Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm Review

Wow. Thrash is kind of having a year, folks. There are large swaths of the metal community who feel that the fires that heated the furnace in which all great thrash was forged went out decades ago, while others feel that those flames still sputter and cough and produce a great record every now and again. Well, something about a worldwide shutdown secondary to a pandemic seems to have stoked whatever embers remained within that furnace into a raging inferno, because the first quarter of 2021 is basically littered with quality thrash releases of a variety of styles. Demoniac laced their classic thrash sound with clarinets, Enforced kicked out all of my teeth with a bludgeoning crossover platter, and Paranorm pushed the limits of progressive and melodic thrash metal to new heights. Therefore, I didn’t hesitate to pick up Bionic Swarm, the debut record from Dutch thrashers Cryptosis, a band who’d like to throw their hat into the progressive cyber-thrash ring with Paranorm. Let’s see if they can stand toe-to-toe with the reigning champ.

I was initially intrigued to see that Bionic Swarm was a debut, given the fact that it’s being released by Century Media. But I soon learned that the boys in Cryptosis spent years together and released two albums under the name Distillator before looking for a fresh start. Where Distillator specialized in classic thrash of the Teutonic variety, Cryptosis has evolved that sound into another beast altogether, taking on a more progressive and technical focus a la Vektor — with whom Cryptosis released a split just last month — while also incorporating elements of symphonic black metal. Think Kreator meets Dimmu Borgir with some Megadeth thrown in. For the most part, vocalist and guitarist Laurens Houvast has moved away from the Bay Area-style thrash vocals that he used in Distillator and taken on something akin to the Human-era utterances of Chuck Schuldiner, and his rhythm guitar work and his leads have reached impressive levels of technicality without ever devolving into progressive noodling for the sake of noodling.

While fans of Vektor should love Bionic Swarm, Cryptosis distinguish themselves by delivering their cyber-thrash with brevity and variety. At a cool 37 minutes, Bionic Swarm comes and goes, and before you know it, you’re listening to it again. And that replayability is due to some excellent songwriting choices. Holdover Distillator fans will rejoice at the furious thrash of “Death Technology,” “Transcendence,” “Game of Souls,” and “Flux Divergence,” but the band’s evolution really makes itself known on the other, more experimental tracks. I agonized over which single to embed, but finally decided to include the atmosphere-drenched “Prospect of Immortality.” I know that there are a lot of folks who won’t give modern thrash a chance, so I chose this track and its brooding, blackened character in a subversive effort to trick those people into listening to a thrash record. It’s probably the best example of bassist Frank te Riet’s contributions on the mellotron, as his playing gives the song — and the album as a whole — just the right amount of eerie symphonic depth.

What doesn’t happen on Bionic Swarm contributes almost as much to the record’s greatness as what does happen. All too often, bands who seek to expand their sonic horizons through increased progressiveness aren’t able to impartially evaluate and edit their work. Not so with Cryptosis. First proper track “Decypher” grooves, shreds, blasts, tremolos, and swells symphonically, and does it all in under four minutes. “Conjuring the Egoist” is barely longer than that and feels absolutely massive, easily landing a place on the already crowded list of the top thrash tracks of the year. I’m sure that this is where the band’s past experience comes in, because Bionic Swarm feels laser-focused for a progressive metal debut. Every track has something of the mind-blowing variety, but “Decypher,” “Death Technology,” “Prospect of Immortality,” “Transcendence,” and “Conjuring the Egoist” are especially righteous.

Bionic Swarm should please those people — like myself — who think that Vektor albums are just too long. I still give Paranorm the edge when it comes to futuristic prog/thrash in 2021, but not by much. It’s only March, but my year-end list is already beginning to fill itself with killer thrash albums. What have I done to deserve this bountiful harvest of violent treats?

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 26th, 2021

« »