There are reproductions and gimmicks, and then there is Cruciamentum‘s debut full length Charnel Passages that, while carrying an unmistakeably old European flavour, manages to stand out among the crowd with sincerity and individuality. The two aspects that instantly jump out while listening to this are the band’s intimacy with death metal songcraft and pacing, and an expert understanding of serious, dark melody. Of the two, the latter is perhaps the more unquantifiable; we can arrive in the general ballpark of what constitutes solid metal songwriting, coherence of dialog, and other such, through application of logic, attention, and experience. But to elaborate on what makes one strain of melody more effective than another is trickier and perhaps calls to reckoning such murky areas as subjective perception.
Or does it? And is there a clean separation between the above two aspects? The foremost consideration while devising the kind of dark, melodic music that Cruciamentum play has to be mood and the greater vision from which it stems. Mood is the overarching framework and skeleton within which all other pieces should fall in place, just like a jigsaw puzzle. Once mood is established in the abstract and a commitment is made to remain faithful to it at all costs, the task devolves to finding the right musical mechanism, or the appropriate melodic device, to put a fine point on it, to realize it in physical sound.
What is the difference between music and melody, one might ask? Music is the whole process, but melody in isolation is the first point of contact between the abstract conception and reality. Music carries afterthought and necessary embellishment, but melody is pure and raw as a direct imprint of an idea on the physical.
If this sounds like so much glib dissection, it is because it is just that, and post-event, too. It also serves to highlight Cruciamentum‘s grasp on these themes that have so much of the ineffable about them. Not only do they choose melodic devices that have a morbidly regal splendour to them, they then ensure that these same devices dovetail in unison with the principles of progressive death metal songwriting.
There is fascinating intelligence and mystery underlying these things, revealing of a bird’s eye perspective of where the band wants its music to go. Cruciamentum evade the jarring shifts in tone that are the ruination of many a modern band by climbing high enough, meditating, and then remaining true to the fruits of that meditation.