Album Title: Bionic Swarm
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 26 March 2021
It’s not often that you see a band completely ditch their identity and create a whole new entity in the process. Normally, a band will cling to the past and the name despite there being few original members involved. Or none at all, as is occasionally the case. Cryptosis are different. Formally known as thrash metal band Distillator, the trio decided to stay together but completely reinvent themselves. Vocalist/guitarist Laurens Houvast, bassist/backing vocalist Frank te Riet, and drummer Marco Prij remain in place but gone is the out-and-out thrash of old along with the Distillator name. What we have instead, is Cryptosis and a brand new musical direction.
Fear not long-term fans of Distillator, because the thrash has not been ditched entirely; it still sits at the very heart of what Cryptosis are all about. However, the music is a little more nuanced and alongside the thrash metal, we have elements of symphonic metal, blackened death metal, and progressive metal, with bassist te Reit adding the mellotron to his list of credits.
In fact, after an ominous and darkly dramatic intro entitled ‘Overture 2149’ where the guitars wail over a synth-heavy background, we’re greeted with ‘Decypher’ which can only be described as a lightning-fast black thrash hybrid that immediately sets pulses racing. The riffs are swift, cold and sharp, but not as cold as the lead licks that sound like they are forged from ice. The drumming approaches warp speed and the vocals are delivered with a mixture of extreme metal venom and thrash attitude. Then there’s the ubiquitous, but enjoyable lead solo that maintains the brisk approach, just to top things off nicely.
Next up, we have ‘Death Technology’ which maintains a high tempo but which also demonstrates the more technical side of the Dutch band’s abilities as well as bringing to the fore more of a futuristic sci-fi vibe.
‘Prospect Of Immortality’ is the first time where the pace is slowed on the album, allowing more overt atmospheres to creep into the composition through the use of relatively subtle but noticeable keys. The latter stages become dominated by the rich sounds of synths, with the track coming to a close in dark cinematic fashion. Another plus here is that the guitar riffs are given more time to breath and there’s a beefier feel to the song, more death metal than black, albeit still heavily laced with thrash influences. Some of that ‘beefiness’ comes courtesy of the pulsating bass that also becomes more pronounced thanks to the more measured pace in operation.
Not all of the album maintains quite the same standard, although it’s not far off to be perfectly honest. It’s just a couple of the tracks here and there feel a little less inspired than others; not bad by any means, just they fail to maintain the intensity and standard set at the outset. Take ‘Transcendence’ for example, which feels like a slightly less impressive version of ‘Decypher’ but with a similar vibe. I also believe that the album is a touch short at 37 minutes. Mind you, some of the best thrash albums of all time have been shorter, so maybe I’m wrong on this point.
These small issues aside, there is a great deal to like about this ‘debut’ of sorts from Cryptosis. The thrash of yesteryear comes through nicely and strongly within the vitriolic ‘ Conjuring The Egoist’, a song that features an intriguing chorus to balance out the aggression within the verses which contain some rather nice incisive riffs. ‘Mindscape’ is another strong composition, again slower in general, but complete with some interesting vocal effects and electronic sounds. The sci-fi feel comes through powerfully on this song and it’s one that intrigues me the more I listen. The atmospheres are thick and almost claustrophobic at times, whilst the song isn’t afraid to move in slight tangents to emphasise those prog tendencies that I mentioned at the outset.
Put all these positives together, add in a striking front cover and very commendable production that delivers both clarity and power to each of the ten songs, and ‘Bionic Swarm’ begins to come together very nicely as a full package, one that will appeal to a great many heavy music fans out there. In fact, the trio that comprise Cryptosis should receive the utmost credit for taking the leap and reinventing themselves, to try something new, following their heart in the process. ‘Bionic Swarm’ is therefore well worth checking out if you’re a fan of modern, technical thrash metal.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: