Cryptopsy-None-So-VileThe life of a metal drummer is one of near saintly asceticism. Your kit is about ten times heavier – and more expensive – than the six-strings that your guitarists snapped up off of craigslist. It breaks constantly and takes about half an hour to set up on stage, and while you’re busting your ass carting it around the rest of the band just loafs about because they’re too stupid to help set it up properly. And when you finally get to play it, nobody can see the intricacies of your cymbal work or the incredible sweatiness of your torso because a bunch of Rapunzely assholes are standing in front of you on stage. It would be a thankless task were it not for the dedicated few fans that really appreciate your craft. Kronos is such a fan. With albums from UlcerateMeshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan on the horizon and quickly approaching, connoisseurs of the kit such as myself are sure to spend this autumn in a fugue state as we slowly wrap our minds around ever more extreme rhythms. Yet before Billy Rymer could keep a beat, before Jamie St. Merat ever flourished across a half dozen cymbals, and before Tomas Haake started doing Tomas Haake shit, there was but one man who could just about make the incredibly talented guitarists in his band look like fucking amateurs. His name is Flo Mounier, and he is Cryptopsy.

Do you know what made “Crown of Horns” stick in my head for days after first hearing it? Not Levasseur’s solo, not Langlois’ thick bass work. Not a single riff could be recalled. Not a lyric could be distinguished. But ten seconds of cymbal work at the 1:35 mark? There isn’t a day I don’t recall it. None So Vile1 is about drumming, I like to say.

But the incredible thing about None So Vile is that it’s really not about drumming; It’s also about vocals, and guitar, and bass. And that piano intro to “Phobophile2.” Let’s take it step by step.

Eric Langlois basically invented brutal death metal bass playing on this album, and “Slit Your Guts” is his master class. While the grimy tones and loud drumming in the mix can mask his playing across much of the album, his intricate contrapuntal lines and sporadic mini-solos are unmistakable on the album’s second track. It’s an excellent performance and an example of the album’s almost uncanny precision in pacing. Every successive song brings something new to the table, yet the album itself is incredibly cohesive.

That stickiness in a large part owes itself to Jon Levasseur’s riffs and solos, which are subtly melodic but remain stunningly fast even in these halcyon days of Archspire and similar hyper-tech outfits. Take for instance, “Benedictine Convulsions,” which really only has three riffs if you listen carefully. Levasseur took a pittance of harmonic material, picked it apart and strung it back together with itself to create a finely woven song that’s incredibly brutal but very catchy at the same time. At its core the song is simple and self-similar, but the combined powers of Cryptopsy make it look like a hysterectomy by a Rube-Goldberg machine.

Then there’s “Phobophile,” and here we get into the real puzzle. Lord Worm somehow became even better at both of his almost entirely unrelated jobs, those being lyric-writing and vocal delivery. If you’re familiar with Cryptopsy, you know what I’m talking about, but if you don’t, you need only attempt to follow his lyric sheet to understand. There have been a few truly great lyricists in death metal over the years, but none created anything so elegantly depraved, or howled it with such incoherent force.

Flo Mounier Cryptopsy absurd drumkit

And speaking of incoherent force, let’s circle back to the kit again. Mounier switches beats about a metric billion times over the course of “Orgiastic Disembowelment,” and though it’s not the album’s most memorable song, I’d bet it was one of the hardest to pull off for everyone in the band, especially the man setting the tempos. The best death metal musicians 1996 Quebec had to offer were acting on his whims, and Mounier just sounds like he’s having the time of his life, blasting away and shooting off fills that would come to define technical brutal death metal.

He does that rather well, don’t you think?

Show 2 footnotes

  1. This might be the best album title I’ve ever heard
  2. And a cheap album cover idea becoming legendary and introducing legions of death metal fans to the mastery of Elisabetta Sirani
  • Thanks for keeping this site brutal, and doing a post on the album that was so brutal it convinced Lord Worm to quit and go be an English teacher.

    • Kronos

      This summer has been the least brutal in recent memory. Even Unique Leader has been relatively quiet.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Unique Leader is depressed because you didn’t like their last few records very much.

        (grammar inconsistencies intended to get my point across)

        • Kronos

          I can’t remember what the last UL record I liked was.

          • No love for Dasein or the last Gorod? Going further back, there was Devolved, Beneath and Fungus

          • Kronos

            Oh wait, yeah Dasein was really good. and like DR8 so I forgot it was a UL release.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Now THIS. This is brutal.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    One should not underplay Lord Worms Involvement in the band. In my opinion it’s he and Flo that are Cryptopsy. One is merely a shadow of a band without the other.

    • Kronos

      Modern Cryptopsy can be pretty killer though… and Once Was Not was crap.

  • Dr. Wvrm

    Upon returning home from college for the first time, my grandparents asked me if I’d learned anything exciting. I played the first 20 seconds of Crown of Horns for them and told them I was learning how to roar like that.
    I don’t think I’m back in the will yet.

  • Iain Gleasure

    If you are talking about drummers that make the guitarists look simple in comparison perhaps you should remember Neil Peart.
    Just the finest drummer and lyricist Canada has ever produced.

    • Paul Stella II

      Who forgot Neil Peart?

      • Iain Gleasure

        Kronos seemed to skip alot of great drummers when he finished his fist paragraph

        • Paul Stella II

          Seems like he was focusing on extreme hardcore/metal drummers.

        • Kronos

          I have only so many words.

          • El_Cuervo

            No but you forgot Iain’s favourite drummer so you should amend the article to include him Kronos.

          • Iain Gleasure

            The idea really was not to troll him, I just wanted to point out Peart especially since both are Canadian and we don’t get alot of love.

    • By-tor

      The thing about Peart and his band mates that has always fascinated me is how effortless they do what they do. After listening to them for 30 years I still hear new things I never noticed before. Personally, I think Lifeson is criminally underrated, Lee is my hero and the reason I play bass, and Peart is the greatest rock drummer period (I don’t want to hear your John Bonham or Ginger Baker b.s.) especially when you factor in he is the lyricist.

      Rush is the finest thing Canada has ever produced.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I always say that Rush is the best Canadian band ever and Rush on a bad day is the second best Canadian band ever.
        I also say that Alex Lifeson might be the unluckiest guitarist in te world since he is in the only band EVER where people talk more about the drummer and bass player, to the extreme where I have heard people refer to Lifeson as “Rush’s guitar player” since they forget his name. That or they just completely forget to talk about guitar.

        • jetblindracos

          The Analog Kid,when I heard that guitar solo …wow.

  • By-tor

    The first 5 Cryptopsy albums are pretty much untouchable. I don’t think anyone else has come close to a run like they had. My personal favorite is And then you’ll beg (Hear that? That is the sound of inevitability…). I was absolutely blown away by Mournier the first time I heard Cryptopsy back in ’97. As a bassist, I have much respect for drummers, but I can’t remember the last time I listened to a band just to hear one, maybe the new Megadeth with Chris Adler. I think most metal drummers are replaceable (as long as Gene Hoglan has some time free in his schedule). Cryptopsy however just wouldn’t be Cryptopsy without Mournier. I mean honestly, is there anyone who listens to Brutal Tech Death for the lyrics?

    • Kronos

      I sure hope not.

  • Diego Molero

    That Lego video is more metal than all of us. 5.0/5.0

  • Brother Ben

    I still think this album is the most intense brutal death metal album ever released. I know little about drumming, but Slit Your Guts blew my mind. (along with every other). I wish more brutal bands used an authentic drum tone as Mounier does here. Also, Lord Worms vocals are my personal favorite facet of the whole thing

  • Reese Burns

    This is the album that got me into brutal death, and in my opinion, is still the best brutal death metal record of all time.

  • 517H

    Sorry to be a bother – but I would LOVE an AMG classics playlist on Spotify I could check out

    • Kronos

      This is something we might do, but then again, we might not.

  • Kronos Sr.

    So are you giving up your honorary status as part of the percussion group to become a trve member? I don’t expect to see another instrument laying around the house. My foray into percussion only lasted about 2 years with a JC Penney drum kit.

  • manimal

    See, what I don’t get is how an exceptional drummer like Tomas Haake is okay with having dynamic and compelling performances replaced with the same overcooked samples album after album.

    No-one’s FORCING Meshuggah to snap their drums to grid using Excel, right?

    • Kronos

      Actually, I’m pretty sure the only meshuggah album with drum samples is Catch Thirtythree, and that was because production was very rushed. He sounds like samples because everyone uses samples of him drumming.

      • manimal

        I have to disagree there… Meshuggah has a long and storied history with drum samples.

        As you said, Catch33 was completely programmed, but more because of the copy-paste way they composed the album. The re-recorded Nothing featured samples triggered off the original performances to keep the timing intact, but change the sound.

        Obzen and Koloss features live drums only insofar (to the best of my knowledge) as the drums were triggered with Superior Drummer off live performances.

        I’ve also seen them live, and they most certainly triggered samples.

        The whole modern metal drumsound is, quite frankly, somewhat impossible to achieve without copious amounts of sample replacement. There are several reasons for this.

        One, a live-recorded kit has most of its sound come from the overhead mic(s). The modern snare sound more resembles a gunshot than a snare drum, and with a real kit it’s not possible to compress a snare drum for that effect without completely ruining your cymbal and tom sound.

        Second, there is a thing someone who forgot more about this than i ever knew to begin, calls ‘aggregate junk tone’. Kits are imperfect, as are drummers. Pedals squeak, snares rattle and skins ring in ways different to triggered samples. Drummers bury beaters. Two drums played at the same time excite a room differently to two drum samples of the exact same hit recorded in the same room, played at the same time at the same velocity.

        Meshuggah’s albums after ‘I’ feature exactly none of this in the drum sound, and it’s one of the things that my ear really misses.

        • Kronos

          I agree with your grievances and do love natural drum sound. You’re also right about Nothing, I forgot about the remastered edition. I have to say though, every band that I have seen play a mid size of larger venue triggers the bass and often the snare as well. It’s a shame, but I can see how they want to do it in order to cut through their own din.

          • manimal

            Yes, pretty much… Eventually it comes down to that final question one always asks in music production: Is what I’ve done here the best vehicle for the artistic intent?

            Sample triggering really has a valuable place within the realm of live gigs. I live in the boondocks and have seen Fleshgod Apocalypse perform multiple times in shamefully bad venues when they toured the region. Triggering every single drum off cheap piezo mics allowed them to recreate their drum sound and have their whole live mix work from the get go. That’s not to say I’m any fan of the drum sound they have (esp back then), but it allowed them to exercise some measure of control over the whole thing.

            No can o’ wormies with kits out of tune, heads that need replacement, drunk soundmen, mic position setups to be duplicated night after night, deaf soundmen, morons bumping into kit pieces, drunken deaf soundmen etc.

            As you said, bands need to cut through the din. When it comes to drummers replacing only the kick, it’s usually a case of the actual method of playing not producing the desired sound. Lots of quick double-kick usually sees a lot of low-velocity hits on a kikdrum that’s lacking in top-end frequencies along with signal amplitudes too low to have the transients grabbed by a compressor. (This is of course also dependent on a host of other factors such as beater type, type of heads, whether the drum was muted, whether it has a resonant head, and whether the drummer plays from the toes (prevalent method) or the heel (rare)).

            Personally I love that kind of sound though, since it showcases a kik drum’s natural dynamics. It was a sad day to me when kiks got reduced to two possible sounds: KLIK and BOOM. Just like every other drum in a kit, it has a large variety of tones that introduce subtlety beyond anything a sample would be able to do.

            And just in case you think I’m no longer referring to metal, or even Meshuggah… the drummer that performed alongside mr Thornendal on the Sol Niger Within project is FANSTASTIC.

            Anyway, I’m a complete bore on this subject and can ramble on for the rest of the day… I’ll be signing off here.

            A good day to you, sir Kronos, and thank you for a fantastic article by my favourite AMG reviewer.

  • Treble Yell

    Fantastic write up, only I wish you spent more time venerating the rapture that is the Phobophile opening. The only piano opening that comes close is Paradise Lost’s live cover of Atomic Rooster’s “Death Walks Behind You.”

  • Dirty G

    Still one of my favorite albums
    It never gets old