Review Summary: A solid enough release let down by numerous flaws that hold it back1 of 5 thought this review was well written
As one of the most prominent and universally loved bands under the technical death metal banner, one can expect a certain oomph to come with each subsequent Cryptopsy albums. Their first two albums are arguably their strongest works, containing nothing but brutal vocals, incredibly proficient guitar work and some of the most creative drumming in all of metal. From there, the band merely added to the technical side of their music that they had already established on their first two releases with their third album Whisper Supremacy. Despite the loss of often championed vocalist Lord Worm, Cryptopsy showcased they still had more than enough in them to put out another fantastic release. From here the band are generally seen to have gone a little down hill with the release of And Then You'll Beg and the fan-base-dividing return from Lord Worm on Once Was Not. It was after this release that things started to seem sour for the band.
The Unspoken King is the sixth studio release from Cryptopsy and marks their departure from the technical death metal sound that they had helped to pioneer alongside bands such as Suffocation and, earlier, artists such as Atheist and Death. Whereas the band's sound was previously a schizophrenic mixture of hyper fast riffs and drumming that can not be described as anything short of insane, The Unspoken King is a more melodic effort that remains firmly routed in the often maligned deathcore genre. Making a debut on this release is new vocalist Matt McGachy who showcases much more of a decipherable vocal style than Lord Worm, jumping between a mid-range growl and a wailing high shriek alongside some clean vocals. The latter of these is one of the reasons that The Unspoken King garners a lot of hate from the metal community, alongside a rather sophomore-level of guitar riffs for the most part and some stagnant deathcore breakdowns. However, this is not the abysmal work that many would claim it to be, it just suffers from lacking anything fresh.
Worship Your Demons kicks the album off and on this track the band are clearly firing on all cylinders. There are a couple of riffs using some speedy fret work as well as an extremely technical finger-tapping fill that show the band still has the chops to challenge even the most talented aspiring guitarists out there. In fact, this album seldom dips below the challenging level of guitar playing that has come to be expected from the band, with numerous songs showing some inhumanly fast guitar riffs. This is not quite on the level that Whisper Supremacy stood proudly on in terms of technical proficiency, but it is certainly not the dull, mundane affair that numerous music critics and fans of the band would profess it to be. At around a minute and a half in, Silence The Tyrants provides one of the most exciting riffs on the album, before diving head first into a mid-paced breakdown akin to a less memorable Graves Of The Fathers sped up a little bit. For the most part, the riffs across this album are enjoyable enough without ever threatening to set the world alight, but there is a major problem : the lack of creativity. This feels like the band is trying to bring their old sound under the deathcore umbrella, showcasing some quick finger work whilst then completely killing off any vibe that the songs had or any respect they may have gained with some of the most uninteresting breakdowns found anywhere.
The other instrumental work here is also of a high standard at times but completely dips in quality at times so much that it becomes hard to fathom what was going through the band's minds when writing this release. The hyper-fast drumming from Flo is still present and correct, including his signature gravity blast beats on top of some cool enough mid-paced beats and fills scattered throughout. Bemoan The Martyr signals its arrival with a very slow introduction that relies on drums and bass only, giving both members a chance to shine but on this track in particular the bass really lets it down. The bass work on The Unspoken King is absolutely insipid and is the real weak link here. Forget everything you have heard about the lack of guitarist Jon and his replacement laying down boring riffs, it is the bass that really destroys any momentum this album gains. Cryptopsy's previous body of work was renowned for the phenomenal bass playing through which the listener could hear the funky pops and slaps every few seconds. Here, the band settled for mediocrity at best with some of the most uninspired and uninteresting bass work out there. Worship Your Demons is the highlight of the bass work for this album and even that is not the best of performances out there, showcasing this to be a waste of time for any budding bass player out there.
The vocal performance is something that is almost universally criticized about The Unspoken King, wrongfully so in my humble opinion. Matt McGachy may not have the incredibly low and guttural roar of Lord Worm on this release (although he would be pushed into attempting it on their self titled album) but what he does have is a lot of power behind the range he does have. For those claiming the clean singing to be the worst thing since the holocaust, listen to Bemoan The Martyr again. Whilst that track may not have the best riffing and one of the worst bass performances in history, Matt McGachy's clean singing in the introduction and the outro over the squealing pinched harmonics provided by the guitarist pretty much saves that track. On top of this, he possesses the best high scream of any Cryptopsy vocalist, sounding far more at home using his higher range to introduce tracks such as Worship Your Demons and during the otherwise boring Leach. Leach is also the best song to see his lower range as he prefers to stick to his highs and mid-ranged growls on The Unspoken King, but it isn't that much as his low growls are rather forced and manipulated. McGachy puts in a solid enough performance and definitely provides a good voice for the lyrical content but he is not the best vocalist out there and his lows are pretty bad. Thankfully, he saves some of the otherwise terrible songs.
The best track here would be Worship Your Demons, a true Cryptopsy classic. If there was any song that I would recommend off this album then it would be that track. It has some of the most schizophrenic riffing out there as well as one of the coolest choruses ever that you will be roaring along to for some time afterward. Contemplate Regicide is another track that should take a lot of the credit for making this album bearable, that contains a magnificent drum performance and also with the great keyboard work in the introduction. This is a factor of the sound of The Unspoken King that actually worked surprisingly well, with the keyboards not seeping through very often but when it does such as on Bemoan The Martyr, it actually sounds really good. Whilst the keyboard is not used as well as, say, on an Emperor record, they do provide another frontier for this sound. Unfortunately, it is tracks like Leach with their abysmal vocal performances that drag it down a little. This is not a consistent album at all. The production job is a considerable step up from Once Was Not's rusty sounding drum tones and awful guitar tones, but is nothing to write home about.
The Unspoken King, overall, is a solid enough release but there are some elements of its sound that just stick out like a sore thumb, and it should go down in history as just being an average to above average album that unfortunately has too many flaws to ignore. The vocals are solid enough as is the riffing and drumming, but the bass work and song writing on a couple of the tracks is really too bad.