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When it was finally hashed out that Lord Worm would be returning to his alma mater of atrocities, I'm sure a lot of people were silently praying for a None So Vile 2.0. That is not at all what happened, and the resulting Once Was Not is just as strange as anything else they've recorded, if not more so. But I have to hand it to Cryptopsy: I might not 'like' this album very much, but I admire their audacity to continue experimenting, and at least with this fifth disc, they didn't end up insulting anyone's intelligence as with the laughable And Then You'll Beg. Once Was Not is more or less a joyless attempt at creating an avant-garde death metal record not unlike Gorguts' Obscura. It's not entirely sure what it wants to be, and I felt like the latter half of the record proved far more compelling than the former, but at least it's conceptually and musically more coherent than its predecessor, and it bravely fuses influences from other niches into the core Cryptopsy aesthetics, without totally screwing the pooch.
Although Jon Levasseur contributed to the rather forgettable intro "Luminum", this was the one album in their catalog where it just wasn't his show. So the most overt mutation here is the boxier, drier guitar tone. Less saturated than prior albums, but it has a lot of rip and zip to it when Alex Auburn is flying up and down the frets.When compiled into a trudging, jarring or mechanically dissonant groove, the rhythm patterns often felt reminiscent of (proper) metalcore acts like Burnt by the Sun or Coalesce (like the chugging breakdown in "The Frantic Pace of Dying") which was something new to the Canadians, especially as its paired up with a lot of more traditional death metal riffing. Granted, a lot of the guitar progressions, especially in earlier cuts like "Carrionshine" or "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky is Mortal", are total dullards, regardless of how unhinged, dynamically varied, or slamming they become. The oddity of the songwriting doesn't necessarily work out in their favor, especially compared to something like Obscura which is so much more adept at 'getting it right'. As you move further into the track list, with cuts like "The Curse of the Great" or "The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness (Psalm 91 - 5-8)", you start to hear more of that classic Crytopsy death propulsion arrive into the riffing selections, and it becomes far more interesting and effective, while retaining this arid production.
Arguably, "The Pestilence..." is the real standout on this album, because the airier sludge/Neurosis chord melodies really take you by surprise, especially with Worm barking his schizoid narrations. Speaking of whom, he was back in full ghastly splendor, weaving his interesting lyrics with the usual poetic license. His grueling barks and growls were still nothing incredibly interesting, but it's a landslide victory over DiSalvo on the fourth record, and his ability to pen titles and lyrics that immediately catch the imagination (more than the music) was very much missing from both Whisper Supremacy and its followup. I wish more bands would take such risks in this department, or just have Lord Worm write for them, because it's compelling to the degree that were I to rate this record on the prose alone, it would receive a far higher score. Yet, sadly, Cryptopsy would go down an entirely opposite route with the next album, investing in a more metalcore slash hardcore/personal sensibility which was rather a bummer. That said, I must admit that apart from his garish attempts to spew vomit and lumbricus terrestris all over the songs, his vocals were average.
Along with the guitar tone, the drums and bass here also took on a different tone than the earlier discs. Éric Langlois' playing remained dizzying and acrobatic, with lots of slappy and pluggy sounding rhythms, but it was a bit deeper in pitch and occasionally got lost under the rhythm/lead sequences, a shame because he's often performing something more interesting than that rhythm guitar. Mounier, who has long been the chief selling point for this band, is incorporated at monstrous levels of volume, his beats constantly crashing and colliding throughout the death, grind and -core progressions. His presence is always furious to the point of confusion, but this record is simply loaded with fills. In fact I often felt as if this was a batch of Flo Mounier drum solo recordings over which the rest of the band filled in riffs and lyrics. Sometimes, it's just a little too much, and while 'more' is the man's bread and butter, it's not necessarily 'better'. The leads, too, are a bit tactless and showy, Auburn tearing all over his strings with patterns that remind me at times of Pestilence and Nocturnus in their heydays, classical-fusion-infused; just not always catchy in the context of this music.
This is pretty goddamn experimental, all told. Tribal drums, funkier cleaner guitars, slight black metal textures in some of the more explosive riffing. Fuck, they've even got an exotic, hippie-like drum circle instrumental called "The End", all that's missing is a Ravi Shankar guest spot... For the first time, Cryptopsy are even incorporating orchestration, in the track "Angelskingarden" (what a title) with its sweeping, atmospheric synth intro and the choir tones coming in under the lead. No surprise, this is another of the gems inhabiting the later moments of the record. "Endless Cemetery" and "Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy" are also packed with ideas, if not the most memorable selections. One really has to wonder why the decision was made to open up with the least impressive material. It really sapped my interest level, but it does give Once Was Not the impression of a flower that slowly unfolds to keep hooking the listener along. Had the actual catchiness of the rhythm guitars remained constant, and the grooves less sodden and vapid, this might have been spectacular, even with its loud and lumbering production values. This is twice the record And Then You'll Beg was, but as it stands, Once Was Not is a collection of ideas not fully fleshed out. Fruits not borne to fruition.
Cryptopsy is undoubtedly one of those bands that try their fans fidelity every now and then. On Once Was Not they underwent another transformation, this time into a more experimental, jazz-fusion-influenced (and still very technical) grind/death metal band. I must admit it was a very welcome change as I'm not a huge fan of either the Blasphemy Made Flesh/None So Vile eras, or even less of the Whisper Supremacy/And Then You'll Beg one with the terrible vocals of Mike DiSalvo.
The album is produced in a modern, but a bit odd way and while I really like it, I think it's an acquired taste. The drums are very high in the mix, just behind vocals and with a strong, punching bass drum and a very organic snare drum and cymbals. Bass and guitars are kind of hidden, so during blast beats they tend to be a bit drowned out, but still I think a perfect balance between organic, brutal sound and selectivity has been achieved here.
Cryptopsy present here some of the most unrestrained songwriting ever heard in deathgrind. The record is pervaded with an atmosphere reminiscent of a surreal trip through a cold, post-apocalyptic world where horror and comedy merge into one grotesque amalgam. With the use of jazz-fusion-inspired riffs and clever industrial undertones, the band manage to create nine well-flowing, brutal, wild, and unpredictable compositions. The stuff Flo Mounier's doing with his drum kit is just beyond belief. Brutal, well-flowing and jazz-influenced drumming combined with painfully-technical and jazzy axe-craft from Alex Auburn make this album a compelling experience. However, combined with the rasping and unintelligible yapping of Lord Worm, the music takes on a whole new dimension. It's weirdly organic and surprisingly technical. I'd even say it's scary and, oh yes, it's absolutely fantastic!
This is a bold album by Cryptopsy and I think one of the most interesting death metal efforts out there. Despite being a little bit inconsistent, it still has uncanny atmosphere and, most of all, boasts some of the most well-flowing brutal death metal on board. If you're looking for a different approach to death metal without sacrificing brutality, this album is for you.
TRACKS BY RATINGS: 10/10[masterpiece!!!]: In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky Is Mortal; Angelskingarden; Endless Cemetery || 9/10[fantastic!]: Carrionshine; Adeste Infidelis; Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy || 8/10[great]: The Curse of the Great; The Frantic Pace of Dying || 7/10[very good]: The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness (Psalm 91: 5-8) || OVERALL = 89/100
-- Originally written for Metal Music Archives [www.metalmusicarchives.com] --
To call Once Was Not one of the worst in Cryptopsy's discography, now seven chapters long, is not really saying a lot. And yet many who hear this of this album are immediately turned off, or will go into the album expecting an exhibition of hate and brutality to equal the mighty None So Vile and switch it off after a handful of the songs. This should be considered a direct insult to any true fan of death metal music and outright blasphemy to those who consider themselves a Cryptopsy fan, as their 2005 outing is actually an album that embodies every trait that made the band's past works so powerful. No this is not one of their worst albums but in fact shines in almost every respect.
Once Was Not shows a continuation of the band's foray into the technical death metal realms and also heralds the return of None So Vile and Blasphemy Made Flesh vocalist Lord Worm coupled with the departure of original member Jon Levasseur who makes but one brief cameo on here. To some this may sound absolutely absurd, to think of a good Cryptopsy album without their past guitarist. However this album really gives Alex Auburn a chance to shine that was for the most part the down fall ...And Then You'll Beg, which proved to be a little sub-par although a still listenable release. The guitar work on that album was not watertight as has come to be expected of the band that put out such classics as Whisper Supremacy and None So Vile. This album marks a return to the riffs that are equal parts memorable and insanely technical, so kudos to Alex for that. His riffing is completely bezerk throughout with Keeping The Cadaver Gods Busy taking the spotlight for this side of the band. The crazily speedy tremolo picked riffs are frequently broken out in this album but Cryptopsy's signature of playing numerous power chords at a manic pace are also found on songs such as Adeste Infidelis and Carrionshine. The guitar work of Alex Auburn stands out as one of this album's real successes. It may also seem absurd that a guitarist can record both the rhythm tracks to a song such as The End and also the solo to Angelskingarden without rendering themselves unable to play again but this is testament to how good Alex is.
Whilst the guitars are going all over the place; the out of control drumming from Flo Mounier and the frantic bass lines of Eric Langlois once again make their return for None So Vile. Ever since the band's very first album Flo has been taking the fastest blast beats that spring to mind and doubling them with his hyper fast but also exceedingly technical drumming. However on Once Was Not he may well have put in his best performance. This is a blast-beat fest that mere mortals can only dream of playing but the real standout of the album is Angelskingarden. At seven minutes long one would expect a drummers hands and feet to drop off were they even playing at Slayer's speeds. But this is Flo Mounier a drummer so inhuman he can transcend even the limitations of time as he shows finely throughout the entire song, especially at around the 1.30 mark where he unleashes the blast beat to end all blasts. Eric Langlois holds down his end of the rhythm section masterfully as well with some technically proficient bass lines and even the odd miniature solo scattered across the album. If there were ever a metal bassist that does not get nearly enough praise it is Eric Langlois who has consistently shown off some very talented material. There are no moments on here that quite match his ego-inflating solo in Slit Your Guts off of None So Vile but his work will not go forgotten as each song on here shows really well.
The one factor of this album that people are always most eager to hear about is whether Lord Worm still had it in him to unleash the killer screams and the absolute rock bottom tones he showcased on None So Vile many years beforehand. The answer is yes but only to a certain degree. Whilst it is unquestionable that he can still growl his lungs out they do sound somewhat throatier and lack some of the power that made his vocal performance on that masterpiece of an album quite so iconic within the genre. Many of his high screams remind me somewhat of the earlier vocals from the plague of the metal scene that is Oliver Sykes. They sound overly forced and a little underwhelming but still show off that he has lost none of the range that made his vocals on None So Vile stand out. The years have obviously taken a toll on his voice but fans of the band and metal in general should be happy to hear that he still has the skill to produce some good screams. On The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness (Psalm 91: 5-8) he even shows off a couple of black metal shrieks that could not sound cooler on any album anywhere and gave a little inkling that one day he may well go on to shift over into that style. This, of course, eventually happened with the 2012 debut of Rage Nucleaire. His lyrics on here might not be as morbid as what was on None So Vile or Blasphemy Made Flesh but they are still incredible thought provoking and skillfully written. The lyrical themes on this album have changed from the bloodbath's that he spoke of in earlier albums to deal with socio-political commentary and human shortcomings ranging from war to famine. One would expect good lyrics from part-time English Literature teacher Lord Worm and he manages once again to deliver.
The major weaknesses of this album are its production and the aforementioned occasional vocal blips from Lord Worm. The drum tones on this album are absolutely atrocious and show off how a death metal production job should not be handles. God alone knows what the hell Flo was playing on or what Sebastien Marsan had been smoking during the recording and mixing of this album but neither can have been very good. The production on the drums is detrimental to the overall sound of this album as the snare in particular just dominates the mix when used and has a distinctive rattle. It is no St. Anger but the production is definitely the worst thing about this album. The guitars sound a little flat and it is hard to distinguish the lead tracks from the rhythm tracks at times and Eric's bass is almost buried half the time which should not be the case with a Cryptopsy album. Endless Cemetery is also a song that you may want to stay away from if you are worried about this album destroying fond memories of Lord Worm's demonic vocals from the band's first two installments in their discography. The high screams that have already been highlighted as one of the worst things about the album are used for the majority of his vocals on here and they are terribly done. His higher register on this album gets very grating and this is just the epitome of this.
Once Was Not stands out as one of the most solid instrumental performances that Cryptopsy ever managed to write but its shortcomings prove exceedingly detrimental to the album as a whole. Following the clean introduction song Luminum this album is non stop 100% brutality with some ridiculously technical guitar work and drums that only the devil could have crafted. Lord Worm's return was indeed a good thing but also provided one of the album's most crippling features. Had he stuck with his lower register exclusively then this would possibly be the band's second best work but unfortunately it does not feel quite as complete as either None So Vile or Whisper Supremacy. However this is an album that proudly calves a path for itself with any listener who is willing to give it a shot in its entirety. From the amazing "can you smell the fear" part of In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky is Morta right through the album we are provided some incredible moments that blow most death metal right out the water. Consider listening to this if you are a fan of extreme metal in general and are NOT expecting another None So Vile as there are very few albums out there that can match the genius of that album. This is a masterpiece in its own right and should not be seen merely as an inferior version of that particular release.
This album would be the final Cryptopsy album before their controversial follow-up "The Unspoken King" became a common stable in the vocabulary of every internet nerd from here to Youtube, and thus is criminally overlooked. Of course, this is nothing new for Cryptopsy, as each album since "Whisper Supremacy" has garnered an increasing amount of controversy and confusion within the band's established fanbase, and the lukewarm reviews for "Once Was Not" are no doubt due in part to this being the band's most experimental and bizarre recording to date.
This album does not, unfortunately, revive the fires of the band's earliest years. However, it does showcase a unique fusion of the band's earlier, more riff-centered approach on "Blasphemy Made Flesh" and "None so Vile" with the more recent, technical excursions of "Whisper Supremacy" and "...And then You'll Beg", as well as reviving a semblance of cohesion that helps these tracks remain more memorable in the long run. Some tracks, such as "The Frantic Pace of Dying", may remind the listener of more melodic tracks such as "Phobophile" or "Abigor". In the same way, more technical tracks such as the extremely over-the-top somewhat awkwardly-titled opener "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, Even the Sky is Mortal" may take the listener back to classics of technical ecstacy like "Emaciate" and "Voice of Unreason".
However, it's hard to draw any real comparisons to earlier Cryptopsy works, as this album really doesn't sound that much like any of the band's previous work. Musically, the riffs are less reliant on flashy noodling and are more focused on comparatively simplistic, chord-based riffs played at breakneck speed with constant, seamless transitions. As well, the production is extremely raw, supplying a unique amount of grit and dirt that draws more from old school death metal than the more flashy side of technical death metal as one might assume, and thus the songs never come across as a group of musicians trying to impress the listener through sheer technical ability and skill alone. This band never tries to sway you from the fact that they are, indeed, a death metal band. Just check out "Adeste Infidelis", and any dissenters shall be instantly smitten!
The more avant-garde, experimental side of the band's music is given a greater focus here, as well. "Keeping the Cadaver Dog Busy", for instance, makes use of a prominent jazz-fusion influence (particularly in the drumming), while "The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness" opens with an atmospheric, melodic riff completely alien to the Cryptopsy name in the past. There are also two short, experimental interludes, the classical-influenced "Luminium", and the somewhat Middle-Eastern sounding "The End". While neither experiment is very long-lasting, they are extremely well-composed and prove a necessity to the album's make up. As well, former guitarist Jon Levasseur's signature soloing style is still present, with both "Angelskingarden" and "Endless Cemetery" making use of breathtaking, melodic solos. This album is also noticeable due to it's inclusion of Cryptopsy's first downbeat number, the atmospheric sludger "The Curse of the Great".
Lord Worm, the band's infamous original vocalist, returns to the fold with this album, as well, though his performance may be hit-or-miss amongst fans expecting another "None so Vile". His guttural, zombie-like rampage upon the mic in the past is no more, instead replaced by a somewhat more conventional death grunt and greater focus on rasped screams. However, his lyrical approach remains extremely intelligent, though more based around topics such as plague, death, and war, as opposed to his previous focus on gore, sex, and blasphemy. As far as stylistic differences are concerned, tracks such as the epic closer "Endless Cemetery" feature a more direct focus on higher-ranged screams, while "The Pestilence that Walketh In Darkness" and "Adeste Infidelis" make use of spoken word, the former's example being a prominent bible verse, which gives the song a distinctive, almost militant-vibe.
Unfortunately, sometimes the songs sound a bit disjointed and insubstantial, at times passing in one ear and out the other. Many of the riffs come across as weird and confusing, lacking in any real purpose to the song's overall development, while Lord Worm's throat has certainly seen better days. While these facts don't really hinder this album from still being "good", if not "great", there's no denying that even the band's earliest recordings were much more developed as far as song-writing is concerned. Even the band's previous album, "...And then You'll Beg", which has been somewhat infamously reviled over the years due to it's extremely confusing and disjointed song-writing style, was much more focused and memorable than this album.
However, this album makes a point to have every song stand on it's own ground, and the band never really repeats the same idea twice, which is extremely refreshing after giving a listen to the album's somewhat challenging (but still good) predecessor. Overall, I would say this is an album for previously established Cryptopsy fans, and even then, not all will be pleased. As I mentioned, this is the weirdest thing Cryptopsy has ever released. I, as a seasoned Cryptopsy fanatic, find this to be an astounding, if not underrated, flawed masterpiece that showcases what some know as "the beginning of their end" for Cryptopsy, but I find to be the end of their beginning. Definitely check this out if you're a Cryptopsy fan.
My favourite songs:
Adeste Infidelis, The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness, Angelskingarden, Endless Cemetary
Perhaps it’s a worn topic by now. Cryptopsy’s surprising foray into trendy deathcore simplicity threw their fans, and most of the extreme metal community, for a loop. Their pseudo goth/bondage attire and feau-hawks, though appalling, served as the perfect compliment to their new-found bitchy attitudes and staunch assurance that deathcore was their new genre of choice. Now, I have this idea. Maybe I should say, a hope. A hope that their latest musical output, The Unspoken King, is nothing more than an elaborate hoax, meant as a parody to the recent surge of so-called heavy and brutal deathcore bands. For, how could a band that had just released Once Was Not, one of the most exhausting yet ultimately beautiful death metal albums, spit out this simple garbage? Every time I listen to Once Was Not, I’m forced to ponder this baffling phenomenon.
Once Was Not is not without its detractors though, something else that I can never quite understand. Being that extreme metal is such a revolt against typical music, it is surprising to see this album continuously lambasted for its experimental nature. To recreate another Blasphemy Made Flesh or None So Vile would be a disgrace to those albums and is always behavior typical of a band that is burning out (Immortal, I’m looking at you!). Though, based on many of the critical responses for this album, it seems that people wanted and expected this, especially given Lord Worm’s triumphant return as vocalist. To me, Once Was Not is the necessary evolution of Cryptopsy, capturing the brutality of their older works while instilling a greater sense of scale and complexity.
The overarching theme of war is both sonically and lyrically conveyed without fail. Their use of unorthodox sounds and composition, while the butt of most criticism, are probably the most integral characteristics to this album’s believability as a testament to war. How else should war’s unpredictable and chaotic nature be conveyed than by instrumentation set to the same tune? Starting with the framework of death metal, Cryptopsy takes the genre’s staple characteristics – blast beats, growled vocals, heavily distorted guitars – and re-imagines them into the context of the album. Riffs are highly unique for death metal, conveying anything from impending doom (“Angelskingarden”) to contemplativeness (“The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness”). Flo’s drumming is at it’s best, working alongside the guitars with unyielding complexity. Meanwhile, Lord Worm’s raspy snarls are in top-form as he narrates the various atrocities and eventually forces the listener to grasp the utter horror that results from war. Perhaps the most perfect symbiosis of music, lyrics, and consequent imagery comes with the final track “Endless Cemetary.” We are presented with the end of a battle, perhaps even the war itself:
“Cold blue lips frame (a) yard-wide grin
that Calls to flesh, to let it in,
and thus indulge its Yearning
come the unDawn
Roam the endless Cemetary of what once was,
(where) the Allfeeling is never truly Gone”
As if he were speaking from the cold and blue lips of Death itself, Lord Worm changes his vocals to a shrill, black metal shriek after the music builds in order to deliver his final, horrible message: Ultimately, Death has won. Just as he finishes screaming, the music immediately ends, with this abruptness being yet another reminder of the randomness of death in a war environment. In effect, we’ve become another member of the endless cemetery, experiencing the suddenness of death in musical form.
Maybe in retrospect, after the horror of The Unspoken King, some of Once Was Not’s harshest critics can look back and see this experimental and technical Cryptopsy in a new light. Here we see a band that set out to tackle the worn topic of war in a holistic approach, embodying the topic’s spirit both in concept and in sound. Rather than the “experimentation” that occurred on The Unspoken King, Once Was Not actually pushes the boundaries of death metal. Not through implementing trendy pig squeals and slower Korn-esque songs, but with immensely difficult and complex songs that force the listener to dig deeper in every consecutive listen to fully appreciate them. Here’s to hoping that the next Cryptopsy album follows in this fashion!
Originally written for Pantheon E-Zine: http://grampspantheon.wordpress.com/
...born headless 1992, died 2005. Any sighting from 2005 onwards is tantamount to zombie sightings.
In all honesty Cryptopsy, as a listenable band, really did die in 2005. They died the minute Jon Levasseur left because, as this album shows, they can't write songs worth a dead man's last fuck.Yeah they still have Lord Worm and his demented 'poetry' but what good is it if the songs sound so disjointed, so random, so...wank!
Make no mistake, this is back when Flo Mournier could play drums and he was without his fashionhawk. This is back when Alex Auburn was rocking the skullet and could still play riffs (sort of.) Back when you can still hear Eric Langlois! And Lord Worm was still doing those...what the fuck? Where's the trademark Lord Worm HORGH HORGH HORGHs and GYAAAAAAHs? You cheese-eating surrender monkeys! What did you do to Lord Worm?
We kick off with the Levasseur penned instrumental "Luminum," enjoy it. It's the only song with any kind of coherency, even by Cryptopsy standards. Then comes "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, The Sky is Mortal," which has some admittedly awesome moments, but those are few and far in between. When the song kicks into high gear and the guitar(s) play what I affectionately call the 'ice cream man' melody (just whistle it, it sounds like what ice cream trucks play don't it?) they already go off the rails. The drums and guitar don't play in the same time signature and all you hear is just a great big aural mess.
Some songs are good though. "Adeste Infidelis" and "The Curse of the Great" are passable, "Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy" has some of Lord Worm's sickest lyrics (headless fetus found rotting on the roof of a house...*ick*) but instrumentally dry. The tremolo riffs sound cliché, the drumming lacks heart, Langlois is nowhere to be found. Most of the songs can be described that way ("The Frantic Pace of Dying," "Carrionshine".)
The production really sucks tit. Flo's ego starts showing on this record, he's front row center and so damn loud you can't really hear anything else. Auburn and Langlois are present but Eric is really dialed down. Lord Worm's vox, as stated before, is no longer the indecipherable demonic babbling of yore and he's somewhat lower in the mix than usual.
They really should have called it quits when Jon left. Better yet, when Lord Worm first left. That way there's no DiSalvo debacle, no Lacroix, and certainly no Flohawk feat. Lord Sperm (type craptopsy in myspace, gave me a good giggle.)
You know, I actually like this band. None So Vile and Blasphemy Made Flesh are regulars on my playlist. It kills me that they made this train wreck and followed it up with the musical equivalent of a holocaust.
Stay away from this shit folks!
If there is one thing that is more grating to the ears and mind than a collection of death injected, pseudo-technical grind dribble, it is an album that openly professes a lack of any direction to speak of. As much as I can hate the lame proponents of Northeastern US grind/hardcore of the 90s, the recent and decrepit phenomenon of deathcore, and the ever threatening sword of Damocles known as groove metal, there is a lower form of art that occasionally pops out of the progressive/symphonic metal scene, particularly the extreme side of the prog metal scene that trumps them all. While you can perhaps garner a certain appreciation for the consistency of the 3 former styles, this directionless variant on progressive extreme metal not so much a style, but rather the manifestation of anti-style.
Some modern artists will toil for days or weeks on end to create something that is purposefully random in every respect of the word, though simultaneously making the parts distinctive, in spite of the monstrous incongruousness of the sum. This form of modernistic collage making is distinctive from what people who know nothing about creating art create by throwing together random paint splattering works together only in that the artist is himself subjugating his hard earned abilities to purposefully create something of the same quality. Anyone can point out the obvious failings of true no-talents who record/create garbage, but finding people with the testicular fortitude to actually go after the great talents who try to push piles of polished purposelessness off on lovers of art and music alike is not so easy.
I bring all of this up because it is the best way to preface what the hell I just experienced while listening to this contorted mess of sound that is somehow supposed to be a concept album. A more proper term for Once Was Not, more commonly known as OWN, in terms of the musical content is a non-concept album. But unlike their latest offering of riff fragment collages that are at least stylistically consistent, here the band has purposefully thrown out nearly every style of music imaginable in the most unorganized way possible. We get a few helpings of late 19th/early 20th century Spanish acoustic guitar, a few 20 second chunks of Neo-Classical symphonic themes and atmospheric twists, some jazz ballad detours, a ton of repetitive yet disjointed riffs over either drum fill drenched groove beats or blast beats, quirky electronic effects, bizarre and indiscernible spoken narrations layered on top of other vocal devices, all of which result in a 50 minute blur that can not be in any way processed by the mind.
Good ideas and solid elements are few, and are almost utterly destroyed by what follows them, what precedes them, or what is often among them as they occur. Lord Worm’s vocals, though not at all conforming to what he had contributed to brutal death metal’s earlier history, are the most consistent element at play and the only thing that really makes this album extreme metal. His low grunts are not as powerful or frequent, but he does employ some higher end shrieks typical to the early Norwegian black metal vocal style, though often mimicking the similar register yet different timbre of Dani Filth. There are a few sections of “Angelskingarden” and “Endless Cemetary” where this can be observed in its purest form. Despite not being fully up to what he accomplished on “Blasphemy Made Flesh”, it’s miles ahead of anything the other 3 vocalists who filtered in and out of this outfit have ever put forth.
Musical ideas filter in and out of here as well that could have been great if they had been given time to develop and were not surrounded by dozens of other ideas, in themselves either good or lousy. Prefacing the album with a classical guitar solo, which was Levasseur’s last contribution to the band, is actually a pretty interesting idea and for the first minute of so I thought I was going to hear something pretty good. The keyboard atmosphere is also well realized, although frankly the electric guitar part that filters in towards the end suffers from a lack of punch, not to mention being severely underdeveloped. “Adeste Infidelis” and “Endless Cemetary” both have decent to above average guitar solos, although what is going around them riff and atmosphere wise is extremely detached from them. And quite ironically, though most fans of this band would disagree, the keyboard usage would be pretty good if it wasn’t for the mess of drum madness and guitar note clustering that it’s superimposed against.
As a whole, this album is an attempt to merge a small amount of the overdone and over-praised brutal sound of “None So Vile”, complete with all the pretentious showboating of Flo Mounier destroying any prominence of the guitars or bass, with the rapid yet directionless style shifting of Opeth. Considering that such music was rising to noticeable prominence as the late 90s groove/grind craze was starting to fizzle and it was just a little too early for the deathcore craze, this was the logical choice for a band that was intent on trying to expand their fan base rather than return to the genre that made them. That’s right, death metal made Cryptopsy, there is nothing genre defining about what they’ve done as it pertains to death metal. The only thing of quality that they can claim was in line with the traditions set forth by Carcass and further developed by Cannibal Corpse.
The most perplexing aspect of this album is that despite the obvious similarities to Opeth, the vast majority of this band’s fan base don’t like Opeth at all, but can make excuses for an album like this because of who is in congress. Despite my respect for his abilities, Lord Worm is completely out of place on here, and if he had not been on this album it would have received the exact same treatment as “The Unspoken King” has. His vocal talents are better suited in a lesser known band creating something along the lines of consistent brutal death in the style of early Mortal Decay, a band similar in sound to Cyptopsy’s demo and debut, or even with a more traditionally oriented death metal band that sounds akin to Morbid Angel. There is no doubt that his presence is nothing more than window dressing to keep the old fans of this band in line, and shame on this band for duping him into being involved with this.
The principle reason for the decline of any metal sub-genre, be it power metal, thrash metal, death metal, or any other, is that the fans of these genres get obsessed with the persons involved in their propagation and forget that the style is an end in itself. Imagine Varg Vikerness deciding to release a folk/Viking metal album. Then imagine some of his fan base rationalizing it as him making a statement against the dogmatic establishment that black metal and drone/ambient metal have become since his time in prison. Though the likelihood of this happening pretty close to nil, it makes one think about how people prioritize music. It is the slave of the caprices of the writer and his pet causes, or is it something else?
As shocking as it may seem, this is actually harder to listen to and lower in quality than the half emo/half deathcore crapper that has followed it. There is no flow to it, nothing to identify, it’s all just a 50 minute long collection of style and sound samples plugged into a random collage template. Any redeeming qualities in it are subverted under the massive weight of the lack of direction that not only typifies the whole album, but every single song on here. You can’t really say anything on here is out of place because there isn’t any place noticeable on here to put anything. If you like Opeth’s brand of stylistic meandering multiplied by a factor of twenty, or if you want to delude yourself into believing that Lord Worm’s vocals cancel out the rest of this musical travesty, help yourself. Anyone else who likes death metal, brutal or otherwise, avoid like crazy.
This album fucking rocks!!! I know I seem to say that about every album I review, but really, it does! But some people here seem to disagree with me; or maybe it's not that they disagree, but they have conflicting opinions. So I'll structure this review around them, or at least part of it, anyway.
First off, please forgive me that this is my one and only Crpyptopsy album. I had wanted one for some time but never got around to buying one, and "Once was Not" was simply the only one on the shelf at FYE. God, how I fucking hate FYE.
Usually, I begin these things with some discussion of the style of the artist. In this case, however, you do not know metal if you don't know at least that Cryptopsy is a death metal band, let alone brutal/ technical. That would be fucking pathetic. So, I will talk about some of the more "avant-garde" (is that more of a black metal term?) elements on this album. Starting with the Spanish guitar intro (I don't know song titles). That was awesome, because it leads into the next song which is fucking crushing. You'd think the guitar intro would lead into some pussy soft rock love song or something. The jazz intro on track seven is, I admit, strange. But I wouldn't call it annoying. I'm a fan of industrial, so I thought the electronic parts were really cool, although somewhat out of place on something that doesn't claim to be an industrial death metal band. Maybe I should hate to say it, but I actually thought that this was what Cryptopsy always sounded like, on account of this being my only album from them. But I don't see why anyone would have a problem with any of the more experimental elements; it's just the growth of the band.
All right, before I say "opinion time" is over, let me just say that I could not find any problem with the production if I tried, other than that it places much more priority on the drums than on the guitars, which I don't really mind. I don't know if i know what it means for the production to be "without soul" but I thought that it created a crushing, foreboding atmosphere and that it was full of volume and body (kind of like a good woman's hair).
"Opinion time" is now over. Now, I will talk about the music itself like I usually do. I would still say that Lord Worm is among the greatest vocalists of all time, up there with Dani F--nevermind, but here is where I would take off points. After reading a certain very enlightening review that inspired me to write this one in the first place, and then listening to "Once Was Not," I realized that Lord Worm's voice does sound sub-par. I've never heard him on any other recording, and I can still tell that he could do better. He sounds very rasped and strained, like he's having to try really hard to scream. Also, the "pig-squeals" or whatever they're called sound like they're hurting him. Now, again, until a few minutes ago this is just how I thought Cryptopsy sounded, but Lord Worm's screaming is much higher than the average death metal vocalist's. Maybe this is all related to the "health reasons" that caused him to leave the band...
Yeah. A lot of fuss over Lord Worm, I see. But no one says anything about the other musicians. I do think that the guys in DragonForce are the best guitarists in the world today, but these guys are pretty fucking impressive themselves. However, the real main attraction in this band is Flo Mournier's drumming. That is the reason why I continue to love this CD. It is why I use this album to scare people people who don't like metal, as well as to discern who is truly committed to metal (you can't love metal if you don't love blast beats). Flo's drumming style is so chock fucking full of blast beats of every size, shape and hue (figuratively speaking). People say that he's improved since earlier albums, but I don't see how any more improvement is possible, without bionic implants in his legs. He's the best there will ever be.
As for bass, I couldn't hear much of it on account of the "soulless" production, but I'll just assume that the bassist is really good.
In conclusion, there's nothing really wrong with "Once Was Not." Granted, Lord Worm's voice is certainly suffring from something (hopefully he doesn't have brain cancer, like so many other death metal vocalists--doesn't that seem suspicious?), but who cares? He's gone, and they're replacing him. This is just another case of a band that's been around for a long while progressing and growing. Obviously, that will always polarize some fans, but this one should be safe for pretty much anyone who likes Cryptopsy. Seriously, this is the finest extreme metal album that I currently own.
In the closing months of 2003, the collective fanbase of Cryptopsy essentially fell to its knees weeping with joy. With all the glory of a conquering hero, Lord Worm was returning to the fold, and for a brief moment, doves sang out, dwarves danced in the streets, and all seemed right in the world. This really isn't even hyperbole; the level of insane hype at that time over his return was catastrophic, and the question that was on everyone's lips was 'None So Vile Part Two?' Despite the assurances from the band that such a return to the old style would not be occurring any time soon, the greater community still seemed full of wide-eyed hope at the proposition of more genre-defining brutal death metal.
Granted, things did start to get a little weird in the nearly two years preceding the release of 'Once Was Not', the long-awaited fifth Cryptopsy full length. A nearly unfathomable five years has passed since 'And Then You'll Beg' and the departure of the widely derided Mike DiSalvo and the very brief stay of Martin Lacroix, and the return of whom is essentially God to the Cryptopsy-worshipping community was an event like no other. Details started to emerge about the album, and some skepticism arose over it: concept album? 'Angelskingarden' and 'Carrionshine'? Lord Worm stating that he was unable to do the ultra-low growls of old, but that there would be a minute-long scream and more intelligible lyrics? While it didn't entirely dampen the rabid anticipation, it certainly put a magnifying glass to the inner workings of the Cryptopsy camp.
Written by the band essentially without a vocalist (and soon to lack a lead guitarist; Jon Levasseur announced his departure in January of 2005, much to the disappointment of fans), the Worm was brought in seemingly on a whim, and upon his acceptance of the offer (which was uncomfortably monetarily oriented, in my opinion) he for all intents and purposes had a CD thrown on his lap and told to write the lyrics and vocal lines for this fully assembled album. A daunting task, to be sure; particularly when coming back to a band such as Cryptopsy, which, in his time away, had exploded to the top of the death metal pile. Worm himself stated that he knew very little about how successful the band had become until Mounier filled him in on the details.
And after the agonizingly long wait, after studio updates and podcast interviews and promo tracks (the uproar around 'The Pestilence That Walketh In Darkness (Psalm 91 : 5-8)' was incredible), the album had arrived on the doorsteps of numerous dedicated fans. The anticipation, the waiting, the pining and theorizing had all come to a head in the few days before its release, and then, when it all seemed to be too much to handle, It arrived. OWN, as it was colloquially referred to (often stated that its acronym determined its quality), was now ready for consumption by the masses. And what was the mob's response to this product of five years time?
Well, it was pretty much a resounding "...What?"
If the objective of 'Once Was Not' was to assure Cryptopsy fans of the steadiness of the band in the face of massive lineup changes, Cryptopsy dropped the ball right to the center of the earth. What was it that surprised people? The Spanish acoustic intro? The high-pitched vocals? The bone-dry production? The sound effects, the spoken word portions, the gravity blasts, or the ten thousand other elements that sent 'Once Was Not' a lightyear out of the normal spectrum of death metal and into territory that some fans embraced, some rejected, and all were utterly perplexed by. 'None So Vile Part 2' this was not. Not by a long shot.
'Experimental' is the operative word here, mind-bendingly so. There had been glimpses of weirdness before, particularly on 'Whisper Supremacy' and 'And Then You'll Beg', with their acoustic passages and didgeridoo solos, but never before had they seemed to be the emphasis of the entire record. But here it was, packed to the brim with twists and turns that worked rather debatably given the fan. While markedly less punishingly technical than the last two albums, 'Once Was Not' manages to be just as much of a headache-inducing listen as those two, only this time all the pain is derived from the constant influx of musical ideas per song.
Five seconds in to 'Luminum' will dash your hopes for traditional brutal death; the Spanish acoustic guitar seems to have a quality of 'atmosphere'; an atmosphere of what, we're not really sure, but it possesses that sense of undefinable 'atmosphere' that stems from acoustic passages and overbearing keyboards. And then it rips into 'In The Kingdom Where Everything Dies, The Sky Is Mortal', which makes sense for a little while, and then, what the hell? That strobed-out screech is Lord Worm? Where's the guttural ingurgitations of 'None So Vile'? Well, they're totally absent on this release; in fact, for the first time in Cryptopsy's history, the vocals are not only reasonable to ignore, but easy to ignore. Listening closely results in Lord Worm having turned into, well, just another death metal vocalist; surely a tragedy of someone of his stature. But the rest of the band is good, right?
...Sort of. The music is similarly jumpy in nature, but instead of between technical passages, the hops are taking place between entirely different styles of music or metal: the jazz opening of 'Keeping The Cadaver Dogs Busy', for instance, isn't clever so much as eye-roll inducing, and possesses an unpleasant air of pretense that makes the listening experience less than enjoyable. There are gems here: 'Adeste Infidelis', 'Curse Of The Great', and other such tracks, which depend less upon the 'experimental' elements and more on songwriting tend to be much more satisfactory than 'Angelskingarden''s endless array of new movements, each of which dances around without really going anywhere in particular.
The production really doesn't help things. Probably the worst that Cryptopsy's had, it possesses no soul or atmosphere, despite what desperate attempts from the band want you to think. It's a clear example of the engineer just setting everything at one hundred percent and walking away: all the instruments are clear and balanced, but the guitar tone is hopelessly weak and colorless, and the drums are the driest since 'Altars Of Madness' creaked its way into our collective hearts. The higher pitch of Lord Worm's delivery exacerbates such an issue dramatically, resulting in an album with none of the punch of previous Cryptopsy releases. Combine this with the spotty songwriting and it makes the album a pretty painful thing to listen through, yet not much due to the fault of the band themselves.
Technical performances are all top notch, of course. Granted, this is par for the course for a Cryptopsy album; the thing that's most increased is the drumming. Mounier's talent has extended even further than before, particularly in speed and employment of the gravity blast (which is actually used rather tastefully). Unfortunately, with the aberrant production, even his performance is a difficult listen. I know that it seems like I'm denigrating the album terribly; I'm not. After one peels back the layers of terrible production and experimentalism, there's a core of engaging songwriting present like on all Cryptopsy releases. But damn if it's not difficult to get to.
This is too bad, because there are some excellent songs on here. 'The Pestilence That Walketh In Darkness (Psalm 91 : 5-8)', despite its overly melodic sensibilities, is actually extremely well written and powerful. 'Endless Cemetary' is probably the most similar to older Cryptopsy, and is a very pleasing listen. The duo of 'Adeste Infidelis' and 'Curse Of The Great' are incredibly strong and use their experimental elements well and unobtrusively. Often it feels like the album is getting way too ahead of itself and is leaving songwriting behind at times; tracks like these take it back a notch and bring the traditional Cryptopsy brand of death metal back, and it's a welcome trip.
'Once Was Not' could, in some ways, be classified as a failed experiment. Luckily for Cryptopsy, a failed experiment for them is a fine album for anyone else. Give it a try; the possibility of actually liking it is rather iffy, but the attempt is what makes the album.
General observations - I feel that the album starts off strong, has a weak follow up, but a good end. After In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky Is Mortal, most of the tracks kind of blend together - they're average and sound the same. In The Curse of the Great, the song has this very interesting intro with just the bass progressing into drums. Unfortunately, the rest of the song seems to go back to being ok and sounding exactly like the other songs. However, what I really love about this album are the last few songs. Angelskingarden is an overall good and interesting song. There's a clean guitar part in The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness that gives the song personality, and the last track was definitely a great choice to end the album with. It's powerful, brutal, and it reminds me of Whisper Supremacy, which happens to be my favorite album of theirs.
Praise/Criticisms - Flo Mounier continues to blow us away with his drumming. It's tight (as opposed to being sloppy), technical, and fast. However, this albums seems to have been designed to simply showcase Mounier. The production of the album is such that the drums are so overpowering the guitars are barely audible, which is a shame seeing that their guitarists are talented, too.
Lord Worm, who returned to Cryptopsy, does an ok job with the vocals. While his grunts are done well, he makes these drawn-out gasps that sound like someone who has sand in their throat trying to scream. It's annoying and reminds me of Chris Barnes's "singing" in Six Feet Under.
Overall, the albums just takes too long time to deliver satisfying results. While I do like the last third of this album, the fact that I had to sit through so many monotonous songs made it less enjoyable.
Cryptopsy's back everybody, and with Lord Worm! I guess we're going back to that good ol' NSV sound eh? Sorry to disappoint ladies and gentlemen, but this is a different Cryptopsy.
The band went all out for this record, their first studio release in over five years. They deliver us their most complex material yet. Rythm juxtapositions, furious lead guitar, even jazzy interludes and the very unique vocal styings of one Lord Worm. Many dislike him, but I find his voice to be unlike anyone else and it makes the songs more interesting. This is a concept album and the lyrics here are very intricate and extremely well written. It's about the "big suck", which would be the opposite of the big bang, so being that once was not. The compositions here are very technical and are not the catchiest, so it takes a few listens to really get into the record as a whole. "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky is Mortal" starts the album with a bang, especially when that screams comes in and what seems to feel like an earthquake hits you square in the face. Flo's blast beats as well as his new gravity blast technique are running with all guns blazing.There is also a very short jazz section in the middle part of the song. Carrionshine is a pure blast of brutality, short and sweet.
One of the albums's higlights is "The Curse of the Great", with lyrics in three languages and a memorable guitar solo. What is particular about this song is it's dommy feel as opposed to the utter brutality we are accustomed to with this band.
" Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy" is very interesting with its jazzy intro and intense playing. The epic "Angelskingarden" is another standout track. "The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness" has recieved a lot of criticism, but it is an experimental track and it definitely has its moments. "The End", an instrumental played with all sorts of traditional instruments is a very nice change of pace and is a nice surprise. Then comes the closer. "Endless Cemetery" has evil written all over it. It is one of the most atmosphere inspiring Cryptopsy song ever written. Lord Worm kicks the vocals into high gear as Alex Auburn ends things with some very speedy sweep arpeggios.
After one listen, you sit down and just think because what hits you is so complex and not easy to get into. But once you've given it a couple spins, you realize just at what level the musicianship in this band has risen to and you want to listen to it more and more to catch all the details. Flo Mounier's performance here is exceptional as usual and Cryptopsy as a band are firing on all cylinders.
I have waited for a long damn time for this album to come out and to write this review. Being one of my favorite bands of all time, it's not hard to imagine my anticipation and sheer joy of listening to a new Cryptopsy album.
Cryptopsy really have never let me down before. Each album has been a progression and step up from the next. Both in terms of musicianship (which the band is known for) and songwriting (which the band is known for as well) I have been following the band since 1996, and though deep down I do long for those days, one must always look ahead and progress with the bands that they love. The "None So Vile" days were amazing, and unlike most people, I thought the "Whisper Supremacy" and "And Then You'll Beg" albums were simply too good to be true. I loved every recorded note from those albums. Yes, including Mike Di Salvo's vocals. People never gave that guy the credit he deserved, and it is by no means an easy task to replace Lord Worm, one of the best known singers in Death Metal. But we will get into more of that later on.
First, lets start with the production. In all fairness, the production and overall mix of the album could have been a bit better. It's not that it's not clear, it just.. I don't know yet. I was expecting the guitar sound to be more 'in your face' than it is on the record. It is by no means weak, but it is not too spectacular, either. However, I love the sound of the drums, as they sound raw and natural. In short, Flo's drum kit actually sounds like a fucking drum kit, and not a typewriter like almost all other Death Metal bands. You can hear the accents, dynamics and everything, and that's amazing, considering the drum master sitting behind the kit.
Second, the vocals are nothing like I had expected them to be. Which is both good and bad. Lord Worm seems to have strayed from his formula a little bit. The vocals are not similar to those on "None So Vile", which he is known for so well. Here, the vocals are more trebly with a healthy dose of midrange, topped with high-end screams, which the man does so well. However, I was expecting and looking forward to the deep and fast vocals that he also does like very few can.
Anyways, with that out of the way, lets move onto the album. The first track from the record is called "Luminum", and it is basically a sweet, yet sorrowful, classical guitar intro. Some guitar harmonics and wails near the end of the track on the electric are the first hints of the damage that is soon to follow. However, this is possibly the best album opener Cryptopsy have ever done, as it sets the mood just right. The atmosphere is really amazing, and just when you're caught in the beauty of it all, the album transcends to "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, The Sky Is Mortal." Starting off with simple power chords, the band then literally launch into a crazy frenzy of atonal riffing topped with Flo's insane blast beats. The band sound tight as fuck and simply amazing. Flo's double bass and cymbal work pretty much dominates the first two minutes of this song, with the riffs mainly chugging away in the background. A tasteful guitar interlude paves the way for chapter two in the song, and they explore further dynamics and beats. The song boasts a very tasteful yet strange guitar solo, than dives into some more impeccable riffing, followed by another interlude. This is the Cryptopsy we have all been waiting for.
Next up is track three, "Carrionshine." The demo version of this track was eagerly downloaded by the hordes of Cryptopsy fans way before the release of the album. The demo version had terrible audio quality and it was a blurry sonic mess. This of course is not the case here. A classic off-beat intro kicks the song into action, followed by master Flo Mounier's intense drumming. The riffing here is awesome, and the guitar solo is short, but simply amazing and very suitable. The clean interlude will take make you smile a knowing smile, and after it is over you get kicked in the teeth with one of the best riffs Cryptopsy has ever laid to tape. Also, this will be your first time hearing Flo use the mighty gravity blast, and the effects are quite stunning. We all knew that he would use them on the new album from interviews released a few months back, and thankfully he has used it with taste and in the right places, as opposed to using it fucking everywhere, like Kataklysm. The song is 3:22 in length, but to be honest, it does not need anymore. It's quite perfect the way it is, no need to fiddle around with it.
Track four, "Adeste Infidelis" roars out of your speakers next, with a sharp riff that cuts your face, yet only last for a second. The band launches into another riffing frenzy with Flo's drums going insane all over the place. The double bass, the toms, the ride, the splash, the snare.. it all comes at once, and it all comes at the same time! Lord Worm barks out his lyrics, then gives way to the amazing bass interlude at 1:10 into the song. Eric Langlois is one of the best, and most under-rated bassists in Death Metal. The man plays strictly with his fingers, slapping, pulling, popping his way through the tracks with amazing skill and technique. He is the backbone of the band along with Cryptopsy, and together with Flo, makes the band sound so tight it's not even remotely humorous. The guitar solo rips into our ears at 2:43, and it's once again short and to the point. To be honest, the soloing could be much, much better. Not that it's bad, but the soloing could just be better. These guys are capable of better guitar solos, though I imagine it to be a pain in the ass to solo over the ridiculous time signatures and Flo's 'jazzy' approach to drumming. All that said, another fine song from the boys from Montreal.
"The Curse of the Great" starts off with an expertly selected synth, with some spoken word parts. Another thing worthy of mention is that this is a concept album, though because the album has not been officially released yet, I'm not too sure what that concept is, sadly. This album should definitely be enjoyed with the lyric sheet, as I am positive that more meaning will be granted to the songs then. This song is the standard Cryptopsy formula, however the section 1:36 into the song is nothing short of spectacular. This song has a more doomy feel as opposed to Death Metal, with the riffs being slower and more pulsing than their usual material. By the way, the double bass played at 2:48 into the song is some of the fastest, and cleanest, you will ever hear. Not only that, but the double bass interlude (!!) at 3:17 is also worthy of mention, simply because it's so strange and awesome at the same time. Cryptopsy love to give you what you least expect to hear, and this album is filled with many surprises, twists and turns.
Track six, "The Frantic Pace of Dying" kicks in with a superb riff, and then it's simply heads down, no nonsense riffing. The drumming on this track is truly inspiring, even if you're not a drummer. So much shit is going on that it's pretty hard to digest it all, but you eventually manage in the end. It takes time and effort to truly appreciate what the band are doing, and what they wanted the listener to understand. Not many people get it, but those who do.. well, it's just priceless for us. The synth breakdown at 3:38 is awesome to put it simply, then it's back to business as usual. However, to be completely honest, this is not the most spectacular song Cryptopsy have recorded. It kind of drags on without too much purpose. It is still a fine listen, but can be hard to listen to if you're not in the mood to really listen to the track.
"Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy" is more like what I expected this album to be like. To be completely, dead honest, I was expecting a lot of jazz interludes and sections on this album, and sadly did not get too many of them. However, the intro of this song is just that, and it's perfect. Very relaxing and expertly played, it gives me the impression of an obscure radio signal colliding with the album. It simply should not fit, but it does. The rest of the song is outstanding, with Master Mounier dominating his drum kit, and the riffing spewed out on this track are second to none. This is a sonic inferno, but it never gets messy because the guys unleashing it know exactly what they are doing. Even if a beat sounds like it's going to fall apart, it never does, and then you smile and realize that it was all done on purpose, and the boys from Montreal are just fucking with our senses. The riff at 3:22 sounds like the riff in "We Bleed", but oh well. Same chord progression, different riff. But that's the thing with Cryptopsy. You never know what to expect and what to hear, and when you finally hear it, it makes perfect sense. The band is like suspense movie; you never know what's going to happen next and that keeps everything interesting and fresh.
For many people, the next track, "Angelskingarden" will be the best song off of the record. I can't say which is the best and the worst, as that would not be fair, as each and every song has a certain atmosphere and brilliance to them. This song, however, really does stand out from the rest. It kicks off with a synth so perfect-so right-that anything else there simply would not be appropriate. It is haunting, melancholic, and dark. The carnage that ensues is something that you definitely must really witness and experience for yourself. The riffing is frantic; twisting and turning like electric eels, not sure where to go, running into walls, bouncing back, shocked in the sheer speed and terror of it all. Flo's drumming from 2:19 onwards is just plain ridiculous, you just can't help from smiling and nodding. You can hear the bass pulsating through your feet at all times, and the vocals of Lord Worm just get better and better, with some very fucking impressive growls and screams. The interlude at 3:23 is fucking awesome, then it's back to the day job of kicking people in the face over and over again. The section and riffing at 4:07 is one of the best things Cryptopsy have ever recorded.. it's fucking breath-taking and simply awesome. Guitars roar, squeal and scratch their way into the awesome solo section, riffs complimented by the stunning drum work. A short synth, and we're off into the solo section. Now this is how a solo should be played. Impressive runs, screams, and a nice array of sweep picking, with some more synths in the back.
"The Pestilence That Walketh In The Darkness ( Psalm 91:5-8 )" is track number nine. This was released on the Century Media website, right before the album leaked. A lot of people criticized it for sounding like "mall-core." Now, back in the days of "None So Vile", in which many of you were still just ankle-biters listening to everything other than Cryptopsy and not even knowing of their existence, we loved the band, simply because they were mysterious and awesome. I for one, never wanted the band to become popular or to "make it big" simply because of the fact that a lot of fucking idiots would end up listening to them as well. Cryptopsy has, and always will be, a band for musicians. If you are not a musician, you are going to have a bastard of a hard time to appreciate what they are truly doing. It's always easy for some dickless piece of shit to step up to the plate and call them "mall-core" after hearing the first riff from this song. People who make such comments are the same people that just stopped listening to Slipknot quite recently, and all of a sudden declared themselves to be 'cool' by listening to more extreme bands like Cryptopsy, Origin and Nile. Old time metal heads like myself would never disrespect the band by calling a Cryptopsy riff "mall-core." Faggots are everywhere in the world, and especially in the music scene, where faggotness wanders and roams free, with mindless fucking morons running around making comments on what they don't understand. So here is a word from the wise : If you don't understand what you are listening to, then don't fucking listen to it, and keep your fucking mouth shut. Go listen to Machine Head or something, as you probably don't have a clue what Cryptopsy is all about anyway.
Now where did all of that come from? It all spawned from comments people made about the first riff and intro to "The Pestilence That Walketh In The Darkness ( Psalm 91:5-8 )." Sure, it is more laid back and experimental, but it's not fucking mall-core you retarded degenerate assholes. The song kicks in with a nice clean guitar sound, then makes it's way into some chord riffing, followed by a spoken word part by Lord Worm. Also, we must not forget the fact that this is a concept album, so it's only natural for the album to have it's slow and 'moody' bits. Section 1:04 into the song is nothing but spectacular, with and awesome riff and yet even more amazing drum work. Actually, the song is a breath of fresh air, because the previous seven tracks should have torn you a new asshole. It's refreshing and interesting to listen to something else which is not of the standard formula. Or at least, I think that way. But if you want the same thing for the entire duration of a record, then go listen to a Disgorge album.
Oh, and I really wonder what those fools would say about "The End", which is the 10th track on the album. Completely instrumental, played on traditional instruments. You guys weren't expecting it were you? Of course you weren't. As I said before, the new generation of Cryptopsy fans which simply hopped on the bandwagon because the band has a cool logo, don't know what to expect from this band. They have no idea what they are capable of. Personally, I would have expected more of this type of thing, along with more jazz solos and interludes. After the release of "None So Vile", Cryptopsy has taken their sound to a more experimental level, especially with "And Then You'll Beg", which was a stunning album in terms of musicianship and experimentation. Anyways, the atmosphere created on this track is priceless, and clocking in at 2:49 in length, it is the perfect interlude for the album closer, which is titled "Endless Cemetery."
Starting off with another classic Cryptopsy intro, the boys get down to work with a nice, heavy, and brooding guitar riffs. The bass work is astounding, and the cymbal work provided by Flo Mounier is breath-taking. Careful listeners (as you all should be if you're listening to Cryptopsy in the first place) will have noticed that the second riff in this song is the same riff as the one in "The Pestilence That Walketh In The Darkness ( Psalm 91:5-8 ), at the 1:04 mark. This is not surprising in the least, and is actually expected. Being a concept album, it is normal for the band to summon themes previously used on the album. With more careful listens, I'm sure there are plenty more that can be picked out, but this is the most obvious one. "Endless Cemetery" contains astounding riff damage, as well as incredible vocals from Lord Worm. At 3:16 the band shifts gears completely and goes into a brilliant solo section, with a memorable guitar line laid underneath it. The harmony guitars played at 4:14 is something else worth noting, as it is there to capture attention, and it does just that. After the solo section the band launches into the final section of the song and of the album, and it's pure, balls to the wall Death Metal. An appropriate sweep arpeggio ends the album.
Yes, so the album has ended. A long five year test of patience has come to an end. There will definitely be mixed feelings about this album, which is understandable. What is not understandable would be the bashing of this album. Sure, there will be listeners who are nowhere near ready enough to be listening to a Cryptopsy album. This is not your standard, constant blast beats, tremolo picked Death Metal album. None of the Cryptopsy albums are like that. The ambition and goals of this band are to give listeners a unique and different listening experience, with a lot of odd twists and turns. Cryptopsy have never failed to deliver the unexpected, and I don't believe they ever will.
Prior to the release of this album, it was said that the band would take a more straightforward approach to their songwriting, simply because Lord Worm is not too efficient on super-technical Death Metal. "Whisper Supremacy" and "And Then You'll Beg" were both albums of technical overload, and lets be honest here, Mike DiSalvo did a superb job on both of those albums. Worm just would not have been appropriate to sing on those albums. On this album however, he fits exceptionally well, while the band managing to remain interesting and inspiring. Worm has worked quite hard to get his phrasing close to Mike's, as well as the clarity and punch Mike had. Here he combines it with his own guttural glory, and the results are fascinating, though quite difficult to listen to at times. That being said, his screams throughout this album are fucking top-notch and they still echo through my head.
In conclusion, this is not for everyone. If you like your Death Metal pretty much straightforward, check out Disavowed, Severed Savior, Disgorge, Malevolent Creation, etc. All of these bands are fantastically fucking superb in their own right, but not quite as much as Cryptopsy. This used to be a special band with special listeners and I would have liked it to stay this way until the end of time, but it's impossible for a band to have so many great musicians to get unnoticed. You can only make so many records before someone goes "Hey wait a minute.. what the hell is going on here?", and that's exactly what happened with Cryptopsy. Their technical genius combined with their songwriting abilities make them impossible not to notice.
Finally, after five years, Cryptopsy has released a new studio album! This is quite an important album for Cryptopsy as most of their fans should know. Not only is new material from the band, but it features the return of the original and the legendary Lord Worm. So naturally, this album had a lot of anticipation, and it sure has delivered to its anticipation.
The album starts out with a Spanish/classical guitar piece which was performed by former Cryptopsy guitarist Jon Levasseur. It's a beautiful piece, and a very surprising way for a Cryptopsy album to open up. After that, we get the first real song on the album, which starts out with booming power chords and then will blast the listener away with Flo Monier's juggernaut blastbeats. The song itself is rather dynamic, filled with interesting blast/grinding sections, memorable riffing, impressive leads, and even and some more Spanish style classical guitar work. Very diverse, indeed!
The third track on the CD entitled "Carrionshine" is a personal favourite. As many fans can probably recall, Cryptopsy released this as a pre-production demo earlier in 2005. I was enjoying it then, and I enjoy it so much more now. Flo's blasts go inhumanly fast in some parts. The riffs are fantastic too. There's a break in the song where the guitars become clean, and introduce and riff with some interesting harmonics. Once the distortion kicks back in, it's full brutality ahead. This song is surely to become a fan favourite.
The album continues on with a couple more tracks and then arrives to the masterpiece track "Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy". It starts out with a snare roll, and goes right into a jazz chord progression. Once the progression is over, prepare for brutality. Another great track. It is comparable to a jazzed up version of the classic "Cold Hate, Warm Blood".
A lot of fans will most likely enjoy the next track, "Angelskingarden". It has piano and synth in it, and clocking in at 7:07, it is the most epic sounding track on the album. The fan favourite "Phobophile" will probably come to mind while hearing this track.
The album then comes to the most stand out song on the album, "The Pestilence that Walketh In The Darkness". Cryptopsy released this track not too long before the promotional copies of the album came out, and a mass of fans became worried about what this album world sound like. I too was a bit concerned about the album, because it opens up with a clean arpeggio guitar line, and then goes into a melodic, groove based intro. As the song progresses it does get heavier, but is definitely the most non-Cryptopsy like song they've ever done. In fact, it reminds me of the Deftones with a different vocalist. The thing is though, it really fits into the flow of the album. It's not a Cryptopsy song, but it's a song that fits well where it is on the album.
Near the end of the album, we get the appropriately named track "The End", which sounds like a Latin based piece. This song runs off of its previous track and then runs into the next track "Endless Cemetery". This song closes the album off greatly, leaving a brutal impression on the listener.
The production on this album is a bit weak in comparison to the Mike DiSalvo era of Cryptopsy. It's not as thick or as well rounded. The drums stand out most in the mix, which sometimes may bury the other instruments. However, this is by no means a poorly produced album. Riffs are still distinguishable, as is the bass. Lord Worm's vocals sound higher than they used to, but he still manages to sound like the sickest human being on Earth.
All things considered, this is an extremely surprising and dynamic album that will either please or piss off a lot of Cryptopsy fans. I personally was very pleased with it, because you get the feel of old and new Cryptopsy with some other elements thrown in.
Admittedly, I kind of shut myself off from Cryptopsy as far as the post-Lord Worm material goes. But when I heard he had returned, I was ready for greatness. The man not only writes brilliant lyrics, but his vocals are nothing short of disgusting. He adds an aura to the music that the other Cryptopsy growlers couldn't bring.
And indeed he does on "Once Was Not." The lyrics are certainly a high point. Extremely vivid, the Lord puts his Ph.D. to work. There is some variation from his efforts on "None So Vile" and "Blasphemy Made Flesh," but it is certainly the old Lord Worm.
The songs themselves, however, do not hearken back to such a day. This is not classic Cryptopsy, but rather a modernized death metal sound. Canada has seen an influx of "deathcore" bands, namely Despised Icon and Ion Dissonance. Cryptopsy, whether intentionally or otherwise, are fit for this category. I hesitate to call this one death metal, but I'd hardly dismiss it as "-core." It's full of the tempo changes and insane riffs you'd expect from Ion Dissonance or Despised Icon. However, there's a level of brutality here absent from the releases of Cryptopsy's Canadian counterparts.
Flo Mounier is a beast, pure and simple. He changes tempo at the drop of a dime, and has a lot of start-stop patterns (sorry, as you can tell I'm not a musician, so bear with me). As can be expected, he'll leave your head spinning. Always one of my favorite elements of Cryptopsy, along with Lord Worm.
The production is squeaky-clean, as it must be when these guys play at light-speed. Every instrument can be heard clearly, including the bass. Nothing's gayer than having a talented bass-player drowned out in the chaos.
This is definitely a bold venture, a creative venture, as Cryptopsy isn't afraid to utilize acoustic passages and even a couple spoken word parts. If you're one of the "tr00-philes," then you'd better stay away from this.
Overall, a fine effort. 9/10
I truly wanted to wait and buy the CD when it was officially released. But I couldn't do it. I heard a mention of it available for download and I leaped at it. It's now safe to say I will still be buying the actual CD upon release. True, some will be disappointed in this. They wanted some super-br00tal teknikal death metalzz and they didn't get their wish. Like lightning, Cryptopsy never strike in the same place twice. Every album, or at least every album after 1995, is one idea taken to such magnificent and extreme lengths that the mind cannot but be numbed by it. Extremity is a tricky thing...most bands making extreme metal attempt to completely drive one's senses through a brick wall. Some do so decently, like Ion Dissonance or Origin, and others simply create rat excrement, like Conqueror or Anal Cunt. However, like one of the serial killers from Lord Worm's insanely twisted lyrical world, Cryptopsy tactfully stab at one's senses, every sharp blow plunging into one's proverbial heart like nothing else can. Cliche as it may be, I'm going to review each song on its own. One thing that you must know about Once Was Not is that it must be listened to as an album. The songs are put in a specific order for very good reason. Not to say they have no worth on their own, but to truly feel and understand the experience, you have to play this one from start to finish. ...
Luminum - It took a very Kantian sense of duty toward an attractive young lady friend of mine to tear me away from this little minute and a half intro when I first heard it. I must have repeated it maybe five times and would have kept doing so until the next song finished downloading (I still have dial-up) had I not left the house. The classical guitar sweeps are beautifully played over faint tinges of atmosphere in the background, while the piece itself concludes on a very dissonant note.
In The Kingdom Where Everything Dies, The Sky Is Mortal - I can't wait for the lyrics to this one. Four whole note chords cut through the quiet beginning, and then, just like that, you know Cryptopsy are back for your soul! This song introduces several themes which are found through the length of the album including the wild, almost random stops, the generally unnatural feel, and even the occasional sampling of electronics. Who ever expected that opening shriek?
Carrionshine - This one's quite a little bit thrashy and the closest thing on the album to what is commonly perceived as "death metal", It doesn't hold back on the artifical harmonics, and they are masterfully used in one of the main riffs.
Adeste Infidelis - Here is what I love about Cryptopsy. Like particles in quantum physics, it's everywhere at once! Once again unexpected...I didn't think I'd catch Lord Worm, who has a degree in English Literature (and another in Psychology) speaking French in an almost cartoonish voice before the solo. And how about a hand to Eric Langlois for that little bass solo in the middle. I can't explain this song at all, you have to hear it. And wait for one of Worm's staples, the VERY long scream at the end of a song, this time to a riff which seems to slow itself down while Worm's voice becomes more intense. Truly brilliant!
The Curse Of The Great - The meander at the end of Adeste is kept up through the beginning of this one before switching to another excellent riff over a drumline very reminiscent of the one at the beginning of Amon Amarth's "Death In Fire". They should not go together, and yet they do. One of the more "out there" songs on the album, it maintains only an average pace with riffs that anyone else would have played at breakneck speed, then introduces another riff that explores rarely-touched areas of the fretboard. And that crescendo in the last 10 seconds...wow.
The Frantic Pace Of Dying - When the first riff hits, you think it's great, but it seems to be sinking into a little bit of a mire of "sameness". Just as that thought enters your mind, into your ears comes something completely new...melody! At the perfect time a melodic riff cuts through the dissonance while maintaing the overall feel of the song. And near the end, that same tune comes back, only played once first by a keyboard! Perhaps as I said in my review of None So Vile, the band just speaks to me in a different way, but I can't help but notice how uncanny it was that at the very moment when the album seemed to decohere into something repetitive to me, it changed.
Keeping The Cadaver Dogs Busy - Nothing to start off like a little jazz. That's right...jazz, like the kind you'd hear while having a drink in a laid back pub. But it doesn't last long...The boys from the Crypt (yes, that's my stupid nickname for the band) drag you right back into their world of extreme sensory stimulation. It runs through six excellent riffs in 90 seconds, the first of which features a slide that sounds like no other slide in any song I've ever heard. Once again, the song features little bits of melody here and there, just the right amount. In the middle comes something more thrashy to even out the mix perfectly. It's almost too much to hear in so little time, but it works! It truly works!
Angelskingarden - If there's any song on the album that just knocks you off your feet, 'tis this. Like Adeste Infidelis, words can't do it justice. It's atmospheric keyboards, then vintage Cryptopsy, then thrash, then mid-paced lumbering over the same riff, then electronics, then an almost black metallish tremolo riff, then another one, then some masterful usage of one chord (remember Graves of the Fathers?), then something indescribable, then a quick off-tune acoustic bit - something like the music you'd hear walking through an angel skin garden - then thrash again, then a keyboard interlude, then a gorgeous melodic solo with a little bit of keyboard backing, then the first riff again, then I stop describing it because I just want to hear the last minute and a half of the song!
The Pestilence That Walketh In Darkness - Ahh...bible verses recited in a very sardonic tone! The first riff is not mentally stimulating, and after the somersaults your mind will have had to do to keep up with the last two songs, be thankful for that. Once again, it doesn't last long, as the middle comes back with more unexplored fretboard territory riffs, artificial harmonics...the works! Then the bible verses again to calm your senses down.
The End - The beginning is so chilling that you expect this to be the next Lichmistress...two minutes of all-out fury. But they've surprised us again. It's an oriental-sounding instrumental. Being from the middle east and having heard such music a lot, by those standards it's nothing truly magnifique, but it's there right when you need to hear it, and that's what makes it great. It must be quite a sight to see Flo playing those Arabic drums (we call them "derbakeh" and they're played with the hands, not sticks).
Endless Cemetery - This final song, had it featured just the rough-sounding riffs, would still have been utterly brilliant. Those riffs are that good. But then near the middle something happens that once again strikes your soul where it's not looking. One of the most magnificent riffs I've ever heard. Think Taake! And this could easily have ranked as one of the best riffs of Taake's reperatoire. And I'm a huge, huge fan of Taake. And Worm's shrieking over that riff. And then the solo, melodic again. An entire dissertation couldn't do this song its justice! It leaves me breathless.
I have an interesting theory about this album. I noticed that a lot of its tendencies matched those from Blasphemy Made Flesh...Worm's vocal stylings were similar, the production places the drums on the same level as the guitar in the same way BMF did, and the mid-paced melodic solos bring back some memories (of blood) too. Here's what's interesting...the only interpretation I came up with for the album's title was that it implies "Once Was Not Enough". Lord Worm is back, and perhaps they felt they wanted to in some ways start as they had 12 years ago, releasing something that, while being leaps and bounds more mature and stimulating, was in some ways like their first album. In that case, perhaps in two years we can expect something along the lines of "Once Was Not So Vile Enough"...could you even begin to imagine it?!
When you're talking about music as art, very little can surpass this. Like all art, there will be those who do not understand it, perhaps because their minds are too feeble or perhaps it's just not their preferred type of art. Some of us love Oscar Wilde, some love Richard Wagner, and some, albeit few, love Cryptopsy. As one who enjoys all three, I think my opinion counts for something. This is art. Its dissonance and wrath when understood become just as beautiful as Wilde's writing or Tristan Und Isolde. I hope there are others who understand what I mean, and I hope that some of those others visit this site.
P.S. What in the hell is a chugga-chugga riff? The phrase chugga-chugga lost all meaning to me some time shortly after my fifth birthday. Jeez.