Saarkoth’s Bandcamp page says that they are inspired by bands like Winterfylleth, Agalloch, and Emperor, and this serves as a good starting point for approaching Cult of Nature. However, although you can hear the influences and recognise the style, I’m pleased to say that Saarkoth have found their own voice within it.
Cult of Nature contains a little over an hour of atmospheric and melodic black metal. The band are adept at both styles, and blend them together with remarkable ease. There are folk elements here too, incorporated into the larger blackened whole with skill and tasteful restraint. The songs take their influences and add a personal touch that allows them to shine in their own right.
The music covers everything from brutal aggression to frequently beautiful forays into atmospheric territories, and does so with captivating vigour. The songs are well-written and have clearly been crafted be people that know the genre well. The band are as equally adept at crafting well-formed atmosphere as they are engaging and rich melodies. Of course, the two aspects of this sort of music are frequently entwined, feeding off each other to create a broad tapestry of sound that becomes quite immersive. Add to this a harsh side that finds the music more than capable of ramping up the aggression when necessary, and you have a very well-rounded and very capable black metal album.
Vocally the main delivery is one of screams, as you would expect, and these are performed very well. Occasionally these are added to by thick growls, which I especially like in my black metal. Soft ethereal cleans also appear here and there, adding textured highlights to certain passages. Like the music, the vocals are all of high quality and are all well-delivered.
There’s an emotive core to what Saarkoth offer on Cult of Nature, and it has resulted in a powerful album that stands tall amidst a sea of strong black metal releases this year. In fact, if I’d have gotten to this superlative release sooner, I don’t doubt that it would have found a home on my end of year list somewhere.
Cult of Nature is highly enjoyable and very, very good. Make sure this doesn’t pass you by.