The Best of Us Bleed

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The Best of Us Bleed affords a rare opportunity for an extreme metal band -- in this case Cryptopsy -- to release a truly extensive and comprehensive greatest-hits set. Rare because so many bands of this ilk seem to burn themselves out after just a few albums, or shift gears in more commercial directions while hopping between competing labels with a frequency that makes licensing material from all quarters rather difficult, if not impossible. Not so here, given Cryptopsy's unusually steady 20-year relationship with Century Media (at least until the 2000s), and unswerving dedication to the devastatingly brutal and technical death metal style that's been their stock in trade almost from day one. Instead, any challenge lies with listeners who must grapple with not one, but two CDs and 32 tracks' worth of the band's unfailingly merciless and Byzantine compositional architecture (sequenced in reverse chronological order, in order to showcase a trio of brand new tracks first). And yet, if one can put in the time and discipline to decipher Cryptopsy's fundamental set of algorithms (their name's relationship to cryptography is no coincidence), enlightenment as to the songwriting diversity -- a diversity that has kept the band's name fixed near the top of their chosen musical domain -- duly emerges. There at last, key nuances are revealed distinguishing the skittishly brief new cut, "Holodomor," the dual-vocal cage match of The Unspoken King's "Silence the Tyrants," the virtually free jazz-like unpredictability of Once Was Not's "Carrionshine," the dynamic stops and nefarious melodies of Blasphemy Made Flesh's "Abigor," and otherwise purely punishing intricacies contained in None so Vile's "Crown of Thorns," And Then You'll Beg's "Voice of Unreason," Whisper Supremacy's "Cold Hate, Warm Blood," and countless others. (As well as these highlights from each Cryptopsy studio album, save their eponymous 2012 release after leaving Century Media, The Best of Us Bleed also boasts a smattering of live and rehearsal recordings that prove the band never operates at anything but full capacity, no matter the venue.) In other words, even experienced metal heads not previously intimate with Cryptopsy's M.O. should be prepared to give this collection several spins in order to digest the scale of Cryptopsy's remarkable achievements in the service of technical death metal. But it sure beats working one's way through every one of their albums in their entirety, all at once.

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