Cardinal Wyrm’s trad doom dashed with darkness on eerie new record ‘Black Hole Gods’

Cardinal WyrmPlay classic-minded doom metal sharply with no tongue in cheek, and I will gladly hear what your band is up to. Do that and add some classic storytelling and evil, creepy dark elements, and I’ll follow you even further. It’s a simple formula, really, and if done right, it will get me every time. I’m not that easy to please, either, but bands that can do these things always have a place in my wheelhouse.

That takes us to Cardinal Wyrm, a band that churns out doom metal as if it was the late 1980s or early 1990s, and their new, second record “Black Hole Gods” is a spectacular one. This band does their thing in such a pleasing, honest-to-goodness way, I can’t help but genuflect in their presence. Heaviness, melody, tales of grime, blood, and death, and cleanly sung vocals that truly bellow all are included in this package, and if you’re a fan of bands such as Candlemass, The Reverend Bizarre, Solitude Aeternus, and Argus, you’ll like love the hell out of what’s going on here. And what you’ll find are eight killer tracks led by this trio that sound honest, properly aged, and classic, and there is so much character and charisma packed into these black odes, you’ll find no other choice than to don a cloak (assuming you have one of those handy), light a candelabra, and indulge in a dark, strong ale so that these songs can have their proper effect on your mind.

Cardinal Wyrm coverAs noted, but three dark souls are behind this band–drummer/vocalist Pranjal Tiwari, who you will not be able to ignore for even a second; guitarist Nathan Verill; and bassist Rachel Roomian. The great Leila Abdul-Rauf (Hammers of Misfortune, Vastum) provides backing vocals on the record, providing yet another powerhouse of a performer. Another added touch to this band is that they are rough around the edges. There isn’t a million pounds of polish on this record, warts are allowed to show, and the band revels in the ugliness that comprises them. All of these things adds more grit and charm to what this band does, and they let you know they are honest with their artistic presentation and ready to drag you on a nightmare of a journey that just might cost you your head. You are warned.

“Deep Within” opens with some crunch, classic doom strains, and a warning from Tiwari, “There is a song no one else can hear.” It makes you think something mysterious is going on beneath the surface, and once you move your way through the rest of “Black Hole Gods,” you’ll find that’s true. “Dreams of Teeth” is the first epic of many longer cuts on this album, and it has a dark, even gothic feel to it, with the vocals absolutely bellowing. There’s a nice, graceful classic doom spirit to the song, and that’s later undercut by some growling, which you only get in spots on this record. That way when they strike, you really pay attention. The cut goes back and forth from glorious to savage, and it has a damn compelling final couple minutes. “Born in a Barren Land” runs 12:38, and it gets off to a faster, heavier start than much of what precedes it. This one’s a violent storyteller that grips you and holds on through the duration, over more harsh growls, some fantastic soloing by Verill that really sticks in you, and eventually some slow-driving madness and mud to grind you into the dirt. “Warden of the Swans” is the shortest song on here at 2:55, and it’s a mix of eerie, liturgical-sounding organs and Tiwari’s ghostly vocal transmissions. It’s damn chilly, and it’s a nice set-up for the second half.

“Leaves of This Hanging Tree” is massive and emotionally devastating, with the doom pots boiling a little slower and really letting the steam build up. The pace lumbers along, the heat is just sweltering, and the vocals sound like they were scraped from deep within the belly and tossed out for all to see in its ugliness. The pace picks up about halfway through, as the band starts clubbing you, and some shrieks settle in to work alongside the melodic singing. “I Am the Doorway” has apocalyptic visions, sinister guitar work, and some dissonant terror that really puts a chill up your spine. The song gets thrashy and mean in parts, and it has a downright thunderous finish. “Cult of Spoiled Spine” has some tasty rock-centric guitar work at the front end, and much of the song heads into more of faster tempo. There’s a cool psychedelic finish, some keyboards lurking behind all of the punishment, and more razor-sharp guitar work. “The Outlier” caps off the record perfectly, with a dark, evil-sounding approach to the music, organs spilling all over like they were cut from a giant’s belly, and another heavy dose of great riffs, of which this band has no shortage. “Waiting, watching,” Tiwari howls, almost like he’s watching behind a door, dagger in hand, ready to pounce. The band hits on a pocket of mind-altering repetition before they start winding down and dropping the curtain on this set of tales.

Cardinal Wyrm’s classic doom and dark emanations are wholly satisfying to a guy like me who enjoys when this type of music can be delivered in a pure, yet gritty manner. “Black Hole Gods” is a fun record, a mean one, and a collection that could have you going back for more, trying to uncover each nasty layer. This is a tremendous band that’s just beginning to make its mark, and anyone who takes a ride with “Black Hole Gods” can get in on the basement level and ride to bloody gory alongside them.

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