without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I want to make it clear that I'm a big fan of Cryptopsy, and in particular Lord Worm Cryptopsy. There is no death metal album I listen to more than "None So Vile," save for perhaps "The Bleeding" or "Seven Churches." I was excited to buy this one, which a good friend of mine described as "good" experimentation from Cryptopsy. Despite being Jon Levasseur-less, it was Lord Worm-ful. Which is just fine in my book. But it is definitely not old-school, it is very experimental, and also, for the most part, a very dry and uninteresting album. There's enough good stuff on here that the album is listenable, but it is far from a great piece of metal or anything that could be considered classic "Cryptopsy."
Before I review the music, I'd like to first comment on the package. The album artwork, the lyric book, the disc are all extremely incohesive and are all over the map. The front cover art and the theme of it-the look-is not expanded upon at all in the lyric book. It goes from a picture of ravenous dogs behind gates, to a parody of the famous "hoisting of the flag" image from WW2 with the soldiers hoisting a Cryptopsy flag, to a bizarre maze-like symbol to a children's artwork style picture. It doesn't work at all, and is a sign of things to come.
The first track on the album, overall, is also the album's best. Luminum is a great, calm, atmospheric track that shows very creative (and very technical) guitar work, that at no moment feels like showing off. It's a great opener that follows with one of the weirdest tracks in pre-Unspoken King Cryptopsy's repetoire. It begins very heavily, going into a drop that is unbelievably heavy. The riffs are pretty cool, but about mid-way through the song we hear some strange, near-comical screams from Lord Worm, which we hear several times through the album. Imagine the sound Lord Worm might make if he were on a roller coaster... that's the closest thing I'm able to compare it to. It ruins the track in a way and, when I do listen to this song, I usually turn it off around this point.
The entire album is plagued by disjointed song writing, which makes most of the material on this offering difficult to listen to. The roller-coaster screams from Lord Worm often ruin the heaviness of the vocals (which are also a departure from his None So Vile style) and the riffing isn't quite the same as it was once was. The drums and bass are fantastic and well-mixed, but they don't help the writing style on the album at all. No song besides the intro ever feels like it truly comes together to make a truly directed, cohesive track, and this impacts the cohesiveness and the direction of the album as a whole.
The best tracks on the album are the single-"The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness"-"Adeste Infidelis," and "Luminum." Which isn't saying much considering only "Adeste Infidelis" would belong on a death metal-era Cryptopsy album. The rest of the songs, more often than not, are difficult to listen to all the way through, and the moments at which the listener would say "this is a really cool riff" are almost certainly followed by a part which didn't go with the riff that came before. I can't imagine the band sitting together and putting these songs together with any genuine feeling of approval at the finished product.
All in all, "Once Was Not" is simply a confused mess. While there are enough cool riffs and heaviness to make the album worth plodding through, it is certainly not to the standard Cryptopsy set with the albums that came before. It once was not so hard for the band to create a good death metal album. (Ha!) The album is definitely a foreshadowing of what was to come afterwards... efforts in (ineffective) experimentation that would end ultimately in the downfall of one of death metal's greats.