To/Die/For – Cult (Album Review)

When thinking of Finland and Gothic Metal, chances are H.I.M. would be the first to come to mind. A noble, talented selection, those who look beneath the surface are aware that Finland’s roots run much deeper in this area. A land featuring a sea of amazing bands carrying the torch for the Gothic Metal scene, one of the elite would be To/Die/For.

Originally come together back in 1993, under a different name and musical approach, in 1999 they became To/Die/For, releasing one exceptional album after another. A mix of synthesizers, razor sharp guitars, and the unmistakable voice of Jape Perätalo, To/Die/For are one of those bands that deserve much more credit than they receive. From 1999’s All Eternity through 2011’s Samsara, Perätalo has kept the band alive with various lineups, and now they return with their new album Cult

Their seventh overall studio album, Cult, out on Friday, June 26, 2015 via Massacre Records, is a collection of eight songs that sounds like everything their fans have come to love about To/Die/For. Of course, at the head of it all is Perätalo’s vulnerable, real vocal approach; a factor that makes their music what it is. Joining him this time around is a lineup of Juppe Sutela and Esa Virén on guitars, Matti Huopainen on drums, as well as on Samuel Schildt bass. Together they craft a dark, melodic album on par with anything To/Die/For has done prior. 

Yes, this album’s synth is much less upfront than prior efforts such as 2001’s Epilogue and 2003’s Jaded, however, it is all very much still there. That in mind, there are also plenty of other elements that will hook you in. For example, you have “In Black,” a lively heavy, guitar-driven cut which is perfect for a live performance. Then there is album’s lead single, “Screaming Birds,” a sorrowful track with an explosive chant-along chorus that shows off the harsher side of Perätalo pipes. In fact, it is difficult not to notice that Perätalo does dirty up his voice a bit more this time around on many of the songs; there is his signature sound, and a pinch of gruffness. Which leads us into “Unknown III,” the third chapter of songs with this title, a trend that began in 2001 and continued in 2004. A thoughtful addition to the ‘unknown’ saga, it is the tight, well-laid out instrumentation that wins here. 

From here, Cult stands strong – tugging on your heartstrings with the emotions keys of “Mere Dream,” leading you along with the upbeat rocker “You,” and surprising you with cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” Now, let’s talk the cover, because To/Die/For has turned out some real gems in this department through the years – Sandra’s “In the Heat of the Night,” Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms,” U2’s “New Year’s Day,” Ozzy Osbourne’s “(I Just) Want You,” and Iggy Pop’s “Cry for Love.” This being perhaps one of their most curious covers to date, somehow their arrangement of Abdul’s “Straight Up” is unique while managing to grows on you. 

Which leads us to the tail-end of the record with “Let It Bleed,” and the doomish, painful “End of Tears,” a song that will haunt you until the final note rings out. However, for those who pick up the limited edition digipak of Cult, you also get a cool synth-drenched 2001 demo of “Dying Embers.” 

Overall, Cult is a strong new entry into the To/Die/For catalogue. It is an album possessing a live feel, and that is something which should translate well on tour. Glad to see this band continuing to do what they do, Cryptic Rock gives Cult 4 out of 5 stars. 

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