If Cryptopsy‘s bandcamp page is to be believed, the legendary brutal/tech-death pioneers took a quick 16 year break after releasing the classic None So Vile, triumphantly regrouping to produce 2012’s unfuckwithable Cryptopsy. Yet as fans know all too well, the truth is quite a lot messier. From 1998 through 2008 the band’s releases are among the spottiest in death metal history, devolving from the odd to the, well, unspeakable. Yet Cryptopsy turned things around in the best possible way, reintroducing an unpretentious Cryptopsy with new-found focus and drive and delivering some of the best riffs in the history of the band and of brutal death metal itself, no matter what Steel Druhm says [How did I get dragged into this? – Steel Druhm]. Yet the upcoming Book of Suffering EP series still worried me; given the band’s troubled past, could they keep it together long enough to produce material that does the band justice?
Yes. Somehow avoiding murder at the hands of fans, guitarist Christian Donaldson and the universally (though I think unfairly) reviled Matt McGachy are showing their worth once again, living up to the standard set by one of the best rhythm sections in death metal. Though Flo Mounier effortlessly outperforms his bandmates on “Detritus (The One They Kept),” they catch up quickly for “The Knife, The Head and What Remains,” delivering a groove reminiscent of “Shag Harbor’s Visitors” but with substantially more variation. And though Donaldson’s quick semi-solos only serve to remind us that Jon Levasseur is no longer part of the band, his riffs keep getting better across the release, beginning in murky None So Vile territory and culminating in the blackened precipice of “Framed By Blood.”
From the tempo and time shifts in “Halothane Glow” that recall the better ideas in …And Then You’ll Beg to the samples book-ending the album, Tome 1 references every era of Cryptopsy worth remembering. And though not every moment hits the mark, the EP makes steady progress towards the brilliant closer “Framed by Blood.” A melodic landmark if there ever was one, Olivier Pinard and Christian Donaldson are at their finest on the song, with Pinard nailing down the riffs when needed and subverting them when he gets a good chance. The short solo section beginning at 2:28 pushes “Framed by Blood” into Song o’ the Year territory, as Mounier ghosts in some snare hits under a classic Cryptopsy lead and Pinard puts out a fantastic little counter-melody in between synchronized blasts.
As for Matt McGachy, he sounds exactly as he did on Cryptopsy, about which I am quite pleased. The criticisms launched at him – largely centered around the fact that he’s not Lord Worm and has a history fraught with metalcore – have always been superficial, and I think he’s a great fit for a more progressive 21st century Cryptopsy. His tone is recognizable and though his lyrics aren’t of the same literary quality as Lord Worm, they’re good enough for the top-notch death metal band that Cryptopsy has again become.
Tome 1 has me hot under the collar and wanting more; exactly what I want from an EP release. While it takes some time to get going, the payoff here is fantastic, and I can only hope that Tome 2 continues right where this leaves off. Cryptopsy are finally hitting the sweet spot again, writing material that sounds like theirs from the ’90s without being anachronistic or derivative, and the band is once again closing in on the top-shelf that they’ve spent so long trying to climb back up to.