Cruciamentum – Charnel Passages

Cruciamentum are a UK-based death metal act who’ve been around the UK metal scene for a good while now, forming back in 2008 and sharing band-members with a number of bands over their lifespan, including Grave Miasma, Deströyer 666, Crom Dubh, and Sarpanitum. Despite this, their last release was the ‘Engulfed in Desolation’ EP back in 2011, after they went on a kind of hiatus in 2013 to work on other projects, before rising from the ashes this year to show us how death metal is done.

This is actually their first ever full-length album, released through the excellent Profound Lore Records, and it represents the culmination of many years hard work grinding out a sound and a niche for themselves within the death metal scene. On the surface their sound is relatively simple, but there’s a great deal of hidden depth on this album that rewards repeated listens.

If there’s one thing Cruciamentum does well, it is riffs. Huge, rumbling, thunderous, catchy riffs one after the other. This album is death by riffs. Second track ‘Necrophagous Communion’ is the highlight of the album for this reason: massive, vicious, headbanging death metal riffs. Huge frenzied guitar solos burst from the void before vanishing into the abyss, only for the down-tuned pummeling to resume. ‘Piety Carved From Flesh’ shares similar strength, it’s opening neck-snapping groove and later guitar solo being some of the best moments on the album.

‘Tongues of Nightshade’ is a hulking behemoth of a track, opening at a mid-pace, double-pass pedals slapping away behind a crazed guitar solo before the riff kicks in and the song’s pace pick up. Riff after riff after riff carry this song through to it’s best moment, a brief pause and double-pass pedals before the band launch back into one of the heaviest riffs on the album. It’s just utter destruction.

But it’s not just about the riffs (as good as they are) because there are so many things that set Cruciamentum apart from the crowd when it comes to modern death metal bands. One of their core strengths is just their natural songwriting ability. Songs naturally flow from riffs to guitar solo to chorus and back into new riffs without ever feeling awkward or jumbled; everything feels right.

Cruciamentum also make very tasteful use of some keyboards to back these songs up. Imagine a much more minimal ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’; it’s rarely front and centre, instead serving to accentuate the guitar-work and ratchet up the crushing atmosphere. The production more broadly is excellent, giving each instrument all the space it needs to stand out, giving the guitars versatility, the drums power, and the vocals a cavernous bark.

These are best displayed in the last monumental tracks on this album. With lengths of almost 8 minutes each, these are the longest and most intricate tracks on the album.‘Dissolution of Mortal Perception’ opens with haunting backing vocals and a single grinding guitar, a slower, sludgier track than the rest. The keyboards are a great addition to the album and really do help vary things up and add just a bit more depth to it.

With fantastic riffs, strong songwriting ability, surprising depth, and great production to back it all up, Cruciamentum have crafted one of the strongest metal releases of the year.