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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/