Cryptopsy has done what lesser bands cannot: It has recorded an extreme metal album that's listenable all the way through in one sitting and is consistently interesting. Far too many bands settle for ultra-technical blasting and forget to make each song distinguishable from the ones before and after it.
Make no mistake, Cryptopsy's latest, Once Was Not, boasts no hooks -- the disc concedes nothing to the curious neophyte. Like their counterparts in Kataklysm and Origin, Cryptopsy's members are interested in demonstrating how fast they can play, how dissonant their guitar solos can be without devolving into mere screaming noise, and how many rhythmic shifts they can wedge into four minutes of music. But within the genre's framework of incessant, ultrafast double-bass drums (sticksman Flo Mounier must have thighs like beer kegs), guttural vocals, and shrieking, post-Slayer guitars, Cryptopsy has hidden numerous unexpected sonic treats like CD Easter eggs. The penultimate track, "The End," a Middle Eastern-flavored instrumental that's almost jazz fusion, is one such surprise, but so are the treated vocals that begin "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, the Sky Is Mortal" and the sudden, compelling burst of distortion on "Adeste Infidelis." The band's latest may be for diehards only, but it's brilliant.