What is it that truly makes a death metal album stand out amongst its peers and cement itself as more than just the next offering in a never-ending conga line of sonic assaults? It’s a subjective question, one that frankly has no wrong answer, but for my money, what really makes the cream rise to the top is a sense of pacing. When a band is able to take a step back and understand how everything they’ve written sounds as a whole, they can then use that perspective to arrange the songs in a way that creates a very natural flow, and that’s where the magic happens. Obsidian Refractions, the newest LP from US-by-way-of-UK heavy hitters Cruciamentum, is a master class in this concept.
Right out of the gate the opening track “Charnel Passages” announces its presence with a resounding thud of the drums and a crash of cymbals accompanied by a single sustained chord, which is then slowly built upon with eerie melodies and punctuated with small bursts of percussion. The music almost seems to invite you in, encouraging you to find your seat and get comfortable as the lights dim and the curtains begin to part.
Things start off slow then systematically increase in tempo, expertly building tension over the course of nearly two minutes before finally opening the floodgates and unleashing a torrent of blast beats and circle pit inducing riffs that weave in and out of each other with ease over the course of the song’s eight-minute runtime (13-plus if you count the flawless transition into the following track “Abhorrence Evangelium”). At this point it becomes clear that a standard has been set, and like any band worth their salt, Cruciamentum uphold that standard beautifully from beginning to end.
Obsidian Refractions is beefy, dense, energetic, exceedingly groovy when it wants to be, occasionally dipping its toes into the ethereal but never staying there for long, and quite simply is very fun and easy to listen to. The guitars have a warm, well-rounded tone which gives the necessary oomph to the riffs, but when it comes time for the occasional solo each individual note cuts through like a hot knife, and they all have a genuine sense of personality rather than mindless noodling designed to fill time.
That same level of care and attention to detail is given to the drums as well; all of the rhythms and fills are tastefully written and confident, not afraid to add plenty of flourish and flair when necessary, sometimes even unexpectedly, while also remaining grounded enough to continuously drive the rest of the music forward. Top it all off with a strong vocal performance reminiscent of Ross Dolan from Immolation, and you’ve got yourself a bona-fide recipe for success.
From its strong opening all the way through to the powerful ten-minute closing anthem “Drowned” (which concludes with one of the best fake-out endings to a song I’ve ever heard), Obsidian Refractions remains consistent, engaging, and supremely heavy, with nary an ounce of fat to be found. Some of the songs may be quite lengthy, and depending on how heavily a band relies on atmosphere alone to drive their sound that can potentially be quite draining and slow things to a crawl, but fortunately none of these tracks feel as long as they are. If any single aspect were to be removed purely in the interest of saving time, it would only do the rest of the music a massive disservice.
This is an album that deserves to be listened to from front to back without interruption, one that will take you on a journey through dark, foreboding landscapes and leave you feeling invigorated when the curtains fall and the lights come back on. Take it from me- when this album comes out next Friday, treat yourself to it. You deserve it.
Cruciamentum’s Obsidian Refractions is available on November 24 via Profound Lore Records. You can preorder your copy today.
The post Review: Cruciamentum Run a Clinic on Pacing and Atmosphere with <em>Obsidian Refractions</em> appeared first on MetalSucks.