherworldly solos. Clanking bass guitar is nicely audible in the mix, and drums are really pummeling. Able low growled vocals are accompanied by throat-ripping, tortured screaming. A bit in vein of Napalm Death. I have an impression, that this album sounds like a mixture of older Malevolent Creation and Deicide, plus Demolition Hammer, with a hint of Cannibal Corpse. But Pessimist have added their own kind of aggression and arcane melodiousness to it. The song quality is overally above good.
The guitars sound ripping and heavy, liting up the feeling of offence. The solo guitars are more airy in their tone, but still brooding. The bass guitar is clanking, as mentioned before, and the drums are powerful, especially kick drums. And definitely not triggered. The mix is good; it is very thick, but still everything has its place in it. Intensive is the word for how this album sounds like.
The cover art has ugly computer graphics with big pixels. Lyrics are printed, gladly, but in a annying manner: Only caps and long lines. Anyways, the more important factor about the lyrics is their themes, right? Corrupted politicians and systems, demons, antireligious texts, sexual derivations and killing. Gladly, it's not the most typical story-telling.
'Cult of the Initiated' is a fine dose of aggression, both musically and soundwise. If you're into 1990s US death metal with a thrashy twist, add this to your list of "must check outs"!
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)
Do you ever feel.. psycho? Cult of the Initiated empathizes. Pessimist plays a form of blackened, thrashy and somewhat technical death metal here with schizophrenic vocals and crazy seizures of speed and solos. After the intro riff they get right into it, bringing an onslaught of skull-pummeling they did not want us to forsee. The way each song plays out is you never really know what’s coming next, and the sheer amount of times the direction is shifted in each song makes you think, that was just one song? I could have sworn we were already on the third. Just try and convince me these guys don’t have ADD.
There’s shittons of blasting and the vocalist shrieks his head off for the majority of this rollercoaster of an album. Who knows who this lunatic is singing about torturing.. until the clean vocalled interlude in “Drunk With The Blood Of The Saints.” Lemme tell you, it’s pretty sinister. Tons of smiting, flogging, burning, and whatever else. All your favorite hobbies are Pessimist’s too! There is a good deal of technicality here albeit overshadowed by neckbreaking speed, and a lot of thrash influence. And yet Pessimist manages to toss in a fair share of guitar solos, which compared to the rest of the music you wouldn’t expect either. If there was ever a definition of erratic, Cult of the Initiated is it. This is brutal in a totally different way from all those I ripped the entrails out her ass and ate them type albums you hear. There’s almost some level of intellectuality hidden in the volatile structures and screeching, and yet it kicks your ass all the same.
If Cult of the Initiated was a person, you’d be looking over your back every ten seconds if he was sitting behind you in class. You have to listen to this one a few times before you totally get what’s going on, and even then each time it gets a play you discover things you don’t recall hearing before. Pessimist has some unpleasant intentions and too much energy to be able to call anywhere near sane. The only downside to this album is it won’t probably be seen for all its intensity and energy if this type of music is nothing new to you, which is a shame. I know if I’d heard this when I was just getting into metal I would have soiled my pants. And it’s not something you can randomly throw on, or not me anyways, you have to be in a need for speed mood or else it’s overkill. Other than that Cult of the Initiated, how cool is that title by the way, is one livid psycho beast.
In 1997, the amalgam consisting of black metal and death metal was well-known. Bands like Dissection and Sacramentum had released legendary albums using this styling. But, until this time, musically it sounded like a more refined black metal with greater effort put into melody and song-writing. "Cult of the Initiated" did the opposite.
In this album, Pessimist mixes aesthetics black metal with a death/thrash base in order to create this beast of an album. Musically, it is not that distant from the likes of Morbid Angel and Possessed but it does contain a heavy black metal influence. The vocal delivery and lyrical diction both point to black metal. The musical influence of black metal doesn't shine through except in specific places such as the mid-section of "Drunk With The Blood Of The Saints."
The album itself has very little flaws. The guitar and bass tones are complementary. The drums are well-placed within the mix. Vocals are positioned on top of the mix yet not too high. The flaws I have found are all musical.
While, the band did ground-breaking work with this album, they also resorted to a generic presentation of their sound. Without "Drunk With The Blood Of The Saints," "Let The Demons Rest," and "Unholy Union," the album would be very generic. These tracks exhibit unique progression and interesting pieces, if only the same could be said for the rest of the album.
The rest of the album plays out like a stereotypical death/thrash album. It features the generic thrash riffs coupled with heaviness for heaviness' sake. As well as, the expected chaotic soloing. If a little more effort had been given and these factors minimized it would have been an easy 9/10.
Even with all of these errors, this album is still the band's best output to date. It also features their best song to date, "Drunk With The Blood Of The Saints." If you are a fan of blackened death metal, this is a must-listen.
It’s probably not the least bit fair, but I tend to think of this album, Pessimist’s debut, as mainly being a forerunner to their excellent sophomore effort, Blood for the Gods, which is one of my favorite death metal albums. The overall style of their music didn’t change much between their first two efforts, but the songwriting is somewhat less consistent here and the distant, faded production leaves something to be desired.
If anything, this is probably a little more complex and technical than where they went on their second album, with a tendency towards multi-part songwriting – at times this is a definite strength, but it also causes the last half of the album to blur together somewhat for me. There’s also a comparatively greater reliance on higher-pitched “black metal” vocals, as well as some squawky high-pitched vocals (possibly performed by guest musician Tom Persons) that sound as if they’re being inhaled rather than screamed. Primary vocalist Rob Kline provides adequate low-ended rumbling but is a little monotone.
Nevertheless, this is excellent American death metal that certainly succeeds on its own merits, and the best songs on the album are among the band’s best. In particular “Drunk with the Blood of the Saints” may be my very favorite Pessimist song (and possibly a precursor to their later song “Wretched of the Earth”) – the staggering, melodic main riff is simply one of the darkest and catchiest that the band’s come up with. Although the band can always be trusted not to sacrifice evil atmosphere and songwriting for mindless brutality, it’s those more blatantly melodic parts that tend to catch my ear.
Anyhow, I recommend this album, if only for the first four songs, although personally I’d advise listeners new to Pessimist to start with Blood for the Gods.