What’s black and white and re(a)d all over? A war metal cover made out of newspapers!1234 Stupid joke, but I bet you smiled anyway. Good news for all of you goat/Satan fans out there, Crurifragium are here to ensure you never smile again. Born of an unholy union between members of Demoncy, Astraes Pestis, and Warpvomit, these Seattleites bear all the triple-6 markings of a devil-worshiping crew looking to hail Lucifer in the best(ial) of ways. But will debut Beasts of the Temple of Satan earn Beelzebot’s favor, or will they suffer the agonizing and ironic punishment of burning up before they’ve started?
The unmitigated insanity of war metal is what your church-going grandmother imagines when she sees your Metallica t-shirt. If untempered, the genre’s inescapable cacophony is liable to swallow the listener whole. Beasts acquits itself admirably in its attempt to overcome this inherent pitfall, remaining compelling and relatively focused while retaining its raw, tormented trademark. While Crurifragium owe a great deal of their furious tumult to Archgoat and Proclamation influences, the pulsing quality that defines their music is purely their own. “Stigmata Excruciation” lays out the welcome mat with Horned Despoiler of the First Temple and False Prophet Goatmessiah’s5 horrific collection of grunts and howls. The undertow of their guitars sits just beneath the surface, with “Unfurl the Banners of Evil” using quirky, almost-noodly production to create the animalistic howling of a subterranean creature. Their chaotic backing surges in tandem, buoyed by the in-your-face performance by drummer Purveyor of Destruction. His lines are straightforward yet oddly hypnotic, grabbing your ear and evoking copious amounts of air drumming. Schizophrenia-inducing solos serve as necessary beacons, punctuating the chaos with bestial climax. Not to be outdone, the vocals gurgle along with nightmarish unintelligibility. They only attain true clarity for a brief moment on “Utter Sadism,” but add an essential layer of demonic terror throughout Beasts.
The total package can be a lot to take in at first, but it often works very well. The album flows similarly to a grind release, made up of tight runtimes that contribute to an overall presentation at the cost of track individuality. The album might wander, if not for this flow and the way it hopscotches from highlight to highlight. Much can be made of bestial black’s intentional subversion of traditional production. But surprisingly enough, the meaty mix on Beasts develops into a strength when compared to genre contemporaries. The unvarnished presentation of war metal standard-bearers often comes shackled with a hollow, untethered feel that discourages total engagement. Building off their roots in the oppressively heavy Warpvomit, Crurifragium instead opt to fill out their production. The resulting weight befits the uproarious discord that Beasts proffers and successfully envelops the listener without sacrificing the desired savagery. On the flip side, this works against the guitars. With the drums engaging the vocals in their own little loudness war, there are few instances of non-solo riffs sticking out, memorable or not. Crurifragium‘s production effectively relegates the guitars to muddled atmospherics, inseparable from the bass of the late Misanthrofuhrer the Architect of Extinction.
Fortunately, Purveyor of Destruction provides the constantly interesting performance required to keep Beasts afloat. His charging beats never cease, knowing just when to ratchet up the tempo or throw you for a rhythmic loop. “Flayed Angels” lasts about as long as the average grind track, just enough for his smashing cymbals to rip the eyelids off your face. The track itself provides the purest shot of adrenaline on the album, distilling the moment-reliant success of Beasts into the granddaddy of them all. From the Bestial Warlust swing-groove of “Slaughterers of the Flocks” to the intense close to finale “The Horns of Power,” these moments stand out every loop through the album and eliminate the threat of a one-note nature.
I expected Beasts of the Temple of Satan to collapse without a natural structure or the additives of a band like Beherit to stand upon. I was dead wrong. Crurifragium succeed in holding my attention, spin after spin, a skill that still escapes big boys like Archgoat and Proclamation. Much like Gardenstale‘s exposure to doom via King Goat last year, Beasts inspired me to dig into a genre that never seemed like my cup of tea. As I dive headfirst into the pandemonium, I have no doubt that I’ll return to Crurifragium in the future, my touchstone for my entry into this world of madness.