CAEDES CRUENTA – Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults (2021)REVIEW

In nomine mortis cultus — May death’s spectre cross incanted portal through poisoned Host, his unlight trailing ribbons of blood’s desecration under foot. Pass beneath each arch smearing the manifestation’s paling purge and leaving rusted gradient upon your sleeves. All ancestral sleep will see their coffins burst of dignity only to melt under craven acidic spittle and grinding teeth. The mist of their exhumation and the splattering excrement of these foulest hungered sinistral forms will curse us with delightfully noxious muse to movement, bewildering yet pushing the devout husk along with a triumphant chest to war and away from sanctity. Conjuring this thrill and swinging all sword by possession of ruthless daimonian grip is inherently “freeing”, an evil act outside of the self that frightens loose the bowels of sunburnt minds — Ave daimon, breach our crammed and drip-fed caging. All malevolent hypnotism bears naked empowerment, a vigorous self-destruction for the sake of shaking loose all poorly tied ropes. Eat only the foulest flesh and spread in splattered horror what chunks still hold their pious constitution in conjuration of cruelest cursed-blood, Caedes Cruenta, our Athenian font of irreverence who’d pour this hourlong ritual ‘Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults‘ to reanimate elder ghast and crippling grandeur anew.

We start with a young corpse, a demo tape (‘Resurrection of the Dead‘, 2004) mulling over formative mid-paced black metal ideals. It was a foot steeped in cold water in the same way ‘Passage to Arcturo’ was: Brilliant and arcane but not precisely indicative of the core evolution that would take place beyond. Though they were likely still in their late teenage years during its construction the first gasp from the original duo of Echetleos and Wrykolas bade well. I don’t believe the line-up officially expanded until after their first full-length (‘Σκιές Δαιμόνων‘, 2010) a god-like debut positing a gloriously melodic, silvery sheen upon ancient Hellenic black metal. For my own taste in black metal, which has focused intently upon the Greek black metal spheres since the late 90’s, this was the birth of a new titan force in a realm that had not yet entirely reawakened. Yes, ‘Stygian Forces of Scorn’ was an important, very professional first step in reinvigorating a new pulse in Athens but for those of us slumming around or, digging into the cultic reaches ‘Σκιές Δαιμόνων’ left an equally permanent ripple through all hidden orders. You can imagine the acolytes stirring with even greater fervor when their temples were lit with the ruinous burst of (‘Ερείπια Ψυχών‘, 2014) the first record after the band had expanded to a full line-up and found idyllic narrative strength and faster meter. This was a considerable broadening of the first record’s effortlessly flowing melodic black metal sound now pulling in more of those slower early 90’s influences from Varathron and Necromantia without ever coming to a full stop. One couldn’t accuse Caedes Cruenta of flatly copying the ancestral sound of any one influence from the Hellenic black metal realm but at this point it was clear they’d found their own rhythmic voice without falling from the stature of the old ways. The years beyond served to gather all implements for this greatest ritual.

Each Caedes Cruenta album has its own core “phrase”, a theme to pull variation that is meditated upon throughout and in the case of ‘Ερείπια Ψυχών’ it was “Aura Of Immortal Souls” serving as the keystone. It was also arguably their first piece to clearly reach for a hint of ‘Non Serviam’-era Rotting Christ squarely. I mention this song in particular not only because I know it so well but because they’ve actually re-recorded it for ‘Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults’ along with some tracks from their aforementioned first album, their most recent 7″ (‘Recitations of Abyssic Necropsalms‘, 2017) and ‘The Wizard of Yaddith / The Sleeper of R’Lyeh’ a split EP with Cult of Eibon. There is one entirely new piece here yet all of the tracks are slightly reworked with additional intros or movement to cohere these fresh sessions into one indomitable mass. Existing fans will find most all of this new recording familiar yet idealized in version. So, is it a re-recorded greatest hits, a rarity compilation and a new album all at once? It is unofficially both of those things and officially none of them. At just over an hour long ‘Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults’ intends to be the definitive statement from Caedes Cruenta, performed live in Eleventh Tower Studios with the final rendering from the fellow who produced Rapture‘s (Greece) two most recent records. This roots in reality the living document of their mastery via strongest elder pieces alongside newer compositions via livewire performances — Impassioned and raw but always commanding the space they inhabit. It’ll surely feel redundant to buy the reissue of ‘Ερείπια Ψυχών’ from last year and compare it with this album since a few tracks landed on this album as well (again, new session and sound) but these guys ultimately make their case for it with the recording quality and some well-curated selections to refurbish or, reimagine for this release.

There is yet part of my mind that didn’t need so many songs from the previous album and I would ultimately prefer an hour with none of that material yet it becomes impossible to complain about what Caedes Cruenta present here for the sake of how exemplar their selection and performances are. On paper this lack of new material might leave the album sounding reduced or cursory but in fact we are getting a deluxe experience where the “live in studio” sound of the album is well polished and all songs benefit from details that make a world of difference for the listening experience. The major ground gained here on the pieces from the first album (“Into the Ashes of the Unforgotten Woods”) and the second (“Aura of Immortal Souls”, “Under the Shadow of Death”, “From the Darkest Paths of Golgotha”, “The Mystical Ritual of the Dark Priests”) is probably the strong presence of drummer Sacrificial Executor of Ancient Macabre Worship (Embrace of Thorns, Dephosphorus, ex-Ectoplasma) who brings the old shake of classic Greek black metal drumming with some considerable skill, and without sounding like an early 90’s drum machine. What does sound more ancient than ever is the incredible use of keyboards, an essential part of this style which I believe still come by way of the brilliant fellow from Cult of Eibon and Hate Manifesto, Nyogtha. These two fellowes do a lot to reanimate these old corpses in finest form but it is probably Echetleos (Kawir, ex-Disharmony) who becomes the major focal point for the live setting thanks to raw and oft growled vocals that present a well-commanded ship within this set of eight 7-8 minute pieces. From a subjective point of view I am lost in the enjoyment of this happening and find myself able to listen to ‘Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults’ for hours at a time because well, objectively speaking this is probably because half of the songs are burnt into my mind forever already by virtue of having owned ‘Ερείπια Ψυχών’ for years. It is an odd thing to get hung up on but, I can only really present the perspective of a die-hard fan willing to fully invest in such a moving, triumphant spectacle. For folks who’ve not spent any time with Caedes Cruenta‘s discography, this is the record to start with if you’ve no access to the very limited runs of past works. For the collector or the fan pining for all new stuff, eh, this is either going to be the “go to” record to yank off the shelf when you want access to this band or it’ll feel redundant as curation.

Of the 7″/split tracks reimagined “Recitations of Abyssic Necropsalms” remains a brilliant generational gap closure between mid-90’s Rotting Christ and the freshened sound which members of this band and their many compatriots have done great work to cultivate and expand these last two decades. This song appears quite traditional in most every aspect but the central guitar melody develops beyond expectation here, not far from the 7″ version but splayed open of its guts for a spacious feeling that could be said of the whole recording. “The Wizard of Yaddith” is probably closer to the classic sound that Varathron brought into their most recent record with the drums providing one of the more nuanced performances of the full listen. I suppose the main event, opener and title track “Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults” is what impresses most for its PlayStation 2-era Castlevania keyboard haunt and these melodic strings of (again) ‘Non Serviam’ sized riffs which remain Caedes Cruenta‘s forte. What impresses me most is the most raw, bellowing doom of the final portion of the song beyond its ~4:30 minute mark with an galloping lead-in towards shredding leads before a drop into menacing heavy metal riffing mania. Perhaps because I was already familiar with the rest of the album’s compositions this one struck me most for its throat-ripping conclusion. For a band that has often been arcane and bloody yet always melodic in the past this piece felt even more abrupt, a ‘dangerous’ bout of evil presence that I’m always chasing in extreme metal. A thrilling start to the album and a fitting closing point in my suggestion that this album is an excellent prospect for fans of classicist Hellenic black metal, a great introduction to the uninitiated, and at worst a sweetly packaged “live in studio” session with the best of Caedes Cruenta‘s newer material. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults
LABEL(S):Regain Records,
Helter Skelter Productions
RELEASE DATE:February 5th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Black Metal

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