July 29, 2013

Shadows in the Crypt - Cryptic Communications

Review by Red.

Would you be surprised if I told you that one of last year’s most underrated albums came from the “bowels of Pennsylvania” (whence the band hails, according to their bio)? Cryptic Communications is indeed such an album and one that twists the conventions of its chosen sub-genre in an interesting way.

Would you be further surprised to hear a black metal band who combines said sub-genre with long, fluid, shredding guitar solos? If you’re anything like me, sure. I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of such a combination. Indeed, it was my belief that black metal guitarists eschewed such displays of musicianship. After all, it seems so obvious that such a thing is unnecessary to their particular brand of pummeling. Yet here we are.

Another note from the Shadows of the Crypt bio: they came together to make the most extreme metal they could. That certainly sheds some light on the black+shred combo.

The elements of the band’s sound coalesce most readily in the standout track, “Embracing the Forbidden Arts”. Now, if you’re listening on Bandcamp, you’ll notice that the aforementioned is track 2. But according to the Metal Archives, track 9 “Beneath Threatening Skies” should be up top. Personally, I like that one as an intro more than a closer. At any rate, “Embracing the Forbidden Arts” is a standout for two reasons: first, there are some excellently played riffs that combine with the drums to really pummel the listener. Second, the solos are a bit more tasteful and integrated into the song’s fabric better than you might find further on.

After that killer track, one would be forgiven for thinking that that’s all she wrote. But there is another standout near the end of the record, “Revolutionary Genocidal Madness”. This track takes a decidedly non-BM riff and rides it into plains of headbanging. Closing track “Disgracing the Pulpit” ends with a tasty set of beats, including some rampaging double-bass that manages to fill up all the spaces and yet not be completely straight ahead.

Production-wise, I would call it drum-oriented. The guitars are double-tracked and sit roughly on either side of the kit. The drums are right in the center and are loud. You could probably hear the kick drums from a mile away. I’m not sure where the bass is; it’s probably buried underneath the drums.

I called Cryptic Communications one of the most underrated of 2012 earlier because it really functions as a solid whole. Even though the two tracks mentioned above stand out, the experience is quite cohesive and consistent when heard front to back.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

  1. Never underestimate the bowels of Pennsylvania. Both Woe and yours truly are from there.

  2. This album is fucking awesome. I totally agree that it is one of the most underrated of 2012.