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Cryptic Tales - "VII Dogmata of Mercy" (CD)

Cryptic Tales - "VII Dogmata of Mercy" CD cover image

"VII Dogmata of Mercy" track listing:

1. Purgatory (8:14)
2. Towards Modern Darkness (8:10)
3. Valley of the Dolls II (6:19)
4. Set the Unholy Icons Free (8:58)
5. In Immortality (9:37)
6. Like in the Darkest Stormy Nights (6:56)
7. VII Dogma of Mercy (11:03)

Reviewed by on March 21, 2010

" With a few minor exceptions, 'VII Dogmata of Mercy' doesn’t do anything different from any other symphonic style black metal release in the last two decades."

It’s an unfortunate thing when a genre that had such a big impact becomes diluted from a horde of imitation bands and loses the originality appeal that made it intriguing in the first place. It could be argued that Cryptic Tales are more originators than imitators, as they’ve been around as long or longer than some of the most well known symphonic black metal bands, but their sound follows the leaders instead of branching out with their own style. With a few minor exceptions, “VII Dogmata of Mercy” doesn’t do anything different from other symphonic style black metal release in the last two decades.

In twenty years of existence, Cryptic Tales has only unleashed four full-length albums, taking long sabbaticals between releases. Despite their longevity, they’ve never managed to reach the same level of notoriety as the other long lived European acts. “VII Dogmata of Mercy” is the band’s attempt at finally becoming a blip on the radar outside their native Poland.

The album starts with a short feedback intro, dropping the genre standard of a keyboard heavy atmospheric track, and then heads straight into the metal. It only takes a few moments for the sound structures and keyboard usage to become exceedingly familiar. No one could be faulted for immediately thinking of Old Man’s Child or Dimmu Borgir, as the music does its best to sound exactly like a symphonic black metal release should. The background is held up by lots of big, heavy blast beats, the guitars sound evil and menacing, and the keyboards work up the atmosphere at the appropriate times.

The level of production remains consistent throughout the disc, hanging out just in-between moderate and great. Each sound is fairly distinct from the rest, and the overall production keeps up the feel of an exceedingly heavy and evil metal experience. The only element that ever gets lost is the vocal work, which is slightly more muted than the rest of the instruments. It’s likely that was a tactical decision on the part of the band, as the growls remain at the same level of intensity and don’t have any variation in tone or pitch to speak of. The growling fits the music, but the lack of distinction between lyric segments causes heavy song bleed. Without actively paying attention it’s easy to forget which track you're listening to.

Something odd about Cryptic Tales itself, as opposed to the music on the album, is also worth mentioning. Their promo photos have some of the most outlandish poses and faces in metal, and that’s saying something. They may not be shirtless in ridiculous wrestling poses, but they still give Immortal a run for their money in the category of most absurd pictures. It’s clear the band isn’t taking itself seriously in the photos, which is strange considering how deadly serious they get in their sound and overall lyrical direction. That could either be a refreshing lack of posturing to some or an annoying lack of conviction to others.

In between all the standard sounds to be found on the album, there are a few interesting twists that highlight specific segments. The end of “Towards Modern Darkness” uses an infrequently heard sound effect that makes it seem like the song is powering off after someone yanked out the power cable. “Valley of the Dolls Pt. 2” also has some energetic and exciting guitar work that gives the song enough vigor to make the audience want to get up and head bang. One can only imagine that the track is a real killer in a live setting.

The members of Cryptic Tales are proficient at what they do, but the band seems destined to remain situated in the second or even third tier of symphonic black metal bands. There isn’t enough to differentiate them from other bands in the same vein, and their musical prowess alone isn’t significantly better than their peers. The album gets the job done for those fans who really need a new dose of symphonic black metal, but it’s unlikely to hit anybody’s regular play lists for very long.

Highs: It's decent symphonic black metal, and there are a few interesting twists.

Lows: If you've ever heard a Dimmu Borgir or Old Man's Child album you've already heard "VII Dogmata of Mercy."

Bottom line: Fills the void if you absolutely need new symphonic black metal, but it doesn't do anything that hasn't been heard before.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)