Interview: D.L. of Cruciamentum Talks ‘Obsidian Refractions’

Leave it to a band named after the Latin word for torture – hint, the root for crucify is in there – to release the most purely pleasurable death metal record in the modern era. The fact that it’s the first full-length release for Cruciamentum in eight years only adds to the impressive nature of Obsidian Refractions, out now via Profound Lore. The bi-coastal US/UK group navigate the waters of post-Immolation death metal: which is to say that above all the rote descriptors for cavernous, doom-y death metal, Cruciamentum still worship at two central altars: the almighty riff and the sacred nature of songwriting. I hesitate to call Obsidian Refractions progressive or technical because it’s clear from the onset that the band aim to simply filter their influences through a death metal lens, but it’s impossible not to hear the central escalating riff in “Scorn Manifestation” and not headbang in awe.

Clearly, Cruciamentum know and understand the rules and procedures of death metal by (blackened?) heart and could probably write a better song in their sleep than I could with ten years with an HM-2 pedal and a trunkload of psychoactive drugs, but art is not a soulless recap of a genre playbook; it’s in the performance. That’s where the group shine, as both before, during, and after the long hibernation (cavernation?), Cruciamentum showcase the breathtaking horror of cosmic death metal. There’s the sense of pervasive cosmic inevitability throughout: musically, lyrically, and in the stunning artwork. Guitarist D.L. is exuberant in his praise of David Glomba’s cover:

“It’s great that you mention the sense of the inevitable, with the record mainly focusing on death and collapse; I think [David] perfectly captured what we were looking for. David’s work on the booklet for Teitanblood’s The Baneful Choir impressed me so much that I instantly knew he was the man for the job. He went above and beyond in visualizing the album for us; despite all my labyrinthian concepts, I always have a difficult time being able to visualize and communicate how our art should look. Usually, I have a list of things I don’t want as opposed to what I do, so I just provided David with a brief description of my concepts and the lyrics and told him to work his magic. He did an excellent job deciphering my rambling and bringing it to life. I can see aspects of all the lyrics portrayed in the cover, and believe me – it’s actually even more mind-blowing when you see it in person; he included an unbelievable amount of detail, and when you see that up close it really amplifies the sense of scale within the art.”

D.L. is being a bit self-deprecating about the concepts, as their mix of nihilistic existentialism and cosmic horror as a mirror into the personal is both clear and purposefully obfuscated. I don’t know what the band have gone through, but the feelings of fear, loss, and emptiness are everywhere. Part of the focus stems from the group’s singular focus and growing with each release:

“We’ve followed the mission statement since the band started. Since the demos, we’ve progressed considerably as musicians, so our musical vocabulary is broader now. However, we’re still aiming to make death metal rooted in traditionalism and simultaneously forward-thinking without losing any of the darkness or aggression vital to death metal. We want to make music with a character of its own that expresses something personal.”

“We wanted to expand on the debut album,” he adds, “to push the extremes and explore the musical territory and atmospheres we’d previously covered deeper, but to always maintain sight of well-composed and memorable songs and, most importantly to express genuine emotion.”

As someone who got into heavier music through prog like Rush, Kansas, and Uriah Heep, I love how fluid the marriage between prog and death metal is here. So many bands become less heavy as they get older and want to preserve some hearing function, but I would argue the gnarliest, nastiest riffs of your career are on this record, and that’s probably because of a clear emphasis on contrast and dynamic songwriting that is evident. In wanting to expand what Cruciamentum can be on this record, how did they aim to balance the various influences?

“I actually had a similar musical beginning,” D.L. answers, “starting with classical, progressive/art rock, and later discovering metal, so dynamics, texture, and contrast are very much entrenched subconsciously in my musical vocabulary. Still, Cruciamentum should be heavy, dark, and metal first and foremost. Many progressive metal bands lose sight of that and make indulgent, uninteresting, and emotionless music, so I avoid personally referring to Cruciamentum as progressive. We’re still a death metal band, first and foremost, and my love of progressive rock really informs my instinct toward dynamics, texture, contrast, and arrangement rather than making complex or indulgent music.”

Obsidian Refractions is available now from Profound Lore Records. Follow Cruciamentum on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Necroblanca Photography

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