Cambion – Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium Review

There’s a lot going on in death metal: there’s the swampy, smelly, drag-your-corpse through the mire old school sort; there’s the cosmic, existential, ponder-the-time-signatures-of-the-universe sort; there’s the thrown down, bro town, drag-your-grandma-through-the-pit sort; there’s the corpse riding, shriek gliding, casual-blasphemy-on-a-weekday kind. Then, there’s also death metal – the angry sort that starts angry and stays angry. Cambion’s gimmick is angriness and speed. Their skills have been honed on the altars of madness under raining blood. Cambion, consisting of guitarist T.R., vocalists R.O., and drummer Chason Westmoreland (Hate Eternal, The Faceless), is a swirling vortex of death metal madness. Above all, though, they are fury…with a touch of blackened flavor and Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium is their debut full-length.

When death metal is at its explosive best there are few bands better than Krisiun. South American death and black metal bands have a natural proclivity towards monstrous speed. In essence, Cambion exist in the same sphere – but there’s a blackened crust that collides with their beefy death core. Slayer and Morbid Angel are always the beating heart, but the wonders of 21st century death metal tastily malform Cambion‘s anatomy. In brief, their sound combines the furious grooves of Krisiun, the blackened satanity of Belphegor, and the old school quirks of Morbid Angel. Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium is a banshee scream of spiraling guitars from the open second. There are no pointless, wishy washy atmospheric interludes here. Westmoreland’s drumming gallops like a horse with six legs, T.R.’s riffs and solos shift seamlessly from rabid extremity to sexy grooves, and R.O.’s vocal barks and bass elasticity attempts to keep up with the chaos. For a record to open like this is a rejuvenating experience.

Third track “Cambion” stands out. It bubbles and shreds with alternating movements of tech-death fluidity and meat-and-potatoes old school grooves. When the song settles into a safer pace, Westmoreland’s drum patterns step up to uphold the simplicity of the riffs and R.O.’s vocals rise with a more potent blackened menace. Cambion shift between elements well – each is thoughtful in a way that allows each member to play an active, important role. “Cities of Brass” is similarly monstrous, although it chugs in the lower end with stomach-churning deepness. The combination of dirtiness and technicality is balanced excellently throughout. T.R. does tend to overwhelm tracks with spiraling guitar noise which upsets the flow of tracks from time to time, but for the most part Cambion balance their spasming sound on the tip of a flaming pin.

At 38-minutes Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium is a solid and just about consumable mass. For a record that starts off with such relentlessness, a listener might wonder how Cambion will be able to maintain enough variety and textural detail throughout. Thankfully, Cambion do display a a sense of variety. Songs, though furious, slow to a menacing, brooding groove – as in second track “Vae Victis.” This is certainly the case in excellent ten-minute closer “Obscuratio,” an instrumental epic that smothers the intensity of the previous 29-minutes in a blanket of cosmic drama. The brooding build up of “Obscuratio” is like the slow, tight pull of an elastic band. Tension builds and the song bursts forward as it’s released. Personally, I would have preferred a punchier runtime – omit “Fatalism,” for example, and a tighter record, still retaining the vastness of “Obscuratio,” might have hooked me more. Arrive, cause chaos, and leave in a flash of mystic smoke.

I have few terribly bad things to say about Cambion. My issues are specific: I would have preferred a louder, crisper snare sound and less lead guitar screeching; I would have omitted one track, whilst keeping the excellent 10-minute closer, to keep the record feeling like a swift gut punch; and I would have introduced faint traces of more flamboyant technicality (think early Psycroptic) to counteract the furious constancy that drives the record. These are personal quibbles. Overall, Conflagration the Celestial Refugium satisfies many of my death metal needs. It’s not ground-breaking, but it does break ground by being a heavy, dirty, and menacing death metal beast.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lavadome Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 26th, 2021

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