When I think of India, a few things come to mind: curry, sacred cows, and the terrific 2001 novel Life of Pi. I certainly don’t think of heavy metal, much less fiery ’80s-inspired metal with a deliciously modern twist. Enter Kryptos. Formed in 1998, this quartet has showboated their love of classic Judas Priest and Iron Maiden through 3 prior full-lengths, in addition to opening for acts like Death Angel and becoming the first Indian metal band to tour Europe in 2010. Burn up the Night continues the fun with swirling harmonized guitars, Screaming for Vengeance riffing, and an attitude that’s pure metal to its leather-clad core. Crank it to 11 and strap on those gauntlets, it’s time to bang your heads and thrash till your ears bleed!
Opener “Blackstar Horizon” begins things in fine form, kicking off with an empowering mid-paced riff that sounds like the backdrop for an impending intergalactic battle. With great songwriting and lyrics that blast through phrases like “dark matter!” and “infinite annihilation!,” I’m already sold and we’re not even 5 minutes in. Unlike the air-siren singing I expect from the genre, vocalist/guitarist Nolan Lewis utilizes a mid-register rasp throughout, recalling a more restrained version of Kreator’s Mille Petrozza or a gruffier version of Chuck Schuldiner on the later Death records. He’s entirely intelligible and gives the music just the kick of aggression it needs, not to mention scratching my itch as a former “core” kid with a preference for harsh vocals.
As you might expect, it’s the guitars that really shine on Burn, and boy does Lewis and fellow guitarist Rohit Chaturvedi deliver. Nearly each of these 8 tracks feature a main or opening riff that had me grinning ear to ear like I was 16 again and hearing “Aces High” for the first time. Early highlight “Full Throttle” cruises on addictive melodic couplets, over which Lewis croaks out raise-your-fists lines like “No fear – we own the night!” in a way that’s had me singing along in my Toyota for the past week. Follow-up “The Summoning” tells the tale of a midnight occult ritual via a Scorpions-style power-chord sequence, later giving way to a delightful NWoBHM-esque gallop. My personal favorite, however, is “One Shot to Kill,” which channels early Priest with its main riff before closing out with a melody that makes me want to French kiss an attractive stranger and ride my motorcycle into the sunset. And I don’t even have a motorcycle.
As heard with the sustained, streaming-rainbow notes of the closing title track, the lead-work is no slouch either. The solos brim with city night pomp and saccharine flash, soaring through colorful harmonies and channeling Maiden at their best. While the drums favor a mid-paced tempo, the occasional beat shifts augment and re-invent the already excellent riffing, while periodically lapsing into a slower stomp like with penultimate track “Prepare to Strike.” Even the production is stellar. Other than the vocals being a tad quiet, the mix is perfect, with just enough atmospheric space and a wonderfully slick, clear guitar tone. In fact, my biggest complaint has nothing to do with the songs or the sound, but rather the album’s construction. Nearly every track here falls roughly into the category of ‘mid-paced,’ and while it’s clear that’s where Kryptos are at their strongest, a quicker track or two wouldn’t have hurt. It also doesn’t help that the two slowest tracks – aforementioned “Summoning” and the sluggish, intertwining leads of “Unto Elysium” – are the third and fourth tracks respectively, which saps some of Burn’s momentum in its first half.
Still, at 40 minutes the album is the perfect length, and the aforementioned issues do little to detract from the end product. Frankly, Burn up the Night is the type of record that’s an absolute pleasure to listen to both as a reviewer and a metal fan – classically inspired but utterly fresh, infused with skilled songwriting, and brimming with riffs you’ll both remember and come to love. As much as the ‘true metal’ attitude has become a bit eye-roll-worthy in recent years, it’s records like this that remind us that the fire can be kept alive through sheer inspiration without wallowing in obnoxious pretense or try-hard retro bullshit. In the end, Kryptos are simply here to deliver great music, and by doing so they may just put Indian metal on the map once and for all.