REVIEW: Cabal – Mark of Rot [2018]

Artist: Cabal 

Album: Mark of Rot 


Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.  

Upon continuing into the depths of Cabal’s debut full-length recording, you have condemned yourself—sacrificed your future and carved the darkest mark into your own flesh. You will no longer know peace, silence or love. You will find yourself steeped in endless torment. Your fate is sealed.  

While this is all dramatic and figurative, of course, there may as well be a warning akin to the Dante’s Inferno-esque one Above at the beginning of Mark of Rot—because within its better-part-of-an-hour run-time, there is nothing but pure, dissonant, dreary gloom. An immolation in misery—lessons in lurid, scathing hatred—Cabal’s latest offering is an infinitely more mature and intricate one compared to their debut. Where Purge was solid but lacked lasting appeal, Mark of Rot is just the opposite—a display of devilish brutality that is bound to keep the listener coming back ad nauseum 

With Purge, Cabal embarked on a conceptual journey that—while successful in being heavy as hell—failed to truly engage the listener and ended up relegated to the realm of “another downtempo release” in the middle of a time where the scene was saturated. Now, in the opening quarter of 2018, Cabal are among the proud few who have really stuck with the low-and-slow “movement,” if you will. As many of the band’s peers have moved on to relatively greener pastures of overt 2000s deathcore or metalcore worship—or toggled sounds to a beatdown-infused take on heavy hardcore—Cabal emerge a bastion for punishing dissonance. Their dedication to brutality, however, should not be mistaken as a failure to grow; as Mark of Rot is a much stronger and more well-rounded release than Purge on all fronts. With percussion that sets a dirge-like candor, built primarily on a foundation of sludgy, sinister patterns with rare oscillation into snappy blasts and fleet-footed patterns, Mark of Rot includes a variety of heavy music stylings to make Cabal’s style of downtempo deathcore a bit more well-rounded. With groovy, fluid percussion on “False Light” and “Whispers,” While the album’s eponymous track showcases heavy, murky pounding and dreary bass above all, the group move (slightly) away from an all-breakdowns, all-the-time mindset towards a sound more robust. This is reflected in the fretwork, which borrows a play or two from Black Tongue’s most recent effort, adding over sludge, doom and stoner metal influence into tracks like “Unworthy,” while “Nothingness” and “Blackened Soil” are infinitely more -core influenced in their assault. While Cabal still don’t add much in the way of intricacy or technicality into their sound, they don’t need it—that isn’t the point. The point is venomous, vicious aggression, which they capture without fail.  

Mark of Rot’s incessant and obliterative dominion over the listener’s skull persists with their vocal dynamic. Low roars and grisly growls set the tone for the entire release, and where some vocal monotony is evident, it is negligible compared to the tons and tons of intensity that abound. “Blackened Soil” is a strong example of the band’s vocal strengths—just as “Nothingness” sees a welcome contribution from Thy Art is Murder’s CJ McMahon, who lends both variety and immolating hatred unto Cabal’s dynamic. Mark of Rot—While a lengthy album—manages to, by and large, avoid monotony by using a scrolling sonic landscape and keeping the vocal element constant. In this way, the conceptual nature of the album is saved, as the vocals remain more-or-less unchanged, the listener has an easier time following the dismal and dreary tales told by each track Cabal put forth. All things being equal, maybe a touch more variety from Cabal’s capable frontman would be a welcome (but not mandatory) addition.  

Cabal are crushing. That hasn’t changed from Purge, even as many other aspects of the band’s dynamic have. A more varied and accessible take on downtempo deathcore, Mark of Rot is a loosely conceptual voyage through the very essence of the word gloom. Gritty, ferocious, aggressive—and many more adjectives—Cabal prove two things with one release. The first is obvious—downtempo ain’t dead—and the second follows suit: it’s possible to move forward and change the finer points of ones sound without tearing up the roots and burning down the figurative tree entirely.  



For Fans Of: Black Tongue, Falsifier, Bodysnatcher, Lotus Eater 

By: Connor Welsh