UK death metal group Cruciamentum have something of a cult following, with great reviews for their 2009 demo Convocation of Crawling Chaos and 2011 EP Engulfed in Desolation. The four piece have been wallowing in the murky depths of the death metal underground since 2007 and have finally come out with their brilliant début full length Charnel Passages.
Cruciamentum’s sound straddles the line between old school and modern death metal. Their chunky riffs with a razor sharp guitar tone recalls the Stockholm sound, but their murky, dense production is akin to Disma and Domains, and they often evoke the occult gloom of fellow Brits Grave Miasma . In short, Charnel Passages is anything but a straight forward death metal album, revelling in a filthy decaying aura while churning away with blazing technicality and fearsome musicianship. Throughout, the guitars are the driving force of the album, moving between chunky old school riffage to more technical displays of tremolo fury. The murky bass caustically envelopes the guitars, and with the double bass barrage of the drums, the overall sound is a dense, thick wall of sound. The vocals are loud in the mix and move from aggressively gruff barks to hoarse howls, sounding akin to Bölzer’s KzR in the latter, especially effective in the gloomy atmosphere of the slower sections.
The lead guitar work is fantastic, the solos on the album twist and turn with technical aplomb, cutting through the dense atmosphere with a sharp tone, focusing more on unpredictably than balls-out speed, evoking Dismember’s Like an Ever Flowing Stream at points, especially on second track Necrophagous Communion. What really completes the group’s sound, and takes it from being simply massive and dense is the occasional use of dark, low synths throughout the album. They’re not high in the mix or used to cheesy excess; they just add an occult flavouring underneath some of the darker barrelling riffage on offer, and complete the murky atmosphere – the burning incense in their cavernous ruins.
Although the album is a fantastic whole and each track is brilliant, the best one has to be Rites to the Abduction of Essence, six minutes of the best death metal you’ll hear all year. Dissonant guitars and a slow militaristic beat give a pounding start, before Cruciamentum kick off into a churning riff, a main motif of a track moving between all out speed and slower sections of murky gloom punctuated by the aforementioned synths. The guitar solo that snakes it’s way through the middle of the track bristles with energy against the foggy atmosphere, and complet’s a track that’s pure death metal majesty.
Charnel Passages is the best death metal album released so far all year, bristling with a modern occult atmosphere, brimming with technicality and majestic songcraft, while fully submerged in the rotten decaying swamp of old school death metal filth. This should be right up the alley of all death metal fans, whether they revel in the classic or the modern.
Find Cruciamentum’s facebook page here, and stream the album below: