With ‘El Mal del bien’ Cultura Tres, the Venezuelan sludge/doom band, broke the mould of what was possible within the genre, referencing Neurosis, Alice in Chains and Buzzov*en, often in the space of one lengthy song. It was a brave, remarkable and still stunning record that cleverly wove a dense web between the crushing might of metal at its best, and the creepy, atmospheric nuances of progressive rock-tinged sludge. ‘Rezando al miedo’, once again beautifully produced by Alejandro Londono, does much to develop upon the work started on ‘el mal…’ with the result that it is a darker, sparser piece of work and although it provides plenty of visceral thrills along the way, overall it is a grander, more intense piece of work that blurs the boundaries between the crushing might of Black Sabbath, the psychedelic overload of vintage Pink Floyd (think ‘Ummagumma’) and the eerily formless noise of Sunn 0))) – few bands are brave enough to depart so far from the traditional structures of rock ‘n’ roll (Lou Reed notwithstanding) and it is amazing how adept Cultura tres have become at neatly blending the conventional and the avant-garde so that the album flows like the river Phlegethon, burning and searing all in its path.
At the heart of the album is the band’s ability to sequence the record in a manner that makes its fifty-five minutes pass in what seems like mere moments of your time. From the moment the syrupy doom of ‘La Selva se Muere’ slowly unfolds into view, the atonal guitars and droning bass capture your attention. It’s Sepultura filtered through Neurosis, the writhing riffs both serpentine, and yet imbued with a metallic grace that is up there with Max Cavalera at his primal best. It is murderously dense and the glorious tribal drumming that propels the track taps into a subconscious urge to be as one with the very earth that greed and corporations are turning into a barren wasteland. It is a powerfully written and perfectly developed opening track that flows into the ‘iron man’-aping ‘Es Mi Sangre’, which does much to update Iommi’s droning riff while welding it to Alice in Chains at their darkest ebb. Things take a more deviant turn on the furiously atonal ‘hole in your head’ which cruises on the sort of riff that creeps and lurches like Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu as it slips its fangs into your neck, drawing blood as you lie supine on the sofa. Lyrically, meanwhile, it is a scathing condemnation of the profit made by organised religion, and it is delivered with a furious intensity borne out of complete identification with the subject matter. Metal truly does not often come as perfectly conceived as this, and the twists and turns the music takes over its five and a half minutes should be enough to convince you of the genius of Cultura tres forever.
‘En Esta Tierra’, one of three songs written in the band’s native tongue, takes the droning, multi-layered guitar sound of ‘Roots’ and slows it down to a fraction of its speed, underpinning it with thunderous drums and a bass that emanates from somewhere near the centre of the earth. The music is twisted, interlocking like fractal patterns and as it slowly gains speed and strength you’ll feel your blood surge around your body as your heart beats ever faster in time with the music. ‘1492’ opens alone in a sea of aching psychedelia, before exploding into an iron-clad tsunami of noise that threatens to engulf everything in its path. Undeniably the heaviest thing on offer here, it batters the listener into submission via a succession of brutal riffs and pounding percussion, only to sink back into the sonic miasma from which it came. The title track sees primal drumming and the sounds of nature slowly invade your consciousness, before a sinister bass riff draws in the tortured, mechanistic guitars for a track that explores the full gamut of Neurosis’ earthen rage circa ‘the sun that never sets’, cross-pollinated with Sepultura’s recent, remarkable ‘Kairos’. It becomes ever more agitated as the track progresses, before fading deep into a cavern of mirrors for the echoing outro. The opening to ‘La ley del Dolor’ is closer to the eerie, free-form noise workouts of Sonic Youth’s ‘confusion is sex’ than metal, before the sound mutates once more and you’re in a full-on metallic groove that grinds and claws its way into your consciousness. Final track, ‘forget I’m here’ sees the band experiment with the devastating neo-folk that made harvestman so affective, the track sitting somewhere between Swans, Ancient Wisdom and the aforementioned Harvestman before degenerating into fifteen-odd minutes of throbbing, spaced-out noise that is somehow enthralling right to the very end. It is an unnerving, beautiful, twisted album closer that jars the senses and leaves you once more in awe at the devastating skills that Cultura Tres demonstrate, seemingly with ease.
With artwork that combines the horror of Dante’s inferno and the oblique paintings that have framed recent Darkthrone releases, Cultura Tres have crafted another masterpiece. With ‘El mal del bien’ considered one of the metal releases of last year, it is hard to conceive that they have somehow bettered that masterful release and yet, somehow, they have. ‘Rezando Al Miedo’ is a carefully layered and nuanced record that only gets better with repeated listening. Powerful, primal and even beautiful, this is a record that all music fans are duty bound to find, purchase and experience. Forget downloads – this is an album to be played as a whole and preferably free from distraction. Sludge? Doom? Progressive? Forget genres – Cultura Tres did when they wrote this challenging work of art – and lose yourself in a record that will exceed any expectations you may have for it.