Artist: Cult Of Lilith


Album Title: Mara

Label: Metal Blade Records

Date of Release: 4 September 2020

I’m mega late to the party with this record and for that, I apologise. Partly, it was due to my unexpected September hiatus. But partly, it is down to the fact that until about a week or so ago, I had absolutely no intention of reviewing this record. The mention of ‘metalcore’ in various press releases put me right off, because anyone who knows me, will know that anything with ‘core’ in the descriptor will put me right off. Except a little smidgen of grindcore, which I’ve grown to rather like in the last few years.

However, having heard some fine things said about it, I became tempted to hear what all the fuss was about. That, coupled with the artwork from the incredible artist Eliran Kantor, meant that this debut record – yes, debut full length, on Metal Blade – became something I felt I had to hear.

Given I’m over a month-and-a-half late, I’m not intending to go into the kind of detail that I would normally. Let’s face it, if you are interested in this release, you’ve probably already bought it or dismissed it. Nevertheless, there are some of you poor souls that seem to like my reviews, so if you’re one of them, thank you. And, if you remain on the fence with Cult Of Lilith, and this debut, ‘Mara’, maybe I can help sway you one way or the other.

Thankfully, upon listening to ‘Mara’ for the first time, it is clear that there is much more to the band than 100% pure metalcore. In fact, to my delight, it is primarily in the vocal department where the metalcore influences can be heard; vocalist Mario Infantes Ávalos has an aggressive shriek that the genre would be proud of. But, as will become clear as you delve further into the record, there’s more in common here with tech/progressive death metal than anything else on ‘Mara’. That, and a desire to inject a plethora of unexpected and generally welcome ideas into the extreme mix. It’d probably be fair to say that no two songs within the eight on offer are truly alike, and that’s an impressive feat for a fledgling band.

To underline my point, the opening track begins with a harpsichord melody before crashing headlong into a brutal face melting blend of progressive death metal, with a thrash element. At times, it recalls Darkane, especially when the vocals momentarily depart from such a caustic attack to something a little more ‘epic’. The lead guitar embellishments are excellent, but then so are all of the performances within the Icelandic five-piece band, a band that began as a one-man project at the hands of Daniel Þór Hannesson.

From there on, we’re treated to a smorgasbord of variety, ranging from the sublime to the almost ridiculous. There’s a strong neo-clasical bent throughout much of the material, but it’s the embellishments that emerge from what would normally be relatively standard prog death fare that are the most arresting. Take, for example the random organ solo slap bang in the middle of ‘Purple Tide’, a track that is oddly book-ended by bold electronic synth sounds. Or the plethora of pinched harmonics that litter ‘Enter The Mancubus’, within the strong neo-classical riffs and rough-sounding clean vocals within the violent growls.

They can mix up the music in terms of tempo and intensity too, as ‘Atlas’ demonstrates their more nuanced side from the outset. ‘Comatose’ is clearly ironically-titled because there’s no chance of being unconscious during a song that lurches and grinds as only an extreme metal band of this nature can do. And there’s room for some weird atmospheres and vocal effects to provide a moment of eye-raising material. But it’s the insane drumming from Kjartan Harðarson that catches my ear most of all.

I know what you’re thinking: this is all very well, but prog death isn’t prog death without a little Latin flair. Well, worry not, because ‘Profeta Paloma’ duly obliges with a flamenco-esque sequence that strangely fits like a glove. And, if you’re missing a little operatic influence, worry not, because the final track, ‘Le Soupir du Fantome’ duly obliges, ably assisted by some lovely acoustic guitars. It’s incredible just how well it all works together and how smooth everything feels; this kind of experimentation should be a clunky, disjointed affair, but nothing could be further from reality.

Genuine kudos must be given to Cult Of Lilith because their ambition has been matched by their ability and skill. Yes, there are a few rough edges here and there, but given that this is a debut release, you’d expect that. It provides space into which Cult of Lilith can grow further, as their experience and ability increases over time. I’m rather shocked by how much I enjoy this album, so all I can say is this: if you haven’t already, leave any prejudices you might have at the door, and check out ‘Mara’ as soon as possible. I can’t imagine that you’ll be disappointed.

The Score of Much Metal: 86%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Helion Prime – Question Everything

Soul Secret – Blue Light Cage

Enslaved – Utgard

Dynfari – Myrkurs er þörf

Amaranthe – Manifest

Kataklysm – Unconquered

Structural Disorder – Kingdom Crossing

Skeletal Remains – The Entombment Of Chaos

Prehistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter One)

Ihsahn – Pharos

Hinayana – Death Of The Cosmic
Oceans Of Slumber – Oceans Of Slumber
Okyr – Premorbid Intelligence
Manticora – To Live To Kill To Live
Pain Of Salvation – Panther
Vanishing Point – Dead Elysium
Unleash The Archers – Abyss
Veonity – Sorrows
Nyktophobia – What Lasts Forever
Ages – Uncrown
Awake By Design – Awake By Design
Black Crown Initiate – Violent Portraits Of Doomed Escape
Gaerea – Limbo
Buried Realm – Embodiment Of The Divine
Navian – Reset
Selenseas – The Outer Limits
Quantum – The Next Breath Of Air
Ensiferum – Thalassic
Long Distance Calling – How Do We Want To Live?
Airbag – A Day At The Beach
Re-Armed – Ignis Aeternum
Atavist – III: Absolution
Frost* – Others EP
Darker Half – If You Only Knew
Atavistia – The Winter Way
Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews