It’s a new year and I’m already anxious to uncover 2020s version of Fvneral Fvkk. By that I mean a doom album that comes out of nowhere and hits me like a runaway logging truck, leaving me bloodied, battered but impressed. In search of the next unheralded monolith of massiveness, I took a flyer on unsung Italian doom act Suum. Cryptomass is their second album, and you just have to love that witty title, as only CandleMASSIVE would be better1. The band plays a variant of traditional doom with slight stoner elements, and things occasionally wonder into doom death territory at times, but the main influence is clearly Candlemass. They spice up this strange old brew with oddball vocals that ramble all over the place and often sound like early Mercyful Fate outtakes. If you think this sounds like a sketchy confection, you are correct, but hey, you get what you get when you take risks in the promo sump. No risk it, no biscuit, or so they claim.
Things begin interestingly enough with the title track showing that the band can indeed craft interesting textures and moods while delivering effective doom moments. It sounds like a darker, less polished Candlemass smashed together messily with early Saint Vitus. The riffs are meaty and heavy, the mood is ominous and the over-the-top vocals are kept just shy of becoming too much to take as they flit between goth-style crooning and dramatic wailing. The song is too long at nearly nine minutes but it’s enjoyable. Give me an album full of similar material and I’d consider you a band worth hearing. That’s not what we get however. “The Silence of Agony” keeps the music fairly consistent but lets frontman Misantrophil (great name) take great liberties with his delivery, which quickly proves to be a grievous error. He wails, caterwauls, growls, and does reverb-drenched King Diamond spit-takes, and at no point does he embrace the concept of restraint. I however would like to see him restrained, and possibly tasered, as he single-handedly nukes what might have been a decent doom tune and makes it a chore to get through. By the time we arrive at “Creatures From the Vault” he’s started to sound uncannily like the Count from Sesame Street, rolling Rs like it’s his day job while adopting a weighty Transylvania brogue. It all becomes quite comical and this is not helped by the awkward riffs and abrupt transitions. Count me out of this one, Count.
From there on out Cryptomass offers a mixed bag of semi-decent to outright bad doom tunes, uniformly butchered by bad vocals. “Burial at Night” builds up a nicely grim, doomy atmosphere with some interesting guitar-work, until Misantrophil shows up to kick dog poo all over everything, sounding like Sacred Steel‘s Gerret P. Mutz if he was really, really trying to get himself fired. The vocals make you feel every second of the song’s seven and a half minutes and by the time it finally ends you’ll be shopping for an industrial-grade muzzle and shock collar. Likewise, the stoner-esque doom rock of “Claws of Evil” sees some decent riffs completely wasted in a song annihilated by atrocious vocal-work. In a nutshell, this album is a mess and at 55 minutes, it’s a long mess.
The band is not without talent, and the guitar-work of Painkiller is at times quite good. He can craft some solid doom and stoner riffs and these really become the feature you’re forced to focus on as a raving lunatic howls at alley cats on song after song. The thing that bothers me most is that Misantrophil can be a functional vocalist when he attempts a modicum of restraint, as he does on the title track. At a base level he sounds quite like Scott Reagers of Saint Vitus. However, when Mr. Misantrophil tries to go super theatrical and over-dramatic, things go from okay to dumpster fire in a hot flash and there’s no coming back once that match is lit.
Cryptomass is a cautionary tale about how a maniacal vocalist can sink an album faster than a fuck-ton of boulders. Suum seem to have the chops to write decent doom, and with a semi-restrained vocalist this might have been passable fare, but such is life in the slow lane. Avoid this unless you enjoy watching burning trains going off icy rails in slow motion for an hour. Cryptomiss.