Once Was Not

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Cryptopsy's first studio album in five years, 2005's Once Was Not, is notable for reuniting main man and drum colossus Flo Mounier with original partner in crime and vocalist Lord Worm; in every other respect, it's pretty much a familiar exercise in the Canadian band's hyper-technical death metal. This, my friends, is a good thing. Not only because such a return to form will obvious thrill Cryptopsy's long-expectant original fanbase, but because, frankly, there's way too much melodic deathcore dominating the mid-2000s, and not enough worthy purveyors of complex, old-school brutality giving Nile and the also recently revived Suffocation a run for their money. This album does just that, and even though the musicianship involved is clearly as entertaining a factor in its discovery as anything else, the truly imaginative dynamic twists peppering most every track should not be overlooked. Among these, the most obvious examples include the unexpected snippets of first funky, then Spanish guitars inserted into "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky Is Mortal," the latter-day Atheist-reminiscent bossa nova swing preempting the otherwise inexorably explosive "Keeping the Cadaver Dogs at Bay," and the uniquely gentle interlude "The End." Meanwhile, additional winners like "Adeste Infidelis," "The Frantic Pace of Dying" (featuring perhaps the album's single best opening riff), and the simply massive "Angelskingarden" (boasting eerie introductory synthesizers) achieve just as much distinction over time, via their brusque and unpredictable riffing combinations. The reinstated Worm is in fine form throughout, mixing in a few cleaner voices with his prevalent guttural cries, and recent arrivals, guitarist Alex Auburn and bassist Eric Langlois, easily pull their own weight, as well. But, as usual, its Mounier's octopus-like display that sets the tone and pace for all of their combined fireworks. Not only is his creative arsenal more eclectic and better educated than most extreme metal drummers, his willingness to incorporate atypical percussion into the music makes positive comparisons to his idol Neal Peart even harder to resist. And for additional helpful comparisons, let's say Cryptopsy's deathly assault remains even less melodically infused than comparable acts like Immolation (closing number "Endless Cemetary" being the exception) and certainly more modern than the oft archaic-sounding Chasm. A fine effort all around -- welcome back, guys.

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