Despite their links to other bands, Cruciamentum are a band completely of their own making. They are, brutally and without apology, a bludgeoning death metal act. Charnel Passages has a lot of pressure to live up to. Not only the band’s own short history but also that of it’s band members. While Charnel Passages might not be an immediate extension of Cruciamentum’s earlier work, it is, in its own right, a work not to be trifled with—a vision of a band finding it’s own brilliant sound.
Cruciamentum pushes very near to religious territory. First off, their 2009 demo (technically their second), Convocation of Crawling Chaos, knocked the metal world on its ass. Second, their 2011 EP, full of raw hell and death metal, Engulfed in Desolation was similarly sainted. Third, they share members with the holiest of holy blackened death metal acts, Grave Miasma. So they have the history and the credentials to attract more than a modicum of attention. Combine that with the fact that they are now on Profound Lore and, well, you’ve got a recipe for metal explosion.
Charnel Passages is perhaps more reliant on jolting rhythms and halting breaks (and even a breakdown or two) than their previous work. Where Engulfed in Desolation used odd time signatures to invoke an imbalance within the listener, Charnel Passages is able to achieve that end through it’s use of discordance and unstable rhythms. The disjointed, halting rhythms are not to say the album doesn’t have flow, because it most certainly does. But one of the main goals of death metal should be to make the listener lean towards discomfort and Cruciamentum employ a number of tactics to produce that effect brilliantly.
A move toward a cleaner, less distorted mix, has not ruined any of the gritty appeal of Cruciamentum. Rather, the cleaner mix has allowed Cruciamentum to display their sheer talent for rhythmic guitar work (See “Necrophagous Communion”). There are also a fair share of ripping solos, pick dives and whammy-bar screams. Not to be outdone, drummer, D.B-H., keeps brilliant time whether pounding out straight forward, groove-like beats to support solos (See “Tongues of Nightshade”), or blistering blast beats (See “Dissolution of Mortal Perception”) to support climaxes. And the vocals don’t suffer either. They may have picked it up a notch in their debaucherous growlings, but the vocals are both rhythmically intriguing and audibly interesting as screams are often layered for balance.
There are likely comparisons to Grave Miasma, Dead Congregation and early Incantation. But to draw Cruciamentum as an amalgamation of other bands is a mistake. They are unmistakably their own. While, on their older work, listeners could hear an immediate connection to Grave Miasma that connection is now gone. Cruciamentum has grown up, matured and come into their own. And what is Cruciamentum? Brilliant, brutal and exciting death metal. Charnel Passages is a must for any metal fan.