Cult Leader Breaking Through
Published Nov 03, 2015Cult Leader vocalist Anthony Lucero is pretty up-front with how he's been feeling these days on his band's brutal new album, Lightless Walk. And, quite frankly, he isn't always doing so well. Throughout the quartet's crushing full-length debut, his lashed-larynx cries crystallize the pain of isolation, detail feelings of frustration and loneliness and bring up the fact that talking about his depression, while sometimes cathartic, can also be a futile pursuit. Perhaps at no moment does this last idea come to light more so than on "Walking Wasteland," a mashed and mangled, crust-and-hardcore assault in which the singer howls: "How many ways can I say how empty I feel?" On the plus side, Lucero hopes it's not forever.
"Part of that line is that it started to feel redundant to me," he says of focusing on his battles with depression in song. "It makes up so much of what I write about, because I feel like it helps in my day-to-day life to put this stuff down on paper. To perform it is a good way of burning off all of that negative energy."
Speaking on the phone while taking an extended break from his record store job in Salt Lake City, he elaborates on his lyrical approach. "It's asking the question, 'How many times in my life am I going to just have to keep putting this down and doing it over and over? Is it a lifetime cycle that I'm just locked into?'"
As anyone facing similar struggles will attest, there isn't an easy answer to this. As such, there's a bone-chilling thematic bleakness to go along with the skull-splitting sonics of Lightless Walk. Though "Great I Am" explodes like a frag grenade of guitars and cymbal crashes, Lucero's screams are morbidly inward, a black sky landscape of guarded thoughts. Additionally, "Gutter Gods" has him asserting that "the purest love is the ugliest lie," while doom-blues experiment "A Good Life" basically lays it out that we're alone from the moment we drop from the womb.
"There's an underlying sadness to everything that we write; it just comes out that way," Lucero posits, though he adds a comforting twitch of optimism. "On the other side of that, there has to be some intangible hope that you've got to be reaching for."
Fitting in line with this train of thought is "Sympathetic," a highlight that mixes raw, metalcore aggression with a touch of melody. On the visual arts front, Lucero's cover illustration of halved skulls, bloody barbed wire and a bushel of roses may be in black and white, but its meaning is likewise veiled in a shade of grey.
"A rose symbolizes death as much as it symbolizes love," Lucero explains. "I think a single rose is a really powerful symbol; a bundle of roses is obviously much more so. Usually you'll give a bundle of roses to someone you love very much, or if someone dies you're going to leave it at their grave."
Like his Lightless Walk lyrics, his inky illustration work is an emotional diptych, each flower helping Lucero analyze the ups and downs life gives us on a daily basis.
"It's all attached in a weird way," he theorizes. "I'm sure as the band changes, the imagery will change and the lyrics will change, but for now there's something about the rose that speaks to me. I really want to explore it artistically."