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When I first heard that Krypteria was ready to release a new album, thanks to their previous effort My Fatal Kiss, I found myself more interested as to what revealing outfit the singer was going to wear on the cover than the actual music. Thus when I did eventually discover that the album cover showcased a skull with wings that looked like a decal you’d buy at a gumball machine I was admittedly disappointed. Then I thought for a minute.
"Sure, it seems like a throwback to the early days of crude yet endearing heavy metal sleeves, but is that really a bad thing? Maybe the focus for this album will be about actual quality power-tinged metal music, as opposed to marketing strategies centered on stroking material for teenage boys and married men whose wives are away on vacation."
To my surprise, that actually turned out to be the case.
I’m not going to flat out state that this is some massive overhaul of their sound. There’s no blastbeats or lyrics glorifying the devouring of human entrails, but they learned from their mistakes and put out a pretty damn good gothic metal album by my estimation. The production, like its predecessor, is mixed with a fat yet crunchy guitar sound, but in this case is pushed a little bit forward in the mix. Yes, the guitars are downtuned, but for the most part they eschew that “baseball cap on sideways with the fucking sticker on it” posturing. Overall, the engineering is a top notch job without resonating as sterile, particularly on the drums, in which they are clear but come across like a human actually played them. They were basically looking to sound like a metal band instead of a gothic pop band with distorted guitars, unlike their previous outing.
At least half of these songs rank as among the best music they’ve put out since their inception as an actual band, with a few of them being their heaviest. The opening track is borderline speed metal with its driving rhythm complemented by Ji-In Cho’s melodic yet aggressive delivery of the lyrics. No, she doesn’t get hoarse or banshee-like, but she at least sounds like she cares about the subject matter to add a little “oomph” to the proceedings. The lyrics concerning the hypocrisy in religious leaders is nothing new, but from a band whose subject matter usually doesn’t veer too far from “being scorned in a relationship by some dick” or “being in love with someone (whose probably a dick but she hasn’t figured that out yet)”, it’s a nice surprise of an opener. The guitar soloing has improved as well, with Chris having armed himself with a few more tricks than the tired concept of mimicking the vocal melody followed by simplistic two-handed tapping for eight bars or so. “Fly Away With Me” is a superb heavy hitter with its majestic chorus that invokes women riding horses with brass bras and bejeweled loincloths as opposed to chicks putting on black lipstick and struggling with pvc pants that don’t quite fit. “Thanks For Nothing” is their most aggressive track and certainly another keeper. A couple of more tunes like this and I’d even promote the group by wearing one of their T-shirts. “The Eye Collector” is epic and progressive with a lot going on, from “heavy” male vocals joining the fray to the Moonlight Sonata interlude and some seriously vicious riffing that’s as far removed from your typical gothic pop metal standard as you’ll hear by a band of this ilk.
There are other songs. You know, the ones more entrenched in the gothic realm, but they aren’t all bad. In fact, I personally dig “Higher” way more than I probably should. It’s a decent number and boasts a pretty sweet guitar solo, but man that gloomy bridge where Ji-In coos “Comets blazing, burning red, supernovas in my head…” is delivered with so much enticement and sensuality that it becomes difficult to keep my damn pants on. Then there’s also the obligatory “Someone cuddle this woman!” ballad “Hurt So Bad” that works because she can pull off the necessary emotional weight needed for this sort of boo-hoo thing.
I wouldn't say this album lacks any clunkers, in that “You Killed Me” and “Live To Fight Another Day” sound pretty much like their titles would suggest, meaning tracks that give me the impression of leftovers from their push for commercial appeal on My Fatal Kiss. I’m not going to dwell on them because they really aren’t worth trashing; it’s just corset metal by numbers, so if you’re into that sort of thing then stay out of the sunlight and have a good time. For the most part, though, All Beauty Must Die is a gung-ho step in the right direction. The album title itself somewhat comes across as if Krypteria is making a statement that the focus shouldn’t be all about their singer’s exotic comeliness. Whereas their last album could have been labeled All Except Beauty Must Die, here they seem to be getting a much more cohesive idea as to where they want to take their music. I’m actually looking forward to see where they in fact go next musically, especially with what appears to be a curious hint of progressive metal tendencies in regards to the album’s grand finale. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Krypteria has always been a complicated case for me. Each of the musicians has got a lot of talent. Let's just have a look at their epic tracks, their orchestral arrangements and their conceptual musical releases at the beginning of the band's career. I also had the chance to meet the musicians several times and they are really friendly, honest and creative people. I have seen several live shows of them and the three guys and the beautiful Korean singer really rock like hell.
But the studio records have always been their weak point. The songs are all quite similar. They have simple and mostly modern heavy riffs and boring verses and epic choruses that focus on the skills of singer Cho Ji-In, a little orchestra and a few epic choirs. The choruses try to be catchy and they sometimes are like in "You Killed Me" or "Eyes Of A Stranger" but after a few tracks the concept gets quite boring and the tracks are not gripping enough. There is always a lot of filler material on the band's records and especially the start of this album is rather mellow.
Even some guest musicians can't push the band. "Higher" sounds like any other track on the record even though they have added an additional bass and an additional electric guitar to the track. "Victoria" features guest vocals from the German metal legend Doro Pesch but the song still has no magic and it feels as if the musicians wouldn't play on the highest level they could and produce an ordinary potential single hit. Those songs lack of energy, passion and conviction.
The band really shines when they try out something different. "Thanks for nothing" is easily the heaviest track on the record and maybe in the band's career. It's really an energizing song. I wish they would create more tracks like that. The powerful half-ballad “How Can Something So Good Hurt So Bad” is also a very decent track. The epic and atmospheric conceptual track "The Eye Collector" is filled with male guest vocals, many changes of style and a quotation of the famous "Moonlight Sonata" in the middle of the track. The band really put a lot of time into this track that was inspired by a great book by the German author Sebastian Fitzek.
In the end, the album has once again too many filler tracks to convince me. A few highlights and lots of talent are still worth giving this record a try. You should get the limited edition with two new recordings from two catchy classics of the band plus one good third bonus track that may rate this album up. I really hope that the next release of the band may be shorter, more diversified and especially more focused than this one. Since a few years, the same problems persist on their records and I still don’t see more than small improvements. Right now I still have to see the band live to feel and discover their full passion and talent.
Oh, would you look at that. Krypteria bounced back from releasing one of the worst pop-metal albums of all time by releasing one of their best. Again. I seem to recall this exact same thing happening back in 2007 when Bloodangel's Cry beat In Medias Res into the dust as this album does to My Fatal Kiss, further proving that these guys can actually put out some decent power/gothic metal, with those nice symphonic touches, when they feel like it. Well, without wasting any more time, let's dive right into All Beauty Must Die.
I knew right away, from the first few seconds of "Messiah," that this album was going to be superior to its predecessor (then again, these first few seconds were already better than the entire previous album, with a very 80s Priest-style whammy bar build-up note leading into an up-tempo rocker of a tune with ample catchiness for all to enjoy). It actually gets quite intense--we're only on the first track, and I've already got high hopes! Ji-in delivers one hell of a performance with her dynamic vocals, going into a low tenor at times and reaching up to a soprano during the post-chorus, and we get one of the best solos the group have ever written. Bitchin' tune. Our next song, "As I Slowly Bleed" is pretty generic--a disappointment after a rockin' opener, but it's still decent and harmless enough to keep your attention. And, like the group's discography in general, "Fly Away with Me" brings the upbeat catchiness back in droves, using its choral and orchestral touches to great effect. 2 for 3 so far, and that's a good sign.
"You Killed Me" is about as terrible as its title suggests. Not only are Ji-in's vocals more nasally than usual, but the song itself is a mid-paced key-of-C whinefest with chugga chug chug guitars, bland vocal lines, and bare-bones drumming. NEXT! "Live to Fight Another Day" is the exact same thing, with a catchier chorus and a slower tempo. 2 for 5, guys. Playing the same lethargic power chord repeatedly in bursts of 3 or 4 notes does not constitute a riff. But hey! "Eyes of a Stranger" and "Thanks for Nothing" inject some much-needed energy into this lackluster middle section, doing away with the chugs and bringing back some actual riffs, frenetic basslines, and drumming that brings Motorhead's speed metal work to mind. 4 for 7.
"Turn the World Around" is a pretty rockin' arena-friendly tune, with yet another intense sing-along chorus, but "Higher" brings us back into the depths of mediocrity with its sluggish pace and dull...dullness (it'd be great to hear distinguishable notes from those guitars, guys). "Victoria" is a great little epic, with powerful vocals and riffing and orchestral pieces--no complaints here. "(How Can Something So Good) Hurt So Bad" is a terribly generic ballad that offers nothing new or interesting, giving the impression that it was intended for easy listening radio with its utter lack of heavy guitars, and even the drummer sounds like he's counting not the beat of the song, but the time remaining before he can leave the room and vomit. 6 for 11 so far. Will Krypteria get their act together and save themselves?
Luckily for us, yes they do. "The Eye Collector" is a very nice dark, epic track, proving my point in my other Krypteria reviews that the group is at their best when they step out of the 4-minute-song comfort zone and just work at making something awesome.. Starting off with some atmospheric low orchestral swells and a pretty unsettling riff paired with pretty unsettling vocal lines, they proceed to deliver everything from hard-pounding riffs to soaring choral vocals...hell, they even manage to flawlessly weave Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" into the mix, and it makes the whole thing that much better. And then, near the end, everyone in the studio (apparently) begins chanting "Follow me! Follow me! Follow me!" and it's infectious as all hell, and when the band begins building up the intensity, it just becomes one of the best things this group has ever managed to create. Great song. This would normally be a 7 out of 12, but "The Eye Collector" is over 11 minutes long, so I'm calling it a 9 out of 14, which means this album is a success, overall.
Oh, and for those of us who got the special edition, we have remakes of "Get the Hell Out of My Way" and "Liberatio," as well as a tune called "Come Hell or High Water" (which sounds like a national anthem, really). Long story short, the remakes are much improved over their original versions, which were present on the Liberatio album way back when. And the 3rd track is pretty cool, despite the fact I can't shake the feeling I've heard it somewhere before. Good bonus stuff. Get them if you can.
And there you have it. ONCE AGAIN, Krypteria releases a good-but-not-quite-great power/gothic metal album, with a few subpar tracks of course, after one of their worst. See what happens when you bring back the choir and the orchestra, guys? It's like a roller coaster, really, and it's getting a little too predictable. Let's just enjoy this victory before 2012 brings us the next worst album in Krypteria's catalogue.