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Cryptopsy - Once Was Not - 94%

Vooyasheck, April 27th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Century Media Records

This is probably the biggest challenge for me - to write a review of an album from 2005 in 2013, especially that band released two more albums after that and both very different albums. And when you enter any online forum about metal and search for posts about this album you can surely read as many opinions as many people have heard the album. So whatever I'll write here, on MetalBite website about this album, will result in as many "damn right"s as "hell no!"s.

Even fanatic Cryptopsy-holics are not united in opinions about this release. Anyway I'm joining the group of those who praise it for its variety and skills of all musicians who contributed on this album. To me it's just like listening to another release by Mike Patton - you never know what's on it, until you hear it, but there is no doubt that these guys know metal inside-out. Listening to this album was like listening to every Mr. Bungle album - maybe there are few (or rather a couple) of melody lines you can whistle while shaving but that's it. The rest is chaos. But this chaos is precisely planned and only masterminds standing behind it know what's going on.

Let's start with my favourite part - the drums. Flo Mounier is one of those drummers which you might think "can do it on the studio album, but there's no way he would survive playing that live". Well, I encourage you to attend any of their shows or look for some drum-cam videos on the internet. This guy is a random rhythm generator with a human brain and machine-like endurance. Actually I have to add that Cryptopsy know probably everything about metal, but also a fair amount about jazz and progressive rock/metal. They mix it all skillfully and probably that blend is causing so much controversy, because it's sometimes hard to understand how they came up with the idea of putting all the riffs and rhythms in this particular order. Some probably think that it's actually disorder. Or maybe they just gave each rhythm a number and then drawn these numbers from a hat. Anyway going back to skills - Flo Mounier is an excellent drummer and he played all these rhythms perfectly. Some tracks even sound as if it was a drum solo with guitars and vocals recorder over it. It actually reminds me another unusual album - Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects "Sol Niger Within". But actually Cryptopsy's album is more chaotic and furious.

Now the guitars - an intro played by Jon Levasseur is awesome if you want to play it to your non-metal friends to weaken their vigilance, just to play 'In the Kingdom...' right after it. Rapid reactions guaranteed, not necessary pleasant. The rest of the album's guitar parts are played by Alex Auburn and basically you have everything here - low riffs, high riffs, slow riffs, tremolo riffs, one-string, two-string riffs as well as chords. There are melodic solos on this album as well as Kerry King-styled solos. What might be slightly surprising that the guitar sound is quite clean on this album and again many fans consider it as a flaw and describe the sound as flat. I tend to disagree, I've heard flatter. Too bad there is no information available about who recorded keyboards on this album, as they add quite nice touch to few tracks. I'm mentioning them now, because maybe they were guitar synths (if Pestilence could do it in 1993, so could Cryptopsy in 2005).

To hear Eric Langlois, you have to listen very hard. The distorted sound of bass goes very often in line with low-tuned guitar, apart from very few moments where he's given opportunity to show off a little. And that is probably the only "but" from me on this album. Either the melody lines are not complex enough for bass on this album or the sound engineer didn't like bassists.

I left vocals to the end of my review as again there is a lot of controversy behind the vocals on this album amongst the fans and sporadic listeners. It was a long-awaited return of Lord Worm and some of them were disappointed. I'm not. The spectrum of sounds coming out of Lord Worm's mouth is also amazing. They are harsh mostly, but that adds variety to this album. You could think that sometimes he even sounds as if he was barely able to finish the song, but that stands again in contrast to the overall "clean" sound of the album. Which in my opinion is good. You've got low growls, black metal-ish shrieks, some narration. Low growls sometimes remind me of early L-G Petrov's achievements. And that's only why I like it even more.

To sum the whole album - it is chaotic, but actually in some tracks you can notice a pattern of repeated riffs as if they had a construction of verses and chorus. It is brutal - it is definitely death metal, fast, technical and most of the time very far from melodic. Maybe it's not brutal enough for some fans, but to me it's just perfection. It is my subjective opinion and I guess not everyone would put this album amongst the list of the best albums of all time, but I would. If you're not sure if you want to buy it, borrow it from a friend and give it a try. Because I think that every metalhead should listen to it at least once, from the beginning to the end. And if you find it too chaotic... well, it's metal album about war and I think it the music is as chaotic as it should be.

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