Review by Alex on April 28, 2019.
This is one that has a production that sounds just as chaotic as the album cover, and it's good. Cultic have created a death/doom record that does things a bit differently. Their sound is as dirty as the bottom of a septic tank, Imagine Bedemon’s 1974 Child of Darkness + a heavier crunchy guitar tuning. The vocals tackle you in an unorthodox fashion with the somewhat stifled undertones and tortured sounding overtones. The drumming and guitars are fairly simple, they don’t appear to be anything outstanding, just good old chugging and high notes march along to the clashes of battle. The occasional war metal echo dawns over you and some very weird noises loom over the music as if an ancient army is releasing one of their secret weapons/beasts in battle. There are some very amusing surprises on High Command, most of which align with the toxic atmosphere via the raw uncultivated qualities escaping through this damned fissure. This digs deep towards the nadir of the most hideous and dirt nasty; strictly not for virgin ears.
Carving away the polish that has tainted death/doom metal to the point of mainstream acceptance, Cultic accomplishes the task of providing memorable songs all the while hooting a nasty, miserable, medieval-battle-mash, fucked-up production. Songs reveal a dimming, drowning and decapitated landscape, just as you would imagine by one glimpse of the artwork. You're dragged into the battle with the cruel overture on "The Conqueror" that blatantly makes you aware of what exactly you're getting into. No warning signs, just a sword, a shield and a task of storming the kingdom. As the ruinous tempo of High Command parades, the violent attitude of the recordings provide a very cinematic sensation, and that's saying much about Cultic’s aptness to translate their music into the mind’s eye of the listener. I'm not sure what that section was on “False Idols”, some sort of guitar solo attempted when standing amidst two warring factions firing Trebuchets at each other? Whatever it is, it keeps within the perimeters of what Cultic sought out to achieve. Then they summon the dragon on “Dark Rider”, hear those power chords undulate with finesse, that evil piece of laughter and some kind of King Diamond-esque squeal. “Behold the prowler”
High Command sits on the sidelines of 1st wave doom metal, whilst taking notes on how to attire the style with death metal garments. The repetitive tone gets tiresome to some degree, and given the simplistic instrumental approach, the lack of variation would create a sore irritating listen to the unaccustomed. Then again, I don’t think High Command was created for the uninitiated, Cultic seems to have made this precisely for the dirty doomed-out hordes that refuse to vacate the 70s. However, I do think some keyboard segments could have helped to consummate the flavor of the record, after-all, the themes revolve around the medieval era, why not prepare some dungeon-synth to contrast and tag along for the ride. Plus, the pacing of High Command is definitely suitable for some dungeon synth eeriness. Despite the rough and intentionally gritty production, all that is laid before the listener can be heard clearly; the vocals can be understood to a considerable degree, and there are not many lyrics on High Command so they’re memorable, particularly on tracks such as “Cruel Orders” and “Dark Rider” to name a few.
Many will enjoy the time spent with High Command, it’s decent footing for Cultic to make on their first full-length.
Rating: 7.9 out of 10