There were a great deal of albums I should have reviewed last year, but simply never got around to. A significant number of these lost reviews were booted aside in favor of year-end-list festivities, so now that those are largely accounted for and we have a few weeks before the promo pit is overflowing with 2020 releases, it's time to exact a little justice and tell these bands how much I like 'em.
Thus, let's kick off my apology tour with a death metal band that deserves far more accolades than they have received: Mexico's CRS, who hath returned from self-exile to deliver their sophomore album after a Very Long While. Legacy acts are tricky to review, particularly when A. the reviewer has no frame of reference for their previous work, and B. their previous work, such as it is, consists entirely of a debut album released 20 years ago.
But what's the metal reviewin' life without challenges? Nothing, says I.
Getting right into it: promo material indicates that on The Collector of Truths, CRS focus on playing music that is "both brutal and nuanced, with melodies that rise above the underlying chaos." This claim I have heard many a time, with results varying from "not really" to "that, my friends, is an outright lie." But initial perusals of 1999's Reciclando Desesperación indicated that this claim may hold some weight after all. CRS (or Cirrosis, as they were regularly known back then) definitely leaned into the more progressive side of late 90's-era death metal--not quite on the level of, say, Cynic, but certainly respectable in their attention to unorthodox song composition. Particularly intriguing on this debut is the remarkably dynamic relationship between the drums and guitar, which provided particularly every track a unique identity amongst the chugs and growls. This is all a long way to say that CRS ain't lying when it comes to their intentions; this truly is death metal with a sense of nuance and melodics. Thus, I award a preemptive "Bravo!" for honesty.
While unilaterally proficient in their technicality, The Collector of Truths is most intriguing when CRS switch it up from the near-stacatto chugging--a switch up that, thankfully, happens regularly enough. Take standout track "Kill my Name" as a prime example. While the gutturals remain across the breadth, the guitar has two distinct components: thrashy bursts and extensive reverb-ridden soloing. Meanwhile, the riffage itself is twice replaced, charmingly, with what sounds like loosely tethered piano. And then, immediately following, "The Art of Breathing" offers a crisp and proggy lead that promptly erupts into frenetic chugs. And then back again, with phlegmy growls lurking beneath the Steve Howe-esque leads. And then there's a goddamn spoken word interlude. It's a wild see-saw of sonic elements, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work. Moving right along, followup "Resistancia" doesn't incorporate these elements per se, but rather: leans into a thick groove, emphasizes the interplay between percussion and riffage, and torpedoes skulls with the catchiest chorus CRS have offered to date. These assorted sounds, and the interactions between them, provide the album various levels of interest that many contemporaries would simply lack. The takeaway here is this: please do not stop at the intro track if you pick up The Collector of Truths. It gets so, so much more inventive.
A particular strong suit, worthy of a rare solo paragraph, are the vocals. While somewhat understated, the dry quality in Sir Oz's delivery has truly grown on me in a big way. At times, this guy's voice is like unto a skeleton's rasp; at others he confidently wields mucus like a gunslinger wading into the fray. The gang vocals, when they do arise, are simply stellar as well. For vocals alone, I award another "Bravo!"
While CRS have undoubtably delivered a very strong sophmoric effort, some tracks simply don't work so well. "The Daydreamer's Nightmare", despite utilizing a similar formula of alternating proggy leads + death metal riffage, feels incompleteas a whole--less a song, more an experiment in contrasting dynamics. Opener "Asfixia" is a weaker track as well, relying too heavily on a dry laugh-like delivery of the titular hook. All told, however, these tracks aren't quite enough to drag CRS down. Case in point: I'm still listening to this album after a month. That alone is a good sign of good songwriting. One simply does not get bored listening to The Collector of Truths. Little here feels drawn out, overextended, or otherwise dull. and as I've mentioned in many prior reviews, this is a prime quality for modern death metal to exude. Bottom line? This is a remarkable transformation, a rock-solid rebirth after two decades of dormancy.
CRS - The Collector of Truths was released Dec. 6th from Concreto Records
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.