Cynabare Urne – Obsidian Daggers and Cinnabar Skulls Review

Occult themes in metal can be tricky. On its face, the occult merely defines a set of mystical beliefs, the invocation of obscure magics and supernatural phenomena. Lately, I noticed an unsettling trend. Metal bands occasionally use the word “occult” to obfuscate more… explicit, nefarious intentions. With this in mind, I very carefully selected Cynabare Urne’s debut death metal tome Obsidian Daggers and Cinnabar Skulls for review. I wanted something creepy and mystical in the spirit of Halloween season, and everything about this record from the artwork to the name to the day it releases satisfied my parameters to a T. After some due diligence, I decided these incantations were safe to peruse. Behold, Obsidian Daggers and Cinnabar Skulls!

In this year of our infernal Overlord 2020, where death metal seems to do no wrong1 it comes as no surprise that this monolithic slab of cavernous, candlelit death earns my attention. These riffs which compose the album feel intimately familiar, but spiced with a different set of fresh herbs. You’ll probably hear tons of nods to legendary acts of olde, plus a few references to more obscure bands with less influence on the scene. Nevertheless, the execution boasts just enough creativity to separate Cynabare Urne from countless worshippers of that deathly riffcraft most olden. As a finishing touch, Obsidian Daggers and Cinnabar Skulls offers up some twists of black metal and, refreshingly, a hair of speed metal (specifically on “Last of the Icons Alive”). Cool, right? Right.

The first half of this album is a force to be reckoned with. Opening duo “Erida Evoken” and “Prometheus Bound” grind earth to dust beneath grizzly tones and burly riffs, introducing Cynabare Urne’s modus operandi in fine form. These riffs aren’t newfangled, but after all this time spent with this genre, they’re just as satisfying and thrilling to hear as ever. Cymbals clink and crash all over these two tracks, and rapidly become my favorite detail the record so gratuitously provides as they so thoroughly enhance my retention of this material. By the time the band slows down for a plodding doom-ish number (“Escaping Xibalba”), I can’t escape—Obsidian Daggers command my attention as they threaten the integrity of my corporeal self, while the countless Cinnabar Skulls decorating these bloodstained halls compromise my psychological stability through piercing, empty stares. From the swaggering riffs of “Hidden in the Higher Light” and “Baal-Berit” to the thunderous black-to-speed-back-to-death pursuit of “Last of the Icons Alive,” these Finns threw the gates of death wide open and let metal reign.

Unfortunately, the memorability of the first half turns to ash in the second. In the moment, Obsidian Daggers and Cinnabar Skulls is your life. There is nothing else. But when the candlelight dies and you’re left to your own devices in pitch black, the spells you were entrusted to recite dissipate. Blame it on the nature of the format, but the truth is that there just aren’t enough standout riffs or leads after “Escaping Xibalba.” “Dauntless They Are” is a perfect example. It passes so close to something note-worthy, yet never firmly grasps it. “Besmirch Curse” and “Di Inferi Chaos” similarly fail to win me over. They express verve and attitude, but they feel generic and forgettable. Whatever it is that the rock-solid first five tracks (and “Last of the Icons Alive”) have, the rest lack, and that’s where Cynabare Urne stumble.

Keep in mind, this is a debut. A damn fine debut. Cynabare Urn are young and vital, so I recommend giving Obsidian Daggers and Cinnabar Skulls your time. It’s fun and reasonably fresh, with plenty of cool moments and more than its fair share of dank riffs. Just remember, if you choose to open this particular portal into infernal dimensions unknown, close the rift behind you. We don’t live in a demon barn, you know!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Regain Records | Helter Skelter Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 30th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Unless you’re Six Feet Under. Help me, Rhonda, that album is shit.
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