END & CULT LEADER Gather & Mourn

Love-ins are nothing new to the hardcore scene. Those of you who have dared to leave the house and gotten back to your regular, pre-COVID show-going schedule may have noticed a preponderance of dudes excitedly greeting each other, locked in mutual bear hugs, administering rotor cuff-tearing handshakes and countless bro-hugs (y’know the one: where the biker handshake is held while hugging with one’s free arm allowing you to get close, but not too close). All this in response to elated metal folks not seeing one another in person for the greater part of two years. 

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On the other hand, communal bro-down shit like that was de rigeur at hardcore gigs years before anyone even knew what a coronavirus was, let alone had the opportunity to allow it to ravage their respiratory system. But that shouldn’t come as any shock considering hardcore is a scene that has survived and continues to thrive on DIY, self-booked tours, independent releases and generally existing outside the mainstream with the help of networks of friends helping out other networks of friends. Forever. In fact, it’s been proven* that while a solid 25% of all hardcore songs are about “hating the government and corporations,” an even more solid 30% are about “friends” and some variation thereof. Unless it’s H2O we’re talking about; then the topical split is more an even 50-50 between “hardcore” itself and “friends,” but I digress…

During the zenith days of splits (and compilations and label samplers), windows would often be opened up to worlds of unfamiliar bands. With those days of mystery and serendipity being washed away by the ability of anyone can check out any band anywhere at anytime may have curtailed the effectiveness of the split release, the split has largely been relegated to novelty and/or completist collectors’ status. In the case of Gather & Mourn, the wheelhouse similarity between the two bands means the whole hog should be enjoyed by anyone familiar with one but unfamiliar with the other. Both outfits have in common a darkened sinister vibe that taps into muscular hardcore, mathematical grind and unromantic early American death metal. 

While both End and Cult Leader may hail from the darker, more misanthropic, abrasively metallic side of the spectrum, the love-in theme is clearly at work. Case(s) in point(s): that Gather & Mourn is a split release should be the first clue; that it’s a joint release between the Deathwish Inc. (whose co-head honcho Jacob Bannon did the artwork and design) and Closed Casket Activities labels is there second clue; End itself is a super-group of sorts featuring noted producer and Fit For An Autopsy guitarist Will Putney, Counterparts‘ vocalist Brendan Murphy and ex-Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Billy Rymer; Kurt Ballou produced the Cult Leader side while Putney captured his own band and mastered the four song beast. Undoubtedly, multiple bro-hugs happened during the making of this.

End christens the release with “Eden Will Drown,” a punishing blast of morse code noisecore colliding with scattershot tech-death. Imagine the Dillinger Escape Plan‘s jab-jab-cross rhythms being spat out by Converge and Cryptopsy after skipping leg day. An incredible contrast is introduced during the song’s conclusion wherein it slowly crumples into a massive breakdown that is at once astronomically astral and ludicrously lunkheaded. “The Host Will Soon Decay” hurls out a gloriously barbaric, distorted vocal invective backed by noises from Roli Mosimann’s early industrial wasteland and colossal riffs from the west coast sludge mavens like Armed for Apocalypse and Admiral Angry.

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Where End knock the listener down and press a boot across thoraxes everywhere, Cult Leader continues to apply deep pressure and tension that extinguishes the light of eyes via the jagged complexity, heavily accented drum pummeling and collapsing mine shaft vocals of “Ataraxis,” which happens to be the band’s first new music in four years. “Long Shadows,” which logic dictates is their second new music in four years, initially taps into the relentless vibe of Coalesce‘s Give Them Rope before an excursion down a not-so-dark alley with the soaring and abrasive melodies the band has been known to use in their quest to shift punch-drunk metallic hardcore into something ascendant and deceptively epic as their contribution fades to black.

There may be warm and fuzzy community vibes all over the backstory, credits and creation of this collaborative first, but don’t let the spirit of co-operation fool you. Gather & Mourn is harsh, incendiary and savage-sounding. It may only be four songs spanning a mere 14 minutes, but it taps into enough acridity, discord and bald viciousness to do more fascinating damage than most records twice its length.

(*no, it hasn’t and this isn’t at all true)

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