Gaza was one of the most exciting propositions in hardcore up until its dissolution in 2013. The Salt-Lake City band’s white-hot, grinding invectives reached an apex of intelligence and focused aggression on its final full-length, 2012’s No Absolutes in Human Suffering. An album of great intensity replete with lyrics that actually covered important topics worth talking about (politics to religion), Gaza made an album that surpassed the potential they displayed so fiercely on the blacker-than-thou pairing of 2006’s I Don’t Care Where I Go When I Die and 2009’s He Is Never Coming Back.
During the band’s tenure, Gaza existed outside of all the posturing within the American hardcore scene, and like Converge before it, the band was the real deal. You could almost taste the rage throughout every twisted blastbeat and bucking riff and rhythm, with vocalist Jon Parkin screaming himself raw over the explosive din underneath.
Gaza’s break-up came out of controversial circumstances last year when Parkin was accused of rape, a serious allegation that never went before a court of law. (The lady in question confirmed in an online post after the news broke that she and the accused had come to an agreement to let the matter lie.) However, whatever the truth of the matter may be, the consequence for three musicians who created Gaza’s instrumental chaos—guitarist Michael Mason, bassist Anthony Lucero and drummer Casey Hanson—remained the same. The accusations levelled at their singer would continue to overshadow Gaza’s music, so it was best to bury the band where it lay and move on.
Metal for all its shock tactics and extremity is conservative about certain issues, depending on how despicable they are, of course. Therefore there is an unfortunate possibility that the three ex-members of Gaza will be trampled by the elephant in the room even though they have started afresh under the name Cult Leader. But to dismiss Cult Leader because of the above-mentioned controversy would be seriously misguided, a terrible judgment call with no rational grounding whatsoever. And not only would it be severely unfair to Cult Leader, you would also be doing yourself an injustice by missing out on new music created by this talented group of musicians.
Borne of hard times, Nothing For Us Here, Cult Leader’s debut EP for Deathwish, doesn’t lose a drop of the nihilism that made Gaza’s music so overwhelming and startlingly ferocious. Once the screaming feedback, noise and buried vocals of opener “God’s Lonely Children” gives way you get to experience Cult Leader at full force. “Flightless Birds” ricochets with blasts and jarring hardcore riffs coming at you from different angles. The Trap Them-esque “Mongrel”, with its grisly groove underpinning Lucero’s repetitious roars of “I am a loyal dog” (Lucero has stepped up to the microphone and his place on bass has been taken by Sam Richards), retains the same vehemence at a slower tempo.
Even though only one of the six songs on Nothing For Us Here exceeds the three-minute mark, the band cover plenty of ground with songs like “The Indoctrinator’s Deathbed” criss-crossing grindcore and brutal hardcore, and “Skin Crawler” dragging you unwillingly through a series of manic mathcore grooves. Both of these songs are exactly what you would expect from ex-Gaza musicians, but the most interesting track comes courtesy of “Driftwood”, the final and longest song on Nothing For Us Here. With a coarse bass line anchoring the sludgy noise-rock of the guitars, “Driftwood” allows some skewed melody to seep in as the song’s tempo breathes out while Lucero’s sparsely used scream sucks in all the oxygen. It is a mouth-whetting taster of what we could expect from a Cult Leader full-length album, if the band continues to make more music together. Let’s just pray to the vacuous black hole in the sky that this band does make more music as violent and intelligently formed as that found on its first EP, Nothing For Us Here.