By Morgan Y. Evans
If you want to start 2014 with a massive overhaul of the self, you couldn’t do much better than the soul-dredging new Culted masterpiece Oblique To All Paths. The band’s sophomore release is sprawling, very experimental doom at it’s finest, hoarse and bitter like frosted breath and regret. Spread between Sweden and Canada, the band member’s have yet to meet in real time. It is an odd arrangement, but why let distance stop you from creating with like-minded pioneers when modern technology makes it possible? The strange thing is, this Relapse release sounds more natural than many bands who hunker down in the same room to write.
Wow. Opening this album with the near twenty minute “Brooding Hex” was ballsy but worked. Talk about an engrossing and scary/disorienting composition. If they are alive by the end of that song the listener can handle anything! Very dystopian feeling.
Daniel Jansson (vocals/ambiance): Thanks! It really sets the mood for the entire album.
Michael Klassen (guitar/bass/percussion/noise): That dystopian feeling may be the result of our environment. A recent Time Magazine headline said, “Winnipeg’s New Year’s Was Literally as Cold as a Barren Alien Wasteland.” And went on to say “A cold front plummeted the city into temperatures colder than Mars.”
How did things come together for you guys with Relapse Records? I like that they have recently released even more bleak and avant-atmospheric stuff like you guys or that killer recent Locrian album Return To Annihilation.
D. I released an album with a band called Keplers Odd on a sub-label to Relapse named Desolation House. And when Culted were starting to send out demos to labels I asked if they wanted to have a listen as well. We actually already had another label interested, but we all agreed that Relapse was the way to go.
M: That Locrian record is killer, the Relapse gods need to send me an LP version of that, [laughs].
It is impressive how organic your band feels for being a studio project/long distance relationship! The songs sound fleshed out and , dare I say, jammed. It is hard to accomplish that and not have the music feel stiff unless you are J. Mascis or Justin from Jesu doing everything himself sometimes.
D. Again, thanks! I think that is what we were going for.
M: Those are some accomplished artists you mention there. Culted’s Canadian core stems from three dudes that grew up together in small town southern Manitoba, Canada. We started jamming together when we were in high school. Shit, Kevin was the first drummer I ever jammed with. Kev, his brother and I rocked out to Metallica’s “No Remorse” one summer evening some 25 odd years ago, right after he got his first kit. Matt, Kev and I have a musical dialogue that has a life of its own, going back to jamming Metallica, Megadeth and Sepultura covers along with our first attempts at original compositions. Perhaps that is the source of the jammed out sound you’re referring to.
What are some global myths that are perpetuated in the zeitgeist which you think human kind ought to dispose of to better evolve?
D. All myths should be treated for what they are, myths! Once that is established, we can evolve. Hopefully.
M: Evidence suggests humanity told stories, myths throughout prehistory and history to come to terms with the world, to harmonize our lives with reality. These myths from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage and if you didn’t follow them you had to find your own way. Fortunately for us, we live in an age where science has shed light on many of those ancient questions and problems, but unfortunately many cultures and people choose to ignore scientific evidence and facts in lieu of mythology. Should one read mythology? Absolutely, especially other people’s myths, not just those of your own religion or culture, because people tend to interpret their own religion and culture in terms of facts, but if you read others you may actually get something out of them like their knowledge, a different interpretation of reality. In short, to finally answer your question, monotheistic mythologies are the primary myths that need to be questioned, held accountable and transcended as a belief system to better evolve.
Oblique To All Paths is an intriguing name. Can you discuss the album title? With your unique way of writing songs in different countries, each part is almost like a letter in response to the other components. How do you keep things organized structurally? Lots of emails back and forth?
D. The title comes from an Austin Osman Spare quote:
“For I am I: ergo, the truth of myself; my own sphinx, conflict, chaos, vortex—asymmetric to all rhythms, oblique to all paths. I am the prism between black and white: mine own unison in duality.”
I first read this a couple years back when Osman Arabi (20.SV, The Ritual Inclusion Of Code, Seeker) sent it to me. I had not taken any interest in AOS before this at all. And to this day it’s one of the best quotes I have read. To me, it speaks of the conflict within us, the thing that makes us unique, we, that follow no clear path.
M: Chaos of the normal.
What was the overrall experience you wanted to create with this record? It feels very complete as a work, but was it more of a journey to create or painstakingly crafted with an exact pre-determined result in mind? What are some shared influences or things you talked about?
D. For me, it was a journey no doubt. From the first letter I put on paper to listening to the final mix. I can’t say I had a clear vision or knew how the album would sound like when finished. It kind of evolved by itself over time. But it always felt natural; it was like each piece just fell into place.
M: I am always trying to seek out an experience I can immerse or lose myself in and one way is through listening to music, another is to have a hand in creating it. Oblique to All Paths to me is the soundtrack of human experience, the suffering, striving, living etc. I am drawn to that idea of trying to experience what myths and religion promise, to touch the eternal, to understand the mysterious, to achieve bliss and have that peak experience. The themes are timeless, and Oblique is the result of our attempts at creating something special, something that affects us in those ways. If we’re able to affect others in similar ways, great! I think we all share a number of influences, be it philosophy or music. For instance we all share an affinity for the various genres of metal and experimental music. From Black Sabbath and Bathory to Throbbing Gristle and Klaus Schulze.
The sampling on “Distortion Of The Nature Of Mankind” feels integral. Bands sometimes throw obscured speaking in as a trend but yours feel more textural or a real part of the composition, like Neurosis or something.
D. That track was actually one I had been working on for another project but felt that it could work real nice with what Culted had recorded. So I sent the original track to the others and they cut it down a bit to fit the album as a whole. It turned out great!
I thought “Transmittal” was particularly dirgy and powerful. I love the tempo control and bright, colder guitar tones combined with the dirge and lower frequencies. It seems like you really know how to build parts for maximum payoff. When the vocals drop in that song it is intense after the wait and the unified riff around 6:08 is genius, like a march.
M: Well, thanks! It’s exciting that our music is able to cause such a reaction. I recall working on “Transmittal,” and felt that at the specific time you’re referring to, that the song needed to wake from its dreamy slumber. It is a call to arms and then perhaps as you suggest, a march to something greater.
How did you meet? Did you all geek out on some chat room forum somewhere and decide to be musical doom pen pals?
D. Something like that. Myspace was the forum of choice at that time and we were talking about me doing some sounds for Of Human Bondage, and that went on to us starting up Culted.
M:I like that, musical doom pen pals. But yeah, like Daniel said, it was probably a decade or so ago that I asked him to contribute some Industrial sounds for an Of Human Bondage intro and awhile after that he asked if we’d be down with working on some doom type stuff. And of course we said, yes. I discovered Daniel through his project Deadwood, when a friend played his 8 19 album for me. This is the same friend who introduced me to Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger and Burzum’s Filosofem back in 1995 and a few years later works by Mz. 412, In Slaughter Natives and Puissance. Needless to say, like those other albums, it resonated with me, deeply. I geeked out and sought Daniel on Myspace and put in a “friend request” or whatever they were called and was surprised when he not only accepted, but was quite social. And of course the rest is Culted history.
Thank you for taking risks in a sometimes sterile musical world. Records like this are signposts for charting a course into the unknown, like an important science experiment or something, if that metaphor makes sense. Your patience and dedication to these compositions elevates the standard of this type of art and is much appreciated by an extreme music fan like myself. Salutations!
D. Glad you enjoyed the journey.
M: Thanks for spending time with our music.
Purchase Oblique To All Paths here: http://www.relapse.com/culted