Cruciamentum – Obsidian Refractions Review

Cruciamentum may not be especially prolific or productive, having managed only one full-length from 2008 to 2015, but their Charnel Passages debut put them on the map with its massive, monolithically atmospheric caverncore sound. It was the kind of statement album presaging a successful career, but they failed to follow it up in a meaningful way as years drifted by with nary a peep save an EP in 2017. Nearly 8 long years later they finally offer up their sophomore long player, Obsidian Refractions. A lot of time has passed since 2015. Tides, trends, and tastes have changed several times over and only guitarist/vocalist Dan Lowndes remains from the Charnal Passages days. Can this new version of Cruciamentum deliver the same Incantation-meets-Immolation hammer strike that their debut once did? Place yer bets!

Obsidian Refractions offers a slightly more atmospheric take on the Cruciamentum sound — a more patient, “mature” approach leveraging ominous dark vibes before clobbering you with OSDM aggression. 8-minute opener “Charnel Passages” (an unsubtle call back to its predecessor) works hard upfront to lay the groundwork for a sense of dread and unease with doomy riffs and a measured pace. It certainly gets you geared up for the bludgeoning that eventually hits town. And when the gloves come off, the thrashing intensity has a vague Vader-ism to it and it’s plenty effective. It’s not as massive sounding as Incantation nor as squiggly and slimy as Immolation or prime Morbid Angel, and it feels too long, but the goods are still there. Album highlight “Abhorrence Evangelium” dispenses with buildups and atmo-baiting, coming out swinging like an MMA fighter on Angel Dust. It’s all elbows, knees, and head strikes and this is where Cruciamentum shines brightest and hammers you into snotberry jam. I especially enjoy the twisting, slithering, Immoriffs that flow every which way and there’s some phenomenally insane guitar work jammed into this sick beast, especially on the back half.

Unfortunately, Obsidian Refractions suffers from a case of bloat, with overextended passages undermining good to very good songs. “Necropolis of Obsidian Mirrors” would be a solid 4-minute song but it’s stretched to nearly 7 and loses the shock and awe factor along the way. Even the slicing, dicing brutality of “Scorn Manifestation,” which is an album high point and smacks of prime Vomitory, ends up running a bit too long too. Mammoth 10-minute closer “Drown” is definitely overstuffed, but to its credit, it does a lot of interesting things over its protracted runtime, dabbling in effective Death worship with occasional Voivoidian dissonance and quirkiness. At a seemingly tight 41 minutes, the recurring bloatery makes Obsidian Refractions feel longer than it should, despite the quality moments along the way.

As the force behind Cruciamentum in 2023, Dan Lowndes does his best to steer the ship into the proper caverns and crypts. His guitar work alongside Dan Rochester is highly impressive, with nasty riffs trading spaces with spacey, soaring solo work that will blow your tiny mind. They bring a slightly proggy flavor to the material at times but do so sparingly to prevent it from impacting the overall heaviness. Their playing on “Abhorrence Evangelium” alone is worth the album price, and the experimenting they do over the course of “Drowned” is quite wide-ranging. Lowndes is now confined to backing vocals, with new frontman Chris Eakes doing the bulk of the death work. He’s got a solid, conventional death roar and he does a fine job. I’m most impressed by the whirling shitstorm kicked up by Matt Heffner behind the kit. The man is an absolute monster and slathers the songs with a wide variety of fills, rolls, and brain-damaging onslaughts. He’s a wonder to experience and elevates the material several notches.

With so much talent involved, I really wanted to like Obsidian Refractions better. It walks that line between a good and very good death metal album, and when things catch fire, you best take shelter. Sadly, the tendency to overstuff drags it down. After such a long time in the grave, I hoped for a bit more from Cruciamentum. I can easily recommend this, but go in with reasonable expectations. Hopefully, we won’t need to wait 8 years for the next installment.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 24th, 2023

The post Cruciamentum – Obsidian Refractions Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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