After almost six years of reviewing here, I’ve noticed American bands latching on to certain trends. Just a decade ago, everyone and their cousin was aping the Gothenburg sound, mixing it with d-beats and hardcore (and some whiny) vocals, and calling it a day. Nowadays, doom is the nectar du jour, and many a band is gulping it. Here in America, you have two prevalent strains: the airy, dreamy, almost progressive take that bands like YOB, Khemmis, and especially Pallbearer have crafted, and then there’s the so-70s-your-sideburns-are-showing Blue Oyster Cult
Scoobie-Doobie-Doom “Occult” doom that’s been sweeping the nation. So which side does Invocation of the Lucifer, the second album by Cincinnati upstarts Cult of Sorrow, land?
Surprisingly neither, though you’d be forgiven if you thought it was in the latter category with a very 70s sample of a man getting sworn in to a Satanic cult at the beginning of opener “Come Infernal.” Once that ends, though, you’re treated to riffs and songwriting that pays quite the nod to The Obsessed, namely their legendary The Church Within album. Guitarists Jerry Lovett and Pete Contreras clearly studied at the Sabbath School of Riff Worship, as both men groove and riff away with intent, and Lovett possesses a powerful voice that’s equal parts Wino and Dax Riggs (Acid Bath). The fact that bassist Joe Owen and drummer Nate Bid provide a sturdy, rock-solid bed for the two ax-men to cleave and make magic upon certainly helps matters a great deal.
And from there, Invocation serves generous helpings of great songwriting and powerful riffs to power you through the day, night, or weekend. “Invocation” grooves with the same heft found in Deliverance-era Corrosion of Conformity while retaining their own identity throughout. Elsewhere, “Shaman” lurches with a menacing boogie, heaving and plowing through your eardrums. But it’s “Burn” that leaves the biggest impression, with Lovett sounding his most Riggs-like, almost like a straight lift from When the Kite Strings Pop into Satanic doom territory, and a chorus that will stay in your head long after it ends. It’s when he stays in this mid-range that Lovett sounds the most powerful and confident, and makes a case for Cult of Sorrow being a name to look out for in American doom metal bands.
The production also packs a considerable punch. It’s lush with powerful bottom end, and teems with organic energy without sacrificing any dynamics or volume. There are some nitpicks to mention, though. The second half of the album isn’t quite as strong as the front half, with “Satan’s Eyes” going on for a bit too long while containing some questionable guitar melodies in the song’s bridge. Still, it’s not a bad song, even though it does pull the album down a little bit. But it definitely says something when your album’s worst song is just “good.”
As we begin to wind down proceedings in 2019, the metal world continues to drop some delectable helpings of quality music our way, gleefully complicating our year-end playlists while showing no restraint or mercy in terms of letting up just a hair. You can comfortably add Invocation of the Lucifer to the growing pile of great metal albums to have come out in the second half of the year. While the crop of quality doom metal acts here in America keep growing and multiplying by the second, it takes something special to truly stand out, and Cult of Sorrow, through great songwriting and heavy riffs, are that something. Tune in, turn on, groove out.