Cryptopsy and more...
Far be it from us here at Mixtarum Metallum to fear the reaper, so we’ve gathered together another few months of raucous riffs and thunderous reverberations to celebrate our impending doom.
Sometimes in life you take risks that backfire, but it’s how you bounce back from these mistakes that will determine your future success. In the case of legendary Canadian death metal band Cryptopsy, Flo & Co. have managed to successfully bounce back from the abomination that was The Unspoken King by mercifully eradicating the abhorrent clean vocals and the trend-hopping deathcore on this their self-titled album. Cryptopsy plays it safe, but such an approach was necessary in order to start rebuilding Cryptopsy’s legacy and regain fan confidence. The fact that former guitarist Jon Levasseur has also rejoined the fold is another positive, and his presence should spark curiosity and perk the ears of even the most dismayed fans. But such points are redundant without well written songs and Cryptopsy is contemporary technical death metal at its slickest; best heard on “Two Pound Torch”, “Red Skinned Scapegoat”, and “Amputated Enigma”. This album does not reach the unique brutality of landmark albums Blasphemy Made Flesh and None So Vile, but such feats were far from expected. Cryptopsy is just the sound of a lost band finally taking a major step down the nasty road to recovery.—DB
UK-based trio Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell reeks of vintage rock, sweaty pubs and drunken late night reveries. Blues, psych, prog and proto-metal form the foundations of the band’s sound, with bands such as Budgie, Sir Lord Baltimore, Atomic Rooster, Dust, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Buffalo clearly influencing its fuzzed-out, hard-rockin’ psychedelia. Like the best retro-rockers—Witchcraft, Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, and Graveyard, to name but three—the Shovell (as they are affectionately known) work a dirty, flared groove to great effect. The gruff, cigarette-and-pint-worn vocals, and hefty, scorching riffs of “Mark of the Beast”, “Devil’s Island” and “Killer Kane” make for brash, hard-kicking analog blow-outs (with excellent turbo-charged leads). The band stretches out on “Red Admiral Black Sunrise” and “Scratchin’ and Sniffin’”, working in ample feedback and distortion to keep that early ‘70s disposition dripping, and plenty of MC5 power chords and early Status Quo tumbling riffs to meld the proto-metal to proto-punk throughout. The Shovell delivers a rousing homage to classic hard and psychedelic rock, but guitarist/vocalist Johnny Redfern, bassist/vocalist Louis Wiggett and drummer Bill Darlington go beyond mere replication, digging for inspiration from obscure corners. Final track “Bean Stew” offers a zigzagging and intense explosion of recondite psych and hard rock, calling to mind weird and wired cult rock at its finest. Don’t Hear It… Fear It! is gloriously diverting, with its abundant authenticity and lo-fi lacerations adding another significant voice to the vintage hard rock pool.—CH
The mighty Down return with the first in a series of four EPs to be released over the next twelve months. The Purple EP—the long awaited follow up to Down III: Over The Under—burns the same way as their debut, with Down settling themselves comfortably in a hotbox of traditional doom à la Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Trouble, and Candlemass, for the entirety of its run time. There is no experimentation here—presumably this will be for future EPs—instead you get those trademark sludge riffs of Keenan and Weinstein battling with a swinging rhythm section of Bowers and new finger pickin’ bassist Pat Bruders (who has replaced Rex Brown). And then of course there’s the unmistakeable Philip H. Anselmo leading the charge over of the raucous grooves of “Witchtripper”, the Vitus-worthy downer of “Open Coffins”, and appearing as the prophet of doom on “The Curse”. The Purple EP leaves the impression that these lifers can produce rock-steady jams the quality of “Levitation” and “Misfortune Teller” with instinctual ease. It will be interesting to see just how far out of their comfort zone Down push themselves on the remaining EPs, but while we wait to hear what else is in store, these six songs will more than satiate fans of Down and doom in general.—DB
Winterfylleth’s last album, 2010’s The Mercian Sphere, was a consummate example of the continuing ascendance of UK black metal bands celebrating pagan and ancient ideologies over recent years. Winterfylleth’s aesthetic redirects the might of Scandinavian second wave black metal to celebrate “England’s historical stories, folklore, landscapes and ancestral past”. Threnody of Triumph is a superb combination of traditional black metal, scenic post-metal and it harnesses a strain of stirring folk that fans of Drudkh will recognize. Heart-swelling crescendos masterfully evoke fog-laden Albion myths, and haunting, dynamic melodies are ever-present. The interweaving of skillfully composed woodland and pastoral acoustic passages with atmospheric black metal outbursts on “The Glorious Plain” and “the Swart Raven” are particularly imposing. The darker, old school blastbeat and tremolo barrages of “The Threnody of Triumph” and “The Fate of Souls After Death” sound as commanding as the band’s envisioning of bygone battles filled with heroes and villains. The intricate, painstaking layering of pitiless riffing over harmonic build-ups throughout allows the superb, often lush, production to shine. The Threnody of Triumph is a crucial release from England’s extreme metal sphere. Unfolding with storied and musical depth with each repeated listen, its density, magnitude and gravity should, by all rights, see Winterfylleth reap even further acclaim.—CH
As I Lay Dying has managed to survive the maligned metalcore movement because of the work ethic of band leader Tim Lambesis. Under his captaincy this band has produced consistent metalcore records that hold tight the traits of the genre: screamed vocals, soul slaughtering twin guitars, percussive bombardments and predictable breakdowns. As expected their sixth studio album Awakened does not veer left field, nor does it push what they have already achieved any further. Much like their 2010 release—The Powerless Rise—Awakened over relies on bassist Josh Gilbert’s clean chorus’ in an effort to distract from Tim Lambesis’ lack of personality, and his vocal hooks are not strong enough to warrant the amount of tracks they saturate. Because of this Awakened fails to match the ferocity of 2007’s An Ocean Between Us, and even though guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso have great chemistry and Jordan Mancino continues to be one of the most underappreciated drummers in metal, this record repeats the same ideas that have been flogged to death by As I Lay Dying for thirteen years. Those who have enjoyed everything this band has released will certainly find plenty of positives here. On the other hand, those craving progression from their metal bands will agree that predictability should be the eighth deadliest sin.—DB
// Notes from the Road
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