It’s not as if Seattle-based Cystic are complete unknowns. Anyone who’s heard the progression from their 2018 demo The Last Days through their two 2020 EPs Sworn Enemy of Life and Incineration Rites will remember their name. But their forthcoming debut album Palace of Shadows is still a big step forward, and the fact that the respected Mexican label Chaos Records is releasing it is a big flashing sign of that, before you even hear a note.
It’s no wonder they attracted that alliance. Cystic have tapped into old black veins of particularly grisly and gruesome death metal, but the blood they’ve drawn feels bursting with (horrid) life. They’ve proven a precocious and monstrous mastery of the kind of death metal that’s hideous and horrific, dank and dismal, and altogether thrilling. In listening you can almost imagine the stench of gangrene and rot, and also envision the rapid scything of illness through swaths of helpless humans and the ravenous ripping and tearing of demon hordes — and who doesn’t want that?
We’re sure happy to have it, and also happy that you don’t have to take our word for why the record is so strong — because we now have a second single to bring you today, the fitting name of which is “Pestilential Throne“. But for those who might have missed it, let’s begin with the first single from the album, “Core of the Maelström“.
As we observed after first hearing that song, you can’t accuse Cystic of false advertising when they chose its name. The crack of the snare sounds like the rabid snapping of jaws, and the bass and double-kicks are effective at rumbling the guts, but it’s the writhing riffage that feels like the maelstrom — a building maelstrom of poisonous madness.
From the beginning, those roiling guitar sounds are dismal and foul, and the snarled and screamed vocals are hideous, but the maelstrom doesn’t fully spin up until you’re past the song’s halfway mark, and then things do get even more chaotic and crazed. The sharp clatter of the snare becomes a series of convulsions, and the guitars attack in a frenzied swarm. It’s nice that the bassist was allowed to noticeably continue doing his own interesting things in the midst of such mayhem.
And now let’s turn to “Pestilential Throne“, which does indeed sound diseased (think of the outbreaks of flesh-eating bacteria that now seem to plague many hospital wards). The opening drum performance, with the snare rattling at high speed, the fretwork generating a whirring frenzy, and the bass resembling a subterranean upheaval that’s about to shake apart the foundations of your dwelling, really is an electrifying way to begin.
After a few momentous start-stop rhythmic bursts, the riffing continues to swarm but with injections of slashing viciousness. The rabidly snarling and screaming vocals are again terrorizing, a fine match for the violent lunacy that drives the music. And although the snare-work continues to pop eyes wide open, the band shift the momentum into the movement of a lumbering beast, paving the way for a macabre guitar solo — and after another outburst of derangement they slow the music even more, into a foul and fetid final crawl, the most diseased and degraded phase of the song yet.
So, to repeat for extra emphasis, with just these two fiendishly well-written songs Cystic prove their monstrous mastery of the kind of death metal that’s hideous and horrific, dank and dismal, and altogether thrilling.
Now for some credits, beginning with Cystic‘s lineup:
Tanner Moore – bass & vocals
Jullian Rhea – drums & vocals
Logan Miller – guitars
Nick Emard – guitars (live)
Palace of Shadows was recorded and engineered by Seth Johnson in Tacoma, and the veteran Dan Lowndes mastered it at his Resonance Sound Studio. Credit for the creepy cover art goes to Chase Slaker.
Chaos Records will release Palace of Shadows on CD, cassette tape, and digital formats on August 11th, and a vinyl LP will be available later this year. Pre-orders are available now: