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An overlooked enigma - 89%

enigmatech, September 21st, 2011

This album would be the final Cryptopsy album before their controversial follow-up "The Unspoken King" became a common stable in the vocabulary of every internet nerd from here to Youtube, and thus is criminally overlooked. Of course, this is nothing new for Cryptopsy, as each album since "Whisper Supremacy" has garnered an increasing amount of controversy and confusion within the band's established fanbase, and the lukewarm reviews for "Once Was Not" are no doubt due in part to this being the band's most experimental and bizarre recording to date.

This album does not, unfortunately, revive the fires of the band's earliest years. However, it does showcase a unique fusion of the band's earlier, more riff-centered approach on "Blasphemy Made Flesh" and "None so Vile" with the more recent, technical excursions of "Whisper Supremacy" and "...And then You'll Beg", as well as reviving a semblance of cohesion that helps these tracks remain more memorable in the long run. Some tracks, such as "The Frantic Pace of Dying", may remind the listener of more melodic tracks such as "Phobophile" or "Abigor". In the same way, more technical tracks such as the extremely over-the-top somewhat awkwardly-titled opener "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, Even the Sky is Mortal" may take the listener back to classics of technical ecstacy like "Emaciate" and "Voice of Unreason".

However, it's hard to draw any real comparisons to earlier Cryptopsy works, as this album really doesn't sound that much like any of the band's previous work. Musically, the riffs are less reliant on flashy noodling and are more focused on comparatively simplistic, chord-based riffs played at breakneck speed with constant, seamless transitions. As well, the production is extremely raw, supplying a unique amount of grit and dirt that draws more from old school death metal than the more flashy side of technical death metal as one might assume, and thus the songs never come across as a group of musicians trying to impress the listener through sheer technical ability and skill alone. This band never tries to sway you from the fact that they are, indeed, a death metal band. Just check out "Adeste Infidelis", and any dissenters shall be instantly smitten!

The more avant-garde, experimental side of the band's music is given a greater focus here, as well. "Keeping the Cadaver Dog Busy", for instance, makes use of a prominent jazz-fusion influence (particularly in the drumming), while "The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness" opens with an atmospheric, melodic riff completely alien to the Cryptopsy name in the past. There are also two short, experimental interludes, the classical-influenced "Luminium", and the somewhat Middle-Eastern sounding "The End". While neither experiment is very long-lasting, they are extremely well-composed and prove a necessity to the album's make up. As well, former guitarist Jon Levasseur's signature soloing style is still present, with both "Angelskingarden" and "Endless Cemetery" making use of breathtaking, melodic solos. This album is also noticeable due to it's inclusion of Cryptopsy's first downbeat number, the atmospheric sludger "The Curse of the Great".

Lord Worm, the band's infamous original vocalist, returns to the fold with this album, as well, though his performance may be hit-or-miss amongst fans expecting another "None so Vile". His guttural, zombie-like rampage upon the mic in the past is no more, instead replaced by a somewhat more conventional death grunt and greater focus on rasped screams. However, his lyrical approach remains extremely intelligent, though more based around topics such as plague, death, and war, as opposed to his previous focus on gore, sex, and blasphemy. As far as stylistic differences are concerned, tracks such as the epic closer "Endless Cemetery" feature a more direct focus on higher-ranged screams, while "The Pestilence that Walketh In Darkness" and "Adeste Infidelis" make use of spoken word, the former's example being a prominent bible verse, which gives the song a distinctive, almost militant-vibe.

Unfortunately, sometimes the songs sound a bit disjointed and insubstantial, at times passing in one ear and out the other. Many of the riffs come across as weird and confusing, lacking in any real purpose to the song's overall development, while Lord Worm's throat has certainly seen better days. While these facts don't really hinder this album from still being "good", if not "great", there's no denying that even the band's earliest recordings were much more developed as far as song-writing is concerned. Even the band's previous album, "...And then You'll Beg", which has been somewhat infamously reviled over the years due to it's extremely confusing and disjointed song-writing style, was much more focused and memorable than this album.

However, this album makes a point to have every song stand on it's own ground, and the band never really repeats the same idea twice, which is extremely refreshing after giving a listen to the album's somewhat challenging (but still good) predecessor. Overall, I would say this is an album for previously established Cryptopsy fans, and even then, not all will be pleased. As I mentioned, this is the weirdest thing Cryptopsy has ever released. I, as a seasoned Cryptopsy fanatic, find this to be an astounding, if not underrated, flawed masterpiece that showcases what some know as "the beginning of their end" for Cryptopsy, but I find to be the end of their beginning. Definitely check this out if you're a Cryptopsy fan.

My favourite songs:
Adeste Infidelis, The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness, Angelskingarden, Endless Cemetary