Cryptivore – Celestial Extinction Review

Nasty things can happen in the blink of an eye. A stroke, a car accident, a sucker punch that leaves you concussed and picking up teeth like so many spilled Tic Tacs… now feel free to add the songs of Cryptivore to that list of fleeting but brutal mishaps. Celestial Extinction delivers ten tracks in twenty-seven minutes, each one of which wastes no time beating your ass bloody and then fleeing the scene before anyone can hold it accountable. This is mixed martial songwriting, a blitzkrieg of techniques and styles designed to probe your feeble defenses until something yields. Let’s shell up behind a high guard and see if we can survive this assault of death metal, grind, and melodeath… but be careful, Cryptivore’s debut full-length spins like a Tasmanian devil and sinks its fangs into your soft parts with the clamping force of a foaming rottweiler.

Australians are tougher than the rest of us, and Cryptivore mastermind (and sole member) Chris Anning believes in landing the first punch. His songwriting combines groovy, catchy death metal riffs and punishing grind sections, with a melodic lead guitar appearing occasionally to lighten the proceedings. The vocals growl along without distinguishing themselves or adding much to the overall sound. It’s all imported from the playbook of Symphonies of Sickness-era Carcass, with hints of early Amorphis, but Anning does a good job with that formula. The tunes rip, and they’re here and gone before fatigue has a chance to set in. Most of the songs come in around two or three minutes; the longest one on the record, closer “Celestial Extinction,” is three-and-a-half. The album’s a brisk, fun listen, with the excellent songwriting mostly overcoming a production job that mutes the impact of Anning’s achievement.

The three main ingredients in Cryptivore’s putrid stew blend together well. Grind occasionally takes the lead (“Solemn Desolation”), but Anning typically kicks things off with a hooky death metal riff (“Vault of Obscurity,” the ridiculously catchy “Cadaverizor”) before introducing the other elements. The lead guitar lines alternate between two modes: transitional licks that feel distant, as if they were recorded through a phone, and warm, squealing solos that chase the legendary face-melting climax of Carcass’s “Buried Dreams.” Opener and single “Catacomb Hecatomb” stands out as an obvious highlight, but there are no duds among these ten nuggets of aggression. Your head will spin at the whipsaw transition between grinding guitars and a gnarly doom-adjacent riff on “Gate of Dismal Torture,” and the wobbling lead guitar on “Monastery Worms” is the strongest on the album. The songwriting has come a good ways since 2019’s ten-song EP (!) Unseen Divinity, and Celestial Extinction is an altogether sleeker, more polished affair.

The quality of the production can’t keep pace with the quality of the songs, and it’s a significant drag on the album. Everything feels underpowered, like it was recorded on equipment running low on batteries. The grind sections suffer the most. A proper bit of grind leaves you feeling like your brain has been exfoliated with a belt sander, but the muffled production robs these moments of that alchemy. They play as fast and fun riffing, but there’s no real sense of danger–you never worry that a stray power tool is skipping around the garage and might take a couple fingers off if you can’t get it under control. Elsewhere, the vocal performance feels perfunctory. I wouldn’t say it’s an albatross the way the production is, but it’s kind of just there. Anning never commits to an approach that feels unique or specific, filling the album with bog-standard death metal growls where he could have done more to elevate his creation.

Celestial Extinction is a good album that could have been exceptional. It can easily push you to bang out one more rep at the end of a heavy set, and I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy going ten rounds with Cryptivore. If you’re a masochist like me, though, you’ll also mourn the potential for pain that’s been left on the table. This is a back-alley beating that leaves you bruised and shaken–but with some improvement in the right places, it could have left you questioning your life choices from an oxygen tent in the ICU.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Bitter Loss Records
Releases Worldwide: March 15th, 2022

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