CRYPTOPSY – As Gomorrah Burns

CRYPTOPSY – As Gomorrah Burns



While I admit that the Canadian brutal technical death metal purveyors Cryptopsy have one of the best names and (legible!) logos in metal, I don’t quite hold them in such high regard as others. True, Whisper Supremacy¹⁹⁹⁸ was once in heavy rotation in both my CD player and my car, None So Vile¹⁹⁹⁶ had its great moments and Blasphemy Made Flesh¹⁹⁹⁴, though hardly a classic in my book, had some great tunes on it, especially the opening “Defenestration” where they flirted with melodic death metal almost ahead of its time, and And Then You’ll Beg²⁰⁰⁰ unbridled power and technical prowess is undeniable. But for me this outfit didn’t really take off until the phenomenal Once Was Not²⁰⁰⁵, a progressive death metal masterpiece in my book. As is my custom with long standing bands, in order to get a career perspective for the fair judgment of the latest work, I quickly listen to the whole discography of a band before diving deep into the new sounds, and, as far as Cryptopsy is concerned, Whisper Supremacy¹⁹⁹⁸ and Blasphemy Made Flesh¹⁹⁹⁴ barely stand the test of time, None So Vile¹⁹⁹⁶ and, especially, And Then You’ll Beg²⁰⁰⁰ don’t stand the test of time but Once Was Not²⁰⁰⁵ still amazes me with its intricacy, actual memorable songwriting and not just technical prowess, attention to detail and creativity. The subsequent The Unspoken King²⁰⁰⁸, their emo/metalcore experiment does deserve a few words because, while far from a great record, it had some fantastic ideas such as the excellent “The Headsmen” or the midtrack melodic transition in “Silence the Tyrants” and similar ones in other tracks but, unfortunately, for God knows what reason, the debuting Matthieu McGachy thought it not robbery to be equal with Jon Bon Jovi which resulted in the typical Cryptopsy brutality mixed in with melodeath and the sound of not so whispering unsupremacy scarring most of the songs to the point of unlistenability except, notably, “Bound Dead” where he managed to sound both interesting and progressive but, in all, this was the album where Cryptopsy learned they were not Between the Buried and Me and they never will be. Besides, Cryptopsy²⁰¹² and the subsequent two EPs, The Book of Suffering – Tome I²⁰¹⁵ and The Book of Suffering – Tome II²⁰¹⁸, completely redeemed the band both at the time and across the arc of time, and on the strength of those three releases I based my decision to review the latest As Gomorrah Burns²⁰²³ released on September 8th via the mighty Nuclear Blast Records, approaching it with low expectations and pleasantly surprised with what I got to hear.

The ingenious name Cryptopsy is a combination of the words “crypto” and “autopsy” and the roots of the band go back all the way to 1988 (the year of Death’s landmark 2nd album Leprosy¹⁹⁸⁸) and the creation of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Dan “Lord Worm” Greening (vocals-1997; 2003-2007), which mutated that same year first into Necrosis (with one full length Realms of Pathogenia¹⁹⁹¹) then Gomorra (1992) at which point entered the drummer extraordinaire Florent Mounier (currently the only remaining original Cryptopsy member left) and that same year Gomorra finally settled on Cryptopsy and released the Ungentle Exhumation¹⁹⁹³ EP on Gore Records. Lord Worm had left after None So Vile¹⁹⁹⁶ with Michael DiSalvo taking over for Whisper Supremacy¹⁹⁹⁸ and And Then You’ll Beg²⁰⁰⁰, Lord Worm (reportedly nicknamed for his habit of eating live worms) had returned exclusively for that one brilliant album Once Was Not²⁰⁰⁵ wherein he left for good replaced to date by Matthieu McGachy (2007-vocals) whose debut album was that unfortunate Unspoken King²⁰⁰⁸ but who then redeemed himself completely with all the subsequent releases never once trying the emo-screams again and then Cryptopsy disappeared for 5 years finally emerging with new material last year, again, with Flo Mournier the only remaining founder accompanied by McGachy, Christian Donaldson (2005-guitars) and Cattle Decapitation bassist Olivier Pinard (since 2011).

Well, the wait is over and the first thing that attracts our attention is the cover and the title. Are we alluding to the former name or to the Bible, and if it’s the latter, in what context? I mean, Cryptopsy may not be Satanic but they have always been anti-Christian until 2005 when Lord Worm made a song called “The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness” and signaled in parentheses of the title that it was based on Psalm 91:5-8 of the King James Version Bible, to boot. Provocation or a change of mind? We may never know, especially since he seems to be permanently out of the band but here, mind you, Gomorrah, a city condemned by God to utter destruction by fire and brimstone raining from heaven, burns and we seem to be happy about it, and, as we take in that sight and smell of burning flesh, we sample the opening “Lascivious Undivine”, which seems to allude to the Gommorheans, to the Evil One who inspired them or both, in any case, one of the finest tracks Cryptopsy has ever created, straight to business without any dubious intros, they just smash slice and dice with a power of a death metal Pantera, but there’s variety and changing patterns with plenty of patented speed in between, while the excellent melodic transition recalls fellow countrymen Kataklysm while winking back to the Unspoken King²⁰⁰⁸, and you’ve got to love that David Vincent-like “Where the Slime Live” Morbid Angel laughter, folks, this is new and improved Cryptopsy, but is it merely the beginning or the beginning of the end? The video single “In Abeyance” answers with a classic Immolation styled ten ton simple but effective riff but not before we hear a similar intro technical riff as the one in “The Headsmen”, an obvious wink as if to say, we know this one was great and we’ve got more of that for ya but the track does get a little chaotic and less memorable. Of note is the obvious reference to Carcass’ “Heartwork” (the song) complete with a fantastic Michael Ammot-like solo in “Godless Deceiver” but henceforth side A offers little to be excited about.

Not so side B which brings another surprise with one of the catchiest and most melodic tracks in their career, the video single “Flayed the Swine” practically a melodeath tune, again tipping the hat to the likes of Kataklysm or maybe Hypocrisy? And then Cryptopsy takes a page from Ulcerate (Obeisant), cool dissonant melodic play and ends on a very good note with “Praise The Filth” which almost quotes Immolation’s “Close to the World Below” (the song) while rich in Behomoth’s slow burn while Matthieu McGachy utilizes a more decipherable growl a’la Ross Dolan or Nergal, respectively, serving the last surprise, a Testamentian thrash metal gallop toward the end and, finally closing it all out with that same fantastic Immolation-like epic riff.

In summary, As Gomorrah Burns²⁰²³ is probably Cryptopsy’s best work and certainly the best produced to date, everything sounding properly brutal and at the right clarity, something that was quite a problem on Whisper Supremacy¹⁹⁹⁸ (the infamous failing of the mix with increased pace and brutality), but the producer, Christian Donaldson, Cryptopsy’s sole guitarist since he was abandoned by the departing Jonathan Levasseur post completion of the 2012 eponymous, hasn’t had a bad sounding record to date, with this new one his best and clearest production yet. Now, the songwriting, while much improved, remains wildly inconsistent with moments of that seemingly senseless breakneck speed and brutality for no apparent reason, although, again, the melodic moments are very much appreciated and encouraged to expand upon, well, maybe not so much to the point of Unspoken King²⁰⁰⁸ but, hey, at least y’all know where to stop, right? If you’re a fan this will probably not disappoint you but if you just enjoy some of the past work you’ll find it just good not great and likely award the same score.

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