Cardinal Wyrm’s Devotionals can be described as heavy, intricate, driving, progressive, and genre bending music that seeks to tell a story. The album features Pranjal Tiwari (S.C.R.A.M.) on drums and lead vocals, Nathan A. Verrill (Terebellum, Fyrhtu) on guitars and backing vocals, and Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Terebellum, Hammers Of Misfortune, Fyrhtu) playing bass and providing additional vocals.
The follow-up to their Svart Records-released 2016 album Cast Away Souls, Devotionals was recorded and mixed by Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios (Necrot, Vastum, Brainoil) and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Obituary, Sunn O))), Vastum). The album is completed with cover artwork by Kim Holm, photography by Michael Thorn and Amy Oshit, and layout/design by Shelby Lermo.
With this release, “We wanted to go back to our DIY roots,” says drummer and vocalist Pranjal Tiwari. “One of the reasons we liked the title Devotionals is because it evokes that DIY spirit. This is a collection of songs for the faithful, for our community of people devoted to staying independent, to creating the music and art that we want, in our own spaces, and growing in our ability to channel from deep within. It often feels like we share a devotion to something that seems hopeless and is constantly under attack. But at the root of it all, there’s a fanatical belief in pulling off what other people think is impossible, and we wanted to go back and draw from that in making this album.”
Lyrically and thematically, Devotionals also goes back to the roots of storytelling that has always been at the heart of the band. Every song on this album is a story, a tale, a parable, tapping into various strands of mythology both old and new. Take the song Mrityunjaya for example. “The title means ‘death conqueror,’ and it’s a term associated with the story of Karna from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata,” says Tiwari. “Karna is such a great character, rejected at birth by those who should have raised him and cared for him, but realising his life’s potential through loyalty and love to those who took him in, eventually fighting against his blood relatives to defend his true family. This song is very loosely based on Karna, but reimagining him as an actual stray wolf that finds a pack to run with, probably because we all love rescue dogs so much. The tracks Canticle and Abbess are both stories about false promises. Canticle is the age-old tale of meeting the devil at the crossroads, told from the point of view of the devil making the listener an offer. Abbess is about being seduced by a mirage, and the fear of being forgotten.”
The final song on the album, Do We Have Another Battle Left In Us? is both a question and a rallying cry. Old friends gather and raise drinks to remember the trials they’ve shared and overcome. They toast to all they have loved and lost and those that remain. On the horizon, the enemy recoups their forces and presses forward. Our friends stand, lay hands on their weapons and wonder if they still have the strength to draw them again. “I think right now in the world, everyone is tired, physically and mentally, especially after the year that 2020 has been, and faced with a future that seems so hopeless. It’s a genuine question at this point – can we, do we want to keep going? It’s terrifying, but also thrilling to face that head on, and to forge your own path into the future.”
Cardinal Wyrm has similarly forged their own path, evolving, and progressing from their first release, Another Holy Trinity, through Black Hole Gods, and Cast Away Souls, to this current offering. Devotionals continues this spiritual journey into new lands. Tiwari continues, “The riffs and song structures are a bit more intricate. The overall feel is one of shorter and more driving bursts, and dare I say the whole thing is not fast, but just a little bit faster than before. As one of the lines in Nightmarchers proclaims, ‘this beast has a bite.’ There’s also a few different influences evident on this record, some prog, psych, and maybe even nineties noise rock. We wanted to just be open to creating a record that sounded like the sum of the band, rather than sticking to genre conventions.”
The roots of the band, however, are still in doom metal. “To me this is still absolutely a doom record, our band has always been rooted in the doom sub-genre. But it’s more just its own thing. I think we can just call it a Cardinal Wyrm record.”