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Album Of The Month September 2015
Cruciamentum | ‘Charnel Passages’

Cruciamentum have had a funny journey over the eight years of their existence.

Releasing what is widely considered to be a modern death metal classic in their ferocious ‘Convocation of Crawling Chaos’ demo back in 2008, their path then took a somewhat bumpy turn.

No sooner had the band solidified its lineup with the addition of R.B. on bass and R.C. (notably of Grave Miasma fame) on guitar and the release of the strong, if not quite as stellar, ‘Engulfed in Desolation’ EP in 2011, than mastermind D.L. decided to move to Finland, putting the band’s future into question.

What followed was a merry dance of on-again, off-again hi-jinx that kept everyone wondering over the band’s status and whether they had fallen to premature ruin.

So when, sometime last year, mumblings about a full length began to spread throughout the metal community, it was with trepidation that we held our breath.

Could they match the intensity, heaviness and songwriting excellence of their demo or would their inconsistent status stultify their creativity?

Would the album actually get made at all? Nobody really knew.

A Zealous Force

When ‘Tongues of Nightshade’ emerged earlier this year on Profound Lore’s bandcamp page any concerns were immediately dropped to the ground with a steel-toe boot to the teeth.

With a luxurious production that is modern and crisp yet full, thick and ultra-heavy, it became clear that Cruciamentum had lost none of their ferocity. In fact, perhaps ironically, the brighter production lends even more weight to their slightly updated, more dynamic sound.

Cruciamentum have always been about riffs and musicality, something that sets them apart from many of their more obscure, reverb-soaked peers. What they give us on this record is seven long, twisting, evil and catchy compositions that cover a lot of ground while maintaining a zealous focus.

Every section sounds considered. If there was any filler during the writing process the band have meticulously weeded it out.

The music is very dark, indeed, and is helped along in places with a subtle use of keys. They bring a ton of eerie character to the record, draping the vicious riffing in a moribund pall. The well-chosen guitar tones and thick, warm bass similarly speak to a sense of the ‘other’ without compromising on violence.

A Deep Groove

D.L.’s vocals sound stronger than they have before and are backed up here and there with R.B.’s vicious snarl. Reverb and delay is used sparingly allowing the words to ring above the density of the music.

‘Piety Carved from Flesh’- another pre-release single- is perhaps the most familiarly Cruciamentum sounding song here, with a big catchy guitar hook that echoes the ‘hit’ from their demo, ‘Deathless Ascension’, and will no doubt become a live favorite.

The band carved a deep groove with that legendary demo, and appear happy to stick within it. What they have proven now is that it is possible to stay rigidly focused on a fairly singular style without becoming boring or obvious.

They move around constantly, shifting up and down through the gears from well-paced faster sections to wonderfully potent doom parts, maintaining a sense of cohesion that a lesser band might fumble.

Picking highlights isn’t easy but if pushed at this moment in time I’d have to lean toward the penultimate ‘Dissolution of Mortal Perception’ and closer ‘Collapse’ (concept?).

Leaning more heavily toward the doomy end of the band’s style, they just manage to ratchet up that sense of dread that lurks throughout the album. Interestingly they were both written by drummer, D.B-H. (also of Grave Miasma), and they conclude this journey on an exceptionally high note.

Thumping Awkward Rhythm

Echoes of the demo ring out again on the final section of ‘Dissolution…’ where they reference ‘Rotten Flesh Crucifix’ with a thumping awkward rhythm that knocks you off guard. It’s like a breakdown that has been stretched sideways.

It is an off-kilter device that they employ at various points across the album and offers a sweet balance between knuckle-headed impact and skewed unpredictability.

It runs neatly into ‘Collapse’ whose spectrally overlaid clean tones are hauntingly brilliant, bringing this great album to a sublime close. It’ these great details that are scattered across the album that make you want to keep returning to it.

Sure, it is an album that essentially works best when taken as a whole, but there are so many exciting distinct elements that tantalise throughout the journey.

With two so closely linked bands currently operating out of the UK at the top of their respective games, and at the spearhead of the death metal scene, you might expect more of an overlap in terms of sound and style but that is not the case at all.

Cruciamentum come off as the ying to Grave Miasma’s yang, taking a much less murky route than their brothers, yet it is this very incongruity that makes their bond all the more satisfying to observe.

Wrapped up in fittingly gloomy and old school artwork that will look great on vinyl, ‘Charnel Passages’ is a must for anyone interested in what modern death metal has to offer. It has been a long time coming, but all things come to those who wait.

‘Charnel Passages’ is a striking and most rewarding listen.

4.6/5 – Andrew Cunningham ::: 11/09/15

  1. That’s hitting the spot right there…. crushing! I must check the album out.
    Good review too, well done Andrew.

  2. An excellent album & a very informative & considered review. I’ve heard of Grave Miasma but never listened to any of their material so I must check them out.

  3. Grave Miasma are excellent. A lot more obscure sounding and less out-and-out riffy, but really good.

  4. brianwilliams82 Says:

    Listened to the track above, quite enjoyable. It the whole album is along those lines then I’d happily hand over cash for it. Riffs are good too, don’t be knocking riffs now. I’ll take a deadly riff over atmosphere/obscurity any day.

  5. Who’s knocking riffs?

  6. Great review, Andy. Another one to add to the “to be purchased” list when I get back to Ireland.

  7. Good review and fantastic album one of my albums of the year easily!!

  8. Grave Miasma are well worth checking out!!!

  9. Yeah, I really think they have done themselves proud. This album easily matches, and possibly surpasses, the demo!

  10. Liking that! They’re a band I’ve totally skipped over, for whatever reasons, so I need to go back over their previous releases.

  11. open face surgery Says:

    While I’m not completely sold on the album from the few listens I’ve had, I’m glad to see CoF being removed as AOTM. So much good music out there and that dead horse gets AOTM.

    Anyone that hasn’t checked out Grave Miasma should do so immediately.

  12. That’s sounding well good, just as i thought it would. Checked out that grave miasma stuff there as well, jesus it’s killer.

  13. Grave miasma and Cruciamentum,two musts for anyone into old school DM.

  14. yeah really digging this in listens thus far. The Convocation of Crawling Chaos demo is essential listening. Grave Miasma’s Odori Sepulcrorum is also skin crawling death metal done right

  15. I’m really enjoying this album. The ideal balance between dark, morbid atmosphere and real songwriting.

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