Cryptopsy, "Once Was Not"
The anticipation behind this release simply cannot be measured. Knowing that the infamous Lord Worm had returned to lead Cryptopsy after the leaps and bounds the band has progressed in his wake has piqued the curiosity of even the least devoted fan. The question of whether the band would regress back to its more raw beginnings or whether Worm could hang with the polished deathmachine that is its post-None So Vile incarnation has burrowed itself into the back of my mind for probably more than a year after the breaking news, and adding to further speculation is the departure of guitarist/main composer Jon Lavesseur. What was the band going to deliver, knowing all too well that anything offered would be the most heavily criticized effort they've done? The answer is probably the most confident stride into newfound creativity attempted by a modern death metal band.
Those who wanted None So Vile xeroxed will be disappointed, and fans of the pristine execution of latter day Cryptopsy will be equally pissed. But the few that enjoy being challenged by a new listening experience will embrace Once Was Not for its entire 60-minute duration.
New ideas litter the record from the initial seconds, such as the classical guitar intro and interludes as well as keyboard layerings, and while the staccato nature of the music remains intact. The band also opts for traditional song structures and riffs to keep the extreme truly extreme in comparison. The guitarwork is probably the band's most meticulous to date, and Flo's drum performance is probably the most insane percussive battery ever laid down on tape. We even get the gravity drive blast now, so there's no need for any more drummer debates. The man is truly the best there is in metal. Signature bass guitar breaks once again find their place amidst the chaos, adding to the already quirky nature of the band's style. As for the all important question, Lord Worm proves that he can indeed hang with the progression of the band even if his delivery has been slightly altered (all guttural belches are abandoned in favor of a rhythmic midrange scream), and although this fact carries the majority of the criticism the record is getting, you can say with confidence that no one sounds like Lord Worm.
Many of the moods set on the record feel completely new, such as the almost Deftones-like main riff of "The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness" which is guaranteed to alienate much of the None So Vile fans. In comparison, the band has previously never written something nearly as evil sounding as "Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy," which oddly enough contains very few blastbeats, making it truly stand out in their catalog. Some middle eastern elements can be heard in "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky is Mortal" and "The End," and I shit you not, there's some pretty damn Opeth-sounding melodies on album closer "Endless Cemetary." The record on the whole is a completely engaging listen, and the bookend melodies that start and finish it further flesh it out as a concept record with a cyclical nature. There's a lot you'll miss on the first listen and countless things you'll find months later, and each listen makes the record more rewarding. The only real gripe I have with it is the muddy production, which is very drum friendly but keeps all other elements buried. You have to try hard to pinpoint the details of the music, and with their most dynamic record to date I would have much rather preferred the production quality of the last few records. I'm all for the raw vibe of the first two releases but this is not the record they should have tried to recapture that sound with.
So, if you're a cliched bar metal dude, chances are you'll hate the record. In fact, if you label yourself in any way this may not be for you. But if you're the type of listener that always looks for the next great leap into uncharted territory, you've found a record that delivers a much needed shot of artistic integrity into a fast dying genre. And that, for me, is the true extreme.