Huge thanks to today's guest reviewer for the words! John Angel typically writes over at (the venerable) Noob Heavy, and can be found on twitter as well. Follow accordingly, dear readers! - Ed.
Guest post written by: John Angel
If you’ve read my previous reviews (hey mom) you might know that I lean towards the modern side of the old-school/modern divide of the current death metal scene. I like the crisp production and blending of a wider variety of genres that seems to be de jure in modern death metal. But there are OSDM records that catch my attention. It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what draws me to said ear-catching OSDM albums but I think it's having a little more aggressive riffing, production that keeps that lo-fi and cavernous vibe so many like about OSDM, but also allows the music to be legible to the listener. Today I’ve got a review for one such record, All Light Swallowed by Crypts of Despair.
All Light Swallowed is the sophomore effort from the Lithuanian death metallers, and it’s one muscular yet haunting OSDM record. I’d say that’s where the magic really lies for this record: its juxtaposition of muscular riffage and seething vocals against its moments of sublimity. Since we’re talking about death metal let's deal with the riffs first. You can definitely prepend the “blackened” genre tag to the death metal part of this record. The songwriting has a bigger emphasis on atmosphere than perhaps memorability but there are still some chunky riffs in here. I love the pile of beefy riffs that is the song “The Great End." Starting with a bass intro that showcases the excellent bass tone put down by Simonas Jurkevicius, the song quickly morphs into a stank face inducing riff fest. While the riffing here is more atmosphere and texture driven the flow between each riff is perfect for getting your horns out and banging that head. By the time the tremolo and double kick drum crash into your ear drums around the 2:30 mark the track has built up the tension to a boiling point and releases in a cathartic wall of sound.
As mentioned earlier, many of the tracks on All Light Swallowed have a sublime quality, both beautiful and absolutely haunting. “Choked by the Void” is my favorite example of this. We have an intro featuring a melody presented by the clean guitars of Dovydas Auglys and Denas Juskus, followed by the entrance of the rest of the band and the dirtying up of said clean guitars. Now heard is the lead guitar, the melody of the clean intro is re-contextualized into a stunningly haunting melody. The tone on this lead guitar is absolutely perfect for the sublime quality Crypts of Despair is chasing. We’re never without the aforementioned lead guitar for the rest of the track and when not taking center stage as the melody it offers the perfect textural accompaniment to the riffs. Another great example of this use of lead guitar used for a haunting texture comes on the very next track, “Condemned to Life.” A chugging beast of a riff is interrupted at about the :20 mark with another beautiful texture from the lead guitar. Not as constant a presence as “Choked by the Void,” the haunting, textural leads still enter at regular intervals and serve as great contrast to the more muscular riffing in the rest of the track.
I’ve gotta talk about the production on All Light Swallowed because it’s a big reason why this album appeals to me. I think it sits in this nice sweet spot between the more lo-fi tendencies of OSDM and the more “polished” sounds you’ll find in modern death metal. It’s got the vibe and the atmosphere one expects from an old-school inclined group. You can call it “cavernous” but you’re also sure that it wasn’t actually recorded in a cave. All the riffs are clear to the listener’s ear. The vocals have that seething, scream-into-the-void quality essential to this style but they don’t wash out the rest of the band. You can pick out all the notes from the drumkit and hear the excellent fills and cymbal work. Speaking of drums, Henri Mall has turned in a spectacular performance on this record! Unfortunately I can’t find production credits for the record. Real shame because I’d certainly lavish praise on whatever name is behind this phenomenal mix!
My one real criticism of this release is that I feel there’s a bit of fat that could be trimmed. Clocking in at an even 38 minutes, All Light Swallowed still feels a bit long. There’s A LOT of tremolo picked guitars paired with blast beats on this record. A texture that’s most definitely a hallmark of death metal and black metal but it starts to feel a bit monotonous to me over an entire record. While I could do with one less song on this record I think everyone should take that with a grain of salt. OSDM isn’t my favorite subgenre and I’m more than willing to admit that I may not have the familiarity with it to appreciate the nuances. All that being said, I was still drawn to the record enough to review it and it’s definitely worth a listen for any death metal fan, old-school and modern alike!
All Light Swallowed is one badass old-school death metal album and Crypts of Despair should be proud of the effort they’ve put forward and the record they have. Be sure to check it out when it drops on April 23, 2021 via Transcending Obscurity Records! Pre-order here.
While we aren't typically in the business of number ratings here at the Village, this album receives a Noob Heavy certified 7/10. - Ed.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!