Review Summary: How to admit to your strengths and get back on track
Sometimes magical things just happen. If you told me that the EP follow-up to Krypts’ demo was going to knock me off my feet at a time when I was only familiar with said demo, I’d have laughed it off. Yet, somehow, something unfathomable happened and the release haunts me to this very day. The band’s sturdy, if workmanlike Finnish death got drenched in reverb and lovely guitar melodies to bring out a side of the act nobody could have seen coming after the first tape. Unfortunately, it seemed that the band themselves didn’t see it coming either. The guitarist responsible for the transformation got uninvited from the fold and Krypts literally went back to their demo era for their debut full length. Sturdy, if slightly unremarkable doom/death was made and a feeling of squandered potential permeated the air.
The time eventually came for the follow-up, and the band seemed to wise up a bit. A second guitar player (albeit a different one) was ushered into the line-up, allowing for more arrangement flexibility without fear of how they would translate to concerts. Such a small change was apparently all the guys needed to kick back into gear, as Remnants of Expansion picks up most of the pieces missing from Unending Degradation and offers a far more memorable disc. The renewed pursuit of pronounced melodies does wonders for the disc. Mind you, they weren’t fully absent from the debut album, but they were largely understated and buried in the mix, as if knowing that their only purpose was slight album version sprinkles of little actual significance. This time around they’re far more fleshed out and take on many different shapes and sizes, from conventional melody work (the monolithic interplay between minimalistic patterns at the end of “Arrow of Entropy”) through clean, modulated arpeggios perfectly feeding off the ferocity of the backdrop (“Remnants of Expansion”). It doesn’t seem like much on paper, but the extra dimension brought to the sound really helps it stand on its own two feet in a manner largely absent since Krypts reverted to being a quartet.
Aside from the melodies, everything is in good form as always. The vocals vary timbres perfectly, largely sticking true to a reasonably unobtrusive growl, but switching to a more black metal rasp when the song calls for it (“Entrailed to the Breaking Wheel”), or just shutting up to let the instrumental interplay shine. The drumming is arranged in a manner that helps bring everything together wonderfully, somehow making the gelling of the riffing with the melodies sound even more natural than it already would be otherwise. The bass is largely inaudible, although the few moments where it gets to crawl out of the woodwork hint at a cavernous tone holding everything together below the surface (“Transfixed”). The only major complaint is that the band seems to have focused most of its attention on the opening track, leaving the rest of the record slightly underdeveloped. “Arrow of Entropy” is a 10+ minute doom/death tour de force with weaving Egyptian arpeggios, ample transitions and earworm riffs that still somehow come together into a wonderful cohesive entity. The song is extremely fulfilled and gives the 2011 EP a run for its money. However, it’s a bit downhill from there, as while the songs offer individual passages of interest nothing comes together as an entity anywhere near as focused as the opener. The most tantalising example of squandered potential is the title track, as the quick clean guitar segment near the start is delightful and the vibe is carried on in the space-like interplay later on in the song, but everything else feels like a placeholder that wasn’t properly fleshed out.
Nevertheless, Remnants of Expansion is a huge step in the right direction for Krypts. The addition of a second guitarist allows the band to pursue the haunting melodies that made their self-titled EP the marvel it is, albeit coming in from a different tonal angle that doesn’t make it feel like re-treading ground. The best track on here may well be the best track the band’s done to date. Most of the potential that was neglected on Unending Degradation is recaptured here, and the band seems to be closing in on the optimal form of their preferred sound firmly rooted on what they showcased on their first tape seven years ago. Remnants of Expansion firmly reinstates Krypts as one of the pack leaders of the Finnish death revival scene, with potential to become the definite flag bearer if the following album maintains “Arrow of Entropy” level of focus throughout.