Not many bands polarise death metal opinions in quite the same way as these Canadians, do they? Their history is littered with in-fighting between fans, first over Mike DiSalvo’s appointment (sanctioned by prior vocalist and fan-favourite Lord Worm, yet still a contentious choice due to his less extreme style), then over the band’s last album The Unspoken King. For the record, I liked it – sure, it wasn’t a tour-de-force by any stretch, but I felt that the clean vocals and stripped-back style actually suited the band fairly well.
There’s good news for long-time Cryptopsy fans on this release – Jon Levasseur has returned from his self-imposed exile from extreme music, AND there’s no sign of the much-maligned clean singing from McGachy this time around. In fact, I reckon that Cryptopsy is the true return to form that we’ve all been waiting for – here’s why.
When I (and many others, I’m sure) think of Cryptopsy, what comes to mind is savage, technical death metal, and that is exactly what this latest release packs almost to excess. Reuniting Levasseur’s skin-stripping riffs with Flo Meunier’s hyper-kinetic, jazz-inflected percussive assault proves to be the magic recipe. For 35 minutes of dizzying, athletic musical battery, Cryptopsy go a long way towards reestablishing their credentials as one of the world’s premier death metal bands. All the elements – warpspeed attack, skull-shattering chugs, jazzy musical asides, terrifying bursts of lead guitar technique – that made them so essential at the tail-end of the last century are present and correct and delivered through a weighty, clear modern production that serves to force every blastbeat and squalling, shrieking solo directly into the centre of your forehead.
What it’s always been about, the Cryptopsy appeal, is contrast. What makes too much death metal a chore, particularly the newer stuff, is a lack of dynamics – so often, bands get caught up in the pace and technicality of what they’re attempting to do to the detriment of the songs. Understanding that each composition is its own entity with its own requirements to make it breathe and live, using melody (however twisted) where necessary to deepen the impact of the more brutal passages, having the experience to know that faster doesn’t always mean heavier and leveraging pure musical skill to enable on-a-sixpence dynamic and melodic shifts are all Cryptopsy‘s stock-in-trade and they display their craft expertly throughout this album. The only possible fly in the ointment is, sadly, Matt McGachy.
He’s perfectly acceptable, don’t get me wrong – some great vocal parts in places even – but I can’t shake the feeling that a more unique vocalist would lift this record from ‘very good’ to ‘great’. In songs like ‘Red-Skinned Scapegoat’ there are sections where someone like Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation/Murder Construct) would inject SO much extra personality into their voice – McGachy is (ironically, given the whining about his versatility last time out) just a bit, well, monotone. The fact that even this can’t detract too badly from what is otherwise a viciously-executed, top of the class death metal album speaks volumes as to the overall quality of this release. Welcome back, Cryptopsy – you’ve been missed.