Much as they, and we, desperately want to move past it, Cryptopsy have for a long time been known for questionable, if not outright awful, stylistic decisions. Even with the music back on track, The Book of Suffering series of EPs insists on having some of the shittiest cover art imaginable, apparently under the impression that breasts decay far slower than the rest of the body, and that we’re all really into that sort of thing. I’d consider taking points off but the sad fact is that if I docked the score for every misogynistic album cover we’d probably stop getting promo altogether. The less sad fact is that this tome can in no way be judged by its cover.
Like its predecessor, Tome II1 fucking rips, as a wholly modern Cryptopsy puts in their all to rebuild and maintain their place in the brutal death metal pantheon. As ever, Flo Mounier pilots this deathplane, churning through songs held aloft by riffing that’s decidedly left-of-center. “Sire of Sin” and “Fear His Displeasure” spotlight rapid hammer-ons and slides that build a frenetic atmosphere, further accentuated by a repeated rhythmic motif in “Fear His Displeasure” generated by distortion manipulation rather than the guitar itself. Beyond the pure kineticism inherent in a Cryptopsy release, it’s the creativity within these songs that makes The Book of Suffering series so successful thus far.
Tempering that creativity is strong song structures that never reach beyond their grasp. Writing sensible songs was a challenge for Cryptopsy during the 2000s2, and they’ve taken this decade to course correct, with barely a hint of the scattershot writing of those albums apparent from Cryptopsy forwards. “Sire of Sin” ties itself together via the aforementioned hammer-on riffing, while techy tapping and jagged chords in “The Wretched Living” spice up a song based on powerful drumming and classic chromatic, palm-muted riffing. “The Laws of the Flesh” brings back some of those albums’ experimental flavor in a much more satisfying context, ending on an impossibly long blast and scream that lock the air in your chest. The band is once again at the forefront of creative brutality.
A lot of this is due to that oddball riffing from Christian Donaldson, but there’s plenty of credit to be given for how well it all works; Pinard and Donaldson complement each other perfectly, with Pinard’s bass clanging in to provide rhythmic accents without overpowering the melodic line. He never gets the spotlight but, aided by a clear mix, is always making noticeable contributions to the song. “The Laws of The Flesh” allows both of them to shine, as the EP’s most melodic song as well as the only solo spot, which Donaldson fills out with surprising restraint. Matt McGachy’s gradual progression towards Worm-territory3 will be either welcomed or derided by the hardcore Lord Worm contingent, but when scraped up against Donaldson’s creative riffing and Mounier’s kit blitz, it produces just a whiff of the ’90s Cryptopsy that, in my head-canon, broke up in 1997.
Cryptopsy‘s string of connected EPs continues here with an entry just as strong as the first. Considering the releases’ extremity, the EP format makes a lot of sense; it allows the band to dole out a ton of punishment without overstaying their welcome and push out releases without the need to carefully chart out an entire album. That being said, it’s not a magic bullet for this style of music. Few bands outside of Cryptopsy could pull off an EP-only release schedule and remain in the good graces of fans. The band is brutal death metal royalty, and despite outspoken public ire for portions of Cryptopsy‘s rule, the current reign appears benevolent, or at least, as benevolent as brutal death metal can be construed to be. As ever before, The Book of Suffering: Tome II is garish, over the top, and violent, yet oh so satisfying.