Cult Classic

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Cult Classic is a hardcore-metal concept album with high artistic aspirations that it partly delivers on. The album title is a reference to the overriding suicide-cult theme also present in the artwork and in several of the songs' lyrics, although corporate greed, commercialism, failed relationships, and political corruption are also prominent themes. Presumably, these themes all tie together on some level, and unlike many hardcore bands, you can actually decipher what Scarlet's vocalist is saying without the aid of a lyric sheet. However, in keeping with the genre's tendencies, their deeper meaning is still a little opaque and hard to penetrate at times. Musically, the album starts off with a rapid succession of two-minute tracks that begin and end with barely a break between them, so that it almost sounds like one big, long mutated song. It's all very heavy and abrasive, with jagged rhythms and dissonant, technical guitar riffs galore. By track six, "Dead America," the pace slows, and the screaming vocals turn to soaring clean-voiced singing. The second half of the album alternates between screaming vocals and this same type of dramatic singing -- reminiscent of Converge's Jane Doe -- and between frantic, technical metal riffing and slower, spacier moments. There are also some electronic touches and other stray sounds such as clanging pianos and buzzing amplifiers. Clearly, a lot of work went into this album. The problem is, ultimately, the substance just isn't there to justify the lofty, high-concept presentation. For one thing, a lot of the guitar parts are clearly derivative of Dillinger Escape Plan, while the main riff to "The Joy Decoys Are Coming" sounds exactly like a Meshuggah riff. If these guys are such clever artistes, why does their music bear such a clear similarity to two of the most imitated bands in metal and hardcore over the early 2000s? Not only that, for all the surface-level complexity, the music doesn't have the same underlying depth -- nor is it as catchy -- as that of leading lights such as Dillinger or Converge. Make no mistake, Scarlet are good musicians, and this is a good album -- it just falls a little short of the lofty ambitions the bandmembers have set for themselves.

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