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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.