Monday, October 22, 2012

Cryptopsy - "Cryptopsy" Album Review

It's been a hard life for Cryptopsy, those Canadian vanguards of technical death metal.  The thing about tech-death (as some of us like to call it) is that to the untrained ear it sounds like an endless stream of blast beats, squealing guitars and "roo roo roo".  But in a genre so apparently monotonous, Crytopsy have done more than any band I know to keep things interesting.  This has had the unfortunate side effect of pissing off the more cro-magnon elements of their fanbase, who greet any change in style with cries of "SELLOUT!".  The idea that a band that sounds like the Frankenstein monster molesting a lawn mower could be considered sellouts is hilarious, and I'll leave it at that.

The band has always been anchored by the inhuman drumming of eight-armed colossus Flo Mounier, who appears to rule the band with an iron fist.  Cryptopsy hasn't maintained a stable lineup for more than an album at a time, and notably has had no less than four lead singers over 8 albums.  Current vocalist Matt McGachy has caused a pretty obnoxious fan backlash, mostly because he had the gall to sing melodically once or twice on the album "The Unspoken King" instead of gargling nails the entire time like you're supposed to do in death metal.  This was apparently a sign that Cryptopsy were just trying to sell T-Shirts in Hot Topic and be sellouts.  My own opinion of "The Unspoken King" was just that it wasn't terribly interesting.  I still haven't actually gotten through the whole thing.

The angry fan outcry that greeted "The Unspoken King" was probably responsible for Cryptopsy's latest effort, the self-titled "Cryptopsy".  Mounier would never admit to this, but the whole affair reeks of damage control.  The band's last two efforts were wildly experimental, but this one hearkens back to the band's earlier efforts.  More specifically it sounds like a cross between "None So Vile" and "Whisper Supremacy", with eight tracks that add up to about 34 minutes of almost non stop blast and noise.  The band's best lead guitarist, Jon Levasseur has even returned with some really badass solos.  In short, it's a very "safe" Cryptopsy.

The band's efforts to not anger anyone result in an album that is likely to please pretty much everyone, even if I doubt it wil be anyone's favorite.  The biggest roadblock for me is McGachy, who is easily my least favorite of Cryptopsy's singers.  He was apparently hired for the amount of range he has, and a closer listen to "The Unspoken King" might back that up.  On "Cryptopsy" he consistently sounds like an army of vacuum cleaners playing from the other end of a long drainage pipe.  There's virtually no shading or variety to his performance, and this is the first Cryptopsy record I've heard that would be better as an instrumental.

It's very possible that McGachy, along with the rest of the band, is holding back.  I really wish they wouldn't.  Still, even middle of the road Cryptopsy is something to treasure.  Jon Levasseur still sounds like no other guitarist on earth, playing riffs that sound "undead", like they were dug up from the earth and reconstituted in a way that almost makes melodic sense.  The drums are still amazing, and this album boasts the band's best production quality in years.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.  If you've ever liked Cryptopsy, you'll like "Cryptopsy".  And I hope that the fans are a little nicer to these guys this time around.

EDIT: I think I was a bit harsh in this review.  After listening to this record a few more times it's begun to grow on me.  I also finally gave "The Unspoken King" a full and fair listen, and it proves Matt McGachy is a much more capable vocalist than this record led me to believe.  

Even on "Cryptopsy", he does reach for a few good moments (the shriek in the middle of "Two Pound Torch" is my favorite).  Still, I feel like he's holding back here, and I hope the band puts his talents to better use in later albums... and doesn't fire him too soon!

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