Once Holy Realm
The nearly black cover art is an apt portrayal of the contents within: dark, brutal, and dangerous. Fort Waynes own death metal mavens Cryptic follow up their successful EP, Prophecy of Hate, with their first full-length release. Recorded and mixed locally at Ensomberoom Studio and released by Dark Horizon Records, a local label with an international distribution, Once Holy Realm is sure to propel this band to infamy.
While the EP was a great first punch, the new album is a kick in the groin. Gone are the keyboards that, while used to nice effect, somehow just never seem to blend well with death metal. The band - consisting of guitarist Bill Klug, vocalist Terry Linn, bassist Rick LaSalle and new members Jason Hatzell (drums) and Keeb Sutton (second guitar) - concentrates on lightning-fast riffs that drive a stake through your heart. But even though the guitars are amazingly fast, each of the eight songs is over five minutes long, with the title track topping the nine-minute mark! Such expansive sonic territory gives the songs time to breath and grow. Clean, yet flanged guitars break the mega-distorted onslaught from time to time, allowing the listener just enough time for a quick, cruel, teasing breath before being held again under the murky waters of a stagnant swamp.
Two songs especially piqued my ear. Bloodsoaked Memories is quite chilling, where raspy, dead vocals are joined by a deeper, growling ranting that is very horrific. Embranced By Darkness pulls a fast one, opening with a peaceful intro that lulls you into a false sense of security. But Cryptic arent about to start churning out ballads, and it isnt long before the kick drums smash in your face and the guitars sandblast the skin off your face, leaving a happy, grinning skull in its wake.
The old-style speed metal mixed with black metal presents a nice amalgam that should appeal to a wide audience. While I cant understand the lyrics (and thus cant comment on them), vocalist Linn resists the urge to sport the standard low growl (although it does appear occasionally, but always to great effect due to its absence elsewhere). Instead, his vocalizings sound more like a demon-possessed witch being tortured - very creepy indeed! The massive double-kick drum pops right in at the start of Ageless Winds of War and doesnt stop until the final seconds of Requiem of Fate wind down. That man must have colossal calves! The double guitars form an unbreakable union, shredding constantly with vicious solos and deafening riffs. And the bassist holds it all together with an insane fury that surely has worn all the skin from his fingers, leaving bloody, boney nubs.
This dark assault is available through www.darkhorizon666.com and should be required listening for die-hard fans of Cannibal Corpse and Meshuggah.