Cruor Deum – The Need For Theory

I had enormous doubts when I was asked to review this album. I knew that all Cruor Deum material (up until the very latest release) was composed using entirely synthesized instruments, and while I generally don’t complain about the way something’s composed, this really didn’t sit entirely right for me. Still doesn’t, in fact. When I listen to ‘The Need For Theory’, I find myself obsessively listening to the guitars-that-are-not-guitars and frantically think-screaming ‘SYNTHESIZED!’. That being said, no matter how bizarre the concept seems to me, I can’t deny the fact that what IS being synthesized is still better than a solid eighty percent of the music that comes out in metal today.

So, ignoring the nature of the instruments for a moment, let’s look at what we have here specifically. Cruor Deum’s music is a melodic variety of black/death metal that far exceeds most of the attempts of others to achieve the fusion of the genres. You see, the problem with most black/death groups is that they feel the need to equally represent the genres in all dimensions: they draw a chalk line down the center of a song and say, ‘Fifty percent black metal here, fifty percent death metal here, let’s put them together.’ This results, generally, in incredibly awkward, stilted music, where individual parts are ruined by retarded, nonsensical transitions between segments. Cruor Deum is different. Martin Gestranius feels no need to equally represent anything, obey any particular genre conventions, etc. Instead, he knows the music he wants to make and does whatever necessary to get there, whether it violates the perceived ‘purity’ of the genre or not. Ironically, this makes it a ‘purer’ form of music than most other bands, since it simply relies on songwriting instead of any sort of obedience to traditionalism.

The songwriting throughout this is pretty damned fantastic, all things considered. The riffs are all over the place and all extremely memorable and strong. Mid-paced death chugs, quick thrash triplets, melodic black metal tremolo; everything is represented here, each is present on nearly every track of the album, and each is incredibly powerful and developed. The melodies are extremely well developed, reminding one of dozens of bands but worshipping none of them, and never losing meaning despite how many riffs compose the music. The drum programming is also notably exceptional: lots of fills but no filler. They also sound like the most real thing here, amusingly enough, with a sound that’s actually very acoustic, apart from obvious exceptions like the hi-hat. Vocals are also very powerful, with reverbed, double-tracked growls taking the center stage, with an awfully demonic presence and sound about them. Even the lapses into clean vocals are tasteful, proud and unique.

The music is very good, very layered and complex, and very catchy. Of course, like you would expect, the sound of it is the problem. Drums are good, vocals are good: GUITARS. At best, the guitars sound vaguely realistic. At worst, you’re dealing with a notch above Guitar Pro, but this is really what you’re going to get with synthesized instrumentation, no matter how good it is. The high speed that most of the music is played at just exacerbates the issue, with the notes obviously being played too cleanly, too quickly, and changing pitch far too sharply to be real. It depends on how much it distracts you: when it comes to me, it’s a hell of a distraction that reduces my enjoyment of the music quite a bit. Yeah, I know to listen to the music instead of the sound, but sound is the way music is communicated, and can only be overcome to a certain degree. I love the music on this album; the riffs and songwriting are completely fantastic. But the overly synthetic sound really takes the whole presentation down a notch. Maybe I’m more obsessive about features like this, but even I find the sound quality to be a barrier that needs to be overcome. It’s clean, yeah, but it’s plasticky as hell.

Despite this, I really can’t deny that Cruor Deum has created a pretty awesome album in ‘The Need For Theory’. Whether you think you can stomach the synthesized instruments or not, you should give it a try: the entire album is free for download on the artists’ Soundclick page. So remember, listen to the music and not the sound. Unless you’re me.

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~ by noktorn on August 18, 2007.

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