Iceland’s magnificent vistas and bleak isolation lend its musical artists an identifiable common individuality, which makes madcap newcomers Cult Of Lilith an even more appealing oddity, with debut Mara another unexpected treat from a country used to throwing up the unexpected. Having largely gone it alone on 2016’s Arkanum EP, guitarist Daniel Þór Hannesson has assembled a crew of likeminded visionaries to combine cutting-edge technical death metal’s fretboard acrobatics and chunky bite with all manner of progressive, classical and technicolour influences and surprises that dart in from the leftfield.
Opening its account with a harpsichord, Cosmic Maelstrom lives up to its billing with a flurry of notes, shattering drums, multiple rhythmic and tempo changes and an uncanny underbelly that’s as precise and devastating as it is refreshingly different. And yet it’s arguably the most straightforward track on Mara. Mario Infantes Ávalos’s multi-faceted vocals come into their own on the profoundly odd blitzkrieg of Purple Tide that throws in a jazzy lead and Hammond before descending into Stranger Things-esque electronica, while the atmospheric, jittery Profeta Paloma has the audacity to end with stunning flamenco playing.
Each song contains a wealth of sonic twists with Atlas moving from serene atmosphere to gibbering lunacy, Comatose’s jackhammer riffing descending into vaudeville piano and the kind of histrionic storytelling Sikth have made their own, and closer Le Soupir Du Fantome going from a night at the opera into twisted Danny Elfman-aping savagery.
While Code Orange have understandably grabbed this year’s headlines for their fearless reinvention of an established genre, Cult Of Lilith deserve credit for sculpting an exquisite piece of modern extremity, putting it in a straightjacket and detonating it with Acme dynamite. Whether you find it a revelation or infuriatingly irritating is a matter of taste, but Mara’s sheer originality has to be applauded.View Deal