Caedes Cruenta – Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults Review

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure where the line between black metal and blackened death lies. There’re folks who are entirely justified for crying “DEATH” when you add some bass to the mix, but others will be completely in the right to scold them for hopping a little too hard. Since groups like Belphegor and Marduk have blurred the lines with their bottom-heavy yet grim AF aesthetics, it’s a horde of near or far-sighted folks blurring everything. All I know is that Caedes Cruenta likes black metal and they like it fast and heavy, like their countrymen Rotting Christ, Varathron, and Necromantia. Black metal or blackened death, is their wordsy third full-length Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults any good?

Caedes Cruenta hails from Greece, where the aforementioned groups have traditionally held a monopoly over blackened tunes. Formed in 2003, Caedes Cruenta features a cast of stunning musicians, perhaps most notably drummer Maelstrom of Dephosphorous and Embrace of Thorns1 and vocalist Echetleos of Ithaqua and Kawir. Following up a prolific output of two demos, three splits, and two full-lengths, 2021’s Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults is a full-length saturated with influence and ideas: thrashy riffs, shredding tremolo, blastbeats, wild solos, retro synths, versatile vocals, and a healthy dose of melody. The result, albeit undeniable Rotting Christ worship further hindered by its bloated runtime and general identity crisis, is a jolly good time.

The trifecta of Caedes Cruenta’s strength lies in its potent fusion of drums, keys, and guitar. Tracks like “Into the Ashes of the Unforgotten Woods (L’Inferno),” “Recitation of Abyssic Necropsalms,” and “The Wizard of Yaddith” all settle at the intersection of unrelenting energy, kickass riffs, and a retro macabre atmosphere worthy of Of Ritual Necrophagia…’s cover. “Recitation…” in particular is a showcase of these Greeks’ best assets, with’ tasteful solos and nearly Gothenburg flavors a la Insomnium or Soilwork. While BPM-razing thrash riffs are a mainstay, these tracks feature midtempo plodding that feels appropriately sinister while adding to the dynamic of Caedes’ sound, allowing Maelstrom’s ridiculously powerful and varied drum performance to shine. One finds that Echetleos’ hell-scraping growls shine in tracks like “The Mystic Ritual…”, while shrieks dominate “Into the Ashes…”. Synth plays a huge part in the album, carrying riffs to dynamic swells and providing a nice retro horror feel, blackenedly akin to the frosty flourishes of Evilfeast or symphonic textures of Carach Angren.

The reason that there is so much positive about Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults with only a “meh” score is because there is so much material. Each track, with the exception of the five-minute “Into the Ashes of the Unforgotten Woods (L’Inferno),” is at least seven minutes, and you’d be justified in some Aragorn v. Orcs hacking of at least three minutes. Just like the ending(s) of The Return of the King, each track has so many psych-out fadeouts or concluding squealing feedbac-J.K. that a single sitting of Caedes Cruenta is downright exhausting. To make matters worse, although black is the name of the game, the uses of second-wave scathing tremolo feel stale and stuck. These riffs in “From the Darkest Paths of Golgotha” furthermore have no idea what key it is, as the appropriately disturbing intro does not mesh with its cheery chord progressions. Solos can work here and there, there are between two and three of these per song, ranging from contemplative (which work) to Herman Li-having-a-stroke-covering-Brain Drill (which don’t), and overuse feels overdone. The spoken word appears periodically, but it takes itself too seriously to make an impact.

At the end of the day, Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults is an album split down the middle, as its best material lies in the back half. Further, while Caedes Cruenta sounds a lot like early Rotting Christ, I’m only partly bothered because, overall, they’re just so much fun. Yes, it’s an hour long. Yes, every track overstays its welcome. And yes, there’s thrash, black, death, Hellenic black, and even some melodeath to boot in their kitchen sink assault — so much that it can’t seem to decide what the hell it actually is. Showering ears with a torrent of wild performances from all sides, its summation can be accurately described as “clusterfuck,” but in the end, Caedes Cruenta is worth a look. Maybe that look is a sneer, but for me, it’s that “not bad” Obama meme that died in 2012.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Helter Skelter Productions | Regain Records
Releases Worldwide: February 12th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Credited here as, ahem, “Sacrificial Executor of Ancient Macabre Worship.”
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