CAMBION – Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium (2021)REVIEW

If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?” Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

A lifetime spent refusing to writhe under the agonizing thumb of Abrahamic fairytales finally raises arms as international death metal trio Cambion sources a lineage of true firebrand death metal brutality in defiance of monotheistic oppression. On their long anticipated debut full-length, ‘Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium‘, the Germany and United States based project produce a refined and memorable addition a long under-served artform arisen in the late 90’s, directly preceding (and demolishing) the extremity wars of the early 2000’s. Outrageous blasting speed, morbid death/thrashing riffs, infernal rasped n’ roared vocals present veritable orchestrations of chaotic yet still inherently traditional extreme metal forms as the riffcraft that blazes across Cambion‘s aggressive yarn clearly spawns from a mind obsessed with intricacy that’d serve meaningful phrase, never wielding the hammer just for the sake of it.

Though we could wheel back to the late 80’s for formative examples of the suggested lineage it’d make more sense to strike iron at its hottest point of precision in the mid-90’s as the vitally brutal pace of drummers such as Aantar Lee Coates (Horror of Horrors, Diabolic) and John Longstreth (Angelcorpse) concurrently found patterns likewise popularized via Centurian, Hate Eternal and Krisiun elsewhere in the world. There are plenty more artists to consider but in context of Cambion‘s sound a rabid appreciation for classic death and thrash metal guitar work persists through this suggested pool of inspiration. This wouldn’t necessarily catch the ‘above ground’ death metal masses until 2000 when records like ‘Conquerors of Armageddon’ and ‘Conquering the Throne’ were fully in view. Though I wouldn’t say the sound of said era is due a comeback in popularity, sub-par musicians have overstated the possibilities within the last two decades, there is yet something remarkably effective when a band gets it exactly right or, improves upon certain aspects without losing the ‘old school’ sensibilities inherent to the origin of the species — Perdition Temple and the yet underrated Nox (Netherlands) being finest examples of direct contributors to their own wave, expanding upon signature with incredible force. Cambion factors into view around 2013 between lime-minded folks who’d previously been involved in El Paso, Texas death metal band Reign of Terror, among others that’d been most active in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Though guitarist T.R. (Medecophobic, Wrath) had moved to Germany prior to formation of the band it doesn’t seem to have obstructed their collective craft, though thus far the releases have been deliberate in revelation.

Cambion‘s first demo (‘Unfold Chaos Supreme‘, 2015) made clear their intent, bearing all of the previously suggested traits yet lacking some of the brutal death punch session drummer Dizazter (Impiety, Depravity) brought to their first EP (‘Scourge of Power‘, 2017) wherein a love for the strangulated chaos of early Krisiun and the precision of classic death/thrash riffing ultimately defined what ‘Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium’ would become. Beyond that point they’d enlist drummer Chason Westmoreland, who is best known for appearing on Hate Eternal‘s ‘Infernus’ as well as more recent records from The Faceless and Equipoise, whose style is a solid fit for Cambion‘s blast heavy turn-on-a-dime sound. Though I was particularly obsessed with the whammy-abusing blasturbation of the Brazilian and Polish death metal onus post-millennium today I am selective in recalling the albums which ‘hold up’ for the sake of their guitar compositions, I don’t want to boil taste down to “riffs man, riffs” but yeah these guys have ’em and T.R. does a remarkable job matching intensity with worthy statements, unfragmented phrases that develop throughout the course of each 3-5 minute song. The long extorted power of brutal death metal isn’t in the over emphasis of punctuation but in run-on statements, chromatic expansion and retraction which resolves with that emphasis, the legacy of bands like Morbid Angel and Deicide really to hinge on this balance of sensical movement and ruthless battery. In plainest terms, you’re going to remember some of these songs as they are crafted with purpose beyond stylistic indication.

All manner of consistent combustion has its sweet spot in terms of temperature before its effectiveness wanes and in the case of Cambion there is an innate awareness as to what’d constitute characteristic use of blast-heavy patternation and meaningful emphasis upon extremes. It is a careful balancing act that nonetheless expresses as barbaric volcanism and this is the inherent mastery of form that ‘Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium’ impresses me with first and foremost. At not point does their thread of ideas reach irrational extremism or, bone-clubbing simplicity that could be construed as filler or danceable product. Though I could easily pick any piece on this debut as exemplar of its greater goal, “Vae Victus” is both immediate and elaborate example of force, reaction, and tension built for the sake of eruptive brutality. Scribbling wah solos, heavy grooves, and the eventual sprawling unfurl at the ~3:10 minute mark ensure that this song not only counts but is more than a mere exercise in extremity. There are bigger leads on “Cambion” and heavier staggered grooves on (my personal favorite track) “Cities of Brass” yet we’re served complete and bewilderingly aggressive statements regardless of where each song’s vital essence leans. Throughout my time with ‘Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium’ I’d find every song not only had a valid spot within its brilliant ~40 minute run but my favorite pieces would often appreciate in value with repeated listens. The only point where I’d sit back and begin to take it all in was the extended intro to the nearly ten minute closing track “Obscuratio”; It might’ve been more effectively placed as the opener to Side B if the record were yet on tape/vinyl as it feels like an interlude, a dramatic jam or passage through without as clear of a statement as the rest of the album. At first it’d been a hindrance upon the running order for my own taste but I’ve come to appreciate the reflective space it provides when leaving the full listen on repeat. Fine work all around and an infinitely enjoyable riff-heavy, tornado blasted debut. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Conflagrate the Celestial Refugium
LABEL(S):Lavadome Productions
RELEASE DATE:March 26th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Lavadome Store
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Blackened Death Metal

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