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.


  1. So Noktorn, you're a big deathcore fan, do you like The Unspoken King?

  2. i've never heard the whole thing, but the couple tracks i listened to off it really just sounded like an extension of "and then you'll beg" with some beneath the massacre influence. maybe i heard the wrong songs, but from what i saw, the near-psychotic reaction the metal scene had to it was way overblown. it just doesn't seem all that different from the disalvo-era material, and i think it just shows that the metal scene is desperately hoping that "none so vile pt. 2" is on the horizon when it's been clear for well over a decade now that it's never fucking happening and everyone should learn to deal.

    honestly i'd prefer a pseudo-sellout cryptopsy album over "once was not," which has literally done nothing but gotten worse in my eyes every day since its release.

  3. I love how the guitar leads are played on this album. It's as though he's screwing up halfway through a certain lick, but he has the chops and taste to INSTANTLY blend another phrase into the solo whenever it sounds that he played something "wrong". It's as though he went, "If I hit a hiccup on this note during this phrase, I'll move into this lick/melody/etc"...and it's not as though he's playing notes at random, these definitely feel like completely thought-out, catchy, memorable musical ideas. He knows his vocabulary extremely well; definitely the sign of a guitar player that knows his craft.

  4. for me it always feels like levasseur's solos are composed of phrases which don't make sense until they complete. it's like the first x-1 notes are incoherent until the final note hits and then it all makes sense retroactively. total genius.