The illusion of the portal having snapped shut, a space-burnt peremptory thought already begins to bite like so many fleas upon every synapse. I was convinced there’d be no accord with reality any longer, that I was dreaming and not dead, a flawed current in an ocean of brainwaves smeared in panorama across the aether as if the worthless, foulest snot of a now extinct race in frozen assay. Through the watery, sunbaked looking-glass we witness the horror of transcendence as a sole survivor topples forth, landing in view of abstract yet brutally violent depiction of human extinction via the rapid painterly strokes of northern Italian death metal act Cosmic Putrefaction‘s third full-length album. ‘Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones‘ is at once sorrow and mania felt at a jackhammered pace, the eerie of an outer-world perspective beset by the immediate showcase of mayhem and disorder… and it rules.
Cracked as a shard of independence from a long unfinished point of death metal ambition Cosmic Putrefaction might’ve been made official in 2018 yet the origin of Milanese musician/composer G. Gramaglia‘s (Turris Eburnea, Vertebra Atlantis) cosmic technical death metal envision can be traced back to roughly ~2012 wherein Oaken/Throne formed, crafted an incomplete album, dissolved by 2014 and soon after the artist took the bones of said work unto the challenge of a solo death metal effort. While the artist’s death metal ideation had taken years to meet his high standards with the rearranged unreleased record taking shape as Cosmic Putrefaction‘s debut (‘At the Threshold of the Greatest Chasm‘, 2019) his treatments of progressive black metal (The Clearing Path) and progressive/post-metal (Summit) in the interim years had already created a sense of his compositional strengths and perfectionism, highly detailed works which’d clearly had some musical education behind ’em and often avant-garde tastes informing their style. Though I’d been impressed in review of that debut it’d definitely read as an ambitious record by most standards, a ripping and brutal technical death metal album that could’ve used a bit more vocal variation, somewhat under-developed compared to the high standard achieved elsewhere in the artist’s portfolio. A good place to start with a debut but not yet a be-all, end-all form.
The remedy arrived soon enough in a second full-length (‘The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers‘, 2020) a far more atmospheric yet equally technical record which showcased Gramaglia‘s ambitious vision in far more complete render and with his own voice, er, vocals helping it all come together in a more intuitively nuanced way. At the time my thoughts had been steered towards groups like Mithras and Ulcerate alongside the high standards of Italian brutal-tech death metal though the general consensus was that it’d been similar to earlier Blood Incantation and various Demilich and Timeghoul inspired ‘new old’ school bands of the last two decades, all of those are admittedly very loose interpretive swipes at the same idea but ultimately conveyed the general moodiness and brutality of Cosmic Putrefaction at the time. It was an album I’d praised highly in review and set as #47 on my Top 100 albums of 2020 thanks to an easily repeated spin that’d give plenty of room to breathe, or, a bit more of an spaced-out experience in general. These sorts of finer-detailed works do not come so naturally and so quickly in the realm of death metal without some great enthusiasm for the sub-genre and the direction of the project itself and well, it’d been inevitable that a ‘bigger and better’ statement would follow soon enough.
Though ‘Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones‘ is in fact bigger, better, more densely populated with myriad ideas, and in feature of an cosmic horror-laced atmospheric glow it is yet intended as a continuation of the core narrative of ‘The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers‘ with the sole survivor of a devastated planet having transcended the veil of geologic temporality to view the collapse of human existence from the point of divinity, or, on purely metaphysical terms. The biggest picture achieved is naturally minimizing of its subjects individual worth yet the outcome and tone of this apocalyptic violence and world-crushing havoc is delivered to the listener with devastated outcome and muscularly achieved technical feats alike. The sorrow which naturally tails violence is subtle, hidden in a thousand-layered collision of impressively detailed performances yet it is ultimately a complete narrative thought beyond the usual dying in-the-moment action of stargazing death metal.
The intro of “…Through Withered Horizons” doesn’t appear to pick up note-for-note beyond the melodramatic closure of the previous album (“Utterance of the Fall of Man”) but instead sparks right into converging storms, crackling fires and an echoing shouts of agony and the gnashing of a transforming monstrosity. Vague foreshadowing for the aggressive technical death barrage to follow on “Sol’s Upheaval Debris”, a groove heavy and deeply growled start which immediately showcases the more violent and thickly layered side of Gramaglia‘s work without losing the broad-stroked movements that’d made past albums so repeatable. Around ~3:10 minutes into the piece the progression shifts, easing into cathedralesque organ and bopping bassline for an instant hit of dopamine and coloration for a piece that’d threatened to be all collision and sci-fi wailing to start. Of course the first thing most death metal die-hards will notice up front here is probably the performances from session drummer Giulio Galati (Hideous Divinity, Heaving Earth) whom proves to be the extra nudge into a “bigger” and most imposing soundscape for Cosmic Putrefaction beyond their previous full-length. He particularly shines on the groovier side of the album (“From Resounding Silence To The Obsidian Womb”, “Twisting Spirals in the Murk”) yet doesn’t end up overpowering the songcraft, acting as both a sturdy source of finesse and propulsion.
Side A concludes with an all-too obvious standout piece in “Amniotic Bewilderment”, the sort of song that starts out as a somewhat basic brutal death moderne progression ’til the big riff hits around 1:10 minutes in, foreshadowing the acoustic guitar assisted hook of the piece and its effects-washed guitar backdrop. This is just one of many gestures which appear simple in hindsight but nonetheless create a memorable thrill upon first encounter, and perhaps upon returning to the album for another listen since it is all (again) heavily layered and detailed. In fact as we roll right into “Lysergic Sulfuric Waters” this sense that Cosmic Putrefaction is perhaps better described as death metal for folks whom appreciate projects like The Ruins of Beverast moreso than a fellowe running with a popular sci-fi theme, probably because of the way each instrument is considered in place, set upon one another with sense for the experience of both discovering details and taking the wild ride. Side B doesn’t necessarily breathe as deeply as the second half of ‘The Horizons Towards Which Splendour Withers‘, if anything we are treated to more expressive vocalizations, increasing pace, more frequent lead guitar runs, and a general accumulation of minutiae to consider within the sort of apex flurry of “Cradle Wrecked, Curtains Unfurled”. There are enough memorable moments found within the greater bombast achieved by ‘Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones‘ that it’d stuck with me after each listen, although it’d always been for a different reason be it a larger rhythmic statement, a textural movement, or the truly fine bass guitar tone which has lost some of its Immolation-esque outer flab beyond the prior record and gained a more growling disposition on the best pieces, including the impressive closing piece and title track.
Outer-realm shot spectacle and spectacular musicianship aside there isn’t just one too-obvious element that makes ‘Crepuscular Dirge for the Blessed Ones‘ the finest release from Cosmic Putrefaction to date but rather several thousand smaller choices informing the immense impact its barrage amounts to. Gramaglia‘s vision clearly seeks to sate the artist’s ear with a high standard of presentation, composition, performance and artistic direction in mind but also his own taste in all manner of extreme metal vernacular. From mind-bending riffs to chest-kicking brutal-tech battery and space-cased prog-metallic guitar gearing up, there is something for every non-goofy modern day extremist skull herein, even reaching a level of clangor that tech-death fandom should appreciate, as such this record should hold some broad appeal. For my own taste it is a mountain of ideas which could be expanded in a thousand ways if the artist continues to focus on this level of quality in terms of riffcraft. A very high recommendation.
|TITLE:||Crepuscular Dirge For the Blessed Ones|
|LABEL(S):||Profound Lore Records|
|RELEASE DATE:||May 6th, 2022|
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