Ctulu - _Sarkomand_
(Northfire, 2011)
by: Mark Dolson (8.5 out of 10)
To be honest, I had never heard of Ctulu before their guitar player, Arne, sent me their latest CD a couple of months ago. I later learned that the band comes from Lower Saxony, in north-western Germany, and have been around since 2005. Though they haven't been around too long, Ctulu have put out two demos, _Zins Der Zeit_ (2005) and _Freie Geister_ (2006), and two full-length albums, _Freie Geister_ (2008) and _Sarkomand_ (2011), which I'll be reviewing below.

Upon first blush, I thought _Sarkomand_ sounded rather derivative of many of the good old Swedish bands playing melodic black metal. You know the usual suspects: Dissection, Naglfar, Mork Gryning, Vinterland, Midvinter and Vargavinter. You should also know the aesthetic that I'm referring to: a rather frenetic gait, driven by a melodically tremolo-picked sensibility; songs which feature a substantial dose of blast-beats; higher-register, raspy vocals; and an overall dark yet captivating atmosphere. Well, after a few spins of the CD, I was forced to abruptly change my mind.

The overall aesthetic on _Sarkomand_, to my mind anyways, is firmly entrenched in the early 1990s Swedish melodic black metal sound; however, Ctulu are offering more, as purveyors of melodic black metal, than just another hackneyed rendition of "early '90s black-metal". A closer listen to the tracks on _Sarkomand_, though, reveals something more sophisticated than your typical blast-beat backed, tremolo-picked affair. The track "Blindes Chaos", for instance, contains some memorable riffs -- not just hyper-speed picking. The track also side-steps its way effortlessly between speed and aggression, and a slower, more mournful approach, almost reminiscent of the doom/death wave from the UK in the early 1990s.

On other tracks, like the album closer, "Mondsucht", the band introduce acoustic guitars, clean guitars, and some deeper, clean vocals. This helps vary the pace, and adds variety to the music. I'll admit that anyone who listens to _Sarkomand_ will understand right away that these guys are setting out to re-invent the wheel here; however, while not proffering absolute originality, they do offer an interesting interpretation of melodic black metal, backed as it is by Lovecraftian thematics. For the next album I would love to hear some more slower, doomier parts interspersed in the material. Also, I must admit that I did find the production on _Sarkomand_ to be a little thin, so they could benefit from a heavier approach next time around.

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/ctuluband

(article published 23/7/2011)


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