Once Was Not
6/2/2006 - Review by: Etiam
Cryptopsy - Once Was Not - 2005 - Century Media
The legendary Canadian group is most well known for their seminal release, ‘None So Vile’, released a decade ago. That album was also the last full length that featured Lord Worm, who has been one of the most divisive lead vocalists in modern metal’s history, instantly recognizable for his unique vocal cadences, belching growls, and piercing shrieks.
‘Once Was Not’, the band’s latest, was therefore met with both fanfare and skepticism. Would Lord Worm catapult the band back to the heights they once tread, would he still have the voice he once did? Those faithful to Lord Worm will likely be pleased by the outcome, as the group does sound more proper with him leading the way, but ‘Once Was Not’ is not the simple return to form that many were expecting.
With the departure of original member Jon Levasseur, a change in style was unavoidable. However, rather than suffering because of the loss, on ‘Once Was Not’ Cryptopsy actually progress, broadening their influences, style, and perhaps even their appeal. The acoustic intro track, for example, or the segue track ‘The End’ which sounds like it would be more at home on the Diablo II video game soundtrack than it would on a death metal album. Die-hard purists may fault the band for these experiments, but most will agree that ‘Once Was Not’ is by nearly all standards a step up from recent works.
Though compatriots Kataklysm were the ones to land the title of ‘Northern Hyperblast’, Cryptopsy has always been the true destructive force in Canadian death metal. And though this is a worthy achievement, it can make for somewhat monotonous listening. However, on ‘Once Was Not’, rather than perpetuate this formula Cryptopsy feature numerous variations upon the standard brutal death theme: the solo in Adeste Infidelis, the brief jazzy intro to ‘Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy’, the strings in ‘Endless Cemetery’. These tracks demonstrate a relatively expansive musical structure unheard on earlier works, both musically and vocally. The most convincing example of this development is ‘Angelskingarden’, which seamlessly blends Cryptopsy’s signature brutality with surprisingly moving melodies. Endless Cemetery fits into this category as well; Lord Worm’s experimental….squawks would have been out of place on None So Vile, but now they are one of album’s highlights.
Yes, it is true that Lord Worm does not sound quite the conjured hellspawn that he once did, but some speculate that this could only be his attempt to try to widen his appeal, as live performances are apparently still as bowel-shaking as ever.
It is also true that the drums are tuned a bit too high, and though the inimitable Flo Mounier and his anatomy-defying efforts are certainly one of the defining characteristics of Cryptopsy’s style, more consistent emphasis on the band’s rhythm and bass section would do much to give each track more identifiable character.
Small qualms aside, ‘Once Was Not’ turns in an admirable performance. Cryptopsy’s dossier includes one of death metal’s defining albums, and three legendary members (Lord Worm, Flo Mounier, and Eric Langlois), making them something of a self-contained supergroup. Such standards are difficult to live up to, and this veteran squad does the job well. Year-end list material.
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