Cryptopsy, "The Unspoken King"
This album had a monumental amount of things going against it even during its inception: it is the first since the early 90s to not utilize the compositional skills of departed guitarist Jon Levasseur who undoubtably penned their best and most unique material; vocal duties are handled by a frontman in the metalcore genre (as are secondary guitars) and the sparse keys which the band has utilized forever as samples on an electronic drum kit are now handled by a full time keyboardist despite their extremely limited appearances. When any of these elements are uttered in reference to one of death metal's most elite outfits, it is understandable why its most diehard fans would question Cryptopsy's motives and whether this new material will hold up on its own alongside such a weighty back catalog in terms of both influence and unmatched execution.
Truthfully, in order to appreciate The Unspoken King it is almost necessary to forget their past efforts entirely, with the exception of the one track on their last release that sparked the most ire in their fanbase, "The Pestilence that Walketh in Darkness." The Deftones-like sound of that particular track wasn't wholly reviled by the entire fanbase given that it still maintained the claustrophobic insanity of their previous efforts but scattered those elements amongst power chord heavy, almost mainstream sounding choruses. The Unspoken King plays like a full length elaboration of that track but utilizes much less inspired riffing and utterly detestable clean vocals from new vocalist Matt McGachy. I'm not the type of listener who hates new ideas because I'm too insecure to deal with my image of death metal being tarnished; I actually do prefer strange and somewhat uncomfortable ideas explored in metal, but these vocals flat out suck, and have more in line with the recent metalcore movement of emotionally juvenile appealling to angst-riddled youth than a preferred mature expression utilized in say Opeth or bands of a similar ilk. When he isn't making your balls creep into your stomach cavity with these clean vocals, McGachy's harsher vocals are way more deathcore than metal, and while they aren't totally unwelcome they do little to develop the signature twisted sound of Cryptopsy as we knew it.
If the music carried the same level of scrupulous intensity of previous outings and actually had its own character (the record's greatest flaw), the vocal shortcomings could be ignored, but despite the band's argument that they wanted to put out a truly progressive record, none of the music is interesting enough to warrant that title. And this is Cryptopsy, a band who has been known to test the human limits of musical possibilities in previous outings, which makes this all the more difficult to digest. While Once Was Not wasn't without its flaws, it sounded like an aural interpretation of a slaughterhouse, meanwhile here no real identity is developed, and what is explored is far too juvenile to claim as bearing substance.
I don't want to give the impression that it is completely awful; the production is light years better than the previous album and the drums are awe-inspiring. "Worship Your Demons" and "Anoint the Dead" are the few tracks that are good from start to finish and share the most in common with the old Cryptopsy in terms of bizarre arrangements and bewildering guitar lines, but these don't really stack up as enough to save the record when their total length doesn't even comprise utterly bloated tracks like the endless "Bound Dead."
There is already a huge backlash amongst the metal community over this record, and despite my hatred of the the mouthbreathers that make up its most uncompromising sect, I honestly can't say that this is without warrant. Cryptopsy not only have taken a departure from the death metal genre but also abandoned the elements that made them it's most unique act. If they had done so in favor of truly progressive elements as promised, The Unspoken King could be a landmark record, but unfortunately Cryptopsy has chosen a newer style that despite having intentions of reaching more listeners will only serve to alienate both those targeted and their longtime fans who have supported them for over 15 years. Change is not always a good thing, and it will show that in this case, it can be utterly disasterous.
Worship Your Demons