The black/death subgenre of metal just doesn’t seem to get much love. Well, there are certainly enough groups to vitalize a scene or sorts, but the style tends to go under most people’s radars from what I’ve seen (other than Behemoth’s contributions, of course – especially after their partaking on the Slayer tour). Even though there are some that have been around for a fair bit, most groups who call black/death home tend to start in the underground, and stay in the underground. Luckily for us, underground metal is the best there is.
Abysmal Lord and Crurifragium’s collaboration won’t be a surprise to very many people. Both leaving towards the black/death subgenre of metal, the two play a very similar style of music. Frantic, rich production, and an emphasis on percussion would be three terms I’d use to describe such an indescribable orgy of distortion, drum pounding, and violent screaming. Let’s work through a play-by-play, shall we?
Abysmal Lord opens the split with a pair of numbers, “Throne of God (Forced Abdication)” and “Burning Flesh Oblation”. Satanism anyone?
These burnt offerings are easily the two highlights of the release, as both numbers complement each other nicely. “Throne of God (Forced Abdication)” opens with an all-out assault, hastily letting the listener know what they’re in for (if the track titles didn’t already do so). Following a handful of minutes, the song slows down to a trudging crawl with the rhythm guitar taking over the soundscape. Soon enough, a three-count is started, and Abysmal Lord reintroduces us to their coven circle of terror. We get to hear some frantic lead guitar solos with an exceptional use of the “wah” pedal, and the quartet takes us through to the next track. Listen to the first track below:
“Burning Flesh Oblation” offers a fresh-sounding juxtaposition to the preceding track. Beginning with a hymn-like echoed melody, the listener will come to learn that this will be a repeating theme throughout the split. The two groups clearly wanted to craft a blasphemous spiritual effigy and used harmonious church sounds as the basis for such. The track quickly goes from crawling to forceful, as we get reintroduced to Abysmal Lord’s drumkit. There’s a weird pelican-like scream, some slower sections, and some great riffs to be had for this last track.
Abysmal Lord brought fire and fury with their contributions to the release, and completely deserved to have their tracks on Side A of the split. The production on the group’s numbers is absolutely crushing, with each instrument taking their respective thrones, but altogether unable to clash with the mix’s other components. I would say that the vocals are my favourite aspect of Abysmal Lord’s contributions, as they drip with reverb and the vocalist sounds like he drank a pint of battery acid prior to recording.
Crurifragium follows, and before I go any further, I believe their band name is worthy of an explanation. Upon typing the name in question on my keyboard, I was expecting that little red line to pop up under the word, as it seems like “Crurifragium” is either a made-up term or an abhorrent melding of two words. However, following a little research, I have learned that “Crurifragium” refers to the Roman’s unique crucifixion process whereby they’d hasten an individual’s death on the cross by breaking their legs so they couldn’t support themselves in an upright position as long, thus tightening their chest and disabling their ability to breath. How delightful!
Anyways, while Abysmal Lord offered a quick one-two punch, Crurifragium’s attack comes via the strong but slow swing of a lumbering sledgehammer. Clocking in at just over ten minutes in length, Crurifragium emphasizes diversity, creative direction, and stopping power. Unfortunately, their contribution is plagued by a flat and dull production. As mentioned above, one of Abysmal Lord’s highlights was their songs’ production, which helped deliver their poise and subsequent strike. However, the drastic switch between a great and poor production ruins the first half-or-so of “Slavering Maw of Archfiendii/Verminous Baptism”. What a song title, though!”
The listener inevitably forgets that drastic transition and gets used to how Crurifragium’s track was built, but that doesn’t denote from the unfortunate criticism. Moving away from this negativity, we quickly become exposed to a flaming field of enjoyment. I initially gawked at the whopping ten-minute track length, but the group absolutely pulled it off. The vocal sections on this track are much more barbaric and primitive than those on Abysmal Lord’s contributions, which allow for Crurifragium’s singer to expand a little more in that regard. There’s a part during the middle of the song where the vocalist embarks on a crazed vocal frenzy, presumably going insane halfway through the recording session. This frantic section breaks up the track further, which already felt fresh throughout as a result of interesting and jam-packed songwriting. There are also some great groovy sections to be found; the song is just really diverse, which it needed to be because of its daunting length.
Despite some poor production choices (which may not even be that bad without the drastic forced comparison between the two bands), the black/death ritual successfully converted me into a fan of both groups. Doing as a split should do, the release serves as a taste test for curious listeners who want to get into either band. I entered without any prior knowledge of both groups, and left a fan of both Abysmal Lord and Crurifragium. Isn’t that what a split is supposed to do? Oh yeah, the trio of songs rip as well.