Heavy music fans regularly reach for their favorite black metal records during the snow-filled months of winter. The motherlands of its inception and frigid sounds/atmospheres utilized through the past few decades have regularly offered cold comfort to our inner blizzard beasts. The first wave of black metal bands, however, often provided a sound with a more lively heat due to their style of live recording through crackling equipment. Those early works were rife with a youthful vigor that ignited a fire in those bands in frozen lands, which would take those early influences and wrap them in the wintry sounds of wailing winds that come from beyond the north.
Much of the joy you’ll feel listening to Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults is a result of the band playing the album entirely live together. There’s a natural rawness that mixes with the previously mentioned youthful exuberance, despite the band’s 18-year existence, to make for an exciting experience.
The album kicks off with the title track and opens with a lengthy sample that sets your mind to the mode of a classic black and white horror movie. From there, the song transitions to some delightfully spooky, almost cheesy, keys that end up dropping you into a classic black metal cum thrash riff that builds through repetition and throws in a squeal or two for good measure. Around the 4:45 mark, you’re treated to the first of three guitar leads and this one gallops along the track of traditional metal so well that you’re just waiting for a twin guitar to answer back. As the lead winds down, a drum and bass section opens the song up for some strong guttural vocals before a guitar slide announces the return to madness in the form of wobbly, noisy lead number two. The remainder of the track follows pulsing drums and excellent guitar accents that dance around the rhythms before firing off one final finger-flaying solo.
Each of the other remaining seven songs follows a very similar structure with slight variations to emphasize different elements. The three greatest strengths of Caedes Cruenta are the keys (Nyotha), the duel vocal attack (Nyogtha and Echetleos) and the guitar leads (Echetleos and Wrykolas). Due to their sparing use and perfectly timed inclusion, the keyboards are top-notch as they balance between a charming brand of Castlevania and the haunted “woooo” you would expect of a Scooby-Doo ghost. In a song like “From the Darkest Paths of Golgotha” the role of the keys is as simple as holding a single long note in the back that shifts up in pitch with each press to help build toward the climax the rest of the musicians are working toward. “Recitation of Abyssic Necroplasms,” however, offers Nyogtha his chance to shine with a keyboard and fake horns intro that pushes past two minutes.
The primary vocal attack is a strained higher pitch that almost has a pubescent crack to its brand of torment and is countered by a strong guttural that always seems to appear right when you need it. The approach to guitar leads is firmly announced with the absolutely electric triplet set that appears in the title track. Unfortunately, not every song is blessed with blazing fretwork and most of those tracks are a little weaker for it.
Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults is sort of a peculiar record because the title track is the only fully original piece on it. The other seven songs are all re-recorded versions of past songs featured on EPs, splits and even other full-length albums. That aspect is where a few cracks in the quality show. Many of the riffs – particularly those that open several songs – come across as slight variations of the same idea. When each of these songs were surrounded by fewer competitors, I’m not sure this would be as noticeable. The same can be said for the general approach to song structure. Your decision to label this a thematic choice that gives the band a set sound or to decry it as a factor of a more rudimentary approach to writing will likely depend on your enjoyment of the product Caedes Cruenta has created.
In addition to the title track, the two best songs are “Recitation of Abyssic Necroplasms” and “The Wizard of Yaddith,” which isn’t particularly surprising since these came from their most recent EP and split respectively. These three tracks show a greater ability to have the guitars color the song outside just the riff, incorporate moments that simply rock and otherwise showcase a greater number of top-quality leads.
If you were to look at this album as a best-of live album for current fans or a career cross-section to introduce the band to newcomers, perhaps you can put a bit less pressure on your listening experience. Regardless of the repetitive nature of the music at hand, Of Ritual Necrophagia and Mysterious Ghoul Cults provides ample delightful moments that are at once brilliant black metal simplicity and throwback cheese that can make any fan smile.