Cryptopsy - _Once Was Not_
(Century Media, 2005)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 out of 10)
Five years have passed since Cryptopsy's last studio album, _And Then You'll Beg_. Vocalist Mike DiSalvo has left, and his replacement Martin Lacroix only featured in the band's live record from a couple of years back, the excellent _None So Live_, before also leaving the band. Original vocalist Lord Worm has since returned to take over vocal duties once more. Meanwhile, longtime guitarist Jon Levasseur has since left Cryptopsy as well, which means Alex Auburn (who has only been with the band since _And Then You'll Beg_) is the only guitar player left in the current line-up. Considering the importance Jon Levasseur has had in the band and the polarization of public opinion over vocalists DiSalvo and Worm, _Once Was Not_ is at the very least bound to be a hotly debated album.

I have to admit that Levasseur's departure left me feeling rather pessimistic about his album, as he was the sole guitar player in the line-up back when the Canadians recorded the album I consider their crowning achievement so far: _None So Vile_. On the other hand, Lord Worm, their vocalist in those days, is back in the band -- replacing DiSalvo, whose hardcore styled vocals never came close to winning me over. But could Worm repeat the success that his vocal approach had on _None So Vile_? It was pure lunacy in some ways, yet fitted the music very well indeed; could he pull off something similar now, and would it be suitable for the band's current sound?

"Luminum", an acoustic intro, gives way to Cryptopsy's first attack, in the guise of "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky Is Mortal": a jagged, chaotic attack full of pummeling drum work -- make no mistake, Flo Mounier is back and his drum kit is about to take one hell of a beating. Worm's vocals are a strained death growl, complemented with a couple of screams towards the end. The guitar work is ambitious in its variety, but it isn't a very memorable track overall. The sound mix is very good though, drum and guitar wise; the vocals sometimes have to fight for their place, which works well for Worm's style.

"Carrionshine" starts with some beefy riffage and quick soloing, followed by some nice quirky riffs and literally explosive blast beats. A rather infectious track that incorporates several different elements with great aplomb. It is followed by "Adeste Infidelis", where Worm's sudden changes of pitch first become apparent -- the man is clearly in good shape, but again drummer Flo Mounier soon takes the spotlight. A spoken passage followed by a good guitar solo lend some extra character to the song, which ends with a lengthy, throat shredding scream. "The Curse of the Great" starts in a slow, crushing mood, which soon gives way to some driving riffs and rhythm changes; it is a slower and very deliberate track overall however. "The Frantic Pace of Dying" closes the first half of the disc; blast beats and chunky riffs alternate in a pretty typical Cryptopsy track -- except for a brief splash of keyboards near the end and a scream by Worm that sounds just like a bit off Solefald's _The Linear Scaffold_ (go figure).

"Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy" starts in an off-kilter kind of way for a couple of seconds, but soon goes back to normal Cryptopsy: that being deranged blast beats and some damn driving riffs and vocal patterns for a remarkable opening to the track. "Angelskingarden" starts off quietly, then descends into more jagged riffing and furious drumming -- plus another touch of keyboards during a good solo in the second half of this lengthy track. "The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness" starts with a slow riff and spoken passage that somehow remind me of Cradle of Filth's _Vempire_ (again, go figure); an unusually tame passage that returns later in the track, and actually works well for the contrast it provides. "The End" is anything but, as it is actually the penultimate track on the album; an atmospheric track that brings Nile to mind for some fleeting moments before moving onto some tranquil kind of tribal drumming and guitar. Cryptopsy then launch into album closer "Endless Cemetery" -- a good track only somewhat marred by their strange revisiting of a very memorable riff from _Whisper Supremacy_ ("Cold Hate, Warm Blood", to be more precise), accompanied by almost Dani Filth-like vocals. Some doomy(!) keyboard and guitar touches lead the track to its conclusion, which is every bit as furious as one might expect -- only to end with the _Whisper Supremacy_ plus Dani Filth type thing, which is a letdown.

In case you bothered to read my brief analysis of each track above, it should be apparent that I feel _Once Was Not_ is a bit of a mixed bag. There's some brilliant drumming, riffs and vocals, but there's also some unremarkable examples of all those; and when measured against _None So Vile_, overall there is less inspiration at work here. Levasseur is missed in the guitar department, much as Auburn does a good job on his own; and until a suitable replacement is found for Levasseur, it seems the return of Lord Worm cannot alone generate a new _None So Vile_. Nevertheless, one should keep things in perspective: _None So Vile_ it may not be, but _Once Was Not_ is Cryptopsy's most enjoyable record overall since that classic, and remains a highly intense, challenging and enjoyable album that will be among the best death metal I've heard by the end of this year.


(article published 10/10/2005)

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