Album Review: Cruciamentum – Obsidian Refractions

Album Review: Cruciamentum - Obsidian Refractions
Reviewed by Sam Jones

For Cruciamentum fans, the upcoming release of Obsidian Refractions must feel like a fever dream, yet that’s where the band have brought us. Eight years on from their 2015 Charnel Passages record, the band finally bring us their full length sophomore follow up, and their first studio work since their 2017 Paradise Envenomed EP. Formed in the UK back in 2007, the band now boasts an international array of members having taken on vocalist Chris Eakes, here in his first album credit as vocalist for the band, and drummer Matt Hefner, equally in his first album credit and each reflectively from the United States. The band broke big in death metal circles in 2011 with their Engulfed In Desolation EP but it was their aforementioned 2015 full length that saw them climb to new heights. Since then, the dream of a follow up has remained high within fans of Cruciamentum and now the band can finally make good on that promise. So, slated for a November 24th release date and through Profound Lore Records, I was hyped to see what the band would deliver with.

You have to love it. It’s been eight full years since Cruciamentum graced us with a full length release and they hurl us straight into the deep end with an eight minute piece. In fact, Obsidian Refractions as a whole only sports six tracks spanning forty one minutes so it’s fascinating to see that in spite of the hype revolving round this record, the band still didn’t give in and make this a needlessly bloated affair. They’ve kept things concise and provided just enough to give fans new and old alike a taste of what’s been coming. Curiously, the record is bookended by long tracks; the aforementioned eight minute opening, “Charnel Passages”, and the ten minute epic closer, “Drowned”, whereby the band populate the rest of their time spent with us with songs that are more conventional. You’d presume the band may employ more doom-laden techniques to pad out time with these longer pieces but the band’s vile, Incantation-styled songwriting is just as prevalent as they would be throughout their shorter tracks.

If there’s something that need almost not be mentioned, it’s the band’s atmosphere is as on point as it ever has been. Owing to Cruciamentum’s decrepit influences, their immersive element has been cranked to the max and while the band unfurl great swathes of riffs and vocal bellowings your way, it’s always accompanied, and wrapped, by this sense of foreboding, as if the songwriting was recently uncovered in some deep and forgotten crypt. It’s no doubt impacted by the band’s choice of production quality as while their first full length harnessed this crisp yet razorblade aesthetic, Obsidian Refractions chooses the other side of things: submerging their songwriting in grime and soot to truly bring home the notion that this is not something that should have been unearthed. The vocal timbre, poised towards a gruff and coarse delivery, helps accentuate this idea. As much as Charnel Passages was a dark album, this work sees the band push their performance into more malicious territories.

Album Review: Cruciamentum - Obsidian Refractions

It doesn’t take long for us to realise the band have written this record with speed in mind. The band are evidently very much at home when playing quickly and their finesse at rotating fast strumming between one chord and the next only exemplifies this. In addition, soloing is played with fast performance too as the band infer this record to be one tenacious and ripping work that’s here to do its job and then leave you in its wake, which only encourages us to return time and again. With that said though, it’s good to note Cruciamentum included segments throughout each track whereby the string of fast notes is broken up by more segmented, blockier playing. By doing so, the band are breaking up the flow of play and provide a little more variety within their songwriting. The bulk of their songwriting may be based around speed but they still understand audiences something more to enthral them, and keep them engaged, especially as the band lengthen their track times.

Speaking of playing fast, the drumming here is absolutely nonstop. While the drumming does use the full kit and in a manner that draws us in to the patterns they use, the blast beats and double bass drums are easily what makes up the majority of their performance herein. Knowing the band like to play fast, the blast beats are here to ensure our attention and inner metronome are constantly being kept up to pace with the rest of the band’s performance. Every track has blast beats to some degree but while the drums have an obvious impact on the band’s presence, it’s good to see the drumming g hasn’t been mixed into the record so high that it threatens to overpower the rest of the band’s input. One can be in awe of the drumming and bass drums that’s occurring but we recognise the drums have been slotted a position lower in the mix. As a result, the record feels to be a true band effort as no single element of their performance tries, nor wants, to outshine the other. The drumming provides the needed underlay to this record but is still prevalent enough for us to take especial notice of it.

In conclusion, Obsidian Refractions is a complete whirlwind of a record that finally follows up their 2015 debut full length release. I applaud the band for keeping to their guns and ensuring tracks and runtime aren’t too long, for it results in a greater chance of repeated listenings. The band’s signature style of controlled chaos feels all the more prevalent herein as Cruciamentum effortlessly balance ripping insanity with segmented, stylised phases of songwriting that helps bind their performance together into something resembling a neglected sanitarium. Obsidian Refractions refuses to hold your hand and lets its riffs and instrumentation guide you through its numerous twists and turns and divebombs. I think established fans will be pleased with this record, seeing as the band have gone down a darker and murkier path than Charnel Passages did in 2015, and for anyone who has a love affair with the decrepit, downtuned style of old school death mefal, this is a record worth checking out.

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