ToDieFor_CultI’m going out on an emo limb here, but Finland’s To/Die/For had a run of three albums where they released some of the best goth metal the world ever saw. From Jaded to Wounds Wide Open they were completely unfuckable with for slick, uber hooky sad boy rock, and to this day I’m still all over those platters like a beast. Then came the endless line up conundrums and inner turmoil and the band broke up and reformed several times before dropping Samsara in 2011. It was immediately apparent that all the fussin’ and feudin’ took a heavy toll on the musical end product, and Samsara was a major step down from its mega catchy predecessors. Even the killer, one of a kind vocals of Jarne Peratalo sounded tired, dissipated and disinterested,  as if he could barely bring himself to perform. It looked like the end was nigh for the reigning kings of Finnish gloom and my little black heart was both achy and breaky.

Out of left field, a new To/Die/For album arrived in the AMG promo bin this week (along with the 500th goddamn Vardan album of 2015, oddly enough), and to say it filled me with trepidation is an understatement. And while Cult (I’m not using the damn “v”) certainly isn’t up to the level of their golden age, it’s better than their recent aluminum era, and I suppose it’s a step in the right direction, though those glory days seem a million years ago.

Two things will jump out at long-time TDF fans as opener ” In Black” runs its course: the classic sound is more present than on Samsara, and much more noticeably, Jarne’s voice is even more shot now. He seems perpetually stuck in a ragged, throaty rasp and those crisp clean wails and unusual notes he was famous for are no more. It’s quite shocking to hear how different he sounds these days, and his weakened delivery definitely hurts the material, but the writing is much better this time out and at least approximates their beloved era, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

Voice destruction aside, it’s definitely good to hear the band back in their Robert Smith approved wheelhouse on glum goth rockers like “Screaming Birds” and “Unknown III” (a callback to a classic track off Jaded). “You” has a bit more punch and muscle and Jarne sounds better here than anywhere else, and “Let it Bleed” is as close to the olden days as it gets with an energetic pace and sense or urgency.

Todiefor_2015a

With things going better than expected, the band decides to shoot themselves in their collective foot with a wildly ill-conceived cover of Paula Abdul‘s loathsome pop hit “Straight Up,” and in the process proves you can do something worse than Paula. They’ve covered pop hits in the past, but made far better song selections that fit their style. This one doesn’t fit any hole available, square, round or rhomboid, and leaves a potentially embarrassing “must skip” for you to contend with forevermore. Closing ballad “End of Tears” is also on the poor side, with a weak, languid pace that never really gets going and offers little to remember it by.

The biggest curiosity here is what happened to Jarne’s vocal chords. He’s gone from one of my favorite singers to a guy that sounds pained to sing at all. He either completely blew out his voice, took up a two-pack a day habit or developed a fetish for gargling acid and ground glass. Whatever the case, it’s tough hearing him warble through songs he would have once completely owned. As for the rest of the band, the promo didn’t provide a roster so I’ve no idea who appears here with Jarne. The guitar-work is decent and does a good job of staying true to the band’s old sound, though there are no breakout riffs or jaw-dropping solos. Likewise, the keyboards are capably done, unstated and add a nicely despondent texture to the mix. Sadly, this was always a band carried by Jarne’s distinctive voice, and since he’s no longer capable of that, they needed more musical oomph to compensate and that just isn’t present here.

Though better than Samsara, Cult still finds To/Die/For in the assisted living stage of a once great career, and like visiting a nursing home, it’s depressing to see a loved one age and decline. This is a pale shadow of the band I loved, but there are still flashes of the old magic, and for some fans, that may be enough. Sad boy is really sad now.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: todiefor.fi | facebook.com/tdfofficial
Release Dates: Out Worldwide 06.26.2015

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  • JJnetZach

    This used to be one of my favorite bands…
    When I was 15.

  • Scourge

    Wow… The last thing I expected to find browsing AMG today was a review for a new To/Die/For album! For an avowed Duran Duran fanatic, a former PIB and a lover of all things metallic and melodic, these guys hit a sweet spot back in the day that filled a tiny void I didn’t even know was there. It’s a shame his clear, clean vocals have taken such a hit, but the embedded track is better than I thought it would be, although still sad, and not the good kind.

  • MikkoKukkonen

    If you used to love T/D/F, then have you ever given a listen to Charon? These two bands of fellow countrymen used to be our most loved bands in our little metal geek group, along with Sentenced. This review got me to dig them up again and damn those old albums sound great! They also bring back memories of various relationship failures in my late teens.. Oh woe me.

    • MikkoKukkonen

      Damn, I forgot about Entwine and Sinamore!

    • Yes, I like some of the Charon albums quite a bit. They have the goth metal vibe down cold.

    • JJnetZach

      For My Pain also released a quite good album in the same vein.

      Sentenced are in a league of their own though. Fantastic band. I still play Amok and Down a lot.

  • Wilhelm

    I loved the first two albums with Epilogue being one of the best gothic metal/rock albums, since then it’s been downhill.

    • TheonetrueLee

      Yeah, totally agree with that. I thought Jaded was pretty awful after how great All Eternity and Epilogue were.

  • Excentric_1307

    I don’t understand. The only role this guy has in the band is as the vocalist, and he can’t sing? What’s the point? Jettison this guy and grab a new crooner.

    • It’s the singer’s band so kicking him out is not an option.

      • Excentric_1307

        Ahhhhhhhh. I should have figured that out from the band photo.

        • Ah. More like I looked at the band photo and I immediately went NAH. I mean.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    These sad songs say so much about the decline of Jarne. I can’t think of a lot of singers whose chords improve with age. Chris Black, maybe. On the non-Metal side of things, I would add Johnny Cash (love his later period vocals). When the Grateful Dead started out in the mid-sixties, Garcia had such a great voice, but by the early eighties it was pretty much shot, probably no thanks to cigs and drugs.

    Annnnyyywho, surprised Mr. Druhm reviewed this, as there’s no raised sword on the cover.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The embedded track REALLY sounds like Lemmy finally blew his voice and joined later day Sentenced.

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    His vocals somewhat remind me of Bob Reid from Razor doing his sorta cleans in Bobnoxious. Should’ve covered “Opposites Attract” if they needed a Paula Abdul song on here, and got Chris Black to be Paula and given Jarne the part of that weird cat thing. Talk about a missed opportunity.

    • It bothers me that I’m forced to agree with you.

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        Would the rap-tastic intro to such a masterpiece make you feel better? It could go a little something like this:

        I’m M.C. Jarne on the rap so mic it
        Here’s a cover song and you’re sure to like it
        A hooky and sorrowful goth metal attack
        With my homeboy, Chris ‘Hammer’ Black

  • Doomdeathrosh

    Well, why does the album cover say “CVLT” for no apparent reason?

  • John Jacoub

    Entirely disagree on your take on Samsara. That album was magnificent and fitted Jarne’s voice quite well. If you assume that Cult indeed includes Screaming Birds and Delirium, then it becomes a hell of an album. Don’t spit on one of the last great Finnish bands, they are great by default.

    • No band is “great by default.” When a band stops releasing great albums (as these guys did after Wounds Wide Open), then they are, by definition, no longer a great band. Samsara was far from great, as is this one.

  • White Chess

    It’s Jarno, not Jarne…