Although modest in length, clocking in under 20 minutes, this EP released by Muknal in 2012 is a real gem for fans of underground black and death metal. The first track, Cruciation, is chock full of tremolo riffs and wicked pick sliding. These caustic musical elements, juxtaposed over atmospheric and haunting vocals, results in an expansive and dissonant soundscape. The shifts in tempo and key are natural and flow well, but it makes it difficult to tell when one song ends and the next begins. The musical style is defined by an aura of eerie tension and unease. Although the lyrics are delivered in an indicipherable growl, the songs invoke a sense of awe, wonder, and fear of the unknown.
The band derives their name from the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves in Belize, an ancient site rich in human remains and artifacts, suggesting a history of ritual sacrifice. The album art is clearly also inspired by these caves. I'm no artist, but I know some bitchin' contrast of positive and negative space when I see it. The soft glowing orbs in and around the cavern resemble stars, superimposing earthly rock formations with the vastness of the celestial. The cover art reflects the music: A paradox of aesthetic sophistication with raw, primal forces of nature.
From a technical point of view, the production quality is decent, and the musicianship rivals many other black metal bands. There are no clean vocals or sweeping orchestral arrangements to differentiate them from the rest of the blackened death metal crowd. Weirdly enough, their lack of novelty actually IS a novelty. If you like your metal TRVE, heavy, and purely dark, this will scratch your itch. Three stars out of five.