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To/Die/For - "Cult" (CD)

To/Die/For - "Cult" CD cover image

"Cult" track listing:

1. In Black
2. Screaming Birds (see music video here)
3. Unknown III
4. Mere Dream
5. You
6. Straight Up
7. Let It Bleed
8. End of Tears

Reviewed by on January 14, 2016

"“Cult” is hell of a lot more multi-faceted than I thought it would be at first glance, and metal heads who don't bother listening due to the idea that this isn't “real metal” are really missing out here."

To/Die/For is not a band I've devoted much time to in the past, thinking the Finnish group would be too mellow and mainstream for my tastes. Turns out, that was actually quite the mistake. Oh sure, “Cult” is easily more on the mainstream side with a sound balanced somewhere between hard rock and gothic metal, but that's not actually a downside, as the album mostly shines from beginning to end despite the lack of technicality or brutality.

To clarify, “Cult,” isn't exactly radio friendly with all its semi-harsh vocals, guitar solos, and symphonic metal segments. It is extremely catchy though, laden with hooks and not bothering with anything technical or overly complicated, meaning these songs are going to stick in your head. In an unexpected twist, several of the songs (perhaps most notably opening track “In Black” and third cut “Unknown III”) offer up electronic sound effects that bring to mind Machinae Supremacy.

The metal gets taken up a notch halfway through “You” with a killer guitar solo, while closing song “End Of Tears” is more of a symphonic and atmospheric experience, showing clear influences from the gothic black metal side of things, even though there's no blast beats or shrieking vocals. In another surprising moment that will divide listeners, female vocals that have been autotuned appear in the aforementioned “Unknown III.” It would be easy to point and scream “mainstream!!!” and run the other direction, but that's actually not my complaint there. The odd thing about that particular decision is that it seems like the vocalist didn't need autotuning, because she's not bad at what she does, and autotune is essentially just a way to mask sub-par vocals.

Offering up another amusingly awesome cover track of a pop song that metal has somehow become famous for, To/Die/For puts a unique spin on “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul. To understand the direction of this album, the cover completely fits and doesn't sound out of place at all, and the guitar solos somehow completely work added in.

“Cult” is hell of a lot more multi-faceted than I thought it would be at first glance, and metal heads who don't bother listening due to the idea that this isn't “real metal” are really missing out here. The album is a solid mix of metal and rock with plenty of heaviness that doesn't give up the catchy aspect, while the dabs of industrial and electronic make it all more interesting.

Highs: Hard rock with a sheen of gothic and symphonic metal collide in a very catchy way.

Lows: The autotuned vocals on one track are pretty unnecessary, and obviously the less extreme nature of the album won't appeal to some metal fans.

Bottom line: Hard rock and metal collide for a catchy album full of great hooks and some surprising twists.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)