Still going strong on their 11th album, Crematory serve up another helping of dark and powerful gothic metal.
In the last decade, a common trend seen among some extreme metal bands is a slow migration away from the more "brutal" styles of metal towards a doom-influenced gothic metal sound. Moonspell, Tiamat, Amorphis, and Crematory are some of the classic examples of this trend, and they are also among the few bands to make that change and still retain large portions of their fan base. In Crematory's case, the shift in sound was a constant evolution lasting through much of the '90s, and continuing after the band re-formed following a hiatus from 2001 to 2003. After they returned, the band also started incorporating industrial elements into their sound, making the keyboards and samples more prominent in certain parts of their sound. Their sound has settled down on recent albums, though, and Infinity, the band's 11th album to date, maintains the current groove of dark, melodic metal.
Infinity has basically the same tone and emotion that 2008's Pray had. The music continues to rely on dark, brooding atmospheric elements created by the keyboards. The vocal sharing between Gerhard Stass and Matthias Hechler is still the most unique element in Crematory's sound, maintaining their separation from other bands in the scene. The split between Stass and Hechler is fairly even on this album, and no matter which of them is singing, the vocals are always excellent. Although Hechler has very few guitar solos on this album, all of them are excellently performed, especially the ones where a second guitar is added to provide a harmony line for the solo. Even though this layering won't necessarily be possible in a live show, it still adds some extra punch to the solos.
The high point of the album occurs at the halfway mark, with a moment of great contrast showing that Crematory is still willing to experiment within their sound. It starts with the song "Broken Halo", which features Hechler singing alone over a very sorrowful, doom-laden melody that moves very slowly. The song is more melodic than anything the band has done in their recent career, and it sets the perfect tone to lull listeners into a false sense of ease with the pattern of the music. That ease is shattered on the opening notes of "Where Are You Now", which has incredibly fast guitars and blastbeats during the verses, coupled with a beautifully sung chorus. Placing these two tracks next to each other creates an intensely memorable experience, and also provides an inadvertent transition leading to the album's heavy closing tracks.
Infinity is an impressive album from Crematory because it has surprises hidden within songs to keep listeners engaged and active. The rising flow of the album is what makes that feat possible. The musical intensity increases constantly from one song to the next, peaking at the very end of the album. Just when you might think the album has moved into a repetitive part, something new and different appears, raising the interest level again and again. It finally seems like Crematory have hit their stride of consistency from one album to the next. Hopefully they'll be able to keep going in that fashion on their next release.