Occult, dark, oppressive, obscure, punishing, etc. there are lots of words used to describe the sound created by some of the latest Death Metal acts all over the world. Truth of the matter is that INCANTATION and IMMOLATION developed a unique sound back in the 90s that impacted the world like a storm, that genre that was born in New York was untouched and kept in a safe for over 2 decades. Then in 2008 young bands started to pay attention to those early works created by the masters from New York, and from that lesson learned a new wave of bands absorbed that INCANTATION vibe and applied to their own signature sound to create this elite squad of underground Death Metal acts going deep in the abyss searching for the unknown. Lots of acts have created some outstanding works of sinister art with their albums, EPs and demos. Bands like DEAD CONGREGATION, NECROS CHRISTOS, GRAVE MIASMA, ZOM, VORUM, etc. have released true gems of macabre, twisted and emotional music that changed the way Death Metal was seen, written an executed in the last decade. CRUCIAMENTUM is a band that has always ranked very high among the top of its genre. After several demos, EPs and splits, the band started to work on their first full length album, and in 2015 it was unleashed upon the masses. And what a magnificent album it is! So we contacted vocalist / guitarist D. L. and asked him to tell us a bit about the path they have walked that lead to the “Charnel Passages”…
Let’s talk a little bit about the history behind CRUCIAMENTUM. How and when did the band was put together?
"I formed the band in 2007 because I was tired of the plastic, soulless Death Metal which was so prevalent at the time. I wanted to play Death Metal in the old vein – heavy, dark and oppressive, but with its own character rather than as a tribute act to a bygone era. The first line-up didn’t last long and we only recorded one demo, the line-up which recorded "Convocation Of Crawling Chaos" came into being around 2008. Shortly after that we signed to Nuclear Winter Records and we released "Engulfed In Desolation" and a split 7” with VASAELETH in 2011. We signed to Profound Lore Records and released our first full length album, "Charnel Passages" this year."
All fans and followers know you all play in other active bands, how do you split your other band’s writing and tour time to work on CRUCIAMENTUM?
"We currently live around 300 miles apart from each other so a lot of writing is done alone and then the songs are structured and completed in the rehearsal room. Because rehearsals are fairly infrequent CRUCIAMENTUM doesn’t impose too heavily upon the busier member’s schedules. Gigs and tours are usually on a first come, first served basis so unfortunately we have had to turn down live opportunities in the past."
Your first demo "Rotten Flesh Crucifix" was released by yourself back in 2008, and then in 2009 your second demo "Convocation Of Crawling Chaos" was released again by the band for a later re-release by Nuclear Winter Records on 2011. What was different from your first to your second demo in terms of progress and songwriting?
"The first demo was recorded in about four or five hours of studio down time, we were obviously rushed so the performances and sound are well below standard. This demo served more as a studio test run and to provide a recording for us to use to establish a full line-up with rather than as an “official” demo. Though the majority of the material for "Convocation Of Crawling Chaos" (our second demo) was written during the period of the first line-up, the demo marks the formation of a much more solid and capable line-up. That demo showcased an all round better, more focused and confident band than the previous incarnation."
In 2011 you worked again with Nuclear Winter Records for the release of your first official EP "Engulfed In Desolation" (ranked in the Top 10 for 2011 at Voices From The Darkside). How was it to work again with Nuclear Winter Records?
"NWR were a pleasure to work with and my only complaint is that they’re not around anymore. A.V. did a lot to help us out in our early days, always, honest, realistic and easy to communicate with! Hails to him!"
In 2011 you also worked with Hell’s Headbangers for the release of a split EP with VASAELETH entitled "Eroding Chaos Unto Ascendant Flesh", how was it to release an EP with one of the top underground labels in America and worldwide?
"I’ve nothing in particular to say about the experience as we had little communication with the label."
You have collaborated (still do) with a bunch of important people in the underground scene. Anastasis, Daniel Corcuera, Juanjo Catellano, Greg Chandler, etc. What have you learned from working with all of them?
"This is a difficult question to answer, dealings with these individuals have all been different, they’re different personalities and they played different roles. I couldn’t say that we have really learned from any of these people though, we knew what we wanted and employed them because they had the skills and talents to achieve it. I could say as a sound engineer myself I learned from our time in the studio, but people external to the four individuals behind CRUCIAMENTUM haven’t influenced our music."
Now let’s talk about your first full length album, the fantastic "Charnel Passages". There are lots of questions surrounding this album, let’s start with one of the most important among the fans. Why wait almost 8 years to release your first full length album?
"We weren’t in any rush to put something out for the sake of it. Inspiration strikes when it does and we started to record the album when it was ready to be recorded."
"Charnel Passages" is a very different record compared to what CRUCIAMENTUM released before musically wise. How was the writing process for this album?
"I see it as more of a development on the foundations of “Engulfed In Desolation”; it’s more diverse, complex and immersive. The album format gave us room to explore more space and to give a more cohesive flow, rather than EPs which could sound disjointed next to each other. The actual writing process was no different than for any other release, usually songs formed as demos and then shaped together in the rehearsal room. More of this album was written in jam sessions than before and some parts of songs were written around drum compositions which was a first for us, but on the whole there wasn’t anything too unusual for us in the process."
First time I played the album I felt a more mature and obscure force surrounded the execution and overall sound of the record. What was the approach you were looking for this album?
"The progression was natural, nothing was forced. We knew we wanted to expand on the foundations laid with "Engulfed In Desolation", but we never had specific plan. The only aim for CRUCIAMENTUM is to create violent yet creative and cathartic music, and to me at least "Charnel Passages" is our highest achievement of this yet."
R.B. was added to the band for this recording and as a full time member, did the addition of a new member changed the way you wrote and executed the music for this new album?
"He’s been in the band for a long time now serving as a live member for some years before he joined as a full time member, so he’s actually been in the band longer than our original bassist was. Writing together was completely natural, he has a very different approach to playing bass than B.C (our original bassist) and a contrasting style of writing to my own, and yet has a natural feel for what the music is supposed to convey so he certainly added a new dimension to the compositions."
"Charnel Passages" was released by Profound Lore, one of the heavyweight labels right now. How was it you ended up signing with them for the release of this record?
"We had known Chris for a good many years and he had expressed an interest to work with us from early on. With a friendship already established it made sense to work together, as we would rather work with a friend who likes our music than a bigger label boss who just wants to exploit us for what they can get."
I always try to go a bit further in detail from a musicianship perspective for all the gear freaks out there. Did you use different guitars, tunings, effects and / or amps for this record compared to what you have used before?
"We’ve always tried to use our own gear as much as possible in recording, and we had invested a lot into equipment in between "Engulfed…" and "Charnel Passages". Previously we had used an original Peavey 5150, but for the album both myself and R.C. had upgraded to the EVH 5150 III which we used for the rhythm guitars and double tracked it with my 1984 Marshall JCM 800 2203. The leads were a combination of Engl Powerball, Marshall and a few different pedals. Guitars and Bass are BC Rich and Jackson."
I hear a very open sounding production this time around, different from your previous releases, was it something you wanted to do before or was it something you wanted to achieve specifically for this record?
"Really the main difference is in the bass, previously B.C. had used extremely distorted bass, but R.B. decided to use a slightly cleaner sound with more emphasis on the attack. With the bass dominating less room in the mix it really gave the guitars and drums more room to breathe. We did decide that with the music becoming faster and more complex we needed to slightly clean up the sound without sacrificing any atmosphere."
Any worldwide tour plans for the promotion of "Charnel Passages", maybe playing America next year?
"We’re embarking on a short tour of Europe with CORPSESSED this November, after that we’re trying to organise another short Scandinavian tour next year. We’ve no plans for the US yet, but welcome any offers!"
I know everyone ask the same question about the future plans for the band, so I’ll try to point to a specific direction. What are your goals for 2016?
"We’ve already started working on a couple of new songs. We hope to tour more and if we continue to be as productive as we are at the moment, perhaps even record again at the end of the year."
I want to play a quick game with you, if that’s ok. It always helps to know a bit more about the bands we admire on a personal level. If you could tour with one of your favourite bands, which one would it be?
"MORBID ANGEL. With the return of Tucker I’m sure they’ll be a force to be reckoned with again!" When the band is not playing or on tour, what do you do? Do you have day jobs?
"We all work day jobs and outside of them we enjoy further fuelling our musical addictions, art, literature, and of course whiskey and women!"
What was the last album you bought / listened that you really enjoyed?
"Most recently I’ve acquired and regularly span albums such as: DOOMBRINGER – "The Grand Sabbath”, PREMIATA FORNERIA MARCONI – "The World Became The World”, ANNEX – "Después De Vi” and THRONEUM – "Death Throne Entities”."
The high praise for "Charnel Passages" will leave a mark upon CRUCIAMENTUM, what do you think about the reactions so far?
"The reactions so far have been extremely positive. I’ve seen a fair share of the “I like the demo more” comments which are fine, but overall we’ve been surprised at how positive it’s been!"
I think we will see "Charnel Passages" making it to lots of Top 10 lists for 2015. What other records do you think deserve to be there with you.
"The last albums from MEFITIC, STARGAZER, PISSGRAVE, SHAPE OF DESPAIR, TYRANNY and demos from BLOOD URN and VACIVUS are all very worthy. I’m sure the new SKEPTICISM album will rank up there as well when it arrives!"
Does all the fans (including me) will need to wait for a long time to get a second album from CRUCIAMENTUM?
"If a second album should occur, it will take even longer, yes."
Any last words or thoughts you want to share?
"Thanks for the the interview and for your support! Anyone wanting to get in touch for bookings or merch can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org."
Interview: Mauricio "Rusty" Sanchez
Photos by: Simon Ward, Jack Latimer and Amanda Brown