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Thanks to fellow staffer and generally just all-around awesome dude, gk, I was recently made aware of this heavy-ish thrash-ish black-ish death-ish metal outfit from beautiful Bangalore, India. These guys have been working away at their trade for over a decade and have three full-lengths to their name, including a soon-to-be-released 2012 album entitled “The Coils of Apollyon” (which I will surely be getting), and to say that I’m impressed by what I’ve heard so far is a bit of an understatement.
Kryptos does nothing technically spectacular, but they are definitely well-versed in their “Fear of the dark” era Iron Maiden guitar riffs. Everything from the riffs to the production sounds downright nostalgic, and I absolutely love this record because of it. Essentially what Kryptos has done is take that Maiden-worship sound to a different place altogether by utilizing an almost hissy black metal approach to death metal vocals instead of the bombastic, operatic Dickinson-ism that this brand of metal would probably suit.
Honestly, from the moment I first heard “Sphere VII” gallop out of my speakers, I was hooked. The production, like the rhythms, are just terrifically old-school and nostalgic. The guitars are somewhat thin and not even remotely over-produced, and that gives the album an organic mid-90s sound that you generally don’t hear with the newest modern releases. The bass has an excellent tone, is good and punchy, and clearly inspired by Steve Harris, which is never a bad thing. The one element about this album’s sound that I absolutely love is the drum sound. I don’t know why I love it exactly, but they just sound the way drums used to sound. The snare is a nice long and resounding classic snare sound. The bass drum is definitive with authoritative punchy smacks and a deep tone. The high-hats, are hissy and splashy and just generally sound amazing.
Despite their nostalgic sound, Kryptos still manages to bring some really cool things without sounding at all totally derivative. The riffs are ridiculously catchy, and I can never resist the urge to tap my foot or nod my head along with them. The riffs aren’t what I would even call very tight, but for some reason it only adds to the charm of the tunes. The drumming also plays a huge part in the groove, the high-hat work in particular. Ryan Colaco always provides just the right touches to make things that much more groovy, whether it’s a perfectly placed fill that follows a riff or just a simple extra tap on that glorious aforementioned high-hat. It’s truly a classy and terrific performance.
Like I said before, simply saying this album impresses me is an understatement. It has plenty of catchy songs and tons of groove, and it has already earned its way into my own personal list of albums that I greatly revere. Nothing you hear on this album is going to wow you by any means, but I guarantee that you’ll find some groovy, enjoyable heavy-ish thrash-ish black-ish death-ish metal. Thank you, gk.
Written for globaldomination.se
“Herectic Supreme” sounds like one of those expressions that are used by painted musicians along with black metal in order to blow your mind. “Liquid Grave”, for instance, seems to come from the most disorganized goregrind album that you will ever see. “Tower of Illusions” sounds like a typical death/thrash title while “The Revenant” and “In The Presence of Eternity” are two of the most death metal song titles that I have ever seen. “Vulcan” and “Trident” sound epic enough to fit in a NWOBHM album and maybe even a power metal one.
My first reaction upon seeing a tracklist that included all of the aforementioned words was one of curiosity, but while the download lasted the curiosity was quickly replaced by skepticism, which was replaced by a complete lack of interest. The reasons remain unknown, but the fact is that it took me more than an hour to begin listening to it after the download was done. Maybe I had grown tired of stuff that I was not familiar with? I admit that this thought passed through my mind, but now I am pretty sure that it is not the case, as Ark of Gemini is different from what I have ever seen before, and I liked it.
The album is basically a compilation that includes Iron Maiden influences, black metal screams, an interesting death growl that shows up every once in a while and (why not?) samples. The album starts off promisingly: Sphere VII’s introduction is an unusual sequence of very fast lead guitars that due to being incredibly low in terms of volume end up working as background to the slow riff. Soon black metal shrieks come in (which freaked me out for the first four seconds but ended up making the whole experience enjoyable) and while the cymbals are slowly incorporated to the composition, it is impossible not to have high expectations for the rest of the album.
The musicians here are quite experienced, also. Everything gives hints of professionalism, from the clear production to the inspired breakdowns, while the melodies are most of the times creative (and often awe-inspiring). In this recording, the band tried to bring a lot of emotions together, and al although they weren’t entirely successful in that goal, they did their job well: Melancholy, aggression and the will to headbang are all present here to a certain extent.
Boredom, however, seems to be also present. “The Revenant” is a song that is at least disappointing: while there seems to be enough riffs to carry a track that barely makes it to 4:50, it really doesn’t go anywhere during that length, failing to deliver the emotion it was clearly supposed to. Matters are made worse by the pacing, which seems to be constantly changing thorough the album but stays constant during the song. The result is a track that seems solid at first but ends up being little more than tolerable. Vulcan is also boring, but because of a completely different problem: while the nearly-instrumental track changes its tempo frequently, it ends up sounding like a compilation of riffs, not a song.
Finally, “Towers in Fire” and “Order of the D.N.A.” are, along with Sphere VII, the best tracks found in this full-length, but they couldn't be more different from each other: while “Towers in Fire” is a mid-paced song that focuses on the melodies, “Order of the D.N.A.” is a rather short song that manages to be very energetic and catchy, with some clear thrash metal influences. Heretic Supreme is also a nice track, but even with better melodies than average it ultimately fails to be extremely memorable.
This album is a successful attempt at bringing a lot of old genres into a single recording while making everything sound fresh. This is far from perfect, and there is always something that tells you that these musicians will make much better stuff in the future, but anyone that enjoys metal a little bit will find this appealing.
Modernizing old school heavy metal is never easy to do. Hell, even the harmonic axe attack legends Iron Maiden and Judas Priest have started to lose what made them so great in their heydays. But to modernize heavy metal isn’t always as necessary as it is to take that old resonating template and to make it one’s own. That is where many bands fail when playing an all but outmoded and forgotten style. These bands emulate their predecessors so much that the music becomes clichéd and unoriginal in the hopes of sounding like their idols and like the music was written in the genre’s zenith. Where some bands will sacrifice originality for imitation, Kryptos searches for its own sound within the template of old school metal and is able to pull it off spectacularly.
Through the harmonic opening to “Sphere VII”, Kryptos is off to a great start. The drums are more oriented to the bass end of the kit but slowly glide up to incorporate the cymbals and more snare strikes at the chorus, the riffs lead well and deviate satisfyingly with a combination of a thrashy chug and journeying NWOBHM riff, and the vocals come in with a good moderation between a harsh yell and a slight guttural. As the first chorus approaches, the song changes from a combination of early metal and NWOBHM into a fusion of thrash and NWOBHM and as the song progresses into the solo section, the combination becomes more evident as a mix of thrashy shredding and drawn out harmonies come to monopolize the mix.
“Order of the D.N.A.” is definitely the money track of this album. Played in an anthemic style that is both uplifting and very heavy sounding, the band involves some very catchy riffing, an accessible rhythmic pace, and a chorus that any audience can chant of “Come! Re-program your minds, Come! Re-program your thoughts, Come! Re-program your minds, Conform or stand in line”. Like a lot of non English speaking bands that do vocals in English, there are a few typos here and there, but the overall message is clear in “Order of the D.N.A.” as well as Kryptos’ other songs. The vocal style is perfectly fitting in this song as well. With such a malicious delivery, the positive sound is perfectly juxtaposed with the distinctive vocals and adds a strong energy to this really fun song.
As this band sounds very original, the Iron Maiden and Judas Priest influence also has its place in the sound. From samples that open “Sphere VII”, “Heretic Supreme”, and “The Revenant” to the bouncing and galloping paces found in “Vulcan”, “The Revenant”, and “Order of the D.N.A”, Kryptos shows that their impressive guitar harmonies aren’t the only thing they’ve learned to do well from their musical ancestors. Metallica-esque chugs litter the mix as well and help to lubricate transitions between riffs in “Trident” along with drum fills that deviate many rhythmic patterns while maintaining a straightforward pace. The band’s emotional and tempo range also has parts derived from doom style Black Sabbath in “Tower of Illusions” which also features an intense droning drop, awesome rhythmic rises like Iron Maiden choruses that accompany the lead guitar in “Vulcan” and remains very melancholy within the overall scheme of the song, as well as a running pace through “Order of the D.N.A” that becomes the pace for the majority of the album’s songs. The main emotion put forward through the band’s sound is an energetic positivity that shows the band as the proud adversary to the conformity and authority the lyrics tackle and this spurs the guitars to really shred when solos come up as well as helps the rises grow precisely and fittingly. While the positivity is nearly a constant in the album, the aggression of “Heretic Supreme” and melancholy of “In the Presence of Eternity” come forward genuinely and really help to make this album a strong display of songwriting aptitude.
Kryptos is definitely a solid band with a talent for songwriting and really impresses on “The Ark of Gemini”. The unique combination of elements of NWOBHM gallops and harmonies, original metal pacing, and the aggression of thrash with harsh vocals is pulled off well and makes this band as accessible as it is talented.
Clinching a deal with OSM records and a worldwide release has definitely take the Indian band Kryptos the necessary distance in terms of the audience reach, but sadly for some one who has picked up this CD as a follow up to Spiral Ascent would surely be disappointed, the necessary Maiden and Priest influences are spread all across the tracks, but unlike Spiral Ascent, The Ark Of Gemini sounds like a multi genre compilation. The band though displays it's prowess in the song and riff writing departments, the lyrics of each song are well written and with the thrash acts influence, the album sounds solid. For example from the track Sphere VII
"Walk through halls of shattered realms
Cloaked in echoes of empty words
Empty thoughts bear empty deeds
Drink the wine of what should have been
Caged by walls of blackened gold
Trade your heart for an empty soul
Architects of the coming fall
All for one and none... for all"
My favorite track of the album is Tower of Illusions, the quintessential doom track that suddenly springs up without a notice, though pardonable after giving this track a listen, this is what every doom metal fan wants to listen, hazy riffs and vocals add up to the beauty of this track, the rest of the songs in this album are good, other tracks that shine bright are Order Of The DNA and Liquid Grave. The new line up has done good to the band, the bass is necessarily audible and sounds good, but the drumming is normal and has nothing to mention about. The solo's are well crafted and executed, they add the necessary ostentation to the songs in the album. Ganesh (ex-member) did the vocals for the album Spiral Ascent which suited the music style of Kryptos very well, Nolan, the rhythm guitarist, now handles the vocals section as well, though they sound raw at times, they tend to juxtapose with the music pretty well in pieces and places.
The band's live act is just like a hall of metalhead's with their CD spinning, in one word, perfect. Though a wonderful progress from Spiral Ascent, The Ark of Gemini is much better in production, riff and song writing. On the whole this is one heavy metal album that can be enjoyed, if not for the multi-genre-compilation-feeling, this album is awesome and arguably one of the best metal albums released by an Indian band.