Review Summary: Overproduced mayhem and an awful vocal performance, there is little merit to be found in this.
For those who are new to the death metal genre, they may have heard whispers of a former titan of the genre named Cryptopsy. Hailing from Canada, the band astounded death metal fans with their debut, crafting an album of then-unheard-of levels of brutality that spawned the fan favorite song Open Face Surgery, famous for the ending scream that shook everyone who heard it. Following this the band released two classics in quick succession, in the shape of None So Vile and Whisper Supremacy. The former was the band's masterpiece, an eight track love affair for any true death metal lover. The latter showcased the bands trek into a more technically-oriented style of death metal. From this point onward the band astounded people in different ways, with their hyper fast guitar work that never shied away from that overly technical styling established on that release, before nearly killing off their career. In 2008 they alienated almost all of their fan base with a foray into the breakdown-obsessed deathcore genre. Come 2012, all this should have changed.
Until recently, Cryptopsy were the last band one would think of when they think of the words "mediocrity in musical form". One would instead look towards some of the better deathcore bands for something along these lines, where the music is bearable but without any real merit. However, whilst The Unspoken King was certainly listenable, the band did little to push themselves and would sooner conform to the modern standards set by such bands as (sigh) Whitechapel and Job For A Cowboy. On their 2012 self-titled effort, the band have decided to continue down this road of painfully average material but have added in another annoying trait that drags them even further down the toilet-this release is as overproduced as it can get.
Whilst Cryptopsy's past few releases haven't exactly been the best releases in the death metal (or deathcore, as The Unspoken King showed) genre, they have at least been respectable for what they were. ...And Then You'll Beg had some rather fantastic instrumentals at times, although was completely killed off by the appalling vocals and horrific production, and the same could be said for Lord Worm's return on Once Was Not. The Unspoken King was a completely different kettle of fish musically, and was not quite the bastardization of what Cryptopsy used to be that many will have you believe. It was a more than listenable album, although the breakdowns frequently became annoying, and had a decent enough vocal performance regardless of what anyone will have you believe. The one thing that has always been consistent, ever since their magnificent debut Blasphemy Made Flesh, is the instrumental prowess on display.
Opening song Two-Pound Torch shows straight away that the instrumental performance is the frenzy of unrestrained aggression that one has come to expect of Cryptopsy. Flo Mounier takes the fastest blast beat you know and doubles it, and the guitars play their insanely quick mixture of power chords and ridiculously fast tremolo picking. The riffs themselves are as technical as it gets with frequent displays of flurries of sweep picking, and odd chord changes that one would not expect that come at such a speed that it is near impossible to keep up. This is indeed Cryptopsy as we know them. The introduction to Damned Draft Dodgers sticks out as one of the finest instrumental moments on the album with a fast riff and the usual blasts we have come to recognize Flo as a master of performing. Following this comes a quick ascension up the fretboard that could not have been better written. Yes, folks, Cryptopsy still know how to write technical death metal better than most. However, there are a few weaker riffs, and these really are bad, particularly when the band slows down. Despite the return of their originnal guitarist, Jon Levasseur, they fail occasionally at writing the more mid-paced and slower riffs. In the past, Jon wrote some marvelous slow riffs such as the opening to Grave Of The Fathers on None So Vile, but on here he really does not do the job so well.
The vocal performance, however, leaves a hell of a lot to be desired. It is once again Matt Mcgachy that takes the reigns on this release, ditching the clean vocals found on The Unspoken King and sticking to his harsh vocals. His growls seem to have lost what little power and credibility they had on the past release and are now as generic and boring as it gets, with some completely unlistenable moments scattered throughout this release. His high screams are also not quite as good as they were before, as they were the highlights of the past release vocally. On Worship Your Demons, for instance, he screams his lungs out, but on here it is just embarrassing and you want him to stop but he doesn't. If there was a reason not to buy this release, the vocals are definitely it, being one of the worst performances in death metal. And this is the genre that produced Six Feet Under...
The production is another terrible factor of this release. It is overproduced as with much modern metal music, where every band is competing to create the most chaotic sound they can with in your face production that never fails to irritate the most hardened veterans. Bands such as Darkthrone from the black metal genre have a bad production that actually fits their sound. Here, in death metal, there is no place for a bad production job. Whilst the two have completely different styles, the point is that bad production can be done properly in some cases, but on here it is just the most irritating job ever heard. This is evident straight from the opening notes of the album right through to the end of the album and is definitely the worst thing about this. What is even worse is that the bass was nearly completely mixed out, so you can only hear it if you strain, although this may be a blessing in disguise as the bass work is easily the worst side of the instrumental performance on here.
The song craft itself ranges from great to sub-par, with this release containing eight awkwardly titled songs (Damned Draft Dodgers...) and clocking in at thirty four minutes. The best track on here is the shortest song on the album, The Golden Square Mile, with a groove-sounding riff that opens it up that eventually evolves into a flurry of tremolo picking and blast beats like only Cryptopsy could write. However, songs such as Shag Harbour's Visitors, with its ill-fitting clean introduction and abysmal closing riff, should have been cut right out of this. The Golden Square Mile and Damned Draft Dodgers could have slotted in among the weaker cuts on Whisper Supremacy, but many of these songs are average, mainly due to the poor vocal work.
This is an album that has a lot to like about it, and is definitely a Cryptopsy album at heart. However, the vocal performance is as bad as it gets and it is over produced to the point of being unlistenable at times. If you can tolerate said factors and enjoyed their past work then this is definitely a solid enough release, with some hyper-technical guitar work and lightning fast blasts like only Cryptopsy can write. Sadly, this is not a progression from The Unspoken King, which actually had more than enough good moments to carry it through the chug-fest it turned out to be. Instead, this is a second rate death metal release with some great instrumental work that is sadly killed off by poor song-writing choices at times.