Few bands can muster the level of devastation as CruciamentumObsidian Refractions is the judgement we deserve. And desire.

Release date: November 24, 2023 | Profound Lore | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

The long sunny days of Summer are well behind us and with the arrival of colder, shorter days comes death itself in the form of Cruciamentum. Having been mostly quiet since the release of their debut album in 2015, this entity has been pacing in the shadows, waiting for their time to return. The fading Winter light approaches and as the sun rules the sky less and less with each passing day, the darkness sees a monster approach in our periphery. While there are more than likely no small number of variables which led to this dearth of output – only partially sated by 2017’s EP Paradise Envenomed – it’s fun to imagine some apocalyptic justification for this strange beast to reemerge on the horizon. Death metal has not been in short supply of late with plenty of bands and labels have been doling out monstrous albums with a certain regularity but the yearning persists for more, and Cruciamentum has heard our collective plea.

Obsidian Refractions is the band’s first full album in around 8 years and this year also marks the band’s 15th year of existence. While their output has been slow-but-steady – much like a Kaiju ambling toward an object which begs for destruction – Cruciamentum has developed a cult of followers ever eager to hear whatever comes next. The anticipation is set to end with the advent of this record. With six songs spanning over forty minutes these stats are a quick indicator of what brand of death metal that this band practices: doomy. While not quite a full on death-doom approach, what sets Cruciamentum apart is the focus on atmosphere. There’s a looming sense of dread in every facet of this album and every square inch that is destroyed in its wake feels prophetic. Beginning with “Charnel Passages” which is a direct reference to their debut LP, this album picks up where the aforementioned LP left off; eight minutes of pure fire and brimstone. The lyrics paint a haunting foreground while the background is decorated by the lurching riffs which create a tension that pulls us deeper into the inevitable maelstrom, regardless of how much we may struggle against it.

Good music – and by extension, good death metal – will elicit an emotional response from us when we listen to it and what that response is often tells us about ourselves as well as the intent of the art that we’re consuming. Cruciamentum have traditionally found a balance between technical brilliance and accessibility which makes their music both fascinating from a performance aspect but also smartly embraces ideas that will tug at the emotional corners of the brain as well. Changing tempos, furious soloing, and varying song structures abound, such as on the succinct but powerful “Abhorrence Evangelium”, but the impact of the atmosphere and the sense of impending judgment is never lost amidst the din and flurry of technicality that is on display. This is by no means suggesting that there is obvious restraint on this record. Instead the impact and energy are spread across every aspect of the sound of these songs, from the vocals, instrumentation and the fury with which they are played, and the atmosphere that results from all of these elements working in horrendous harmony. Without a doubt the only rational emotional response is fear, dread, and doom. This is a crushing album where every aspect of Cruciamentum hammers away at our psyche.

Obsidian Refractions is an album which focuses on the darker reflections of ourselves and succumbing to the horrors which follow. And it does so with panache as we both sink and smile amidst the murky harvest which we have sown, as even the dire consequences revealed in this album can leave us relieved that we’re no longer running from them. “Interminable Rebirth In Abomination” provides moments of respite with its bouncing riff but the glimmers quickly turn to darkness once again as the album closes with the mammoth ten-minute “Drowned.” Flurries of drum strikes fly upward like sparks as the fiery guitar riffs and the molten sludge from the bass make this one of the best tracks on the record as each of these aspects get to burn brighter and the additional oxygen in the song only serves as fuel to make this a furnace of damnation even hotter.

Cruciamentum have been missed. Their unique force of death metal is one few can pull off with the same level of proficiency, balance, and effectiveness. There’s no weak links here. Obsidian Refractions is a carefully curated set of songs which are precisely engineered to exact the maximum level of carnage but the fact that it does so without being laborious is proof that this is a band that knows exactly what they want to do and have no doubts on how to do it. There’s no struggle except the one to keep our head above water as we listen. There is no stumbling in the darkness aside from our reaching for any glimmer of light.

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