“Full speed ahead—let’s burn up the night!” So screamed Kryptos vocalist and guitarist Nolan Lewis, thus closing out the Indian quartet’s1 2016 opus Burn up the Night. That album excelled by infusing classic heavy metal riffs with harsh vocals and it more than earned its spot on my Year End list that year. But apparently full speed is no longer fast enough. Fifth album Afterburner sees the band cranking the throttles into overdrive and doubling down on everything that made Night great. The riffs rock harder, the production is better, and the overall sound continues to drag you right back to a time when the jeans were tight and the shoes were Reebok high-tops. Strap in and hold on tight, it’s time to fire up the Afterburner!
Much like its predecessor, Afterburner essentially sounds like if modern Kreator slowed down and started writing songs in the vein of Judas Priest. Lewis forgoes clean singing and instead employs a biting rasp, while his riffs run the gamut from melodic to crunchy but almost always remain planted in the spirit of the early 80s. Opener “Afterburner” explodes right in with a bouncy and energetic main riff that burns brilliantly with the fires of Olde and makes me want to immediately go on Craigslist and buy a motorcycle. It’s a terrifically headbangable tune made even better with a catchy chorus that’s embellished with shouted gang vocals. Second track “Cold Blood” takes a crunchier approach with a main riff straight out of the Screaming for Vengeance playbook, while “On the Run” stands out for the quick and playful melody that propels its refrain.
True to its influences, the songs never get too fast and largely remain at cruising tempos that are perfect for donning your shades and rolling the top back. While Burn slowed things down a bit too much in its first half, Afterburner achieves better flow by putting its slower songs at the midpoint and end of the album. Closer “Into the Wind” is a particularly great dose of variety, opening with reflective clean picking before escalating into a peppy stomp that’s powered by epic leads and anthemic lyrics. It’s a suitably emotional sendoff and one of the best tracks here. Sadly the other slow song, “Red Dawn,” isn’t quite as successful. While its big crunchbomb of a riff is pretty great, it leans on this one idea a bit too hard over the track’s five-and-a-half minute runtime.
The songwriting remains straightforward and Kryptos lean heavily on their main riffs throughout the other seven songs as well, but the band’s excellent riffing and tendency to subtly mix things up prevents this from being a major flaw. Take “Dead of Night,” which introduces some echoing leads in its first half that later return with vocals layered over them for some added oomph. Yet the best example of the band’s abilities lie in “Mach Speed Running.” You know those songs you hear 30 seconds of and immediately know they’re going to be the soundtrack to your summer? That’s “Running.” The track sounds like if Dark Tranquillity2 wrote the catchiest heavy metal song they could and it’s impossible to listen to it without cracking a smile. It’s all aided by a vibrant production that’s a perfect fit for the style and avoids the loudness3 that hindered Night. The solos are suitably slick and I appreciate the fact that Lewis’s vocals are more prominent this time around.
Afterburner was the most fun I had listening to anything this year. As before Krytpos‘s mix of harsh vocals and old school riffs is a real treat and I can’t think of many other acts doing the same thing, let along executing it so well. Likewise Lewis and fellow guitarist Rohit Chaturvedi are certified metal maestros, packing these tracks full of standout riffs while adding smooth soaring solos and subtle hints of melodic death metal that throw a bit of modernity into the proceedings. Afterburner is a more than great album, it’s a veritable celebration of the heavy metal spirit, a loving ode to the world of leather, city nights, and mothafukkin’ riffs. The fact that they’ve only improved since their last record makes me even more excited for what these India natives will give us next. For now, let’s hit the open road and let the roar of the Afterburner carry us away.