I could write one sentence and that would surely encapsulate all that needs to be said of Cryptopsy’s return after a five-year absence: “Lord Worm is back. Enough said.” However, I will offer a little more to go on for the uninitiated, doubters and newbies to the music of these Canadian death metal legends. Cryptopsy’s first two albums””1994’s BLASPHEMY MADE FLESH and 1996’s NONE SO VILE””are essential listening for any metalhead looking for technical/brutal death done right. Lord Worm’s guttural vocals and off-kilter personality made him a legend before jumping ship to become a full-time English teacher. Worm’s replacement, Mike DiSalvo, was a vastly different vocalist, employing more of a hardcore bellow, which divided the band’s fans over the two releases he performed on. Martin Lacroix’s stint behind the mike lasted only one live album before a lengthy break that would eventually lead to Lord Worm’s return. Now that we’re up to speed, class, let’s focus on ONCE WAS NOT, an album that combines the brutality of the band’s earliest work, the technical riffing and jazzy passages of the DiSalvo years, and stirs everything up into an album that will finally bring together both camps of Cryptopsy fans.
The drumming of Flo Mournier, the one constant that has remained true through Cryptopsy’s eleven-year career, is once again jaw-droppingly fast, precise and technical. Mournier’s blastbeats and crushing double bass work will raise the eyebrows of even the most skeptical cynic on tracks like “Carrionshine” and “The Curse of The Great.” One argument towards the production is that Mournier’s drums are mixed a bit too high and at times leave little room for Alex Auburn’s guitar to really shine through. This may have been intentional since Mournier is a world-class drummer whose skills extend beyond the realms of metal, and his loyal followers will surely drool over hearing every cymbal hit, crash of the hi-hat, and drum roll but it is noticeably obtrusive. Long-time guitarist, Jon Levasseur, left the band before the recording of ONCE WAS NOT and his presence is really not missed (NOTE: Levasseur does play guitar on the instrumental intro, “Luminum”). Auburn, whose role was mainly rhythm guitarist on 2000’s AND THEN YOU’LL BEG, more than fills Levasseur’s boots with stunning riffs and the occasional dive-bombing solo wank. However the reason that many fans will return to Cryptopsy’s latest release is the presence of Lord Worm, THE ONLY vocalist for this band. Worm’s vocals, while hardly clean and enunciated, are certainly more discernible than on his previous outings. Still, his belching gutturals, paint-peeling screams, and otherworldy roars define what this band is all about. Gone are the blasphemous rantings and occult themed lyrics but in their place, Worm tackles the album’s concept laid out by Mournier in a way that is complex and cryptic. One could say Worm has grown up! He flexes his vocal muscle on the brutal, yet groovy, “Angelskingarden” and his spoken word passages on “Carrionshine” and “The Pestilence That Walketh In Darkness (Psalm 91:5-8)” cast a creepy pall over everything in his path. Ever the experimentalists, Cryptopsy throws a breakdown-like passage on to “Carrionshine” and dabbles in a Middle Eastern vibe on the instrumental “The End.” Samples, courtesy of former guitarist Miguel Roy, pepper several tracks and the odd-timed jazzy bit rears its head before falling back into unrelenting heaviness on “Adeste Infidelis” and “Keeping The Cadaver Dogs Busy.” Some cool production tricks with Mournier’s drums also liven up the proceedings and show that Cryptopsy still has a few tricks up their leather-studded sleeves to wow its listeners.
ONCE WAS NOT is not the best Cryptopsy album””that honor still lies with NONE SO VILE””but it does show the band is still a relevant force in death metal and having lost their lead guitarist and bounced back from two different lead singers since its last studio album, the growing pains do not appear to have caused much of a ripple. Having Lord Worm back in the fold will bring old fans back and the buzz about him will certainly put a bug in many people’s ear who are just discovering the band. For a new fan, ONCE WAS NOT is an excellent starting point as it bridges the gap between the old and the middle-period of the band, while long-time Cryptopsy devotees will surely revel in knowing that the master has returned.
Lord Worm is back. Enough said.
KILLER KUTS: “Carrionshine,” “Adeste Infidelis,” “Keeping The Cadaver Dogs Busy,” “Angelskingarden”
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