Sunday, November 27, 2011
Get into: Cryptopsy
What everyone forgets about Cryptopsy (and especially "None So Vile") is how musical they are, which sounds dumb for the first fifteen seconds before you really think about it. Insecure metalhead apologists like to talk about how extreme metal is an incredibly erudite, marvelously artistic style of music, conveniently ignoring the fact that Cannibal Corpse is the rule, not the exception- when it comes to big name death metal bands, Cryptopsy is just about the only one that might fit such a desperate claim. Suffocation really only impresses other metalheads and Gorguts comes off like it was rescued from the conservatory, but Cryptopsy you can show the average person and really impress on multiple levels. I've done it plenty of times- "What kind of music do you listen to?"- and they all tend to follow the same trajectory: first they're taken aback by the extremity, then awed by the technicality, but soon after gripped with a more potent, abstract sense of songwriting. Even if you know nothing about music, you can tell that Something Is Going On.
So yeah, Cryptopsy's always been a pretty technical band (Flo Mounier, believe the hype, etc.,) but what's always less appreciated about them are their dizzyingly brilliant arrangements. Other death metal bands write; Cryptopsy composes, crafting staggeringly unique songs that all revolve around an essential stylistic core. Cryptopsy can't be cloned for much the same reason that Burzum can't be properly cloned: they're simply too far off the beaten musical track, and if you manage to get the form right, they're infused with an elegant sense of aesthetics that's basically impossible to replicate. They can be called tech death, but in reality they occupy such an oddly-shaped niche in the death metal scene that it seems to defy such a label. They don't sound anything like Suffocation, Necrophagist, or Immolation, which leaves them in a rather dicey place.
I'd say that Cryptopsy (and if it wasn't clear, throughout this post I'm basically talking about the first two albums) represent a sort of dead-end style of death metal that was never fully explored, but saying that suggests there's a street behind them. Instead, an album like "None So Vile" feels like a sort of island in death metal, with no clear musical precedents or influences marking up the board. The hyperspeed aggression of "Blasphemy Made Flesh" belies hints of grind here and there in its brackish blasting, but "None So Vile" is a work so ornate and so aesthetically divergent from the rest of death metal you can barely retrace its fledgling steps.
While a lot of other tech death bands from around the same time period tried to make cold, mechanically aggressive tracks (Suffocation,) involved, textured, and dissonant soundscapes (Immolation,) or simply cranked up the abstraction and weirdness to eleven (Gorguts,) Cryptopsy seemed much more organic and romantic in nature. Be it the neoclassical soloing (still just about the only solos that I can actually remember on a death metal record) or the rustic, lurid lyrics ("lyrics," see prior,) Cryptopsy's sound seemed to arise from a much more traditionalist sense of songwriting and melodic craftsmanship than many of their contemporaries. This is why I can remember just about every Cryptopsy riff, but none by Suffocation.