By Matt Hinch
The fact that Cryptopsy has been around for 20 years now brings to mind two things. The first being that 20 years ago was 1992! That really doesn’t seem like 20 years ago. I was just starting high school! The second, I missed out on a large part of Cryptopsy’s career. But there just isn’t enough time in the day to catch up. With that, I approached Cryptopsy with relatively fresh ears. At the very least, ears that will make no comparison to None So Vile. Cryptopsy’s last album, 2008’s The Unspoken King, was met with widespread criticism (including from yours truly) due in large part – if not completely – to vocalist Matt McGachy‘s use of clean vocals. Fear not! No clean vocals! It seems these Montreal metal veterans have realized the error of their ways and served up a vicious, and delicious, tech-death feast.
McGachy’s vocals mostly lie in the guttural. Picture a giant pre-historic boar choking on its own blood. Yet occasionally he’ll slip into a more shriek/scream which is very effective. That voice might not work for a whole album, but mixing it in to create more of a vocal dynamic is not unwelcome. As it is, McGachy’s brutality is a treat and thankfully he doesn’t fall into the pig-squeal trap. Guitarists Jon Levasseur and Christian Donaldson lead the blistering attack with jaw-dropping proficiency. I’m generally not fond of uber-technicality but there are exceptions to the rule. Levasseur and Donaldson are able to showcase their prodigious talents within the context of the songs. The complexity of the riffs is far from overwhelming. This is no all out shred-fest. The speed is balanced by headbangable parts and the requisite soloing. There must be something in the waters of the St. Lawrence up Montreal way to consistently produce such amazing musicians. Speaking of which, the (poly)rhythm section of new bassist Olivier Pinard and lone consistent member, drummer Flo Mounier is phenomenal. Mounier’s machine-like precision and unabashed speed make for a perfect compliment to the album’s technical nature. He does not allow himself to be overshadowed by the talents of the other members. Perhaps the instrument most overlooked, especially in metal, is the bass. Pinard flips a middle finger at that notion. His playing is tight, elastic and edgy all at the same time. Not necessarily a superstar lineup as far as names go but most definitely all stars in the talent department.
Talent doesn’t mean jack unless you write good songs and none of Cryptopsy’s eight tracks is considered a dud. Far from straightforward, opener “Two Pound Torch” sets the tone for the album. Despite a number of abrupt changes, the parts circle back around resembling traditional song structure. But there’s nothing so formal as verse-chorus-verse to be found here. “Shag Harbour’s Visitors” flies by. Sheer velocity being its most noteworthy attribute. Otherwise brilliant, “Red-Skinned Scapegoat” and “Damned Draft Dodgers” both feature my only real sticking point with the album: jazz interludes. Both are mercifully short but that only accentuates how unnecessary they are. A couple of bruisers in the way of “Amputated Enigma” and “The Golden Square Mile” bring some power to the heart of the order. In my opinion, Cryptopsy saved the best tracks for last with “Ominous” and “Cleansing the Hosts”. It’s Pinard’s time to shine on “Ominous”. The bass is clearly audible in the mix and a couple times, everything drops away leaving only Pinard ripping away. Closer “Cleansing the Hosts” is a balls-out beast. The few noodly bits serve as accents rather than advertisements. As the closing track, it’s a sprint to the finish leaving nothing behind.
I admit when Cryptopsy first crossed my desktop I was hesitant. The clean vocals (and keyboards) of The Unspoken King left a sour taste in my mouth. Not knowing what I was getting myself in to, this self-titled rejuvenation far exceeded any expectations I had. Growing on me with every listen, Cryptopsy is becoming one of the most enjoyable death metal releases of 2012. Now we just have to wait to see if the rats that abandoned ship four years ago are willing to climb back aboard.
Cryptopsy is set to be released on September 11, 2012 and is available for preorder at cryptopsyofficial.bandcamp.com