Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cryptopsy - Cryptopsy

Released September 11th 2012 by Candlelight Records

Cryptopsy's self titled album is one of the year's most controversial topics in death metal. 4 years ago they released what has become one of the most universally hated albums in all of extreme metal, and one of the most blatant examples of a modern sellout album. The Unspoken King (more commonly referred to as The Unspoken Shit or The Unspoken Dong, take your pick) was perceived as an insult by the band's longtime fans, to the point where death threats against Mounier and the rest of the band were quite common. This was a much worse sellout than Metallica's Black Album. In terms of disappointment I'd rate it up there with the alltime shitstains like Discharge's Grave New World and Morbid Angel's Illud Divinum Insanus. I really can't remember the last time I've seen the metal community so ardently unite against and vehemently reject a band of Cryptopsy's status based on one album.

Luckily the The Unspoken Cock was a catastrophic failure, alienating and antagonizing old fans and failing to enthrall the Hot Topic crowd, which led Cryptopsy to take a step back and really evaluate where exactly they belonged in extreme metal. The self-titled album, despite the crappy artwork, stupid song names (and bad lyrics) and the continued presence of the prettyboy singer that 15 year old girls were supposed to swoon over, is an apology album from the fans' perspective. I think what really happened is that Jon Levasseur rejoined the band and wrote the entire album start to finish, which is why this is at the least their best album since the last complete album he wrote (And Then You'll Beg, 2000).

 The songs on "Cryptopsy" are most reminiscent of the Mike Disalvo albums musically. They are less rooted in the structural traditions of death metal that grounded and many would argue consummated None So Vile (NSV) and Blasphemy Made Flesh, but they are chaotic, sporadic and sound very much like the same band that made those albums. Post-NSV Cryptopsy has never been proficient at or really very concerned with constructing songs that are structurally coherent in a traditional sense, so a lot of what happens on this album feels rather random at times. Some fans enjoy this, others (me) care less for it. For example the third track "Red Skinned Scapegoat" features an actual jazz break about three quarters of the way through the song, which seems pretty cool until you start asking yourself why it's there and can't find a real answer. There are more similar moments on 'Cryptopsy' that will make you scratch your head if you try to think too hard about them, they just sort of exist to sound neat or technical or complicated, which is sort of what Post-NSV Cryptopsy was about anyway. I suppose I should admit right now that NSV and BMF are where my heart lies with this band, and 'Cryptopsy' doesn't really try to emulate those albums. It retains certain rhythmic aspects and riffing techniques that are reminiscent of NSV, but in terms of melody, atmosphere and arrangement it's quite a lot different and those who are predominantly instrumentally inclined will be the most likely to enjoy the compositions here.

The production of the guitars is decent, but there was too much high end frequency cut from the guitar; this album doesn't possess the razor sharp sound of the tremolo picking from previous albums which is probably one of the band's most recognizable sonic signatures. Everything else sounds about like what you'd expect on a modern death metal album. There's a fair amount of compression, the drums sound like everyone else's drums except they're being played by someone with a severe case of ADHD (not really a bad thing, although there are times you wonder if the songs would fit together better if he'd just chill the fuck out and keep time for the instruments or enunciate with his snare like he did so well on previous albums). The best sounding thing about the album is the bass guitar, which is consistently audible and expertly played.

Probably the most controversial decision Cryptopsy made in recording this album, beyond having Christian Donaldson produce it (he was responsible for TUK sounding like shit even before you considered the music they were playing), was keeping Matt Whatshisface in the band as the vocalist. As Mike Disalvo and Martin Lacroix learned before him, filling the shoes of a guy named Lord Worm is pretty much impossible, never mind if you were the cute centerpiece of a deathcore sellout album made for 16 year olds. I'm sure Whatshisface still sounds like small woodland creatures being raped to old school Cryptopsy fans on this album, but to everyone else and the people like me who stopped caring a long time ago, he now sounds pretty much exactly like Sven de Caluwe of Aborted. It's not my favorite vocal style, but it isn't poorly done (or produced) either. There are no clean vocals and there's not a lot of his high register showcased here, it's mostly a lower inhale scream which is done pretty well. His rhythmic delivery is pretty standard (like Disalvo) and he lacks the theatricality of Worm, and while maybe I would call the vocals boring, I wouldn't call them bad or imply they bring the album down on their own like a lot of other reviewers have suggested.

'Cryptopsy' doesn't really do much in the way of pacing, there are no extended interludes or interlude songs or even any songs that aren't completely fucking spastic. Luckily the band knows not to overstay its welcome, and the album is only 8 tracks and about 35 minutes long. Once you start going past 30 minutes on a death metal record you start testing the listener's patience, you either better be writing a masterpiece (and a masterpiece this is not) or something epic in nature that implicitly contracts a listener's attentiveness for over a half hour, so to me ending this album in 8 tracks is one of the smartest decisions the band made.

In terms of what I know about modern technical death metal, 'Cryptopsy" is a solid return to form for the band. I consider this album superior to (obviously) The Unspoken Turd, Once Was Not (which I didn't hate as much as others did), And Then You'll Beg, and perhaps even Whisper Supremacy, but after that there's the still a huge gap between this and the first two albums. Compared to other bands playing "technical death metal" (enclosed in quotes because who knows what the fuck that really means) I do prefer Cryptopsy's style which comes off more interesting than masturbatory, in contrast to a lot of the other death metal out there that seems more concerned with being technical than being death metal. Still though, this is far from the pinnacle even within its own subgenre, I'd refer someone to Spawn of Possession long before I'd refer this album if they were asking for "tech death" recommendations, but it is better than most of the shit being released. Personally I'm just not the biggest fan of this kind of music - it lacks pretty much any form of blasphemy, darkness, morbidity, and all of the other things I listen to death metal to hear. However, like a crack addict who just hit rock bottom, Cryptopsy needs some positive encouragement after destroying their fanbase and failing to cash in on their attempted sellout. The attempt at an apology on this album is genuine, and while I can't say I really love this album, it's even more difficult to say that it sucks when you compare it to other technical death metal releases this year.

Grade: B-

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