I had barely glanced at the cover art for Cerement, the third LP from American progressive black metal act Infera Bruo, before writing this review. This is only due to my media player failing to automatically import the art from the album’s file folder, but as I began my drafting process and truly examined the art for the first time, I’m honestly stunned at how well it encapsulates the music I’ve been scrutinizing over the past week. The image is at odds with itself; it is at once a perfect representation of the scale and abstract nature of Lovecraft’s cosmic gods, and a restriction of those same ideas within a literal box. This perceived visual reflection of the music is not a knock against Cerement in any way. As grand as it is claustrophobic, this major label debut, despite some songwriting inconsistencies, executes a hypnotic tonal balance that immediately sets it apart from a monstrously overcrowded genre.
Infera Bruo‘s claustrophobic aesthetic requires me to break from standard review format and, first and foremost, talk about the production. Cerement‘s sharp, dry guitar and drum tones invoke icy precision; the tones, combined with the methodical separation of guitar and cymbal layers into left and right audio channels1, instill the record with an atmosphere of uneasy intimacy. This engineering decision feels entirely intentional, as it beautifully contrasts with Infera Bruo‘s musical philosophy; though some of the riffs lean a bit heavier toward simplicity, many of them are galactic and sprawling, hinting at ambitions far more massive than the production would imply. I can’t think of another black metal record that sounds quite like Cerement, and even if it were not a particularly good record, its sound design would at least allow it to stand out.
Thankfully, Cerement is rock solid from a musical perspective, blending styles of black metal in a manner that’s as unique as its production. Infera Bruo invokes a more reservedly paced Der weg einer Freiheit in their ability to oscillate between thoughtful chord progressions and blistering, laser-precise tremolo runs, as well as latter-day Enslaved in their incorporation of prog leanings and broad, spellbinding clean vocal passages. A variety of secondary influences provide extra texturing, including the gloomy death rock passages reminiscent of modern Tribulation (“Endnotes”) or the lightning quick, hyper dissonant chord cascades akin to something like Lorn or Deathspell Omega (“Scorne”). Though largely riff-oriented, Cerement‘s inclusion of thoughtful acoustic and electronic interludes and spacey, electronic effects during songs proper, reveals a band that takes as much care in pacing themselves and drawing the listener in as they do with pure riff-craft. The end product is as spellbinding as it is immediate.
Cerement may be free of critical weak points, but its impact is somewhat diluted by Infera Bruo‘s lack of strong songwriting tactics. Though not pop structured by any means, the five tracks (excluding instrumental interludes) presented here feel rather linear. This can occasionally work in the band’s favor, as it does with “The Lunar Pass,” which primarily anchors itself on a single recurring riff; other tracks, especially the pretty yet plodding “Draped in Sky,” are practically crying out for stronger theme in order to properly drive home their conclusions. Even so, the tracks themselves are rife with unique melodic flavors, and the absence of forward thinking constructions is more than compensated by unique chord decisions and note progressions. The mystifying lead riff of “The Lunar Pass” is particularly captivating.
With each fresh spin of Cerement, it never fails to strike me that, while Infera Bruo could stand to improve their songwriting chops, their album composition is undoubtedly top notch. At sub-forty minutes, Cerement comes across as a meticulously precise collection of music, so much so that even the acoustic interludes and ominous, pulsating electronic outro feel like integral pieces of the puzzle. I doubt that many listeners who find themselves hooked by Infera Bruo’s cosmic claws into will find themselves tiring of Cerement until long after their play count ascends to double digit status. While I personally have little left to discover with the record, I certainly count myself as one who will likely remain engrossed for the foreseeable future.