Review Summary: More than a stylistic leap, Bionic Swarm is a full creative rebirth.
Throughout our personal or professional lives, we come to a crossroads that force us to rethink our path. It is the inevitability of change. Artistically, experimentation and renewal are a fundamental part of the creative spirit, being responsible for some of man's greatest achievements. Our constant will to change, to evolve, is what makes us who we are and what separates us from other creatures. Formerly known as Distillator, the Dutch trio consisting of Laurens Houvast (vocals/guitar), Frank te Riet (bass/mellotron/backing vocals) and Marco Prij (drums) also felt this urge to change, to take a step forward, to evolve into something that embodied the futuristic concept and stylistic fusion they envisioned for their third album, Bionic Swarm
. This mutation was so profound that the Dutch lads made the most radical decision: changing the band's name. And trust me, this decision was not taken lightly. It takes guts and an unshakeable conviction. In this sense, Bionic Swarm
ceased to be Distillator's third release and became the debut album of a newborn creature, called Cryptosis.
As we dive into Bionic Swarm
, we immediately realize the band added greater atmosphere to their DNA, much due to the background synths emanated by Frank's mellotron. This ambiance layer not only provides an ethereal foundation for the futuristic dystopian concept but also serves as a link between the many styles that orbit the band's thrash core. Of these new nuances, I would highlight the progressive approach, as well as the death metal overtones and symphonic surroundings.
The album's first half is an absolute blast, with neither fillers nor weak links. 'Decypher' not only serves as a perfect introduction to the band's new creative cycle, but it is also one of the best songs the trio has ever recorded. The way it successfully blends various textures within a futuristic aesthetic serves as the motto for the entire album. The Megadeth-esque syncopated rhythms on the first three tracks are also worth mentioning as they add interesting dynamics to the songs while creating bridges with the band's influences, among which I would also include Vektor and Coroner. Despite Bionic Swarm's
proggy personality, the songs essentially feature a classic (verse-chorus-verse) structure, reminiscent of the band's thrash heritage. This structural simplicity is the solid backbone through which all intricate elements orbit. Although it may seem like a minor detail at first glance, this orthodox structure serves as a counterbalance to the technical and progressive layers that shape the music, giving it greater stability.
displays a remarkable fluidity, allowing the listener to go through the album quite smoothly. The contrasts that emerge within and between songs never deviate from the predetermined chromatic palette. More atmospheric tracks like 'Prospect of Immortality' or 'Mindscape' coexist in perfect harmony with fiercer moments such as 'Decypher' or 'Flux Divergence', being part of a common narrative. Such strong coherence is among the album's greatest achievements, mirroring the band's creative maturity. The Mustaine-esque riff in 'Death Technology' or the Vektor-ish chorus of 'Transcendence' also particularly caught my attention, as they represent, in a way, the past and present of the genre.
As expected, the musical performances live up to the band's ambition, with the trio functioning like a bionic machine. However, except for the solos in 'Prospect of Immortality', the lead guitar doesn't quite match the splendor of other ingredients much due to its technical simplicity. Cryptosis' audacity would benefit from bolder solos that could add greater tridimensionality to the songwriting, catapulting the band's sound to even more stratospheric heights. Nevertheless, this minor detail does not jeopardize either the musical outcome or the trio's artistic vision for this new cycle.
More than a stylistic leap, Bionic Swarm
is a full creative rebirth that mirrors the profound mutation of a collective that has reinvented itself. Cryptosis' hybrid thrash approach thus brings some hope and freshness to a genre that has struggled to stay relevant in an era eager for new sound aesthetics. And although Bionic Swarm
cannot be seen as avant-garde in the full sense of the word, its audacity and adventurous spirit make it not only a remarkable product of its time but also one of the best albums the genre has produced in recent years.