Crypt Crawler – Future Usurper Review

Hailing from the same death metal scene as Depravity, Perth Australia’s Crypt Crawler are another interesting act seeking worldwide exposure. Their 2019 To the Grave debut was a simplistic, raw affair and offered some good, deathy fun. Future Usurper sees more polish and progressive tendencies worming into focus, blending  the early days of Death‘s proggy experimentation and more straight forward 90s death/thrash acts like Cancer and Malevolent Creation with modern sensibilities. Such an endeavor requires a significant talent pool and luckily, the members of Crypt Crawler have the requisite chops. The chopping spree they unleash on Future Usurper is quite impressive and interesting, full of wild guitar-work, tempo-shifts, and a restrained kind of experimentation. This isn’t progressive death with a big P. This is death metal first and foremost with a filthy boot on your neck, and I admire the band’s commitment to kicking your ass before they adjourn to try on different musical hats. But does the hat show bear high fashion fruit?

That’s a tough question to answer. The band does a lot of things right and show themselves to be very impressive musicians. Opener “The Mouth of Death” is a wild one, offering a lot of quirky, thrashy energy and some of the unpredictability heard on Death albums like Human and Individual Thought Patterns. The riffs fly and corkscrew in abundance, the energy levels are kept high and attention is retained. It’s a stark departure from the meatheaded style heard on their debut, but it works and it’s interesting. The title track is more furious and thrashy-tastic, offering head stomping death chugs alongside blastbeats and 80s thrash tidbits to jack up your testosterone. This is the band at the edge of their potential and I love what they do here. “Force Fed to the Dead” is another up-tempo burner with obvious Testament elements in the riffing and even the vocals veer into angry Chuck Billy territory.

Also of note is “Choir of Reprieve,” which tears along at a frantic pace and reminds me of Cancer‘s better moments. The high point for me is “The Avaricious Ones” which marries the thrash mastery of Testament with CarcassHeartwork era for a rousing victory. Unfortunately, not everything the band attempts pays big dividends. Cuts like “Delirium” and especially “Horrors of Humanity” adopt slower, grinding tempos and despite some twists and turns to the compositions and some outstanding guitar-work, they end up feeling overlong and tiresome before they close shop. Even ambitious tracks like “The Illusion We’re Under” where the band tries to shoehorn in all kinds of influences ends up stumbling and falling into deadly repetition. This is a shame as there’s a very cool Morbus Chron vibe to the song that makes me want to love it. Aside from some uneven writing, there’s a noticeable bloat issue that causes some solid songs to lose focus before they conclude. There’s also a rather steep decline in energy on the album’s back-half, with songs showing a tendency to plod along too often. At just under 48 minutes Future Usurper ends up feeling much longer and that’s a shame. I’m also not totally sold on the production which is too polished and clean. You can hear everything well, but I need a little more ugly in my death.

Guitarists Zach James and Jordan Cappa are talented individuals and they throw all sorts of death and thrash riffs at the listener over the album’s runtime. Their riff-work is often very good and there’s a ton of Chuck Schuldiner influence in their playing, but the material never feels like a Gruesome-style homage platter. Their solos are things of beauty, at times recalling the salad days of James Murphy. It’s this stellar guitar-work that elevates even the weaker cuts and at least partially compensates for a tendency to pad songs out too long. Vocalist Marco Ieritano has a series of interesting styles he brutalizes with, from low-register gurgles, to Bill Steer-like rasps and screams. I’m also quite impressed by the kit-work of Lewis Oliver which runs all over the lot. This is a very able-bodied cast, and it’s only their inconsistent writing holding them back from bigger, better things.

I’ll readily admit I prefer the rougher, more rudimentary style of Crypt Crawler‘s debut, but a band this talented is bound to evolve and progress. When they nail it, the results are highly impressive, and when they miss, it’s still fairly interesting. This was a really tough album to score as I like a lot of what I hear, but sadly, Future Usurper has just enough flaws to sink into the dreaded “mixed” category. I’m definitely a fan though and I’ll be watching to see where they wander next. Here’s to progress with a small p!

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: August 6th, 2021

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