Deal Breaker

Cryptopsy's controversial venture into deathcore deserves a second look

For a guy who's just been dropped by his label, Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier is surprisingly cheerful.

"We've been meaning to finish our contract with Century Media, because it was really not advantageous to us at all," says Mounier. "It was something we signed when we were kids, not realizing we'd be so exploited. As of a year and a half ago, they cut all monetary support for us and many of their other bands, so it became even more one-sided. So we met on a quick solution to end the deal."

He's not sure what the band's next move will be. There are doubtless many other metal record companies that would welcome Cryptopsy, though he says, "I must admit that we are leaning more toward the independent route."

There's one thing Mounier wants to make absolutely clear: The collapse of their contract had nothing to do with longtime fans' negative reaction to the group's 2008 release (and sixth album overall), The Unspoken King, a departure for the veteran group.

Cryptopsy's home province of Quebec has maintained a death grip (no pun intended) on the ultra-intricate, alienatingly brutal style known as technical death metal since the 1980s emergence of psychedelic thrashers Voivod. The genre truly blossomed in the '90s and '00s with groups like Martyr, Neuraxis, Gorguts and Beneath the Massacre. Since their 1994 debut, Blasphemy Made Flesh, Cryptopsy had been regarded as one of the country's — indeed, the world's — most impressive tech-death bands.

But with The Unspoken King, they made a sharp left turn. They brought in a new singer, Matt McGachy, who was about as far from a death-metal growler as possible. Indeed, on songs like "Bemoan the Martyr" and "The Plagued," he sang in an almost Mike Patton-like croon. The riffs were much more pit-friendly and less complex than on any previous disc. And perhaps worst of all in the eyes of hardcore fans, they hired a female keyboardist, Maggie Durand, who created dialogue samples and atmospheric intros for many songs. (She's since left the group.)

Yes, Cryptopsy had become a deathcore band. To properly understand the outcry this generated on metal message boards, recall the sputtering rage heard when it was announced that the Battlestar: Galactica remake would feature a woman playing Starbuck, and multiply it by a thousand. Visit the Cryptopsy page on sometime, and check out the reader reviews. Most of their albums have review averages ranging from 70-85 percent favorable. The Unspoken King's average rating is 13 percent.

But here's the thing: The album's not bad. Sure, it may not feature the ultra-complex, finger-dislocating guitar lines and gut-churning vocals of 1996's None So Vile or 2005's Once Was Not, but take it for what it is, and it's damned enjoyable. Mounier himself has remained in top form, hammering away at the more groove-oriented songs and beating the kit into shards on the blast beats. If you like Martyr or Gorguts, you might not like The Unspoken King. But if you like Job for a Cowboy (and lots of people do, myself included) or slightly more melodic death-metal bands, you might like it quite a bit. The album deserves reassessment.

And according to Mounier, it's getting it.

"Every album we have ever put out has taken months and sometimes years to be understood by some for what we intended them to be," he says. "I have no idea why this is, but that's been the pattern. It's weird 'cause since we have been playing a few of the Unspoken King songs live, we have been seeing great reactions from fans, singing along and all."

He's not force-feeding the album to fans on the current tour, though; in fact, the band is moving in the opposite direction, presenting a full summation of its career. "I think that we are only playing one [Unspoken King song] this time around, 'cause we brought back a lot of older songs that we haven't done in many years," he says. "The set is very brutal and has something for every different Cryptopsy fan. We're having a lot of fun playing it. It's kind of refreshing."

It's also a great way to break in the band's latest addition: guitarist Youri Raymond. "We've known Youri for a while now," says Mounier. "He actually auditioned for the position of singer when Mike DiSalvo left the band [in 2001]. He has amazing vocals, as well as being a very good guitar player. We've been doing shows with him for the past six months, and the feedback so far is that this is the most brutal and tightest Cryptopsy lineup ever."

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