Mike McLatchey 19-August-2002 Overview

Cryptopsy - Blasphemy Made Flesh (1994)
Cryptopsy - None So Vile (1996)
Cryptopsy - Whisper Supremacy (1998)
Cryptopsy - And Then You'll Beg (2000)

Canadians (Quebec) Cryptopsy are among the most well-respected extreme metal acts working today, led by guitarist Jon Levasseur and drummer extraordinaire Flo Mournier. The band's manically intense and unusually complex, grindcore-influenced death metal is some of the most inventive and research-heavy music in any genre, a commitment to excellence that has pulled the quintet through numerous line-up changes through their four albums to date. It's a testament to the band that they are perhaps the highest profile extreme metal band (unless you count Voivod) from Canada today, in a scene that includes luminaries such as Gorguts, Martyr or Kataklysm.

Cryptopsy's instrumental prowess evolved over the years from their first post-demo release which would find most of its material redone for Blasphemy Made Flesh. Introducing its hyperspeed blast beats and the unintelligible vocalizations of Lord Worm, Blasphemy Made Flesh is mostly hurt by its poor production, even on the Century Media remaster the guitars are often drowned out and lacking punch. But even at this early stage, Cryptopsy rode the talents of whirlwind Mournier to impressive results, pushing the music to frenetic speeds with double bass/snare hyperblasts and precise drum rolls, that if not stunningly impressive, were well on the way. While the lyrics are almost entirely unintelligible, Lord Worm's diverse display of cookie monster grunts and alien shrieks both surpass and typify the death metal vocalist stereotype. A quick look to the lyric book often makes one glad the vocals are undecipherable, with their gleeful portrayal of serial killers and other sociopaths. Levasseur's almost classically inspired guitar solos are also a plus, if only for their ability to rise out of the gloppy murk and add a bit of shine to the frantic music. While Blasphemy Made Flesh is often mentioned in the same breath as its follow up, it's clearly its inferior in terms of both playing and production.

However, all was fixed on the follow-up album, the deservedly revered None So Vile, an album almost unanimously considered one of the genre's classics. Not a moment wasted here, Mournier's drumming has improved beyond what one would think impossible, Lord Worm's demonic glossolalia increased in its alien vocabulary and the mix is good enough where even the bass playing is noticeable (also, perhaps, due to new bass player Eric Langlois). Except for a short piano intro to "Phobophile," this is balls to the wall, complex and aggressive death metal. Over a virtuoso and stunningly fast rhythm section, streams of lightning fast riffs move a series of eight songs through relentless changes and unbridled intensity. The effects leave one breathless from the combination of such incredible virtuosity and excellent songwriting. Take "Benedictine Convulsions" with its hard rocking opening groove that speeds forward under Lord Worm's demonic growling, sharing time with 2 or 3 other riffs before belting into an incredible death metal groove beat and a dark peak where Worm gives way to gibbering and ranting before, yes, gearing up to almost light speed and culminating in a hollow shriek that seems to go on forever before its end. And that's only one of eight masterpieces on what is deservedly considered one of extreme metal's most glorified efforts.

Losing Lord Worm towards the beginning of the recording of Whisper Supremacy also caused the band to lose a lot of listeners who weren't pleased with the more hard/grindcore approach of replacement Mike Di Salvo. What the band lost with Lord Worm's departure was largely compensated by Di Salvo's more legible approach, and the finished product packed the same sort of punch as None So Vile, while removing it farther from a typical death metal sound. Cryptopsy also began to experiment with more complexity, and without losing a bit of punch brought Whisper Supremacy to the public. Possibly even more relentless than its predecessor, Whisper Supremacy is almost transitional in its taking elements from None So Vile and mixing them up to where the time changes come far more frequently. Again, Mournier drives the music like a bat out of hell, and often the barrage of guitars and drums becomes a blur. There are occasional moments of clarity, such as the short acoustic guitar bits in "Cold Hate, Warm Blood," but for the most part this is an energetic, angry assault that is over so quickly that one is almost forced to start it again. Lord Worm or not, Di Salvo's version of Cryptopsy stands on its own, Whisper Supremacy being a worth follow up to an icon.

Cryptopsy's fourth album would tone the intensity down to a slight degree as the band continued to experiment with blizzard time changes. At the same time, the link with the past had been basically severed, and And Then You'll Beg is its own creature, miles away from the first two albums with its churning, rhythmically challenging complexity. The flurry of riffs, stops and starts is mitigated by some occasional tonal differences such as the classically-flavored lead guitar motif in "Shroud" or the didgeridoo in "Screams Go Unheard." The lyrics are also far different than those on the early albums, still angry and declamatory, but far away from the serial killer/pervert material of Lord Worm. Perhaps the only detriment to the album is its unrelenting, punishing pace, a quality that seems particularly apparent on this album due to its increased complexity, a sign that multiple listens are the only recourse to be able to get to the detail. Indeed, Cryptopsy's forward-looking take on death and extreme metal has showed no sign of fully relenting over four albums.

Since the fourth album, Mike Di Salvo has left the group and has been replaced by Spasm vocalist Martin Di Salvo. The band is currently at work on their fifth album.

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