Written by: MetalFederation (Alex)
For an album review writer moving up in the world from Instagram captions, what could be better than the debut LP from a newly formed band? I, Alex (@metalfederation on Instagram), and death metal crew Crypta are here for a mutual debut! The four-piece international group from Brazil and the Netherlands delivered Echoes of the Soul on June 11th via Napalm Records. Boasting a supergroup lineup of big names, Crypta aim to make a strong first impression with a tracklist of pummeling death metal that clocks in at just 42 minutes. Will they silence any irrelevant debates about what the perfect run time for an album is? I’m as excited as you are to find out.
(But if you’re wondering, 42 minutes is pretty close to perfect and I apologize to the consequently offended prog nerds.)
Especially with Nervosa’s release earlier this year, this debut has been long-awaited in the metal community. Crypta raises expectations even more with album opener “Awakening” being an eerily empty interlude. This horror movie-like experience begins with the slow opening of a creaky door and metallic scraping. While a track with little replay value, it certainly builds even more anticipation for Crypta’s first riff. Instead, we are introduced to Crypta’s sound with ferocious drumming by Luana Dametto and a dark howl from vocalist/bassist Fernanda Lira (both ex-Nervosa) during the opening seconds of “Starvation.” A drum-heavy mix is an instant callback to the early and unrelenting death metal sound. The combination of groovy tremolo guitar riffs from Sonia Anubis (ex-Burning Witches) and Taina Bergomaschi (ex-Hagbard) attempt to clash with Dametto and her merciless drumming. An impressive sweeping guitar solo serves as a moment of relaxation compared to the uniquely-pitched and savage growls from Lira.
Follow-up “Possessed” is an instant eyebrow-raiser that quickly departs from what Crypta have shown so far. A double bass opener allows the dark yet melodic guitar sweeps to shine. Although the drums are admittedly abrasive at times, it's difficult to remember those feelings when the band is capable of constructing guitar-laden passages like the one about halfway through “Possessed." Rhythmic dynamics enter the fray on “Death Arcana'' which is rampant with slow chugs, blast beats, and thrashy mid-tempo riffs. Even the vocalist, who has maintained the higher register, begins to throw in some low growls. There maintains a surprisingly technical level of guitar acrobatics in the forms of both leads and traditional solos. The absolute drum lesson that is “Under the Black Wings” is full of perfectly placed rolls and transitions that compliment the other members. Especially the vocals, which have at times felt a bit independent from the instrumentals, are much more in sync here. A continuously standout characteristic of the riffs is that at no point do the guitarists rely too heavily on either tremolo or on cookie-cutter grooves. Take “Kali" as an example: a song that primarily consists of tremolo riffs but never feels repetitive, especially in the context of the record.
An occasional lack of vocal creativity throughout makes it more difficult for songs to stand out, and can leave some tracks sounding very similar. The speed demon that is “Bloodstained Heritage” demonstrates where the vocals can detract from the record. On this track, which it seems that Crypta expect to be the blistering death metal anthem through repeated growls of the song title, just isn’t that memorable. If Lira didn’t continue repeating it, little else would have made me remember that this one was “Bloodstained Heritage.” Because it rarely strays from the confines of death metal, many of the songs lack that defining moment that would be instantly recognizable upon shuffling through the record. An exception to this is final opus is “From the Ashes”, perhaps the most air-guitar inducing track on here, which ensures that every listener feels rewarded for making it all the way to the end.
While fully exploring the vast realm of the death metal genre, Crypta never ventures far outside of it. Few attempts are made and none are too successful. The introductory section on “Shadow Within '' could be seen as one of the more expansive sections on the record, but falls flat and feels a bit forced without an effective transition. The band’s relentless death metal approach does begin to tire even on a short record with the kick drum being so clicky. The last 45 seconds or so of “Kali'' is a great example of what I mean by that. The production is intentionally raw which tends to benefit Crypta but does fall short for me in this regard.
The band is clearly at their best when operating within various tempos in the same song, whose transitions are enabled by fantastic drumming. Songs like “Death Arcana'' and “Dark Night of the Soul'' can chug your brain in, only to rescue you with an intense acceleration that ends in mesmerizing solos. A lack of variety can make individual songs difficult to pick out on an initial listen. The drums and vocals make the listener pay a price for turning up the volume in order to better hear the glorious melodies that are riddled throughout Echoes of the Soul. However, this is absolutely a price I am willing to pay. I can say with confidence that Echoes of the Soul is a consistently impressive record that procures ridiculously high standards for a sophomore release. With all that being said, I can only hope that I have delivered a debut anywhere close to the one that Crypta has.
Crypta - Echoes of the Soul was released June 11th, 2021 via Napalm Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!