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Cryptopsy - "Cryptopsy" (CD)

Cryptopsy - "Cryptopsy" CD cover image

"Cryptopsy" track listing:

1. Two-Pound Torch
2. Shag Harbour's Visitors
3. Red-Skinned Scapegoat
4. Damned Draft Dodgers
5. Amputated Enigma
6. The Golden Square Mile
7. Ominous
8. Cleansing the Hosts

Reviewed by on August 23, 2012

"Cryptopsy has returned with a self-titled album that brings the band back to that Golden Era sound that made it great in the first place."

Four years ago, the death metal scene was set on its ear when Cryptopsy, the Canadian pioneers and esteemed progenitors of technical death metal, put out the much-maligned “The Unspoken King.” To say it was polarizing wouldn’t even be accurate. Everyone who knew anything about the band’s past and its seminal album, “None So Vile,” loathed “The Unspoken King.” Gone were the maniacal death grunts and inhuman inhale experimentations of former vocalist Lord Worm, replaced by the deathcore stylings of new man behind the microphone Matt McGachy. What was worse, the album had clean vocals and keyboards. Clean vocals and keyboards are to Cryptopsy as intelligence is to Emmure fans. People were pissed. This was Cryptopsy’s “Cold Lake,” its “St. Anger.”

How could this have happened? Was the absence of guitarist Jon Levasseur, the only holdout from the band’s full length debut, “Blasphemies Made Flesh,” aside from the legendary Flo Mounier behind the kit, enough to send the band into such a tailspin that it lost its sound entirely? Mounier spoke of experimentation and evolution, which are all well and good, but this is Cryptopsy we’re talking about—a sacred, unchangeable deity of death metal alongside Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and Obituary. It was as though the Tardy Brothers suddenly announced they were turning Obituary into a Limp Bizkit tribute act and Frank Mullen, buoyed by the raucous response to his drunken rendition of “New York, New York” aboard the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, was retiring from death metal to do a Frank Sinatra-inspired lounge act with George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher tickling the ivories. To make a long story short, nothing made sense anymore. The gods of death metal we held on high had crashed unceremoniously to earth, and were revealed as hopelessly human and feeble.

Now, four years later, the world makes sense again. Cryptopsy has returned with a self-titled album that brings the band back to that Golden Era sound that made it great in the first place. It’s immensely technical but engaging, with crystal-clear drum work from Mounier that avoids that cursed typewriter-on-methamphetamine bass drum sound. What really sets Mounier apart is his ability to be mind-bogglingly technical but still fluid enough to seamlessly stitch angular and schizophrenic guitar parts together with liquid fills, leaving every part of the kit bludgeoned from the bell to the cymbal stands. Recapturing the past is a near-impossible task at the best of times, but Mounier and Levasseur have successfully reverted to the formula that helped invent the Quebec tech-death hyperblast sound alongside acts such as Gorguts and the early albums of Kataklysm.

Then there is the work of McGachy, the young man who was handed the Herculean job of stepping into Lord Worm’s boots after he quit, or was fired, depending on which report you believe, following the release of “Once Was Not.” McGachy took more than his share of the blame for the failings of “The Unspoken King,” and so this time around he opted for a more traditional death metal sound, squealing and grunting his way through his own brand of guttural madness, sticking mostly to a single style but exhibiting hints of his wide vocal range from time to time. He can’t be Lord Worm—no one can—but his performance on his second, and possibly last chance with Cryptopsy fans, is orthodox and powerful enough to make people forget about that unfortunate freshman stumble.

Guitarists Levasseur and Christian Donaldson engage in the same chaotic but precise tech death riffing we grew to love and worship on “None So Vile,” “Whisper Supremacy,” and “…And then You’ll Beg,” with brutal pinch harmonics, stop-and-start riffs, elements of jazz and a few bars of clean tone in the midst of the fury, a few harmonized solos, and some straight-ahead mosh-friendly passages that keep the songs frenzied but memorable, as in “The Golden Square Mile.” That was what made the early Cryptopsy albums so amazing. They were amongst the most technical albums of their time, but you found yourself humming the riffs to “Phobophile” and “Slit Your Guts” months, and even years after you heard them. This album has the same effect on songs such as “Red-Skinned Scapegoat” and the opener, “Two-Pound Torch,” and it must have taken nearly every minute of the four-year interim between albums to recapture that.

New bassist Olivier Pinard’s crystalline slap bass leads, such as his intro to “Shag Harbour’s Visitors,” are yet another vital component that keeps Cryptopsy’s technicality from becoming stale. Cryptopsy wouldn’t be the same without those strong pulls and slaps as the backbone—a compliment to Mounier’s power and precision that goes well beyond following the rhythm. Pinard goes freeform jazz in “Amputated Enigma” in a way that cuts through the mix and adds yet another highly technical element that is far from simply holding down the bottom end.

And so everyone can breathe that proverbial collective sigh of relief. The Cryptopsy of old is back, the choice of going with a self-titled album in itself an indication of a return to purest form. The original lineup might be long gone, but the glow of those halcyon days of Cryptopsy, thought completely extinguished just a few years ago, is back with a 500 kilowatt vengeance.

Highs: A return to form for a true legend of death metal.

Lows: McGachy is a bit of a one-trick pony this time around, but at least the clean vocals have been given the boot.

Bottom line: Fans of old school Cryptopsy will be proud to shelve this next to the band's early masterpieces.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

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)