Review Summary: With The Unspoken King, Cryptopsy attempts a formula that needs serious improvement before it can deserve a nod of appreciation.
The past several years have been rather turbulent for Cryptopsy. In 2005, lead guitarist and main songwriter Jon Levasseur called it quits, leaving fans concerned about the soon to be recorded album, Once Was Not. Although Levasseur had allegedly written most of the music on Once Was Not, the album was a disappointment for many, despite the return of the legendary Lord Worm behind the mic. In 2007, Lord Worm was reportedly kicked out of the band, and the announcement that followed was disturbing to most - Cryptopsy were looking for a vocalist who could sing. Earlier this year, samples from the upcoming album were leaked. And they was much gnashing of teeth. The Unspoken King was doomed months before it could even be released. So has the vox populi really been unfair to this album?
Marginally. While Cryptopsy have not created a complete tragedy with The Unspoken King, they definitely have created their worst album to date. An album that makes gems like None So Vile and Whisper Supremacy seem like a strange dream. Cryptopsy may deserve some credit for changing their style and not just churning out a rehashed version of Once Was Not, but The Unspoken King is frankly not all that far from being a waste of plastic.
To be frank, the songwriting is just poor, plain and simple, and that's the main problem with this album. From uninteresting and insipid riffs, to the awkward and sudden changes in direction, the absence of the primary songwriter shows. The complex and often bizarre, yet catchy riffs that characterised previous albums have been replaced by mostly generic and boring ones. In fact, what seems to dominate most of the album are tedious, chugging riffs that may be effective at inducing a hardcore mosh, but hold little weight after several listens. What certainly doesn't help the cause is that Cryptopsy seem to have jumped onto the Deathcore bandwagon and added passages that could be termed only as breakdowns poorly disguised as 'intense' sections. And even those sound dull and flaccid, with the only real intensity coming from Flo Mounier's thunderous double-bass assault, placed a tad too high in the mix. The guitar work does have its merits - the album is littered with some nice guitar solos, especially the ones played by newcomer Christian Donaldson. In Leach, Donaldson's solo is almost reminiscent of Jon Levasseur in its delivery and style. Unfortunately, several scattered solos don't make a good album.
The next big problem is the new vocalist Matt McGachy, replete with CleanVox 2.0 Pro. In all honesty, he's not a downright awful vocalist, atleast for the more hardcore approach that he seems more suited to. He has a decent high scream, which sounds quite good, until he spews it all over the album, to the extent that at times it sounds like he's just screaming out for lack of a better thing to do. Where McGachy fails completely though, is when he attempts to growl in more traditional death metal fashion. His death grunts come out just sounding forced, awkward and unintelligible, albeit not in a strangely appealing way like his predecessor, Lord Worm. Another problem that plagues the album is that the vocals are mixed too loud and in-your-face, possibly yet another attempt at sounding 'intense' and 'brutal'. The trick doesn't work. But that's not all for the vocals. Mr. McGachy also comes with a clean singing voice, and sadly, it's quite bad. Imagine that typical, plastic and processed clean voice that's been so severely overused in the trendy metal scene. In fact, just imagine Chester Bennington of Linkin Park - that's exactly what McGachy sounds like on Bemoan The Martyr. The clean vocal sound does work occasionally, though, like on Leach and on several other scattered moments through the album where he doesn't sound whiny and typical.
Thankfully, the rhythm section of Flo Mounier and Eric Langlois still stands strong, saving The Unspoken King from failing completely. Flo is still the absolutely inhuman machine - his blastbeats have got faster and tighter, and his double bass technique is cleaner and more thunderous than ever. Sadly, his performance here tends to get a bit repetitive and standard after a while, as he favors grind patterns and variations on the blast beat much more than the looser, more varied style that he used on earlier albums, especially on Once Was Not. Where Flo impresses more is during the slower, softer sections, where he exhibits some of his groovier and subtler chops. Overall a very tight and somewhat adventurous drum performance here. Bassist Eric Langlois is louder in the mix than he has ever been, and he slaps, pops and plucks his way through the carnage in his characteristic fashion. The slight problem is that he seems to prefer a more slap and pop oriented approach to his bass playing, which sounds great on the first few tracks, but gets tiresome and overused as the album progresses, especially since he's mixed quite loud.
Overall, The Unspoken King displays impressive musicianship, but is held back by multiple faults that manifest themselves throughout the album. The songwriting is very inconsistent, and the soft, ambient sections are often poorly integrated, making the tracks come across as badly structured and ill-constructed. A few songs succeed at the new formula in varying degrees, namely Leach, Anoint The Dead and Bound Dead. The Unspoken King is a poor effort, but definitely not complete tripe, as it's been made out to be. Cryptopsy have created an album that will send most of their fanbase up in arms, and need to iron out many severe flaws before they can succeed with what they seem to aim for with their new sound.
Utter disaster? No. Genuinely sub-par? Most definitely yes.