Kryptograf – Kryptograf Review

Ah, the 1960s—a truly magical time for the burgeoning field of heavy metal. Or so I’ve been told, anyway. I didn’t exist at the time. And, unfortunately, an introduction to the world of heavy metal via then-modern, 2000s-era symphonic metal is not a rabbit hole that leads you to the Black Sabbaths, Iron Maidens,1 and Led Zeppelins of the world with any sort of haste. I tell you this as my way of declaring my general lack of familiarity with the groups that inspired Kryptograf, the eponymous debut album from a Norwegian four-piece “inspired by the heavy sounds of the late 60’s.” This is straightforward, old-school heavy metal with a slightly modern touch, but has the quality survived in its heavy metal time capsule?

Kryptograf cite influences that include Witchcraft, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats and Black Sabbath, and it all fits. Between the band lineup—two guitarists, three vocalists, plus bass and drums—and a healthy helping of fuzz that permeates without overpowering, Kryptograf wears its ‘60s influences loudly and proudly. This is an album that finds its stride in upbeat, riff-centric tracks like “Crimson Horizon.” The vocals have an Ozzy Osbourne-adjacent vibe to them, with choral embellishments helping to round out the nostalgic heavy metal style.

Ordinarily, I’d wait a little longer to comment on the production, but I should emphasize that, despite what the band’s declared influence may imply, Kryptograf is not a very loud record. It certainly has its moments—“New Colossus” is a towering creature of head-nods and powerfully emotive vocals—but most of the record is charged emotionally, rather than by virtue of loud riffs or heavy fuzz. These emotions vary considerably throughout; “Omen” has a wonderfully creepy vibe to it, while “Sleeper” opens with plaintive picking and transitions into a mid-paced rocker elevated by layered vocals and a really cool verse structure that makes good use of every musician. There’s a lot of variety in the eight songs that comprise Kryptograf, and the album demands a similarly flexible production job—thankfully, it’s got one.

Throughout each listen, however, I find my attention wanders at certain points throughout the record. “Seven” is the earliest moment that Kryptograf loses me temporarily; at nine minutes long, the bloated guitar solo takes up a full third of the otherwise engaging track; the result is that the song feels meandering, despite a promising start. “Ocean,” interestingly, has the opposite problem; at a little under three minutes long, the soft acoustic strumming and effective choral vocals never really get the chance to develop into anything lasting. The song just exists, hinting at potential without ever realizing it. As a break from Kryptograf’s heavier moments, it works, but as a song itself an opportunity for further engagement, it falls a little bit flat. Meanwhile, tracks like “Crimson Horizon” ride off of strong riffs and vocal melodies, but can lean a little bit too far into repetition. The result is far from off-putting, but it feels at times like Kryptograf is playing things a little too safe, and perhaps holding back from their clear potential.

There is a lot to like about Kryptograf—straightforward, riff-centric heavy metal in this vein is, to me, a palate-cleanser and a breath of fresh air. I do wish the album was bolder in its approach to the style, but if the whole has me feeling conflicted, it’s still an enjoyable enough album to make me want to hear more from Kryptograf in the future. The more metal evolves, the more comforting straightforwardness becomes. This is still true when it’s not as memorable or as impactful as other groups out there, as is unfortunately the case for my experience with Kryptograf, but it isn’t enough for me to recommend this one too strongly. 


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Apollon Records
Websites: kryptograf.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/kryptografmusic
Releases Worldwide: June 12, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Yes, yes, I know when Iron Maiden formed, it’s just an example.
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